I'm a Nanny, Not a House Cleaner

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I want to start this article with a question for parents: Would you ever ask your house cleaner to change your child's diaper, or take your child to the park, or prepare and feed your child lunch, or pick your child up from school, or assist your child with homework, or take your child to the doctor, or research and plan a developmentally appropriate sensory activity, or set up and host a play date, or sleep train your baby? I bet your answer is a resounding "No". Why then, do parents often ask and expect nannies to take on house cleaner roles? I truly don't get it. If you wouldn't do the reverse and have your weekly cleaning person take care of your child, why then is it okay to expect your nanny clean your home? A nanny and a house cleaner are two VERY different jobs and generally speaking, most nannies don't decide to become a nanny so they can clean houses -- they decide to be a nanny because they love children and are passionate about investing in them.

A nanny is exactly that -- a NANNY. I've already touched on this a bit in the article "Wait. Am I Taking Care of Your Child or You?", but that article focused on nannies taking on all sorts of roles to assist the parents with their day to day needs in addition to the children. I've decided to write this article specifically discussing house cleaning, because I'm continually shocked that parents think hiring a nanny is a twofer (ya know, a two for one deal where they get a nanny AND a house cleaner for the price of one). I know that housekeeper/nanny positions do exist and that there are plenty of people happy to take on this dual role, but the pay needs to be commensurate with the extensive duties required for such a position.

Most house cleaners charge a minimum of $25/hour just for cleaning. In fact, "research shows that the average hourly cleaning rate for U.S. maid services is between $25 and $45 per hour". In my experience, oftentimes parents who want a nanny/housekeeper don't even pay close to $25/hour. Why is that? Probably because many of the parents who want a twofer are on a budget and can't afford both a nanny and someone to clean their house, hence why they are hiring a combo nanny/housekeeper for the price of one. I get it. Life with kids is expensive. But unfortunately, that doesn't mean these parents get some special deal. If they can't afford both a nanny and a house cleaning service, then they can't have both. It's that simple.

I want to be clear that nannies absolutely have some housekeeping roles, so please don't misinterpret this as me saying nannies should never clean. The reality is, nannies clean a lot. They sweep up crumbs after each meal, wipe up oatmeal off the floor, load/unload the dishwasher, wash and sterilize bottles, change the kids' bed linens, tidy and organize the playroom, wipe down kitchen counters, disinfect toys, deep clean the highchair, deep clean the car seat, descale the humidifier and bottle warmer, do the children's laundry, take out the diaper trash, etc. There is nothing wrong with expecting your nanny to take on child related chores such as the ones just listed. However, there is something wrong with expecting your nanny to do any sort of deep cleaning in the house (even child related!) and any sort of cleaning/tidying not related to the children. This means, unless mutually agreed upon and compensated appropriately, nannies should never be responsible for cleaning bathrooms (even kid bathrooms), vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, dusting, cleaning up the dishes you left in the sink from the night before, making your bed, changing your bed (or the guest bed) linens, doing your laundry, tidying non child related items, cleaning up after your dinner party, cleaning out your fridge, cleaning your windows, cleaning cobwebs, cleaning cabinets, sweeping the porch, cleaning your pantry, cleaning baseboards, and the list goes on...you get the point.

As any parent would know, being a nanny and taking care of kids all day is a very busy and demanding job. The daily cleaning and upkeep directly related to the children is a lot in and of itself. Because keep in mind, in addition to child related cleaning and caring for the kids, nannies are also responsible for keeping the diaper area/diaper bag stocked, keeping inventory of child supplies, seasonally rotating the children's wardrobe, researching and planning developmentally appropriate activities, preparing nutritious meals and snacks, taking the children on fun outings, planning play dates to increase the children's socialization, monitoring developmental milestones, communicating with parents throughout the day with photos and updates, and if it's a hard day, dealing with a fussy/overtired/teething child on top of all the aforementioned responsibilities.

When it's all written out, I think everyone would agree that nannies already have a lot on their plate -- no need to add cleaning the house to our to do list. If you're thinking to yourself "Ya well my kid naps for at least 2 hours everyday, so my nanny can help pitch in with other household cleaning tasks", I will simply direct you to this article: Yes, Your Nanny Should Get Paid to Do Nothing. Please read it in it's entirety.

For parents who want their nanny to double as a housekeeper, there are a few options:

  1. Pay your nanny/housekeeper a fair rate for all that their job entails. Most nannies who enjoy cleaning, would take on this role for $25/hour (maybe a little less in lower markets). That's $12.50/hour for being a nanny and $12.50/hour for being a housekeeper -- sounds like a pretty good deal to me!
  2. If you only need your nanny to clean the house one day per week (just like a weekly cleaning service), then increase their pay for that day and compensate them the same as you would a separate cleaning person. Lots of nannies are happy with this arrangement because they could use the extra income.
  3. If you can't afford either of the options above, decide which you prefer to have more -- a nanny or a house cleaner?

The last thing I'm going to mention is that nannies are responsible for child related messes made while they are on the clock. Messes that happen when a nanny isn't working, are the parents' responsibility. If the diaper trash gets full on your watch, take it out! Don't leave it for your nanny to deal with. If the kids make a huge mess in the playroom before bedtime, take 5-10 minutes to clean it up so your nanny doesn't walk into a huge mess the next morning. Or better yet, have your kids clean it up -- it's good for them. Oh, and laundry! Nothing is worse than coming in on Monday to so much laundry that we are baffled as to how your family even went through that many clothes over the course of 2 days. I mean, did everyone change their outfit 4 times each day or something?! Everyone should be working as a team and pulling their weight in the household. Just because you hire a nanny, does not mean you suddenly have no child related chores and can take advantage of your nanny by saving everything for them. Finally, I'm just going to be really blunt and let parents know that as nannies, we don't buy your repeated excuses of how and why you didn't have time to clean up. You want to know why we don't buy it? Because every single day, on our own, we manage to care for and love your kids all while keeping your home tidy. You're not fooling anyone -- if we can do it, so can you.