Nannies who feel overworked and unappreciated will usually look around for a new job. However, it is worth making an effort to keep your nanny because your child will be happier and more confident without a constant string of new nannies caring for her. Most nannies experience certain recurring problems, so here are a few tips for keeping her happy! I present the problem from the nanny's point of view and suggest a solution.
· PROBLEM - INTERFERING: The worst problem which nannies encounter is when parents interfere with or don't support the nanny's methods of discipline. In other words, when parents don't leave the nanny to make decisions about the way she reacts to misbehaviour as she sees it, or to deal with any problems. When parents interfere in this way a nanny feels distrusted and frustrated. She may have been dealing with everything very well and getting good results and then the parent comes in and damages her efforts by changing or removing the punishment. This not only causes a lot of anger and pent up frustration in the nanny who feels her hard work has been for nothing, but also creates a problem for the child, as they will become confused about whom to listen to and will start to play parent off against nanny. Very often this happens at meal times when the children would usually eat very well with the nanny, as they know that there will be no other food offered if they refuse their meal. This will be a time when parents can return home and tell their child that yes, they can have a pudding or a packet of crisps when they haven't eaten their dinner - without first consulting nanny to see what has been said about the situation.
· SOLUTION: Tell your child that while nanny is here she is the boss, she is in charge and if she has made a rule or a punishment before either parent returns home then it sticks! Always ask your nanny 'Are they allowed a treat? Have they been good?', but don't do it in such a way as to make nanny seem like the bad guy in front of the kids! Try and ask her discreetly otherwise she will feel pressured into changing her mind and this is not helpful to her relationship with the children. Say to your kids 'The Parent Guru, she's the boss'. This will make nanny feel very happy and valued.
Nannies are great at knowing what to do when a child misbehaves or when she won't eat her meal and so on, because she is impartial and neutral, and can discipline calmly and objectively. Remember she will often have a great deal of experience and training and that is why you hired her in the first place. Her methods are always fair, consistent and they work! Children (I'm afraid) will always behave better with their nanny than they do with their parents, even if they have a strong bond with her! They will listen and learn from her and behave calmly and well whilst in her care. You don't have to worry about them not having fun during the day as they rarely misbehave so have all their time to play! You must back nanny up and treat them the same way when she is not there, or their will be trouble with the children suddenly changing when you come home and you will not see them at their best. Tell your nanny that you value her opinion and learn from her. Her methods are usually spot on!
· PROBLEM - TRUST: Similar to interfering but more about a general lack of trust in your nanny will cause a huge rift between you and almost definitely cause her to leave. If you chose her and were obviously happy with your choice when you did so, then why are you now feeling mistrust? If you have some reason behind the mistrust then you must sort that out, and either carry on with your nanny/parent relationship after you have cleared the air, or if you cannot sort out the problem then this nanny is not right for you and you must part company! Although if there is an element of mistrust in a parents attitude towards their nanny, it is often just a case of deferred guilt about leaving their child and going out to work. Make sure that this is not the case with yourself as this occurs more often than you think. You have no reason to feel guilty about going out to work, as long as the time you do spend with your child is special and fun!
Children with nannies gain a lot from their experience and have an even better experience, if it is a smooth one. What I mean by this is that children will sense if you do not like or trust their nanny and in turn they will not feel at ease in her care and will use the fact against her, in that they will play her off against you. This will cause a lot of anguish for nanny and child. Also if you find that you do not trust any of your nannies and are always getting new ones, then this will cause a lot of distress for your child and she will feel unable to form any kind of relationship with anyone in case they too leave her. This will affect her whole life. Also a problem is when parents call the nanny a lot to check up - this says to nanny 'I don't trust you to watch my child all day without checking everything's OK' This is upsetting for nanny and she will resent the fact that you hired her but do not trust her.
· SOLUTION: Sit down and think about whether the dismissals or resignations were really necessary. Honestly and truthfully ask yourself if the situations could have been avoided and what, if anything, you could have done to help. Remember you may be feeling very guilty about leaving your child every day and leaving her with a stranger. But if you can build up a rapport with your nanny and become friends then you will both feel a lot happier and your guilt about leaving your precious child with her will subside. Her relationship with your child will blossom and they too will become friends. The whole situation will feel friendlier and happier, which is much more healthy for your child after all.
A nanny is not a servant and should not be treated in such a way. She should ideally feel like a member of the family, as she is the carer of you little cherubs and that is a VERY important job! If you chose the right nanny by checking references and asking a lot of questions in an interview then you needn't feel anything less than at ease. Show her you have every confidence in her and make her feel proud and appreciated. Don't call her up to check on her, be reasonable and treat her like a human being with feelings. If a nanny feels respected and that she is being treated as a professional then she is going to act like a professional and show you respect, flexibility and loyalty.
· PROBLEM - BAD PAY / NO KITTY MONEY: This is definitely one of the biggest reasons for a nanny to move on to a new job! Obviously by this I mean paying too little compared to the going rate and not giving regular pay reviews. Nanny will feel undervalued and definitely unappreciated. Remember that your nanny has a very important job and for quality you will have to pay I'm afraid! Also if your nanny constantly has to dip into her own pocket to buy bits and pieces of groceries, pay for trips out and petrol etc, until you manage to pay her back, she will feel annoyed and frustrated.
· SOLUTION: Pay the going rate according to your area. Ask other's who have nannies what they pay or ask your nanny agency what is expected. Also ask your new nanny what she was paid in her last job, although she may not have been happy with that, so do ask. When a nanny is paid well she is more likely to do over and above her duties as she feels that she is not taken for granted. Always pay your nannies full tax and national insurance! This is very important! Always have money in the pot and not just a few pounds/dollars but enough for transport (petrol/gas/bus fares etc) trips out, juice and snack and anything else that may come up.
Nanny will feel better if she knows that you trust her to spend the kitty money wisely and she will not have to be embarrassed to ask for what may seem like a lot of money, but when broken down into petrol/gas, groceries, snack and outings is perfectly reasonable. Remember too that you must pay for parking and any snack or lunch which nanny has during working hours when she is caring for your child.
· PROBLEM - HOURS OVERRUN / HOURS TOO LONG: If you have laid down certain working hours for nanny in your contract then changing them whenever it suits you is not reasonable. She took the job with a certain description and expected to work the hours given so it is not acceptable to change them without first consulting her and asking if she can do the extra hours with extra pay of course. Also remember that your nanny has probably been on duty since the early morning probably half an hour to an hour before you started work and will stay probably half an hour to an hour after you have finished your work. So she has had a very long day and will be exhausted and ready for home/her bedroom. Very long hours are reason enough to leave a job unless there is a good reason not to.
· SOLUTION: Whenever you know that you will be late, tell your nanny as far in advance as possible and ask if it is ok, don't assume. She will have her own life outside work remember and assuming that your life is somehow more important than hers will cause a lot of resentment. Give her some extra pay as compensation and thank her for her flexibility. She will remember your kindness and will be more willing to help in the future. Whenever possible, try and let your nanny leave early so that her hours are kept down and she feels that you understand that her days can be long. Letting her away early on occasion is one of the biggest perks you could give her. Don't always expect her to finish the dinner, bath or homework etc. If you take over it will be rewarding for you, nanny and your child!
· PROBLEM - TOO MUCH HOUSEWORK / ERRANDS TO RUN: A very big problem, a lot of employers will pile on the work and assume that they have a housekeeper on tap when they hire a nanny. This is absolutely not true and you can only ask a nanny to do nursery duties, unless she has a period of the day when she has no children, but even then only ask her to do a reasonable amount of chores, and remember her time scale for fitting it all in with pick ups etc. Nursery duties are washing and ironing and cooking for your child, and tidying up the bedroom and playroom. The whole advantage for you of having a nanny is not to get your housework done; it is to have one-to-one care and attention for your child. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that the best way for your child to get care and attention from nanny is to give her less work to do so that she will have more time to play and take your child on outings! Many a nanny has been unable to come out on a trip because she has been left a huge pile of ironing on a Monday morning. I am very lucky that I am not asked to do such duties in my job and that is one of the reasons I am still in the post 5 years on.
· SOLUTION: Have guidelines in her contract for what you would like her to do each week but be flexible and reasonable. Try and do some of the ironing yourself and please don't leave one or two items for nanny when you have finished ironing your own clothes. This is so petty and infuriates nannies. Try and prepare a meal once a week which can be reheated the next day as this will show nanny that you will help her and do not expect her to do everything. It is also a nice way to feel like you have contributed to your child's day! Don't worry if there are a few toys out in the playroom at the end of the day as nanny may have been busy and not got back in time to cook the dinner and tidy up. If your child is at school or nursery and you want your nanny to do more than nursery duties, sit down with her and draw up a contract that suits you both! Ask her what she is willing to do and what she thinks is reasonable. If it's the weekly shop for instance, then don't expect her to also collect your dry-cleaning and water the garden for instance. Usually two or three extra chores a week is about right, and then add to that if nanny is happy to do so. Don't begrudge her having a lunch hour or one day when she does less about the house! A nanny will often leave a job when she no longer has the children during the day because she does not want to be a cleaner/taxi service and she feels that she is no longer a proper nanny with little ones to care for. So if you can give her the perk of some free time then she will be more likely to stay on.
· PROBLEM - COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN: This comes back to having a rapport with your nanny and being able to speak to her easily. Many times I and other nannies I know have felt unable to speak about problems with their bosses and have just left the job without ever telling them the problem. They feel unable to voice their concerns for fear of being either sacked or causing a rift. They do not feel for whatever reason that what they have to say will either be acted upon or changed and instead will cause resentment so instead they just move on. Nannies feel nervous to tell their bosses when something is wrong because they feel that it will not be taken well or not taken the right way.
· SOLUTION: Always have open and honest discussions with your nanny and ask her regularly how she is getting on and how she is enjoying the job. Not just in passing but sit down with her once a month and really talk, remembering to allow for this within nannies working day, don't keep her late or she will not be pleased. Tell her not to be afraid to tell you if she doesn't feel that she is being treated fairly, because you know that a happy nanny is a good nanny! Always begin and end on a positive note and be tactful when voicing your concerns to her. Her feelings will always be hurt if you have something negative to say, as she may not have even known that she was doing it. She may not show her upset in front of you but she will probably go home and let it all out to a friend or family member. If you can be tactful and kind, and remember to end on something you are pleased about then you can avoid the upset. Never get angry and shout at nanny, as she will no doubt leave if she is treated in such a way!
· PROBLEM - LIVE-IN NANNY'S FREE TIME IS NOT HER OWN: When you have a live-in nanny, she will be living under the same roof as you but she will need and want her privacy. Being woken on a Saturday by the children is not her idea of fun! She will want her rest and relaxation, and will feel refreshed for another week come Monday morning. But if she is constantly being disturbed by the children wanting her to tell them a story or play with Barbie, she will feel used and frustrated that her time is not her own. Just because she is in your home doesn't mean that you can call on her anytime, as she has a life of her own.
· SOLUTION: Tell your children not to disturb nanny at the weekends and mean it! Don't let them sneak off and bother her in her bedroom, while you're not looking. Also whenever she has to come in to the kitchen and use the facilities tell the children that nanny is off duty now and to leave her alone for some peace and quiet. She will hear you saying this and feel appreciated once again!
· PROBLEM - NOT ENOUGH ANNUAL PAID LEAVE: A nanny who gets less than 4 weeks annual paid holidays/vacation will definitely feel used and abused! On the other hand a nanny with plenty of holidays/vacations will feel refreshed and able to do her job properly.
· SOLUTION: Give your nanny as much time off as you can, as this is again a great perk for any nanny. If you can try and let her be off whenever you are then she will not feel that you are 'trying to get your money's worth out of her' and instead are willing to look after the children yourself when you are off work. If she is still working while you are leisurely sitting around the house on holiday/vacation and relaxing then she will resent that.
· PROBLEM - MESSY HOUSE: Coming in on a Monday morning or any other morning for that matter, to find ironing piled high, the sink filled with dishes, and toys left here there and everywhere is so annoying and frustrating for a nanny. She has to tidy up the weekend mess or whatever mess before she can start her day. It is not her duty or responsibility to do your dishes or tidy up after you. She will feel used and unappreciated if you constantly leave mess.
· SOLUTION: Get the children to tidy up after themselves at the weekend, and properly too. Don't let them just chuck everything in the same box and ruin nannies organised system if she has one. This will show her that you appreciate the time she spent to sort out all the toys and keep them tidy and unbroken! If you must leave dishes tell her to leave them and don't leave her a full dishwasher to empty every morning! Remember though she may need the dirty dishes and then will have to clean them so it is best if you just do them before she arrives. If one of her duties is to do the children's washing and ironing then it is only her duty during her working week and if she is in the habit of having everything done for you on a Friday then it is fair for you to do the same for her for a Monday morning and wash and iron whatever is used on a weekend, don't you think?
· PROBLEM - NO PERKS: If a job has no perks whatsoever then you must have something else to offer such as a kind and decent approach and a reasonable attitude when it comes to chores. Otherwise nanny will move on to another job with something more to offer her.
· SOLUTION: I have mentioned that time off, getting to go home early, and being allowed free time are great perks, but so too are good pay, a nice living area/bedroom for a live-in nanny, no housework/nursery duties, plenty kitty money to go on outings, and, of course, a car to take home is probably the best one. If you can satisfy some of these then you should be able to keep nanny happy. Good luck and remember just being her friend is important too!