Friday, June 24, 2011

Wanted: Nanny Plus . . .

When Families Need More Than Child Care

     It's a challenge when families want more than a highly qualified experienced child care provider. They want a nanny who can be a household manager, a nanny who can be a housekeeper, a nanny who can be a personal assistant - they want a nanny who wear a number of hats and still take great care of their children.
     Busy families need reliable help on a number of fronts so it's not surprising that they look to their nanny for some of this help. Most experienced nannies have the skills needed to assist with some household duties along with caring for children. This becomes part of the normal nanny routine - children's laundry, children's meals, keep kitchen clean and tidy, dishes, organize and pick-up toys, maintain children's bedroom areas, sweep kitchen floor after meals, vacuum playroom, etc. There are nannies who have developed other skills over the years that allow them to include additional duties to help their employer family.
 Nannies who care for school age children may also add some household management to their responsibilities. Household management can include: arranging and supervising house repairs or maintenance, running errands for the family, organizing beyond children's spaces, vehicle maintenance, grocery shopping and the like. These nanny/household managers usually can also be available to volunteer at school on a regular basis or on special occasions.
     Sometimes families could use a nanny/housekeeper. Duties are centered more on cleaning, organizing and maintaining the home, along with shopping and preparing family meals. Typically the nanny that can incorporate the housekeeping duties while also being a great child care provider works with families who have school age children.
     When families need someone who can take on the role of nanny/personal assistant, they want excellent child care along with someone who can do some household management plus some handle organizing parent's personal items as well. This might include correspondence, paying bills, tracking calendars, gift purchases, travel arrangements or other more personal requests.
      All of the specialized nanny or nanny plus positions described above work best if the children in the home are in school. The type of child care for these older children focuses more on guiding them and providing support before and after school. While they are in school the nanny can then take on the other responsibilities the family has requested. When the children are at home the nanny can refocus on their needs.
     Seems pretty clear right? It can be or it can be a little muddy. Here's what I mean.
     A family with young children at home hire a nanny. Everyone is happy with the work agreement that outlines the child care focus and defines other duties (keep kitchen clean, children's laundry, organize toys, etc.) that relate directly to the children. Time goes by and the family is having a hard time keeping up on other household or even personal related tasks. They see that their nanny is managing not only great care of their children but getting the non-child care work done as well, so it's natural they ask her if she can do a few other small things for them. She sees they are struggling and she wants to be of service so she agrees to add to her "to do" list.
     I need to take a break here to just say what most nannies already know - nannies want to help, be of service, they are nurtures and are often willing to go above and beyond if they possibly can. They may not be skilled or comfortable negotiating job parameters. They may be great at talking with parents about their children's successes and challenges, but less comfortable talking about non-child care duties.
    Back to our example . . . so the nanny has added these new duties and coping fairly well. Parents are still feeling a little overwhelmed so they ask for a few more things to be added on. Now our nanny is struggling to get the "to do" list done while still being that great caregiver. She's starting to wonder if she can handle all of this extra. She may even be wondering if she's appreciated for the effort. Months go by and the stress is starting to show. She's reluctant to talk with the family, she's not sure how to tell them she can't handle everything. This once happy, fulfilled nanny who felt she was making a difference for the family is now thinking that she's not sure about this job anymore.
     So where did it all go wrong? The answer is lack of open communication. Everyone needs to feel free to talk about all aspects of the job including additional or changes in duties. Best practice is to sit down together and discuss changes of any kind. If there are young children (infants, toddlers or preschoolers) at home this may not be the best time to add more duties to the nanny's list - everyone needs to be honest about this. If the non-child related duties are esential to the family they should have been clear about this prior to hiring a nanny.
     If everyone agrees to additional responsibilities is there a provision for evaluating how things are going? Will the changes effect the quality of care for the children? What is the appropriate additional compensation for additional responsibilities? What if the extras don't get done because a child is sick or needs more attention on a given day? I suggest a trial period on any additional responsibilities that are being added so that everyone can evaluate how it's going. When nannies and families can come together to talk honestly about the realities of the work load and responsibilities then there is potential for longevity in the relationship.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this article. A great way to help define it given all the variables. A lot to think about!