Throughout college and after graduation, I spent years working as a nanny for a few different families, and because of these experiences and all of the truer than true nanny issues I faced, I like to think that I have seen it all when it comes to raising (other people's) kids. First, I worked for a family with four girls whose ages ranged from 10 to 15 at the time I started. They taught me that a bedroom floor could still be littered with strewn about clothes, even with a bulging dresser and full closet.
And with every family I worked for (and every family that every other nanny I know has worked for), the parents just couldn't believe that their kids could be the unbearable jerks they sometimes were (because all kids are, even my own). So yeah, for awhile, working as a nanny doubled as some pretty sweet birth control. And just like the awesome parents I worked for taught me not only little bits of who I might want to be as a mom someday, they also demonstrated for me the best ways to deal with a household employee (which isn't something I ever really thought I'd need to know, but every day is a winding road, and who knows?) That said, some of the parents I worked for also taught me everything I wouldn't do once I became a parent myself, if ever had a caregiver in my home. It's like if you get a job in retail and are suddenly way more aware of the way people leave clothes hanging off the hangers in Target.
Working as a nanny also taught me that's it's totally OK to use a bathroom as a cry-it-out retreat for yourself when you're just a little too frustrated with the sticky countertops, full double sink, and piles of laundry that greet you when you arrive at work. As it turns out, this is an important thing to know when you're a parent too.
Mostly when I was a nanny, I saw a lot of parents who didn't really know what the rules were for having a nanny. I don't think they were intentionally trying to make my life worse; they just accidentally did, in little ways, all the time. The types of nanny issues I've seen probably seem like minuscule ones, from the necessity of extra gas money to having to stay unexpectedly late sometimes. But believe me, when you put them all together, and add in the sheer nonchalance of the people you're working for, these nanny issues become so much more.
Depending on how you treat your nanny, they could either love you like family or resent everything about you but the paycheck. Mostly, this is the sort of stuff your nanny wants you to know, even if they'll never tell you. So fine! Taking one for the nanny team! Here's what we all wish the parents we worked for knew:
1. Gas Costs Money
I don't expect gas money for my drive to and from work, but when you randomly add in the half-hour drive to and from a new after-school activity, four days a week, plus the errands all the way across town, it adds up. Fast.
2. Extensive To-Do Lists Aren't Always DO-able
Leaving a list of daily tasks for your nanny is all well and good, but if you didn't hire her as a housekeeper or household manager (or at least include such extras in her salary), then try to keep the list to a realistic standard, eh?
3. I'm Not A Housekeeper, Too
Which brings us here. Most nannies are accustomed to handling the kids' laundry and picking up toys, but when your housekeeper is on vacation for two weeks, you don't get to use me as your window washer and floor waxer.
4. I Love Your Kid, But They Aren't Mine
I'll treat your kid fairly and make sure they have a great time when I am around. But the moment you walk through the door at the end of the day, I probably won't have a problem turning it "off" and heading back to my own world. (This is actually a sign of healthy boundaries, by the way. It doesn't mean I don't care about your family.)
5. I Am Not Always On-Call
Like any other job, most nannies expect to not hear much pertaining to work on the days they aren't actually working. Like, sure, send me an email or text if there's something going on that affects my role in your family (someone is sick, or you guys are leaving town, etc.), but if we've got a set schedule, it's not great to assume that I'm here to just jump in any ol' time outside of that. Most of my nanny employers were great about this, but there were the select few who treated me more like a perpetually on-call babysitter than an employee with real hours.
6. Rules Only Work If You Enforce Them
I cannot tell you how many times I initiated new rules or policies to help my charges get on track with projects or keep their own rooms clean, and then had those new rules almost immediately thrown out over the weekend when I wasn't there.
7. Hosting Your House Guests Is Above My Pay Grade
I totally get it that I am there at your home during the day and you aren't, but I'm not Jeffrey from The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. I am not at your home to handle every single aspect of its functionality, being that I was hired as a nanny only. I will sign for packages; I will not cook brunch for your in-laws. If you have guests coming, make arrangements to be there or maybe have them come another time.
8. Are There Hidden Cameras, Or What?
Because I am constantly dealing with bouts of paranoia over the possibility of there being hidden nanny cams all over your house.
9. The Kids' Laundry Is Fine, But Yours? That's A Hard No.
I did not sign on as your nanny to fold the stained underwear of two full grown adults.
10. Your Kid Is A Jerk
No matter how many times you blink innocent eyes at me and insist you could never imagine them grabbing their younger sibling by the collar and screaming at them. Why would I make that up? I'm sorry, but all kids (as beautiful and amazing as they really, really are) are half-monsters most of the time. This includes yours. Let's lean into that reality together so we can talk about how to keep everyone alive.
11. If You're Going To Be Late, At Least Tell Me
Like I said, being late every once in a while is acceptable and understanding, but perpetual lateness is unbelievably rude (and not even bothering to send a quick heads up text is seriously unacceptable). BYE.
12. Your Bedroom Is The Most Glamorous Room I've Ever Been In
I mean, uh, I've never been in there at all. Or checked out that heated bathroom floor. Or checked out that view of your property from those huge-ass windows. No, not at all. (Seriously, you guys are fancy and I'm impressed.)
13. I Will Not Baby Your School-Aged Kid Like You Do, So Don't Expect Me To
I totally get it that we all have our different parenting methods, and that what works for some may not be the norm for others. But I will not treat a 7-year-old kid like a toddler, complete with baby voices and sippy sups. Nope, not gonna happen.
14. If You're Going To Undermine Me, What Am I Even Here For?
This goes into the same pocket as not following through with rules or customs that are made to help your kids. I remember once when the mom of a family I worked for was home sick, she overheard me telling her kid that he couldn't watch any TV until his homework was done. Wouldn't you know, she came in and, right in front of me, told him the exact opposite. And the worst part is that I just had to take it, with a gritted teeth smile. Look, I know you're the parent. I know! But you gotta have your nanny's back, otherwise your kid isn't going to listen to us at all when you're not around.
15. I Am Not A Short-Order Cook
Call me crazy, but unless your kid has serious dietary restrictions, there is absolutely no reason for a nanny to cook a full dinner for an entire family, and then make a totally separate dish for your kid just because you tend to give in to his demands of grilled cheese sandwiches.
16. The End Of The Day Means Bye-Bye
Pretty much all of the moms I've worked for have had the habit of talking to me for a good 10 minutes at the end of the day, mostly to talk about themselves and their patients or clients or co-workers. And that's totally fine...to an extent. Because as much as your nanny should be interested in your family, they're also super interested in their own life and getting home to have one before they has to come back in the morning.
17. Consistency In Everything Is Key!
From being on the same page with the different house rules, to having a set schedule (or at least one with an understanding amount of wiggle room), consistency is best to avoided any nanny problems. And it's important to remember the sorts of responsibilities that were outlined when you hired them. I won't say to cater to their every demand, because these are still your kids and it's still your home, but I will say that your nanny is more than a babysitter, and less than a full-time co-parent — and understanding that balance is the key to making it all work.