Because your nanny cares for your children, has an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of your household, and may even live in your home, it’s easy for personal and professional lines to blur. Oftentimes, nannies become more like friends or treasured members of the family than employees. There are, however, a few boundaries that are wise to keep in place. Specifically, parents should avoid viewing their nanny as a confidante. There are several reasons why there needs to remain a professional distance in the nanny/employer relationship, as well as many instances in which viewing your nanny as a confidante could prove to cause regret in the future, but these are 10 of the most serious.
- Leverage – The vast majority of nannies are certainly not interested in blackmailing their employers, but there are those that could seek to level the playing field by holding information you’ve shared with them in confidence over your head in the heat of the moment. Keeping your personal details and secrets to yourself is the single most effective way of preventing this.
- Resentment –Hearing you vent about your finances or struggle to maintain your lifestyle may make your nanny wonder about her job security or avoid asking for reimbursements, which could lead to resentment.
- Gossip – Many parents dream of engaging a nanny that stays with them from the moment they’re hired until the youngest child goes off to college, but the truth of the matter is that those arrangements are rare. Chances are, your nanny will go on to work for another family at some point, perhaps even one in your neighborhood or social circle. If there’s any bitterness at all in your parting, the temptation to dish may be too strong for her to resist.
- Tension – Knowing that you suspect your spouse of having an affair or having intimate knowledge of foibles and quirks that are off-putting may create a tense environment whenever your nanny has to interact with them, leaving everyone uncomfortable and your spouse baffled.
- Awkwardness – In an employer/employee relationship, you will inevitably have to address behavior or habits that you find unacceptable. Approaching your nanny with a reprimand after you’ve bared the contents of your soul to her, however, is almost certain to be both uncomfortable and less than effective.
- Pressure – If your nanny knows that you’re facing a particularly difficult situation and the two of you have a good relationship, she may feel as if she needs to offer her assistance in ways that are utterly unrelated to childcare. Even if she doesn’t feel that compulsion, the pressure of juggling her job responsibilities and your personal problems can become almost unbearable. Burn out is a very real concern for nannies that aren’t doing dual duty as a lay therapist or marriage counselor; shouldering your burdens and her own is a recipe for disaster.
- Discomfort – There’s such a thing as too much information, and almost any personal information falls under that heading for your nanny. More often than not, your nanny simply does not want to know about the things that go on between you and your spouse, you and your own employer or any disputes with your extended family; experienced professionals also know the inherent risk of blurring that line, leaving them even less receptive.
- Marital Discord – Airing your complaints about the behavior of your spouse to your nanny can cause very serious problems in your marriage, should your griping be discovered. The shame and humiliation of knowing that your nanny is privy to details that should be held sacred can spur your spouse to become angry at you, and resentful of the nanny.
- Distraction – By letting your nanny in on difficulties in your marriage or worries about the security of your job, you’re effectively creating a situation in which she’s concerned about her own employment by extension. Furthermore, thinking about the troubles you’ve unloaded on her presents a distraction, which is the last thing you want to happen to the person charged with caring for and ensuring the safety of your children.
- Confusion – If your nanny has recently relocated from another country, there’s a strong chance that at least a bit of cultural confusion exists. Regions of the world in which the employer/employee relationship is very clearly defined generally are not home to employers that treat their nannies as confessors, so putting a foreign-born nanny in that position could result in some very serious befuddlement. Keeping your relationship on a friendly but professional level eliminates the possibility of her feeling even more disoriented.
Maintaining a professional relationship with your nanny doesn’t mean that the two of you can’t get along, or even become good friends down the road. However, building the foundation for a relationship that has room for deep, personal conversations takes years. Welcoming a nanny into your home and treating her like your long lost best friend before the ink is dry on her contract is a surefire way to make her feel uncomfortable and introduce an element of strain from the outset. You don’t have to be chilly or aloof to establish the necessary boundaries, however. It’s entirely possible to do so while maintaining a warm, friendly demeanor.
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