24th Jun 2012
Nannies and Parents: Presenting Your True Self

Just like with a marriage, when it comes to parents and nannies the honeymoon phase definitely wears off after a while. One way that parents and nannies can minimize the upset and ease the transition into reality is by being transparent through the search phase and presenting their true selves.

Your true self includes:

Your true expectations. What do you truly expect from your nanny? What do you truly expect from your job? While it may be tempting to soften your expectations in hopes of luring in a great nanny or family, doing so is setting yourself and the nanny/employer relationship up for failure. If an employer really expects a nanny to do the entire family’s laundry, but says that the nanny is just responsible for the children’s laundry with the hopes of easing her into doing it all, it’s going to be problematic. If a nanny says she’s fine with not taking the children out of the house, but really has hopes of being trusted enough to do so after a few months, it’s going to be problematic. Be true and clear with your expectations from the beginning. When you do, you’ll prevent a major upset in the working relationship once the honeymoon phase wears off.

Your true personal style.  If you appear to be a super laidback employer that likes to go with the flow, but in reality you’re a Type A control freak who plans on giving the nanny detailed lists of things to do during her day, you’re setting the nanny up for despair over her job. If you convey that you don’t mind being flexible, but you really prefer consistency and structure, you’re setting the employer up for heartbreak because you’re not going to be happy working a schedule that is always changing and eventually you’ll quit. Avoid the temptation to do a personality bait and switch. Instead, be who you are. When you show your true colors, you’ll naturally attract those who are drawn to your personal style and temperament, and when the honeymoon phase wears off you’ll still be identifiable as the person with whom she entered into a working relationship with.

Your true job description. It may seem like a good plan to present the best case scenario when it comes to outlining the days and hours you need a nanny, but doing so is going to cause problems down the road. If you tell a potential nanny that you have to occasionally work late when the reality is that you work late three nights a week, it’s going to be problem. While you may be able to squeak by getting home on time the first few weeks, the façade isn’t going to last. If you have an ideal job description that doesn’t include housework and you settle for a job that requires it, you’re not going to happy. You may be able to pretend to be content for a few months, but when the honeymoon is over it will be clear that housekeeping isn’t your thing. If you are up front and honest about your job description or the one you desire, there will be no shock when the honeymoon phase wears off.

Your true level of commitment.Finding a good match isn’t always easy. When you do find one, it takes energy and effort to keep the relationship alive. If you’re only planning to stay with a family for a year, but the family has a new baby and is looking for someone to make a long-term commitment, don’t take the job and set the family up for disappointment 365 days later. If you’re ready to hire a nanny, don’t go into the nanny and employer relationship thinking that your nanny is as replaceable as a spilt cup of coffee. For the nanny and parent relationship to work, both parties must be committed to making it work. This commitment requires an investment of time, energy, and resources.

Like with any relationship, openness and honesty is always the best policy. The more transparent you are about your expectations, personal style, job description and level of commitment to the nanny/employer, the stronger your working relationship will be and the easier it will weather the post honeymoon storms.

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June 29, 2012 at 3:59 pm

You plan to hire a nanny. You want her to handle your kids in a manner consistent with your parenting philosophy. How can you accomplish that objective?

1. Spend some time thinking about the specifics of your parenting philosophy. If you want your nanny to match your philosophy, you first need to know what that philosophy is. That may sound obvious, but many of us parent without thinking a lot about why we do what we do. Those underlying philosophies become important when hiring a nanny. For example, when your kids ask “Why?” do you treat that as challenging your parental authority or as young minds trying to understand the rationale for the things that happen in their world? If your kids back-talk you, do you hold a firm line on accountability for bad behavior or do you ask your kids what they are feeling that is causing them to choose behaviors that they know are non-constructive? If your kids accidentally spill grape juice in the living room, is that to be met with redirection for the poor choice of taking grape juice out of the kitchen and into the living room, or is that to be met with a response that validates the lesson learned (i.e., that there is a good reason that kids should not take grape juice out of the kitchen and into the living room). If your kids behave in a manner that deviates significantly from expectations, is spanking ever an acceptable response? Hierarchical parenting, egalitarian parenting, strict parenting, lenient parenting, etc. . . . these and many other philosophies needs to be considered so that you can determine which best matches your parenting style.
2. Once you have fleshed out the details of your parenting philosophy, you can form interview questions that will help you assess what your nanny candidates’ philosophies are. For example, you could ask the following interview question, “Would you tell me about a time when one of the grade school kids in your care back-talked you and how you responded to that?” Additionally, you should observe your nanny candidates’ non-verbal communications: do her words match her actions?
3. Once all your interviews are complete, you can select the nanny who most nearly reflects your parenting philosophy.

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