These days Nannies aren’t the only folks working ‘at home’, or should we clarify that, in someone else’s home. The concept of the home-office is now commonplace and there are a whole swathe of new employees having to figure out how they can work in this new environment. Back in 1989 when we opened Riverside Nannies it was a rarity, the territory of freelancers. Let’s be honest whilst it’s not unusual that doesn’t diminish the challenge of being employed by people who have decided to alter and potentially improve their work-life balance or who have simply opted for this as a cost saving measure.
But why does this pose special challenges for a Nanny? Put simply the central element of the employment is not fielding phone calls or handling data, it’s caring for a child and not any child, but the offspring of the employer with whom one is in very close range. A dual-challenge for both parties.
Choosing the right person works both ways, each has to figure out if they can both work independently at close range and share the workspace. For the Parent it is essential that they feel the Nanny understands their worries about behaving naturally at home whilst their employee is present, a fact that needs to be realistically addressed. To a Nanny this is a bizarre notion, of course they get it, but it does persist as a worry for good reason. A Parent wants to feel that they can, at short notice, if they wish to, come and have a cuddle or play for a few minutes with their child. The challenge for the Nanny is to ensure that the atmosphere does not become awkward because they feel they are being constantly observed or the plan they had in mind disrupted. Let’s categorize this as knowing when not to interrupt. Not easy is it?
At the heart of making it work is having a series of conversations during the interview process to ensure that both parties views, if not completely compatible, are at least in the same ball-park, that there is an understanding of the Other. Without that in place some avoidable problems could become real obstacles to a successful employment.
The problems viewed through different prisms give us a fascinating insight. Parents say that whilst it’s true they do want to wander into an activity and take part, mostly it’s for a few minutes as they need to work (having a Nanny is one of the most expensive childcare options and frequently if they don’t work they can’t afford to keep the Nanny) so they are rarely in danger of hi-jacking an activity for an afternoon, it’s simply a major treat on route to kitchen for a cuppa or before leaving for an appointment or even incredibly soothing after a stressful work related issue.
Nannies fairly comment that a Parent wandering in and out of the picture is disruptive and sometimes distressing for the child who then wants to stay with their Parent and can’t understand why they are not allowed to.
The issue seems insurmountable but actually on the contrary it just takes patience, consistency and understanding – if a child can get used to their parent leaving for the office at 8am and returning at 6.30pm equally they can adjust to a parent being at home but not always accessible.
A few simple measures help enormously.
In our experience at Riverside Nannies whoever is going to be the principle contact for the Nanny during the employment should be the lead person in the initial stages of short-listing candidates and play an active role in the interview conversations and trial if Nanny is invited to spend time with the family.
Work out how discipline will be tackled and how to have a uniform approach. It will fail completely if the child believes they get different responses from different people.
Create a language when working together where one can say to the other – this isn’t a great time or prefer if you didn’t, build up your own signals for this.
Make the home office space in an area away from the play and activity area. We strongly suggest a room with a door that can be closed so Nanny can say Mummy or Daddy has gone to work now. Door open means visits are welcome, door closed means not suitable.
The Nanny needs to know if there is going to be a meetings at the home – play dates and client moments don’t mix well for either party. A working house-diary will ensure this never happens.
Forgive each other!
Sometimes Nanny and Parent will get it wrong, will irritate each other, and will feel the other is creating havoc. It happens and it’s not necessarily detrimental to the long term good health of the relationship. If you both really want it to work it will, as they say where there’s a will there’s a way.