A regular employee / employer relationship can get complicated under normal circumstances, but if you’ve ever been a nanny or if you’ve employed a nanny, you know that it’s different from any other employee/employer relationship. A nanny may spend more time with the children and other members of their immediate family than the parents do. Usually, the children adore their nanny and in turn the nanny loves the children and develops a wonderful bond with them. That’s what parents want–the peace of mind knowing that their children are cared for and truly loved.
It’s easy for the family to grow close to their nanny, since they are trusting her with their precious little ones, and over time, the nanny naturally begins to feel like part of the family. The nanny’s goals should be for her to make the family and children feel comfortable, to feel she’s part of the family and not just considered an employee. Both need each and rely on each other. It is fine to be close, but the key is not to get too close. This relationship especially requires healthy boundaries. However, that is easier said than done. There’s an invisible line that gets blurred along the way. How can we head off these problems?
1. BE RESPECTFUL. The nanny must respect the family as her employer and the family should respect her limits as the nanny. There must be a degree of emotional detachment, of not taking things personally.
2. DON’T SHARE TOO MUCH. It’s important for both the nanny and the employers to understand that neither are each other’s therapists. Both parties need to remember not to divulge too much information, especially personal information to each other. That doesn’t mean they can’t support each other. If something major is taking place within the family, like a divorce, or a death, of course the nanny will know and is affected by it and will help the family and especially the children get through it. However, it is wise not to discuss the following personal matters with your nanny:
a) Marital Problems
b) Financial Issues
d) Problems with a former Nanny
The nanny’s observations and opinions regarding such personal issues within the household should be kept to a minimum. The employer sets the example for what’s acceptable to share and what should remain off-limits. Unless it directly affects the nanny’s job, she really doesn’t need to know. Likewise, when it comes to a nanny’s personal life, the family shouldn’t ask personal questions that don’t pertain to her nanny responsibilities. This helps in preserving the separation between her personal life and her job.
3. SET BOUNDARIES FROM THE START. Although it is not easy, both the family and the nanny should strive to maintain the types of relationships that would be appropriate at an outside-of-the-home workplace. Since that invisible line easily gets blurred, define boundaries from the start, including them in the written Working Agrement. This helps everyone become comfortable with what is and is not appropriate. The result is a healthy and long-term relationship that is beneficial to all, especially the children. We realize this is harder than it seems. The relationship between Moms and their nannies is a veritable mine field, and even Moms who are head of HR stuggle with these issues, because, “She is home with my baby all day and I don’t want to rock the boat–it’s really not that important.” But it is important and it is harder than you’d think. So remember that you can call our office any time with concerns or questions, or just to vent!:)