How can I prevent conflicts with my nanny?
Start by writing a contract that details all the conditions of your nanny's employment, such as hours, wages, benefits, and instructions about caring for your child. It's also a good idea to meet and discuss everything before your nanny's official first day because a document can't cover all the fine points of a parent–caregiver relationship.
Be open-minded while you talk – the conversation should be a dialogue, not a lecture. After all, this childcare arrangement is a collaboration. And remember, no issue is too small to bring up.
Some topics to review:
Your childcare philosophy. You obviously share some common ground with your nanny or you wouldn't have hired her, but do you part ways on certain points? Cover topics like sleep and feeding your baby in detail to make sure you're both on the same page.
House rules. Your nanny needs to know how you run your home so she can follow your wishes. Is it okay if your nanny helps herself to the food available in your home, or do you want her to bring her own?
If your nanny is going to use your car, make sure she has a clean driving record and ride with her once or twice to make sure you're comfortable with her driving skills. Most important, show her how to use your child's safety seat properly. Before she starts, go over expectations, such as when to use the car and where to park it. (Remember to include your nanny on your car insurance policy so she's covered in case of an accident.)
Ways to keep in touch. Decide ahead of time how and when you'll check in with each other or bring up any questions or concerns.
You may want your nanny to come early for instructions or give you a quick recap of your child's activities at the end of each day. If so, make sure you include that time in her paid schedule. You could also check in during the day by phone or email. Getting a quick photo of your child in the baby swing at the playground or receiving a text letting you know she just went down for her nap can keep you in the loop.
In addition to daily status reports, Amy, a part-time nanny from El Cerrito, California, schedules weekly or monthly meetings with her employers. She says if her relationship with parents is going to be collaborative, communication is essential. "It's a joy to work with parents who are team players," she says.
Pet peeves. Are there any habits you absolutely can't tolerate, such as smoking, tardiness, or foul language? Be direct about these things now to avoid tense discussions later. You may also need to discuss personal issues – is it okay for her to have someone over or meet a friend at the park with your child, or do you want her to socialize on her own time?
This discussion should be a two-way street. Ask your nanny about her experiences with previous employers. Is there anything about childcare arrangements that pushes her buttons? Knowing about potential difficulties ahead of time will help you both avoid them.
A backup plan. Talk about what you'll do if your nanny is sick or unavailable due to an emergency. And if she has a child of her own, discuss how you'll handle things when her child gets sick and can't be in school or daycare. Can she bring her child to your house or your child to hers?
If possible, consider having a backup nanny available. She may know other sitters who can care for your child in a pinch. (Check their references as carefully as you did hers.)
Managing expectations. It's a good idea to end your conversation by making sure you're both clear about what's expected. Will there be a trial period for the nanny? How often will she have a performance review? She'll probably want to know if and when it's reasonable to expect a salary adjustment. She should also know what actions are grounds for dismissal, and how much notice she needs to give you if she wants to leave. Finally, if you plan to use a nanny cam, she should know about it and agree to it.