Nannies, a very big subject that has a lot of mixed opinions and everyone will absolutely think their way is the correct way. It could be true, as with any interaction between two people, what works for the two individuals is what is correct, what makes the relationship work.
For me, that relationship doesn’t stop at someone cleaning my house, doing my laundry, and cooking my food, the men and women I hire interact daily with my kids, and so are invested in their future as much as their school and their friends are. With 3 boys its impossible for me to be at all their events, playgroups, and parties, so the nanny (I like to call them helpers) takes my place.
I’ve been through A LOT of helpers, some people made fun of me, but I insist on hiring people that work with my family dynamics rather than imposing their attitude on us. Why is that important? My kids learn from their behavior’s too, the helper has to say “please” and “thank you” just as we do to each other, she has to be polite and not bring in unfavorable subjects into my house (certain women thought it was ok to talk about relationships and sex to my kids, to them it didn’t seem odd, and so it was an attitude I don’t accept at home).
The women that eventually stayed with me are not perfect, but they have potential to add value to my kids. One of the best ways to do that is to make them feel like this is their family too, not just an employer. I’ve been accused of “spoiling the maids” and they will be ungrateful, and I did have a few that were, but eventually I found ones that appreciate everything I do for them. My helpers have access to my library at home, and can read during their breaks; they come with me when we go to museums or the aquarium and get to learn just as much as my kids do. If I go out with my kids and they buy something I tell my helper to go get what she wants. Is that considered spoiling? Maybe to some, but to me its making sure that my helper treats my kids exactly as I would when I am not there.
This isn’t a fail-proof plan, some will never be what you want them to be, and that’s when you learn to embrace their culture. For example, my Indian nanny never understood the foods I pack for my kids lunch, so I asked her what she got for lunch in school, it turns out it was very healthy, so I asked her to pack that for my kids. She never got it wrong afterwards because she understood it. I let go of shouting orders a long time ago, and adopted the 2-way communication with my staff. I now treat my house staff as I do my company staff, they are exactly the same thing (although your house staff take care of things way more valuable than your assets).
If I can summarize the role of my staff, here it is (this is just a summary, the roles are way more dynamic):
- Pick your staff wisely, but be flexible knowing that sometimes people will surprise you. Its very expensive and time consuming to get helpers nowadays, but its worth it eventually.
- Embrace them into your home as members of the family, not as staff. Not coop them up in a tiny room with a horrible bathroom, they are human, and although your argument will be “well they were in shacks back home”, they were in shacks with their family, where they were respected and loved. If you expect respect from them then you should give it to them too.
- They make mistakes, they are human, and so are you. Its very clear if a helper is being nasty just for the fun of it, just like its obvious if an employer sets up her staff for failure to justify her rage. If you are upset at your husband, your kids, your life, it’s not their fault, find better means to channel that frustration.
- My kids know exactly what a helper’s role is, they know that they can substitute me for a few hours, but they also know that no other woman can take my role. That said, I absolutely love it when my helpers show love and affection to my kids, and the same when my kids do it. I raise my kids to love their helpers and appreciate their roles in our house, I don’t get jealous if my kid cries on my helpers shoulder, I understand they are overwhelmed and need comforting immediately. If you have insecurities about your child’s love to you then you probably know you aren’t doing enough for your child.
- Never, never, never humiliate or scold helpers in front of your kids, they will mimic you and do it when you are gone. This is the most insulting thing to your house staff.
- The final piece of advice I have is be very precise with each helper’s role. You can be a great employer but the staff themselves will have issues with each other. Let everyone know what you expect from them, and what you expect them to help others with if they need it. I once found it necessary to print out a chores list for each helper (they were refusing to get along), and had them translate it in their language while they went over it with me. Leave no space for error to avoid the frustration of miscommunication. If a helper still refuses to get along, then its time to look for a replacement.
These are all suggestions that I use daily, some work, some don’t, not everyone is the same. Some days I get nasty and shout at someone, then I make sure to apologize and explain why I was upset (mostly happens when I’m pregnant). The best way to explain this is think about how you would like to be treated if the roles were reversed.
One last plea, when you go out with your helper, please don’t let her sit in a separate table, on her own, with a box of McDonalds fries as her dinner, while your child throws all kinds of food on the floor for fun. To me, that’s the worst kind of humiliation you can subject a human to.