Nurturing nanny's needs, performance
By Paula Gray Hunker
The Washington Times
It's a sellers market for good nannies,
with demand far exceeding supply. It, therefore, behooves parents
to make sure they do everything to keep a good nanny once they
The foundation for success is laid during the
interview process with expectations on both sides are clearly
outlined - hopefully in writing. This agreement should cover
not just work-related issues, but family life issues, such as
discipline, when parents should be contacted at work, car
privileges, vacation and other family events.
"This is one of the most difficult jobs to
fill," says Cora Hilton Thomas, author of "The Complete
Nanny Guide." "The best caregivers will become part of
the family, yet parents must never forget that they are an
employer and must treat their employee with support and
She says many families treat their caregivers
like indentured servants rather than respected professionals.
Parents should remember that "investing in the caregiver is
making a difference in the life of their child," she says.
Mary Clurman publishes the Nanny News, a
bimonthly newsletter targeted at the growing industry of in-home
caregivers. She has come to believe, from her multiple surveys of
nannies and her hands-on experience running a nanny agency for 14
years in New Jersey, that a successful relationship combines the
warmth required for this in-home job with professional worklike
"The nanny has to feel that she is treated
like a respected professional," says Mrs. Clurman, who notes
six minimum things employers should do:
- Create and adhere to a schedule.
- Don't pay your nanny under the table.
- Put a reasonable limit on the responsibilities - remembering that the primary responsibility is childcare.
- Make sure the nanny has access to a car, especially if she is a live-in.
- Provide medical insurance. This can be done for as little as $50 a
month and protects the family as well as the nanny. In a competitive market, benefits can mean the
difference between keeping and losing a good nanny.
- Have frequent and realistic communication.
"Remember that, in general, nannies have a
nurturing nature, and they can use some nurturing
themselves," says Mrs. Clurman, who reminds employers to
give regular feedback - positive as well as critical.
Parents must understand that when they take a
caregiver into their home they are accepting responsibility for
an unlicensed, unregulated and largely unsupervised job, says
Helen Clark, program manager for nanny training at
Rockville's (MD) Live-Work Strategies, Inc.
Working with longtime nanny Jorjanne Jones, she
has developed a one-day nanny training that is offered to their
corporate clients' in-home caregivers. Within a year they
plan to expand the curriculum to create a Nanny Training
Institute in the Washington (DC) area.
Mrs. Clark says the most common frustration
expressed by both nannies and parents is "a lack of
"The problem is that these women are
pioneers" trying to find their way without a roadmap through
very difficult territory. "It's very hard to be in
someone else's home and discipline someone else's
children," she says. "On the other hand, it's very
hard to come home from work and turn into an employer as soon as
you open the door."
Mrs. Clark says the key is building trust and
then establishing comfortable boundaries for everyone on the
basis of that trust. For the parent, this means treating the
nanny as a professional, which means dealing with all legal, tax,
immigration and employee-wage and evaluation issues. For the
nanny, it means understanding the family guidelines, values and
rules, and operating comfortably within them.
"Too many parents go searching for
childcare with a price tag on their minds," Mrs. Thomas
says. "Wall have to quit looking at the money value on
everything and start looking at a moral value."
Reprinted from the Washington Times December 2, 1997.
SUGGESTED NANNY INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
SO WHAT IS A NANNY ANYWAY?
SAMPLE NANNY WORK AGREEMENT
HOW TO RECRUIT A NANNY