Today, raising children is hard. Especially if the parents are working out of the home. Usually, the only solution is to hire a nanny. Essentially, what they are looking for is someone to take the place of Mom while she is at work. Even though you play many of the same roles as Mom, your expectations will be a little different.
Families want you to be professional, someone who respects their home and their time. This means showing up on time and no snooping around. Being professional also means being adequately qualified to care for children by being certified in first aid and CPR.
As someone who will be caring for children, you will be expected to care for all child-related tasks: feeding, bathing, health, education, play, etc. Unlike a babysitter, it’s hoped that the nanny will form a strong relationship with the children and help them develop into well-rounded kids.
These are the things that you should always count on parents expecting from you, so strive to be the best.
Know Your Limits
Sometimes parents will ask you to do things unrelated to the kids. For example, they may ask you to do something from the the Would do or Could do list.
In summary, the “Should do, Would do, Could do” lists refer to three categories of nanny responsibilities. The things any nanny should do (as mentioned earlier), the things a nanny would likely be able or willing to do, and the things some nannies could do, depending on their ability, comfort and, of course, the pay.
If they ask you to do one of the things from the Would do or Could do list or wasn’t something you agreed on in the contract, feel free to say no. This also includes staying late, coming early, or taking on extra days.
Anything you do for them that wasn’t established in your contract, is a courtesy, not a requirement.
With that being said, it could later benefit you if you are flexible where you can be (as long as you’re doing so on paid time). The more flexibility you show them, the more flexible they are likely to be with you. Knowing your limits means being balanced. Don’t do things you seriously don’t want to and don’t feel guilty about that. This is part of advocating for yourself. You don’t want to be doing so many extra things that you start to feel your pay is too low or you aren’t being appreciated. If you decided to do more, be okay with that and don’t expect anything extra. Otherwise, you may be disappointed and the only person to truly blame will be yourself. Only give what you honestly can.
Know how many kids, what ages and what personalities you will be able to work with. Start with an honest self evaluation. How patient are you? Would you be okay with changing diapers all day? Can you endure the crying of a fussy baby? Are you good at paying attention to multiple things at a time? Are you good with scheduling and paperwork? Know the answers to these about yourself. When you have smaller kids, you often need more patience and understanding. They are still learning to use their words and work through their feelings. Having more than one kid to look after can be difficult, especially if they are both mobile. Having two or more kids that don’t want to do the same thing will require some multitasking. It’s still important to try to give them both one-on-one time throughout the day.
I also wouldn’t recommend working with too many different families until you have figured out the business side of things pretty well. Having to keep track of different paperwork, kids’ behaviors and house rules makes things more complicated. It’s important that you stay organized.
Don’t take on more than you can handle because if you start dropping the ball, you might be dropped.
Know Your Boundaries
This part is sometimes hard to remember when you’re in the moment, especially if you’ve been with the same family for a long time. In my article “What is the Difference Between a ‘Nanny’ and a ‘Babysitter’?” I said that a nanny feels like the kids she cares for are her own. It’s important to remember they aren’t. They aren’t actually your kids. So, when it comes down to it, the way they are raised isn’t up to you. If you and the parents disagree on some part of the child’s rearing as time goes on, they win. They win because it’s their right as the parents to raise the kids how they see fit.
You may be self-employed. This allows a great deal of freedom. Many entrepreneurs say something to the effect of “I’m my own boss, I’m not accountable to anyone!” But,
being your own boss doesn’t make you unaccountable. You still have a responsibility to the parents to follow their lead.
You are also still obligated to tell the parents where you are taking their kids during the day. As your client, they have the right to know what you are doing on their paid time. Being a self-employed nanny means you are offering a service. So, you can think of your job as any other customer service job. Always smile, be polite, and remember that if they don’t like your services, they don’t have to keep you. In the long run, it’s also better for the kids if you follow the parents’ way. Once you leave, they won’t have to learn a new set of rules and consequences if you’ve been following the ones put in place by the parents.
To be a successful nanny, know and exceed their expectations! Be flexible where you can, but remember to know and work within your limits. Most importantly, remember your place. You may be your boss, but you’re not the boss.