February 27th, 2014

Advice for Parents Working From Home

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Telecommuting is a part of the work landscape and here to stay. (Unless you happen to work for Marissa Mayer)  The idea of this blog is not to extol the virtues of or point out the downside of this work arrangement, but to try and help the parents who employ nannies in their homes to adopt some best practices to insure  good working relationships.

When we interview nanny candidates in our office, one of the questions we always ask is: Are you comfortable working for a family where one (or both) of the parents work out of the home?  As expected, we get a variety of responses to this query. They range on a spectrum from “No problem” to “Maybe” to more often “Absolutely not”.  We talk to the candidates about their responses to understand the back stories.

New parents are often shocked that nannies don’t want to work with a parent at home. Suspicions arise. Why? What would the nanny do differently if the parent is not home? Some scenarios don’t even occur to new parents but can cause a lot of stress for the caregiver. How does the nanny keep a crying baby or a demanding toddler quiet while the parent is on an important call? How does she deal with separation anxiety?

In analyzing why nannies have had bad experiences with parents at home, the reasons for the failure of those arrangements almost always had to do with a lack of boundaries. Some of the boundary infractions are physical. A parent is constantly in the space where the nanny and child or children are. It is much harder to establish any kind of relationship and authority if the parent is always there. We realize it’s very hard for any parent to hear their child cry and not want to intervene. But it is important to allow the nanny to establish her routines and responses without constant input from the at home parent.

Nannies whose answers were middle of the road made it clear to us that it depended on the parent. They’ve had jobs where it worked and others where it didn’t.  The nannies who responded “no problem” often recount the wonderful relationships they developed with not only the children in their charge but also the parents. There are some nannies who actually love the idea that there is another adult in the house.

For both nannies and parents, one of the best ways to deal with parents working at home is to make plans for outings whenever possible. The children enjoy the adventures to the park or library and certainly the nannies do too. The out- of -the house time gives the working parent total quiet and time to focus on their tasks at hand  without any interruptions. Obviously, the polar vortex and other instances of bad weather may make getting out impossible.

Establishing routines and working as a team will yield the best results for the arrangement. If specific times are set up for work breaks and visits with the children or baby, the likelihood of success is much greater.  It is also best to have weekly meeting s to give input, discuss any problems, and come up with solutions.  Fewer surprises, more routine. Parents should discuss in advance how they want to deal with questions or interruptions from the nanny.  Some simple questions could wait till the end of the day. Make it clear because you are there does not mean you are necessarily available to talk at all times. Talking out possible scenarios and how they should be handled will help make this relationship a success.

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