I Want To Trust You. Can I Trust You? What’s more important than having trust in the person you leave your newborn baby with? All parents want to feel that the person they have hired to care for their children can be trusted. Trusted to use good judgment. Trusted to be oh-so careful. Trusted to be reliable. Trusted to be focused. Trusted to be honest. Trusted to put the welfare of the child above everything else.
How do you get to that point? It’s a process to be sure. Are gut instincts enough when hiring? No, they are not. They are, however, enough to disqualify a candidate – just not to hire one. If you think you can be productive at work second guessing the person you left your infant with, think again. Parents need to do their due diligence. This may include engaging a reputable agency to help them in this task. But if parents go it alone, there are minefields to be sure. It is critical for parents to talk to references. Preferably multiple ones. Be aware that old references often have ongoing relationships with their former employees. They may weigh in with their old nanny to say whether they think YOU will be a good employer! Make sure to have more than one meeting before offering the job.
If a nanny has a long history of childcare and great references, those nannies assume that the prospective employer, should trust them. Trust ME, here’s where the disconnect begins. The issue is that the prospective employer doesn’t know this person or their references, so they are forced to take what seems like a huge leap of faith. Many times nannies are completely offended by new parents’ lack of trust. Why doesn’t she trust me? I’ve been doing this job for 20 years? Why not? Here’s what I have had to explain to our offended nannies: This new mom has no personal history with you. She doesn’t know all those children you’ve help raise. She needs to have her experiences with you first hand. She needs to see you calm her screaming baby. She needs to see her baby’s face light up every morning when you walk in the room. In the beginning, there is none of this context or resulting comfort. Parents can hope by doing their due diligence and making a great choice that a new relationship will be forged and that all important trust will evolve. It does take time.
I can think of a lot of hard jobs that exist. Some require extensive education. Others require technical know how. Some are physically grueling.
I’d like to add childcare to the list of tough and often undervalued jobs. Seriously, ten hours a day of tending to little people is no walk in the park, even if it often involves just that. Patience, good judgment, kindness…Did I mention patience? People who are good with children have a gift. You can study education and learn underlying principles, but it doesn’t mean you are gifted with children. In my 30-plus years of working in the nanny world, I have been so fortunate to meet an amazing group of really special caregivers. They are a unique lot from all over the world, from every walk of life. They are the joy of owning a nanny business.
While I’ve read articles describing some pretty incredible perks of nannying for high net worth families, these articles are describing less than half of 1% of most nanny jobs. Those positions do sound enticing: yachts, private planes, vacations in great spots; but they are misleading to be sure. Most nannies get in their cars, spend time in a miserable commute, walk into a kitchen not cleaned up from the night before, and start their chores. Get those sleepy kids up, get them dressed and fed, off to school or off to the park. Not a lot of glamour. And yet the nannies who perform these duties love their jobs! They wouldn’t choose to do anything else. Thank goodness! I know this city would grind to halt without them.
In honor of National Nanny Recognition Week, here are some ideas for parents wanting acknowledge the hard work their nannies do:
- Pay for class or membership in the INA (International Nanny Association)
- Give a day off
- Give a thoughtful gift certificate
- Write a note of thanks with something special inside
- Flowers and a note of thanks
These are just a few, but there is no shortage of gestures I know will be most appreciated by your devoted nanny.
I was very happy to see the article about Nanny Transitions in the New York Times this past week. The focus of the article dealt with the underestimated emotional reactions that children may have as they transition from being with their nannies to attending school. But there is even more emotional fall out than mentioned here. The end of what could have been a three to five year relationship is not just wrenching for the child and the family.
Three years ago I wrote the following:
The end of summer is a time of transition for many families. Some young children are now going off to school for the first time. I know there will be many tearful moms not quite believing that their babies are old enough for full time school. We see another side of this transitional process in our office. We see nannies tearful that “their” babies are off to school—and now they may be looking for new jobs. While sad, it is heart warming to hear how deeply these caregivers feel about their charges. Many of them are truly despondent at the thought of not seeing “their” kids everyday.
We keep a big box of Kleenex handy as we meet with nannies who are looking to find new employment because the children that they cared for have aged out of their services. There is real loss felt by these nannies who have spent 10 hours a day, 50 hours a week with “their babies.” There is no job quite like this one. The emotional investment cannot be understated.
My advice to parents is to communicate with their nannies if their job is coming to and end or the hours are going to be cut drastically. As much as most nannies want to stay in their jobs, most nannies can’t afford the luxury of part time pay. Every nanny knows that when the children they care for are going to school full or part time, their hours may be cut. It would be much better to discuss how their employment is going to be handled in advance instead of just handing out a pink slip.
If a nanny is interested and capable, she may be able to keep her job by becoming a family assistant or nanny manager. If that job description change isn’t an option, the end of the relationship deserves some formal kind of acknowledgement. As the author of the Times article suggested, all parties should work together. The children should be part of this transition. The nanny’s departure should not be a big surprise to anyone. The children can be part of the transition by planning a goodbye party or a special outing. While I don’t think a card is enough, some art therapy may be a good thing. Children also need to understand that they did nothing wrong to precipitate the nanny leaving. They are doing their part by growing up and the nanny can continue to be a part of their lives even though they won’t see each other every day.
August is typically the time of year that I write about taking nannies on vacation or paying nannies when you are vacationing. Not this year. Despite my dislike of what can be viewed as self-indulgent musings, I want to share my experience at the hairdressers this past Saturday. What does my hair cut have to do with my normal blogspace? Not much and a lot.
Here’s the backstory. I have been going to the same hairdresser for more than 15 years. His first language is not English. In fact, unbeknownst to me, when I first met him he only knew two words. Yes and darling. It worked for me. For years. No matter what I asked for or said, he had the same response. Yes, darling. We laugh a lot about that now. He is a wonderful guy who has had much success in this city. But back to the point.
When I saw him this past Saturday, he had just returned from a six day vacation with his family. If you don’t think vacationing makes a difference, you should see my haircut. Not that it’s ever actually bad. Sometimes it takes him 15 minutes to cut, others 45 minutes. Saturday was the 45 minute plus cut. He was definitely very focused and seemed to be enjoyed giving me a great haircut. We-he-talked all about his six days with his wife and daughter and what a good time they had had.
How important it is to be with family having fun! My hairdresser was totally revitalized and I was the beneficiary of his renewal. We all get run down working, working, working – even if we love our jobs. Getting away is a good thing. After, we are better at our jobs. We are better parents. We are better spouses. And the bonus is that we are creating family memories.
My hope is that everyone is getting a bit of a getaway so we can all feel better and be better at what we do.
The summer months of July and August usually include some much anticipated vacation time. If you are a nanny travelling with a family or a family travelling with your nanny, there are few helpful facts to know before taking off to ensure that reality meets expectation.
Unwritten Law: This is the family vacation, not the nanny vacation. That fact should be talked about up front. It’s all about managing expectations on both sides. It would be great to discuss a tentative schedule before departure. Is the family planning to go out for dinner most nights–without the children? Is Sunday morning free time for the nanny for church or beach? Who stays at home with the baby when there is a fun activity planned?
The Law: When accompanying an employer on a trip–whether a vacation or a business trip–an employee must be compensated for all hours worked during the trip, including the time spent traveling to the destination. If the employee’s working time exceeds 40 hours in a 7-day period, the employer must pay the employee for the overtime hours at the time-and-a-half rate. In addition to the regular and overtime pay, the employer is responsible for the employee’s traveling expenses, including airfare and hotel accommodations. These expenses are covered by the employer because the employee would not have incurred these expenses on her own.
A nanny is not paid for her free time when she has no responsibility for the children and has the freedom to go or do whatever she pleases. Over the years, we have heard of nannies working 10-14 days straight with almost no hours off. Instead, it might be best to keep the total hours similar to what the nanny normally works at home to avoid total nanny burn-out. The hours worked can be broken up to cover the times childcare is most needed.
Remember to have that talk before you leave and then have fun!
In case you missed it this past December, the District has new licensing requirements for teachers of infants and toddlers in DC day-cares. These new educational benchmarks are not being well received by current owners and workers. In fact, some of the affected providers will be regularly demonstrating downtown. It sounds as though in addition to the educational requirements, there are also a lot of detailed regulations that are really pushing day-care providers over the edge.
Instead of being known as one of the worst educational systems (and a disgrace as this is the nation’s capital), DC is now to be a leader in the improved care and education of young children. Conceptually this is a great idea. I am all for educating providers and for ongoing trainings. It is important to give babies and toddlers the best start possible. Simply tending to their basic needs is too low a bar. We know that the achievement gap starts early. And this is where any general agreement about this topic begins to unravel.
How about the financial impact of these new requirements? Who’s paying for this new improved workforce? It costs money to get the required education. Supposedly $3 million in subsidies are being allocated for the support of directors, teachers, and providers. We will see how that goes. But it’s not only money needed to meet the requirements, it is the time it will take to for people to take the courses to meet the benchmarks. And here’s the worst part for the workers: In the end, are the centers going to pay them any more money despite their educational investment?
Currently, there aren’t enough quality, affordable day-cares. These requirements are going to further reduce availability and exacerbate an already bad situation for working parents. As centers close because of these new requirements, parents are going to be scrambling for sure. While the goal of raising the bar for DC day-cares is the right move, figuring out the implementation needs much more thought. And money.
Looks as though we are putting Time Out into a permanent Time Out. Time Out was the fashionable and widely accepted method for dealing with non-compliant or badly behaved children. Even Nanny 911 told us so with her very best British, no-nonsense delivery.
We started to hear from clients that they didn’t want their nannies to use Time Out when dealing with disciplining their children. I have to admit that we immediately thought- another family who doesn’t want their children’s behavior corrected. We stand corrected.
The trainings we have for our nannies always provide solid tips. Our last series of talks for National Nanny Training Day was entitled “Getting to Yes” which followed up on a previous lecture on “Positive Discipline.” What we learned and now share with all our nannies is that to discipline means to teach. Putting a child in the corner, on a step, or in a naughty chair is not teaching him or her anything. If we think that the banished child is cogitating on his rotten behavior, think again. He’s probably thinking about how mean the person is who isolated him. The punishment is unlikely to change future behavior or build skills.
Instead of the corner, try talking to the offender. Get down on his or her level. Ask questions. Give choices. Have a “time in” with your offender.
Daniel J. Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D in their book No –Drama Discipline: The Whole –Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture your Child’s Developing Mind is worth a read. According to Dr. Siegel:
Misbehavior is often a cry for help calming down and a bid for connection. When the parental response is to isolate the child, an instinctual psychological need of the child goes unmet.
The books goes on to make the point that brain imaging shows that relationship pain caused by the time-out rejection looks like physical pain in the terms of brain activity. That bit of science is thought provoking.
Time out has had its day. Time to move on.
We love when nannies come armed to their interview with glowing letters of reference. We know those letters take time to write, and we appreciate the effort that goes into crafting them. But parents, please do not write a glowing letter of reference for your nanny if you don’t mean what you write. The next parents who hire your employee will believe what you penned. And unlike White House Nannies, they may not bother to call you to follow up for verification. They liked what you had to say. It was what they wanted to hear. It validated their impressions. They counted on the accuracy of your letter when making their hiring decision.
I get the problem. If your departing nanny asks for a letter of reference, it may be hard to decline the request. What should you do? Write the truth. How long did she work for you? Her dates of employment. Was she reliable? Always on time? Not really. Then leave that out. Did she love your children? Treated them like her own? Say that. List activities she did. Responsibilities she had. If you have mixed emotions, make it clear that there is a longer conversation to be had and offer to speak live.
For us it is always shocking to speak live with an employer whose verbal assessment is a complete disconnect from the reference letter they have provided. What prompted this blog was a beautiful two page ringing endorsement of a nanny that turned into a complete diatribe on the reference call. What?
The flip side is sometimes we are presented with a very short, uninspiring letter about a nanny who has worked a decade for a family. Ten years and fewer than ten sentences? Much to our relief, when we reach that long term employer, we get a much more complete and favorable assessment. In that case, the letter-rather than being a help to the nanny-is a disservice to her and any prospective future employer.
Please, keep those honest insightful letters coming. And if you have nothing nice to say, remember what your mother told you.
Should my children read this blog, there will be smiles and groans. This title phrase was the watchword of their youth.
May I just say how much those four words still hold true in my professional world. Don’t lie. Own your mistakes. Tell the truth. Your cover-up is or may be worse than the crime.
Resume: The embellishment of resumes is nothing new in DC. We all know a few people have gotten jobs and then lost those positions when the truth of their experience was revealed. How about those students in Kansas who outed their incoming principal?
College Degree: Don’t say you have one if you don’t. Even if you are really, really close—like a course or two away from that diploma. You can’t say you have a degree if you technically don’t. Education checks are easy to do. For nanny positions, actual degrees while valued, are not required in most cases.
Previous work history: If you didn’t work full time at a job, don’t say that you did. Occasional babysitting is not a full time nanny job. It is what it is. Valuable and related but not the same.
Fake references: Seriously. Do not EVER do this. Do not use your friend who has no children for a childcare reference. Do not use your boyfriend who is living at his parents house and has no children (but lots of guns on his Facebook page) as your most recent reference.
I’ve always felt we are very good detectives when vetting our candidates. We definitely want to find out any falsehoods before our clients do and certainly before anyone is on a job.
Trust is the most important ingredient in a relationship. If you lie, no one will ever trust you. Certainly not with their children.
Feeling Distracted? In the New York Times article, The Guilty Secret of Distracted Parents, the author Dr. Perri Klass seems to want to cut parents some slack on the playground. The pull of technology is strong and so is the tedium of taking care of kids. If you’ve spent any time on a playground recently, you can witness the dynamic first hand. OMG. Did you see that toddler who just waddled in front of the swing? It missed him by less than an inch. Did you see that kid trying to go down while his brother is walking up the slide and they’re fighting over the right of way? I hope you didn’t miss the kid who just fell off the monkey bars and is sobbing in the dirt. Every one of those scenes evokes the same question: Where is that mother? Or worse: Where is that nanny?
I know exactly where she is. She’s talking on her phone or reading her email.
“Your phone can seem to call to you in an especially seductive way when you are a parent on playground duty. And one reason is, let’s face it, that playground duty can get old long before your children do” says Dr. Klass.
“Parenting young children is frazzling to your brain” reports Dr. Jenny Radesky (a developmental behavioral pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics). She was quoted in the New York Times in 2014 and now she’s back being in print being quoted to make the exact same point she made three years ago. Distractions have not abated and taking care of children remains TEDIOUS.
Klass goes on to say, “Enjoy those moments in the playground, and keep an eye on the monkey bars. Safety first. If the kids are old enough and safe enough for you to look away, you may get a few minutes to check in on your adult life,”
I want to go on record as saying that checking in on your adult life at a playground is not the best advice. I have no idea what age is old enough for kids not to be watched. What I do know is that kids are capable of getting into trouble in a split second. The author of the article seems to want to cut parents a break. Hey, parenting is demanding, tedious, and mind-numbing at times. Of course, you can look at your phone. This latitude is not extended to those people being paid to take care of kids. Only their parents. Which probably explains that most bruises and breaks happen on the parents watch not the nannies.