The Washington Post recently had an article about two parents differing on how their nanny handled a situation with their child. The dad weighed in on the side of the nanny. His decision to support the nanny (right or wrong) clearly created a tense situation in that household!
Wisely, most people hire a nanny who has good experience and good judgment. But there are times when the nanny and the mom may have differences of opinions. The mom is clearly the decider. She is the last word when it comes to decisions related to her child. Until the dad presents his view which may be at odds with his wife’s –but in line with the nanny’s way of thinking. Are you still following me? Mom and nanny are at odds, and now mom is also at odds with her spouse. This is not going to be a happy household. What to do?
The best advice I can give parents-especially new ones–is to get on the same page with your spouse. While you may not agree on everything in child rearing, try to agree not to disagree in front of your caregiver. It’s a good precedent to set. Over the years, I have had calls from frustrated nannies who have received contradictory instructions from parents. Clearly that puts the nanny in a no win situation. One of her employers isn’t going to be happy with her. And the nanny is going to end up uncomfortable and not liking her job. No one wants to get in between spouses.
This situation of mixed messages is further complicated by the dynamic of mother and nanny. It is a completely different relationship from that of father and nanny. The obvious–“This woman (my nanny) is with my child and I’m not.” No matter what the mom does or how much she needs the nanny in her life, there are complicated psychological forces at work. “Will my child like the nanny more than me?” “I know I shouldn’t feel jealousy, but I do”, etc.
I’ve always felt that kids know who their real mothers are and that having kids bond with their nanny is a good thing for everyone involved. I also know that kids are amazingly smart in figuring out how to divide and conquer. They may not be able to articulate what’s going on, but somehow they can sense the dissension. As kids get older, one the best things you can do to make them feel secure is to have a united front with your spouse. Make it your job. Even if you don’t have 100% agreement, don’t let your children know. In the end, the united front is probably more important in their development than being right or wrong on any given issue.
And finally, back to the nanny who disagreed with the mom. Communication and respect are key aspects in any good relationship. The nanny and the mom share a common goal–trying to do what is best for the child. Sitting down and discussing their differing opinions may be the best course to take. In the end, they may each learn something from each other and help build their relationship.