What Your Nanny Is - And Isn't

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According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of a nanny is “a person… employed to care for a child in its own home.” A nanny’s main responsibility is to care for a child’s emotional, physical, intellectual and social wellbeing, yet many nannies are often asked to perform household duties that are outside of the childcaring sphere, such as cooking, cleaning, scheduling and shopping. 

What is acceptable to ask your nanny to do?

When thinking about the job duties you wish to ask your nanny to accomplish, it is imperative that you ask yourself whether or not that duty will contribute to or detract from their ability to care for your child. 

Cooking

It is well within your nanny’s responsibility to feed your child at appropriate and necessary times during their scheduled shift. A nanny may prepare multiple meals and snacks for your child throughout their working day. The grey area begins however, when the nanny is asked to cook for your whole family. It is one thing to request that a nanny prep for your dinner while a child is at school or napping, but if a nanny is forced into the responsibility of preparing and cooking for a family of four while also assisting the child with their homework, it is easy to imagine that the immediacy of the meal takes precedence and the homework suffers. The nanny is there first and foremost to assist in the development and rearing of the child, and if cooking takes away from that responsibility, then it should be forgone.

Cleaning

Many families ask their nanny to engage in light housekeeping. This is completely acceptable when the duties are related to the child. Sanitizing and organizing toys, tidying and disinfecting the high chair and surrounding areas, loading the dishwasher after snack and meal time, restocking and cleaning the changing table, and even the child’s laundry are all things that are reasonable and even encouraged to ask your nanny to do. Having your nanny tidy your child’s room with your child present is a great way to teach your child by example the importance of organization and cleanliness. Most light cleaning tasks regarding the child can be done during your child’s nap or while they are at school. It is important to reiterate that any cleaning that takes away from your caregiver’s ability to nurture and comfort your child to the best of their ability should not be asked of them.

When thinking about the job duties you wish to ask your nanny to accomplish, it is imperative that you ask yourself whether or not that duty will contribute to or detract from their ability to care for your child. 

Laundry

Issues arise around the job duties when expectations are not made clear from the get-go. Many nannies expect and even welcome the task of doing the child’s laundry, as folding warm, clean clothes while the child is napping is sometimes considered a cherished repreve. However, the idea of washing their employer’s underwear can make some nannies, extremely uncomfortable. The addition of expensive clothing that needs extra precautions during the washing process can add unnecessary stress and time to the nanny’s day as well. It is one thing if you are in a pinch and ask your nanny if they are comfortable doing a load of your own laundry, it is different to consistently throw in your washing without having had a clear discussion beforehand. There are many simple and cost efficient ways to get one’s laundry done.

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Pet care

A nanny is a childcare provider, not a dog-walker or cat-medicine-administrator. If a nanny has to be thinking about the dog’s needs while a child is having a tantrum, it can be difficult for the nanny to give the child the full attention and care that they need while the dog is endangering a priceless rug or a corner of the couch. Letting the dog out in the backyard or refilling it’s water is one thing, but asking a nanny to groom is not within their job title. Some nannies may be allergic to pets or even have a fear of animals. It is important to discuss your pet care needs with your nanny prior to starting so that everyone can be on the same page.

Many domestic issues can be sorted out simply by having a clear discussion about expectations upon hiring. Ask your nanny during the interview process what they are comfortable with and what their domestic strengths are. If you lay out the expectations from the get-go, it will greatly avoid any awkwardness or resentment down the road.

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