A Resource for Nannies and Families

Nanny Being Part of the Family

Over the years I have often heard families say that they want a nanny that will be a part of the family. Being invited into the family is often considered a warm welcome, since entering a family’s home to work as a nanny can be an awkward experience, especially for the live-in nanny.

The invitation to be part of the family in their daily events can ease the transition, establishing a more comfortable work environment, and it may eventually lead to a rewarding friendship. Sharing meals or joining in family outings may help a nanny to understand the whole family, not just the children.

An invitation to be part of the family typically indicates that the family is friendly, spontaneous, and fun. While this is often the case, there are two other situations that can arise when such an invitation is extended to a nanny.

In one, the family may be too relaxed, too unstructured. If household rules are few or nonexistent, then structure that is critical to child development, such as discipline and routines, is easily disrupted. Such a situation can become chaotic and a stressful environment for both nanny and children.

The second variation on this invitation truthfully means that a nanny is expected to be available ’round the clock. A 24-hour schedule can be exhausting and thus stressful. If such a schedule is required, appropriate compensation is essential along with substantial time off.

It is important to note that neither of these scenarios may be intended by the family. In many cases they simply evolve over a period of months, with both family and nanny unaware of the looming crisis.

I once interviewed with a family that announced to me that the previous nanny had not wanted to be a part of the family. Instead she would retire to her bedroom each evening. It’s true that the nanny’s behavior could have been cold or indifferent, but as the interview progressed I discovered what may have been the reason for the nanny’s action. The parents clearly wanted the nanny to be with them at all times, including helping out with dinner and children’s bath and bed times. Helping out occasionally in these areas may be fine, but it can be the norm. Further, I can sympathize with the nanny’s need for privacy after a long day of work. At the end of the interview, I decided that the parents were looking for a 24-hour nanny. I knew the position was not for me.

If in your next interview the parents say that they want you to be part of the family, then be up front and ask them to explain what their invitation means. Even if you are satisfied with their response, you should accept the position with some caution and preparedness. When entering into a contract with a family, be sure that hours and responsibilities are clearly noted. If over a period of time you feel that you are becoming a 24-hour nanny, and the situation is consuming you, tactfully approach the parents and remind them of your contract. Mention to them that you need your privacy and rest in order to do a good job.

Being part of a family can be a great experience, one that only a position as a nanny can provide. Just remember that, when it is no longer fun, it is up to you to make a change.

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