A few weeks ago I was forwarded an email by a concerned parent with an amazing nanny who was expecting her first child.
“Our beloved nanny is pregnant with her first child and we are brainstorming ideas for how best to make it work for all involved when she comes back to work, bringing her baby along with her. Our kids will be just 5 and nearly 3 when she returns to work after maternity leave. We have been thinking through and discussing issues that might arise and trying to come up with solutions…”’ – A Concerned Parent
During National Nanny Training Day in Boston, I facilitated an honest conversation between nannies from different backgrounds who at some point were on the other side of the question this parent was asking: What happens when a nanny decides to start her own family? How do you figure out something that works for everyone: the nanny, the employer and child/children of each?
Parents may be nervous that, if a nanny has a child of her own, she may want to leave and stay home with her child. These wonderings set the stage for an initial conversation that both parents and nannies are often afraid to have; however, it does not have to be either scary or full of tension.
I spoke with nannies and family counselor and former employer of a nanny, Dr. Ruth Freeman, about their firsthand experiences. Here are their top tips:
1. Keep children at the center.
“Working with a nanny is more than a contract agreement, it’s more about the relationship your nanny is building with your children,” says Dr. Freeman. The conversation begins with discussing the importance of the children. Like the mother who contacted us, parents realize that they want someone who comes to deeply care for their child/children. When a nanny works well with a family, it’s like magic. Thus, when there’s a perceived threat to that bond, parents get nervous and fear the worse: that their nanny won’t return.
However, as nannies during our panel stressed, they often feel the same way. “Parents sometimes forget that for a lot of us it is about their child.” Children are at the center for nannies; the conversation is about trusting that you or your nanny can ensure that, ultimately, you’ll have the best interest of your children and your nanny’s expected child in mind.
2. Have an authentic conversation and be willing to be vulnerable.
Having a conversation to negotiate typically means that parents and nannies come prepared with their plan in advance, often without considering the other side.
Everyone should be willing to talk through the best—and worst–case scenarios and that does mean being vulnerable. Your nanny may be afraid that if she is gone for too long, you may replace her with someone that doesn’t have a child or make the leap to daycare.
Dr. Freeman tells us to think of this as a two-step process. First: get it all out on the table. Restating each other’s concerns and ideas helps ensure that you understand them correctly. It also gives you a moment to process and get on the same page as your nanny.
Second, after you put these concerns on the table, then want come up with solutions together. A one-sided solution isn’t really a solution, whereas a solution made jointly is much more likely to be successful.
According to Dr. Freeman, “We come to the table with our own biases and we need to remember that. For example, a parent during the conversation may say I never want you to bring your children. After you repeat back a statement the person realizes how rash that statement may be.”
Talking with your nanny about what your sincere thoughts are will bring you closer to a solution that works for your family.
3. Make sure all voices are heard.
All voices have to be at the table or at least considered. If your nanny is having her partner care for their new baby, then the partner’s views should be considered as well. Make sure that you provide enough time for your nanny to make her arrangements with her family members that may be affected in a care arrangement.
4. What does a solution look like?
If you and your nanny decide to continue together, start by stating what that would look like in writing and answer those questions out loud. Maybe your nanny will have two months of leave and, when she returns, she can bring her baby to work and care for your child as well. (Read more about the pros and cons of bringing your child to your nanny job, with Amanda Dunyak’s blog post.)
If she decides not to return, you may decide to give your standard 30-day notice during her maternity leave, and ask for her assistance in searching for your next nanny.
5. Trust the process, because that’s what we have.
As an employer and a parent who may be employed yourself, you know that being a great employee doesn’t end when becoming a parent. By discussing your worries and concerns you can be proactive about your own childcare needs and supportive of your nanny’s journey into motherhood.
So, your nanny is pregnant. Don’t stress it. A pregnant nanny is like any other pregnant working woman. In fact, she’s just like you and wants to make it work with her chosen career. And with your help, she can.
We’d like to give a special thanks to Dr. Ruth Freeman and the many nannies who helped in writing this blog post.
Helen Adeosun, Founder and CEO of SiterCycle, is passionate about children. As a former high school 9th grade English teacher, she was excited about ways to drive learning in her classroom and how to better serve her students. SitterCycle was born out of her own experience as a nanny and she hopes that sittercycle.com is a place to continuously learn and share with current and future nannies. Helen holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and an EdM. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.