There may come a time in your nanny career when you are faced with the opportunity to work in a home with a work at home parent (“WAHP” for short). This may mean that the parent will be working from home for the entire day or will be in and out throughout the work day. They may have a private office to work from or may make a public living space, such as the living room, their home work space.
This employment situation can present many challenges. It may be difficult for a parent to be so close to their children, but not interfere. It can also be hard on the child, knowing that their parent is there but cannot play with them or tend to their needs. Having their child in the home while they are working can also be disruptive if they are on a phone call or need to concentrate on work. If you and the WAHP are not on the same team regarding expectations and discipline, this can cause conflict. Feelings of stress and resentment can build up and both nanny and parent may start to feel uncomfortable in the home. This is certainly not an ideal situation for everyone because it is something that many nannies may not know how to handle. Most nannies that I know take pride in their work and tend to become stressed if a parent is around to undermine their authority. Some nannies refuse to work for a WAHP because the possibility of conflict is not something that they wish to deal with. It’s not unreasonable to want your space to be able to do your job comfortably and not under the watchful eye of your employer. For other nannies, this situation may not bother them and they welcome the challenge. This may be because they don’t mind working as a team with a parent that wants some time with their child while the nanny is on the clock or because they might be comfortable handling any conflict that may arise. If you decide that this is an employment situation that will work for you, here are some tips that will help to ensure a happy and peaceful work environment. Remember, communication is key in any nanny/parent relationship.
1. Ask questions and have a clear understanding of the situation from Day 1. Whether the parent was working from the home from your first day or if it was a change that happened somewhere along the line, the minute that it is decided that a parent will be working in the home while the nanny is there, an agreement needs to be drawn up. To start, ask questions. You deserve to know what will be expected from you in this situation. Will the parent want to spend more time with their children throughout the day, now that they are home? Will they need the house to be quiet? Is their work-space separate from the parts of the house you and the children will be in? Will they be accessible during their work hours? Are you allowed to leave the house with the children? All of these questions and more are pertinent moving forward, and the answers to them are important in developing some ground rules. If you do not have a clear understanding of your role and the situation, this can cause numerous problems in the future.
2. Establish boundaries and rules. Although a parent may now have the flexibility to spend more time with their child because they are working from home, they are still paying you to be there as their nanny. You are not their babysitter, mother’s helper or housekeeper (unless otherwise stated in your contract). Talk to the WAHP and decide right from the start if there will be time spent alongside them and what will be expected of you during that time. Be clear that you and your little one have your own daily schedule to follow, but also remain flexible to the parent’s needs. A parent should be understanding of their child’s schedule, which may include activities as well as naps and mealtimes. There needs to always be team-work between you and the WAHP. Handling discipline is an issue that can get pretty messy if it is not discussed between you and the WAHP from the beginning, as a parent might be tempted to speak up during a tantrum or when their child is upset. If this is something you are not comfortable with, you will need to convey that ahead of time. Your employers should trust that you are experienced enough to handle the situation and that their child is in good hands, but differences in discipline style can cause some stress in the situation. It is also important that the child is clear about who is in charge and what is expected of them. This may be a new transition for the child as well. For instance, the child might want to be with their WAHP, especially since the parent will be in the home. This can cause many discipline and control issues, so it is up to you and the WAHP to discuss the arrangement with their child ahead of time, and to come up with solutions for any problems that may arise. Mutual respect between the nanny and WAHP is extremely important in a situation like this.
3. Consistency is key. Both nanny and parent should know how important consistency is in a child’s life. If the child is confused as to what is going on or who is in charge, this can cause them to become very upset and may even result in tantrums, meltdowns, and defiant behavior. A child can quickly figure out how to manipulate a situation and if the WAHP and nanny are not on the same page. Stand your ground and be consistent in your behavior, and hopefully the parent will do the same. Stick to a schedule and a similar discipline strategy to that of the parent.
4. Set a clear start and end time. With a WAHP, sometimes there may be wiggle room in timing; for instance, the situation might be more flexible with a WAHP if an emergency makes you late, or you want to leave early or take a day off. Othertimes, there is NO wiggle room and the WAHP will be invested in their work for the entire time you are there, with no ability to juggle the children while they work. The same goes for staying past your scheduled time. If there needs to be wiggle room, it needs to be discussed and placed in the contract in advance, otherwise you might find yourself staying late 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there… and that can all add up! Nannies are people too, with their own lives outside of work. Any employer needs to respect that. For a live-in nanny, this can get very sticky if not clear from the start about when you can leave the house or have time off.
5. Discuss what meals and snacks are allowed and when ahead of time. This goes for any position, whether the parent works from home or not. You are in charge of their child’s health and well-being, so naturally you will have to follow any dietary restrictions or wishes to which the parents request you adhere. Maybe the parents allow the child to have junk food or sweets anytime they ask, maybe they only allow them for special occasions, or maybe junky treats are not permitted at all. This is important to be clear on; if you would not let your charge have a lollipop at any point during the day but their parents allow it, the child might not understand and try to appeal to the parent, causing a meltdown or a disagreement between you and the WAHP. Maybe the child will have to learn that there won’t be the option of lollipops when their nanny is there, but if they have a good day, there is a possibility to have one with mommy or daddy.
These are just some examples of questions and situations that you should consider before entering into an agreement to nanny for a Work at home parent. Be very clear about what you expect and make sure the parents are clear. Put everything in writing and remember to be flexible regarding some things. This will make for a positive working experience.
Amanda Dunyak attended Kean University for English Education with a minor in music, her other passion. Currently, she is a nanny working and residing on the New Jersey Shore. She has been a babysitter, nanny, and household manager for well over 20 different families throughout her career. She was also an instructional aide with special needs children, a teacher’s assistant, and a preschool teacher over the past 19 years, so childcare is in her blood. She is the owner and operator of Nanny Extraordinaire Child Care Services, LLC where she helps match up nannies and parents based on similar beliefs and personalities, helps with the interview and hiring process and sets nannies up for training to help them deal with the many situations they will face. She also has a blog for nannies called Diary of a Super Nanny and is a writer and Street Team Leader for Nanny Magazine. View Amanda’s posts here.