We can all agree this year is an absolute dumpster fire. Now, with the school year around the corner, but (maybe) no actual school, you’ve had to get creative with your childcare. For those of you who have decided to keep your children at home with a nanny or at-home childcare provider, I’ve got some tips for you.
Now, I don’t get to be a mom-expert on many things because my oldest is still a toddler. I don’t have a ton of experience. I’m usually the one asking for advice instead of doling it out. But we’ve had a nanny since she was 6-weeks-old, so for once in my adult life, I feel like I’m a bit of an expert something parenting-related. I’m not claiming to know everything, but there are a few things I’ve learned over the past three years that I can share with those of you who are new to having in-home childcare.
- Let them leave the house. Please. Remember how hard it was back in March when we couldn’t leave our houses for anything? Even playing in the yard was miserable (thanks, super-extra-long winter weather.) You wouldn’t want to be trapped in your house again. Don’t make your childcare provider go through that, too. Even if you’re just letting them leave the house for walks, that’s at least something to help break up the day. Hopefully, you trust them enough to let them drive your kids somewhere. Give them a list of approved places. Right now, we’re sticking to playgrounds, splash pads, nature trails, outdoor parks, and drive-throughs. Talk to them and find a few places you feel comfortable with. They will go crazy if you make them stay inside all day long. (We use an app that alerts us when our nanny leaves the house and returns. It also lets us see where she is while she has our kids. That gives us some extra security and may be a good option for you as well.)
- Give them a heads-up before you get home. Let them know if you’re coming home early. Some people want to “surprise” their nannies so they can make sure they’re doing everything you ask. But if that’s how you feel about your nanny – like you need to do surprise check-ins and you can’t trust them – then that person isn’t the right person to be caring for your children. Your nanny wants to make you happy and wants to be sure the house is picked up, toys are put away, and dishes are clean before you get home. The easiest way to make sure that they can do that is by giving them a heads-up if you’re going to be home early. That way they can tidy up before you get home. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t want your boss to give you a deadline on a project, and then tell you, “Never mind! Send me what you have right now. You’re done!”
- Pay them fairly. Talk to them about how they want to be paid, how often, and what other perks/benefits are included. Watching kids is hard work, and unless your kids are still napping, they don’t get a break. It makes for a long day. Be sure to pay them what they’re worth. This is an actual job, and your childcare provider relies on this income for their bills. Give them plenty of notice on days you don’t need them or if you only need them for a few hours. We personally pay for a full day every time our nanny comes to watch the girls, even if we get home early. Talk to them to figure out what works best for both of you. And remember, it’s easier to pay someone well and keep someone you trust than have to scramble to find a new provider.
- Set financial expectations. Discuss ahead of time whether you’ll be reimbursing gas money for any trips they take (you should) and whether you’ll have some petty cash available for little purchases (you should) like lunch or treats. We keep an envelope with a small amount of money in it that our nanny knows she can spend on whatever she wants for our girls without having to ask us first.
- Be clear on other expectations. If you’re working from home, do you want them to pretend like you’re not there and handle all conflicts on their own? Do you want them to come to you with any questions or concerns? Having someone else in your home while you’re there can be uncomfortable for you and for them, but you can make it a lot easier if they know how you want them to act and what boundaries there are. Are there certain areas of the house that are off-limits? Do you want them to let your dogs out? Can they discipline your kids? Talk about it ahead of time to avoid any awkward discussions later.
- Install nanny-cams (and let them know you have them). This may seem like the exact opposite of tip #2, but it actually goes hand-in-hand. Having a visual on your kids all day takes away some anxiety of having a stranger care for them. Also, your nanny will appreciate knowing that you’re watching, as there will be no doubt on what happens when you’re gone. If there is an issue, you won’t have to rely on a child’s recollection of events. Instead, you’ll be able to see what actually happens. Your kids may even behave better if they know that you can see them!
Are there any other pointers you have?