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How to Get What You Want from the Nanny

Clearly defined responsibilities. Write down all the things the nanny will be responsible for in addition to the usual feeding, diapering, dressing, bathing, and playing. Do you want your child to visit the park every day or to do a certain amount of arts and crafts each week? Will the nanny be doing the child's laundry? Would you like her to prepare special foods for your child? If this will be your first nanny, ask around to find out what other parents are having their nannies do. While you may at first be reluctant to sign off on various duties, the more you trust the nanny, the more work you will want her to do. In the beginning she might only be required to do a few of the items on your list, but it's best for both of you if she understands that eventually her duties will expand.

A method for resolving conflicts. Even the most agreeable parents and most intuitive nanny will have occasional misunderstandings. A weekly parent/ nanny meeting (it need only be 15 minutes or so) can relieve the nanny's anxiety about how or when to deal with these bumps. It's also a good time to catch each other up on the child's life – funny things he said or did, first bites of a particular food, or new friends made.

A clearly defined scope of employment. How many years do you anticipate needing the nanny? Are you planning on having more children? Will you be sending your child to preschool? Will anyone's schedule be changing in a way that will impact the nanny's job (for instance, Mom returning to full-time work)? Is your family planning on moving within the next year or so? The more you can tell the nanny the better, so that neither of you will be surprised or feel exploited later on.

What Nannies Fear
Once the nanny is ensconced in your house and your child's heart, she will probably be very reluctant to quit, even if she is dissatisfied. However, every nanny has her breaking point. The following are emotional land mines that nannies particularly dread. If you bring them up during the interview, it will put her at ease.

Lack of respect. "I want to be treated as an adult and a professional, not like one would treat a teenage babysitter," says Leah H. "Respecting the contract is huge. Things should never just be changed without some notice or discussion." During the interview, you can show respect by behaving as you would if you were interviewing someone for an office job and by assuring the nanny that she will get a written contract if she is hired.

Lack of support from parents for disciplining the child. A good way to tackle this topic during the interview is simply to acknowledge it: "We want to be consistent with discipline, and we want you to feel supported in what we ask you to do. Our tactics will probably evolve over time, but we will always keep you in the loop." If you already have a system of discipline in place, you should describe it to her and ask if she feels comfortable with it.

Micromanaging the nanny. Looking over a nanny's shoulder and second-guessing her decisions will make her tense and resentful. "One mom left me a note every day (sometimes 10 pages long) picking apart everything I did wrong," recalls April Mirabile, a Massacheusetts nanny. This seems to be a particular problem for stay-at-home moms who employ nannies. If you can honestly assure the nanny that you won't micromanage her, do so.

Invasion of privacy, particularly videotaping without telling the nanny. Secretly videotaping a nanny is a horribly invasive thing to do. Most nannies will quit if they find out you've done this. Some will put up with being videotaped if they know about it, but they won't like it. There are less abrasive ways to check up on the nanny, as we will discuss later in this chapter. Live-in nannies should be assured that their rooms will be off-limits to children and other household members unless they are specifically invited in.

Expecting the nanny to perform extensive housecleaning duties. Some parents, especially those who are at work all day, don't realize how much time it takes to keep a house clean. Bear in mind that every half hour the nanny spends with a vacuum cleaner is a half hour your child is spending alone or in front of the TV.

From Say the Magic Words by Lynette Padwa. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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