#1 Nanny
September 27, 2011 6:56 PM   Subscribe

Question for parents who have used an in-home nanny in the past- what are some ideas for being the best nanny in the world and really impressing the parents?

Asking for a friend, who recently got a job as a nanny caring for one young baby. Everything is going great, she is taking great care of the kid and the parents have praised her so far. She really likes this job and is hoping to hold on to it for a very long time.

What are some ideas that she can do to make herself very valued by this family? What are some things your nanny did (or could have done) that would have made her irreplaceable to you?
posted by skjønn to Work & Money (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
We had a full-time Nanny for my oldest daughter's first 2 & half years. The same woman was also Nanny to our second child when she was that age. We thought (still think!) Wanda was the best damn Nanny on the face of the planet.

I'd say there were two levels to that. First, Wanda loves my kids (and they, her). All day, every day, she put them first, and made them the center of her attention. She didn't just watch my girls, she played with them and taught them. It's no accident both girls call her "Nana." She was very much a part of our family back then (my girls are now 11 & 8).

On another level, she did all the things I want a good employee to do. She showed up on time every day, stayed late when the day needed it, communicated clearly with us when we had to shift things around (i.e. she never surprised us if she had to leave early for an appointment), took sick days only when she was really sick, and listened to what we wanted and did her best to do it. She needed minimal direction from us on the day to day stuff, would ask us to provide the materials she needed (e.g. specific arts supplies), and could articulate why she needed them.

Wanda also had a life long passion and commitment to young kids. She was a pre-school teacher, had a Masters in Early Childhood Development, and had been a full-time Nanny for about 5 years by the time we hired her. She loved what she did, and it showed.
posted by FfejL at 7:09 PM on September 27, 2011

We've had two different nannies (1 fulltime and now 1 very parttime), although never for an infant. But in general, some things that we've learned (and I've picked up from my neighborhood parenting listserv -- everyone in this neighborhood has nannies.)

Overall, parents don't want to rock the boat -- if the care is good and things are working out, why stop? Finding someone new is a huge pain in the ass, so people are unlikely to fire her for no apparent reason. Thus, good nannies are sort of irreplaceable and your friend shouldn't stress out.

However, she should be careful -- people employing nannies for their infants OFTEN have a plan to flip the kid into daycare or some other cheaper environment one kid is 1 or 18 months or 2 or whatever. At least in my neighborhood, this seems to be the normal course because of waitlists or whatever. She might want to ask her family what their longterm plans are.

But, to answer your question:

- don't be sick or late a lot
- be a good household member (for example, I LOVED that our nanny was on top of things like noting that we were nearly out of toilet paper or butter.)
- do things when you can like running dishes, taking out the trash, wiping down the counters, as long as it doesn't take away from being with the baby
- our nanny did stuff that was sort of bold but was awesome -- like she reorganized our pantry (hey, she was in it more than I was) and culled the playroom and got rid of tons of toys (it was way better organized after she did that)
- our nanny was really committed to making our kid better -- she worked with him on eating veggies, manners, discipline... it really made everything better that she was doing this
- for parents of infants, they will want to hear the entire day... but it might be easier for her to have a worksheet of some sort that reports what baby ate, poops, sleeping schedule

In general I would advise anyone to make sure that you like your nanny contract and that you have a good vacation policy arrangement that is clear to all parties involved.
posted by k8t at 7:11 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

We've had two in-home au pairs, which is a slightly different arrangement, but here's what I've found really helpful:

- keep a daily chart of meals (amount and time), naps, etc. This makes handoff in the evening much easier
- keep on top of supplies (diapers, formula, wipes, etc) and let us know sufficiently in advance when running low
- let us know what *she* wants from the grocery
- when going out, let us know when she'll be back
- always ask in advance when she wants to use the car outside of work
- send a couple texts or images every week with updates on what the kids are doing
- get into a schedule on laundry, bed changing, etc (Friday works well for us)
- we don't expect her to clean the kitchen, but cleaning the highchair about once a week made a huge difference
- never have friends over while working without letting us know
- take the kids out of the house every day weather permits
- join us for family dinner about once a week, participate in cooking/cleanup when possible.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:06 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Our nanny quickly made friend with the entire nanny syndicate in our neighborhood--I'm still friends with the parents I met through her.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:00 PM on September 27, 2011

Nthing don't be late - that's a dealbreaker if the the person you're working for also works.
Also, only use your phone for emergencies or work-related calls. I can't tell you how much I hate seeing kids at the playground or gym whose nannies are ignoring them or barely paying attention while they talk for long stretches on the phone.

Here's what my fabulous (part-time) nanny does that makes us adore her:
- Takes pictures of my son when he's doing something awesome and texts them to me
- Always asks before she does something new, just to make sure it's not a problem.
- Makes almost everything a game with my son - cleaning up, or taking a bath, or eating - she will make the activity interesting in its own way for him... a great way to form good habits.
- Really inventive activities. The other day she texted me "We stayed home, made butterfly wings for ___ to dance and sing" - and sure enough, she had cut giant wings out of a cardboard box in the recycling bin, added plastic bags for straps so he could wear them, and they had covered them with paint and glued pompoms and glitter. I would never have thought of that, and it was such a great idea for an afternoon. I know not all moms feel this way, but I love thinking that he has a better time with her than he could with me. That I'm actually giving him something special when I leave him, instead of just depriving him of time with me.
posted by Mchelly at 7:45 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I didn't have an inhome nanny, but my son was in private in-home care.

The A #1 best thing she did was to keep a detailed journal of what they did each day. She took photos and printed and inserted them daily. So, I got a listing of what he'd eaten, naps, potty stuff, new words, potty stuff, etc. plus daily photos of him doing his regular stuff - having fun with her daughter, playing in the leaves, sleeping, being proud, being sad ... all the stuff I was missing, basically.

When he left her care to go to school, she gave me all the notebooks. I now have a more detailed view of the parts of his life I'd missed than I ever dreamed I'd be able to have.
posted by anastasiav at 9:53 AM on September 28, 2011

My wife and I don't have in-home care for our 7-month-old, but if I did, I would love to talk with my nanny about what was working for meals/naps/etc so that we could reinforce things he/she was doing and vice versa.
posted by that's candlepin at 12:26 PM on September 28, 2011

The nanny I had for my girls was wonderful. She did lots of the great nanny things listed here, had a Mary Poppins accent and a big bag with wonders inside, was a little wacky with a great imagination (but very responsible and safety-conscious) and best of all ... knew when to exit and let us hang out as a family.

That was 15+ years ago. My kids are grown up, and we recently spent a lovely holiday visiting with her across the pond! Joy!
posted by thinkpiece at 12:38 PM on September 28, 2011

Nanny of 3 years here, my families seem to love me, I'm not sure I do anything special other than love the kids and have a vested interest in their health and development. I pay as much direct attention as possible to the kids, of course, but also work on independence when kids get older (ie "you look at this book while I wash some dishes," trying to teach away from clingy clingy whiny whiny whenever I so much as look away from toddler's charming face).

For the little little ones (<1>
If I get sick, which isn't that uncommon because I see 5+ kids a week, I email and call my families to let them know to watch out for similar illness if I've seen the kid recently, and if I'm supposed to watch their kids that day/next day, I let the parents decide if they want to risk having a potentially contagious babysitter over at their house (assuming I'm feeling well enough to work, anyway).

I try to get the kids outside EVERY day, even if it's just to the park across the street, or if it's to the back patio while the rain lets up. This summer we made a little schedule - Monday turned into try-new-food-at-the-coffee-shop day, Tuesday was library day, and Wednesday was adventure day, where we'd go to a new museum or a new park every week (not hard in DC). Getting the kids out of the house helps them tire out better, which means better naps, and earlier bedtimes/sleeping through the night - relief for parents home from work at the end of the day. Doesn't matter the age of the kid, I always try to get them outside, with sunscreen and hats, of course. Parents seem to appreciate this bunches and bunches.
posted by brave little toaster at 6:41 PM on October 1, 2011

ha! messed up my post because I forgot about code. durp. I'm new.
so, I wrote that for babies younger than one year, I write down everything - time of bottles, time of nap, how many diaper changes and what kind, etc. etc. This helps parents slip into baby's routine at the end of the day, and also recognize when baby is changing routine as baby grows older - dropping nap, staying awake longer, eating more.
posted by brave little toaster at 6:43 PM on October 1, 2011

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