Tips to Choosing the Right Nanny for Your Family
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Why do you recommend communicating in what you call ‘Nanny Speak 1-2-3’?
As a therapist I was really overwhelmed by how many problems there are in the parent-nanny relationship. You’re at home, but it’s business. She’s an employee, but she’s part of the family. It’s complex! Some people have never been a boss before. You don’t want your nanny distracted because she’s too busy figuring out what displeases you. You have to tell the nanny exactly what you want from her, what you need for the children, and why you need it for yourself. For example, don’t say “If you have time, can you put a load in the washing machine?” Be specific. “Please put a load in the washing machine before you take Timmy to practice this afternoon. I will be home late tonight.” Write down your way of doing things, not only so that she can refer back to it but also in order to provide a constancy of care for your child: “This feels familiar, this feels safe.”
How has child care changed since our parents’ generation?
Most of us didn’t grow up with the type of child care we see now. There’s been a 180-degree change. Now, 75 percent of U.S. mothers work. One in 4 children is looked after by someone who is not family. We are different parents from the previous generation. We’re very hands-on. We had kids later, so we’re older. Today, there are many stay-at-home moms who decide to have a full-time caregiver because they want to spend time with their other kids. They don’t want to drag the baby to soccer practice. Moms and dads value the one-on-one time with their other children, the chance to reconnect with their spouse. Having a nanny is no longer just for royals.
Many parents have guilt about hiring a nanny. How do you advise parents to overcome this anxiety?
You’re still parenting your child if you are making time to do your own thing—go to the gym, catch up with a friend after work. You’re giving your child the gift of forming an attachment with someone. The more attachments they have when they are younger, the stronger the children’s emotional development. You’re teaching your kids that they are safe without you. Children who don’t leave Mom until preschool have a rough ride—they have real separation anxiety. They haven’t learned that when Mommy goes away, she always comes back, so when it happens at school it’s traumatic. It can make them not want to form friendships or focus on learning. It is hard to be a parent—sometimes we’re tired. But when you get a break, and you give your child less time but you are present and happy and ready to play, you are giving them your best self.
Tammy Gold, LCSW, MSW, CEC, is a New Jersey-based licensed therapist, certified parent coach, and author of The Nanny Whisperer. She has appeared often on Good Morning America, Today, MSNBC, and other national programs as a parenting expert.