Stay Connected

images-1There can be a lot of miscommunication between parents and nannies, especially when communication isn’t happening. I think it’s important to stay connected with parents, and parents with nannies to maintain consistency in the household. Some ways I make sure this happens is to:

Nannies and Parents: Nannies, send email and or text updates daily.

Send texts or emails with pictures of what the child/ren did during the day with little notes, this way parents are apart of these activities. This is especially helpful when verbal skills are still developing and each day children learn many different words, but are barely distinguishable–it makes it easier to communicate and understand toddlers when you know the context of their days activities:  art projects, play-dates, cooking, outdoor time.  I often don’t do this at the time it’s happening because I’m focusing my attention on the child I watch.  Nap time is a great time to send an email update with pictures and a quick note.

Parents and Nannies: Parents, send an email update at the end of every weekend.

I find that a lot of nannies do something similar to the above, either because they choose to or because the parents requested specific updates.  Parents on the other hand tend to be a little worse at maintaining communication over weekends, which is understandable, their weekend is their family time, the last thing they want to do is send a detailed email.  That being said, it’s really helpful to the household when everyone know what’s up.    I specifically ask my employers to send email updates on Sundays; this includes, what they did, what new developments the baby has had, illness, teething, naps, etc., this has been incredibly helpful in keeping consistency.

Old Fashioned Note Taking:

We also keep a notepad: a lot of people have an initial, negative reaction to this form of “note taking” but it is actually helpful, especially when you work for very busy parents.  The notepad includes, sleep times, poop and pee times (this is helpful when starting potty training.)  Meals (helpful in making sure they get well rounded meals throughout the day, and no repeats!) And if the children are sick with a fever, notes on temperature and medicine.

Apps: 

Baby Connect: Cost: $4.99

Eat Sleep: Cost: FREE

Older children:

Cozi: Cost: FREE

Taxes.


imagesI call myself a professional nanny, but what makes me a professional? Beyond just being “good” with infants and toddlers, I’m a professional because my job doesn’t simply stop when I leave work. I think about how to deal with new transitions and developmental stages long after work hours.  I do research into early childhood development, parenting styles, and baby/toddler gear. I am always professional in regards to my employers privacy (hence the lack of any identifying information, pictures and names on my blog.)

I think about everything I do with the children I care for, and how to be better the next time around.  I now write about childcare on my blog and occasionally for Nanny Magazine. And I love what I do.  But what really makes me a professional in the eyes of my peers?  I pay taxes and I have health care provided by my employers.

Peers almost applaud when they find out the last two aspects of my job, the other stuff, my time, focus and work ethic doesn’t really seem to matter.  What matters most are taxes and health care….And this is good!

I am happy, even grateful at moments that I am able to work for, not just a family who I like, but a family who treats my job choice as legitimate and respectable. Unfortunately they are an anomaly among personal, in home childcare employers.

The reality is that I am grateful, because my situation is rare.  But I don’t want to be grateful, I want the treatment I’ve received from my current employers to be the norm, not the exception.

Why Childcare Professionals (baby sitters and nannies) should be “on the books.”

As long as social security still exists when I retire, I will have funds to retire on. I can rent an apartment, lease a car, buy a house one day, because I have a paper trail of credibility and financial stability.

Why Parents should insist on this.

Unless parents are working with an illegal immigrant they should insist on on the books pay, for the reasons listed above, and for similar reasons discussed in Jacoba Urist’s article, Should You be Paying Taxes on your Baby Sitter  in Motherlode.

“In the final analysis, it’s most important to remember that withholding rules are designed to protect your nanny, by financing her Social Security and Medicare down the road — just as she tries to anticipate your child’s needs each and every day.”

Character Matters

Tall Nanny, Small Nanny, Slow Nanny, Fast Nanny: How many different nannies you meet! 

How to choose a nanny:  This is the topic of conversation in Park Slope. Speaking with parents on this subject has led me to believe a lot of parents go into the process of finding a nanny, with, well, not much of a process at all.  This shocks me because Park Slope parents are notorious for being overbearing in every other aspect of child rearing. Parents spend hours, weeks, maybe months, carefully choreographing their 5 month-old’s weekly class schedule (dance, music, art, etc.)  Yet, not much thought seems to go into the person who will spend 40+ hours a week with their child.

Of course parents think and care about who watches their children, but without a clear structure, or rubric to choose a nanny they become overwhelmed, the process becomes something akin to shopping in a grocery store: pick one important “no” ingredient i.e. high fructose corn syrup, and ignore the rest.

Looking back about a year and a half ago, before I got my current job, I put myself on SitterCity, a website designed for nannies and parents.  I remember the submissions by parents including such things as “flexible hours, experience,” but then the requirements often leaped to language… “Must be fluent in…” most popular being Spanish, but because I’m in New York, more obscure languages such as, Hungarian, Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Russian enter into the mix. After hours, wage, language, and maybe education, that’s about it in terms of job requirements.  The process is similar to any other job someone may get (Cook, Lawyer, Waitress, etc.,) unbiased to personal character.  The problem with this is that being a nanny is not like any other job, your character does matter, or it should.

I think choosing the right nanny should, ideally, include elements of character (values, lifestyle, religion, etc.,) The key is for parents to decide, even loosely, what’s important to them, both as an employer and parent (monetary vs. character).  This part can be difficult because it takes time to decide what is important to you in someone’s character, should their values, religion/non-religion, match yours or do you want variation?

The truth is, if you have a full time nanny that nanny is going to have a pretty significant impact on your child, in more ways then you can see.  It can be small things or big things, maybe you’re an atheist but your nanny is a god-loving woman or man and is preaching the Bible all day.  Maybe you don’t want you’re child to be a racist, because, who wants their child to be a racist? But, guess what, your nanny is a racist. Maybe you’re healthy, but your nanny eats all day and is extremely over weight? This is not only a safety issue: what your nanny is physically capable of in terms of protecting your child from harm, it also becomes a character issue: will your child also learn to over eat, or use food for comfort? All of these things matter, your children will learn from the behaviors of the person near them, meaning parents, and also caregivers.  So be critical of their character, because unlike other jobs their personality and character matter.

So, what would this look like? Below is a loose list of what is most important to me, and my partner, that is, if we were in the market for a nanny.  You’ll notice that business (salary, sick days, paid vacation, etc.) is the last item, this is in an ideal situation where financial constraints do not apply, where I can choose my child’s nanny based on her character and experience, not on her low rates.

  1. Character matters: I would want my child’s nanny to have similar values as my partner and I.
  2. Experience.
  3. Parenting: I absolutely would want my child’s nanny to have a similar parenting style as my partner and I.
  4. Dietary:  I would want my child around someone who is healthy; carnivore, vegetarian, vegan: I don’t care. But I do care if they eat all day, and go to McDonalds with my kid.
  5. In Shape: I don’t mean a muscle builder, just someone healthily mobile. If my child runs into the street can my nanny run after him?
  6. Doesn’t watch TV on the job
  7.  *Business:  This includes salary, time off, paid vacation, sick days, Health Insurance, etc.             *And, yes, these should all be included for a full-time nanny position.

What this means:  I want my kids to have a consistent upbringing. For others this might be different, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it is important to think about, and figure out, what is most important to you as parents.  Obviously money comes into play for most, which may limit your options, or may not because low and high salaries do not necessary correlate to the dedication/character of the nanny. A lot of nannies don’t know what they’re worth (please don’t take advantage of that,) and some nannies think they’re worth way more than they are.

When you’re getting ready to hire a nanny think about what you want: make a list of character traits you want your nanny to have, and a list of more business end things: experience, flexibility, job duties and pay. When it comes time to open your pocket book remember that this person, the person of your choosing, who ideally matches your criteria is spending 40+ hours a week with your child. The nanny you choose will play a significant role in building your child’s character, emotional capacity, education, etc., so pick your nanny wisely and pay accordingly. And if you’re not sure you can afford certain rates, consider your life style.  Maybe it’s worth it to give up some extra luxuries, like a fancy car or cable TV in order to ensure your child has a proper upbringing.

What’s Up Dogs?

I was recently asked by first time parents of a toddler how I, “deal with their [children’s] dog obsession?” I assumed (correctly) the question related to safety rather than the weaning off of dogs. Not all dogs love to be touched, poked and sat on by children.  So, here is what I do when that inevitable dog obsession takes over our little people.

As I’ve repeated in most of my posts, explain everything early, dealing with dog obsessions is no different.  Teach your kids early, meaning in the first few months of their life, how and how not to touch living things.

Before the obsession begins, I always show babies/toddlers how and how not to touch dogs, you can show this by using books, stuffed animals and real dogs.  I show babies to touch gently, by lightly stroking or patting an image, stuffed animal or real dog.  Most parents and caregivers have witnessed their baby/toddler smack, throw or be rough in some other way with stuffed animals.  I use these opportunities to correct, show and explain how “we touch animals.”

Like most things children learn behavior from watching the adults in their life and then copying that behavior themselves. Because I am cautious, I always approach the dog first. The steps involved are as follows:

  1. Ask the owner if the dog is okay with being petted and with small children.
  2. After a positive response from the owner I put my hand to the dogs nose, giving him time to give me his okay.
  3. I then pet the dog.
  4. After I say it’s okay, I tell her to repeat what she saw me do.

The toddler I watch knows how to approach a dog and how to pet the dog. She knows this from watching me and from practicing being gentle at home with her books and stuffed animals. She knows to ask me first (I assess by first asking the owner and then going to the dog myself), with my approval she knows to put her hand to the dogs nose and after a few “okay” sniffs she knows to, again, wait my approval and then go in for the nice gentle petting I’ve shown her.  She knows to do all of this from watching me and listening to my endless explanations of why some dogs don’t like to be touched, even gently.  And when a dog doesn’t want to be touched, or I say “No,” because the dog is barking at her stroller, she understands with abundant disappointment…that is, until the next dog appears.

Stay Calm

Parents, nannies, and friends often wonder at my “ability” to stay calm and patient when dealing with children, especially toddlers.  I’m commonly asked shyly, sometimes bitterly, by parents and nannies how I remain so calm when “They walk so slow…Ask the same question over and over…Have a tantrum.”

My ability to remain calm and patient isn’t because I have a super power calm/patient gene. To the contrary, I’m quite impatient in daily life, when dealing with adults.  I am calm and patient with children because I consciously decide that being calm, patient and taking the time to listen and explain is the best way to teach kids these behaviors.

First off, let me say I too get frustrated.  Even after my conscious, educated decision that this “is the best way of parenting and co-parenting.”  I have moments when I too would like to move at a reasonable pace. I think, perhaps we will make it one full block without 5-10, stoop-stops, pebble- stops, adjustments of exactly what she wants to carry as we walk-stops.

During these moments of frustration, I remind myself that we are moving so slowly, that I need to repeat exactly why we have to leave the sandbox, not because I’m dealing with a fall-over, incoherent drunk, but a small child, who does deserve patience and explanations as she learns how to walk and talk and everything else.  I remind myself how wonderful it is that she takes everything in, and then I too can look at the scenery and smell the flowers with her—because when do we do this as adults in New York City?

Remember that letting your child walk allows him to practice new skills, gives him independence and even tuckers him out for a later nap.  This isn’t an anything goes experience, if you actually have to be somewhere explain to your baby/toddler why you must carry him or put him in the stroller.

Here are some tips to get you through the slow walks, and repetitive conversations:

Every day, multiple times a day, remind yourself that everything is going to take two-times as long, and that is okay.

I learned long ago to never stress about time when dealing with toddlers (an attribute I do not maintain in my adult, daily life: I am known as extremely, and maybe annoyingly punctual.)  If you, like myself, have always been a punctual, quick paced person, the slow movements of your life with a toddler will be a more difficult transition.

Assess if you actually have to be somewhere, or if you’re just ready to leave.

When you are asking your toddler to move faster because you “have to go!” assess what exactly you need to leave for.  We are in the habit, especially as New Yorkers, of going places, doing things.  Because of this on-the-go-mentality, we often assume after being somewhere for 20 minutes that we “MUST” leave, but maybe that isn’t true. If you don’t actually have to be somewhere, like a playdate, or doctor appointment let your toddler walk. He has just learned this amazing new thing, so be patient and take your time.  Remember that when you are calm and patient, you are simultaneously teaching him calmness and patience.

Getting ready to go:

So, you do have to be somewhere.  Allot two-four times the amount of time to get yourself, and baby/toddler ready.

My ease with children and the reason I don’t stress about time is because I allot a significant, literally two to four times, more time to get myself and baby ready, and the same goes for getting to the place.  If we are going on foot to a play-date, doctor appointment, class, etc., I decide beforehand whether we are going to take the stroller, or just walk.  I try as much as I can to allow enough time for her to walk, at least part of the way.   A walk that would take me 10 minutes, I decide will take me, and toddler 40 minutes and I leave the house accordingly (Yes, I know I tacked on 30 minutes for a one way trip-this gives us leeway, so I’m not stressed.)

Get everything you can get ready while baby/toddler naps.

I always get her diaper bag stocked with the things I’ll need, or might need.  If we’re out for the day this means any of the below:

-Water/milk bottles.

-Diapers.

-Wet whips.

-Bib.

-Extra cloth bib, for other cleanups.

-Change of clothes.

-A book or 2.

-Food (If you’re out for lunch or dinner.)

-Blanket.

-Hat.

-Sunscreen.

-Bathing suit.

-Sweater.

*Have yourself ready too!

Prepare them for the activity.

While you’re getting your baby/toddler ready to go, explain what you guys are doing (As I describe in my previous post “Baby Talk.”)  Prepare them for the activity, this will help them understand they are apart of it and can also be a motivator for them to move more quickly.

Ask them to keep walking with you and explain why.

If we are in a time-crunch, I’ll ask her nicely to “come along,” and I’ll explain to her why we need to move faster, with information that will likely excite her. “We have to get home to see Mama and Dada…We have a playdate with (name of good friend).” Filling them in on the details is always helpful, especially if what you’re doing is fun.

If you need them to move faster, be fun and make a game out of it!

Another nanny, and mother, I know sings a cute song while marching, the kids love it and always happily follow along.

Remember that like everyone, toddlers are going to be less likely to be motivated by an irritated tone. Stay calm and relaxed. Speak to them kindly, not only for their benefit, but for yours as well.  If you speak in a calm voice with some excitement about what you are doing, it will motivate them, and also, amazingly, make you excited and will rid you of your irritation.

Baby Proofing: Is it Fool Proof?

Most families I’ve worked for have hired professional baby proofers.  Parent’s choose the baby proofer option rather than do it themselves, because, like all families they fear something in their home will do irreparable damage to their child.  Safety aside, professional baby-proofers offer a convenient service to those with money and little time at home, why do something someone—a professional can do for you?

What I’m concerned with is what happens after the baby-proofers leave? Do all of the door, cabinet, toilet, window and faucet locks help protect your child? While some of these preventative measures could help protect your child from scalding water, jammed fingers, etc., this form of baby-proofing is restricted to the house and to the things where child-locks can be installed. What about everything else?  What about the parents and adults who despite (or because) of the baby-proofing still don’t know what could be hazardous for their child both in and out of the home?

Tip: Do the baby proofing yourself so you can assess what could be dangerous. This will make you a more aware parent and nanny when it comes to safety in and out of the home.

Most families I’ve worked for have gotten sloppy after baby-proofers come either by leaving potentially dangerous things at eye level or by neglecting to use the safety materials the professionals installed.  Professional baby-proofers do provide a convenient service, but they don’t teach or inform the parents why these things need locks or what parents should look out for around the house.  The baby-proofers don’t (rightfully so) account for all of the things that lay around any given home, because that’s the parent/caregiver’s job.

Things families leave at eye/reachable level after the baby-proofers come:  Wine corks, guitar picks, pens (potential choking risk), hot coffee/tea (burning risk), computer cords (both a tripping and strangulation risk), and breakables (cutting risk).

I believe professional baby proofing should be avoided because it stops the parent/nanny from thinking about what is safe and what isn’t. A lot of people who have never or rarely been around babies don’t know what, daily, household things could be dangerous.  Without driving yourself crazy with paranoia think about what she could get into, is that dangerous? Is that too small, could she choke on it?

Tip: First time parents should especially take the time to think about what is ok and what is not: learn, decide and trust your instincts.

The parent’s who are first timers, not only with their baby but, with babies in general, should not feel any inadequacy or embarrassment for not knowing these things. You learn with experience, by watching your child and the environment she’s in. Having a baby-proofer come install things removes you from the process of thinking about safety, it puts safety issues aside and allows for parents/nannies to think, “well, that’s taken care of.”

Tip: Think and assess what’s in your cabinets- you might not need to block everything off.

I recommend doing the baby proofing yourself so that you can assess what is dangerous and what is not, where to put cabinet stoppers and where you might not need them.  The process of baby-proofing, of looking at the objects in your house that are at eye/reachable level will make you safer in the home and outside the home.

YourBabyNanny Baby proofing guide:

General: Put all potentially hazardous things up 3.5 feet or lock in cabinet/closet.

What’s hazardous?

  • Cleaning supplies.
  • Small objects: I took a continued CPR class a while back and the teacher suggested using a toilet paper roll (the cardboard part) as a frame of reference- so anything smaller than that should be out of reach. (Ex. pens, guitar picks, wine corks.)
  • Breakables.
  • Sharp objects.
  • Heavy things that are not secured.
  • Cords.
  • Laptops.
  • Remotes/things with batteries.

Tip: Let your kids explore safe cabinets.

Drawer/cabinet locks and stoppers: I think drawer/cabinet locks are useful if you have breakables or potentially dangerous things in them, if not don’t use them. Look in cabinets, drawers and closets, than decide if there is anything dangerous.  If everything looks fine than it’s ok to leave it unlocked. Let your kids explore these safe places with you, show them that not all things are blocked off, just certain, unsafe places.

What to lock:

Tip: Remember to explain to your children why these things are protected or off limits so they learn to be carful when outside of the house.

Kitchen:

  • Oven door guard: YES.
  • Stove burner guard: YES.
  • Cabinets: You decide-safe cabinets let your baby/toddler explore the mixing bowls while you cook.
  • Fridge: No/you decide: It takes a good amount of strength to open a fridge. But keep glass bottles on the higher shelf just in case.

Bathroom:

  • Toilet seat lock: No, but keep the lid down or door closed when you aren’t in there!
  • Bath Faucet lock: No, unless you have scalding hot water.
  • Shower rod safety: Make sure to have a shower rod that is drilled into the wall.
  • Razors: keep in a cabinet or out of reach meaning at least 3.5 feet up.
  • Cabinet locks/stoppers: You decide.

All Rooms:

  • Outlets: Make sure NOT to get removable outlet blockers these are a choking hazard.  Instead replace the face of the outlet with one that covers the outlets with a swivel piece.  Look at KIDCO  outlet cover.
  • Table Corners: I do recommend getting some to cover sharp corners.
  • Doors: I don’t think door “finger pinch guards” are necessary. I think they actually deter door safety because the parent/nanny forgets to explain door safety to their children when the door is protected.  Start showing door/finger safety in the house, but keep an eye out!!
  • Windows: I think window guards are good if the window is low to the floor or if you are in a high-rise.

Notes on Boundaries

Notes on Crossing Boundaries:

No, I don’t mean the predictable and unlikely scenario of Dad hitting on the nanny (i.e. first season of Girls and every other TV show/movie with a young nanny.) I’m talking about boundaries that are crossed when employers unfortunately, and inevitable, ask their nanny to perform some additional job duty which has virtually no connection to the job titled “nanny.”

As a professional nanny, I have come across some interesting, albeit offensive, requests. My favorites have been: “Can you wash our sheets… Clean the master bathroom… Bartend our party…Iron my shirt…” While these incidences make for interesting conversation points, they are incredibly offensive to us nannies. Being a nanny is an intimate job and lines will likely be crossed—so how do we deal with this as nannies and employers?

To Employers:

Tip #1: If you’re not sure the job you want to ask your nanny to perform falls into her ‘duties,’ than it most likely does not, so don’t ask her to do it.

If you’re considering asking your nanny something and you hesitate for just one second because you aren’t sure it’s okay, than DO NOT ask her to do it. You should never ask your nanny to perform duties that have nothing to do with your child, unless this has been previously discussed.

Tip #2: Hire a cleaning service.

If you need your house cleaned, don’t ask your nanny to do it, and please refrain from offering her $50 extra a week to clean. While you might think she would be interested in the extra money remember that cleaning houses is not the job/career she chose. *If she wants the extra money she will offer to do it, but never ask. The money tactic does not make you respectful or considerate, because you are associating our chosen career with all other service-based jobs and assuming they are interchangeable. We are nannies who watch, care for and educate your kids. If we wanted to clean houses we would clean houses.

So, how do you get your house clean if you don’t have time and your nanny isn’t doing it? I recommend that working mothers and fathers hire a cleaning service, they aren’t that expensive and will allow you time to relax after work. You will be able to play with your kids and enjoy your night without the worry of cleaning or scheming a way to “respectfully” ask your nanny to do it.

To Nannies:

Tip #1: Bring up job duties either in the interview or set up a meeting to discuss this topic.

If you’re starting a new job make sure to address this issue immediately. In your interview, bring up all of the great things you will do. After you do this, say something like “My duties will be limited to your children, I will clean up the messes we make throughout the day.” And maybe give a couple of examples of jobs you will not perform. Start your job off with open communication and clear boundaries.

If you are currently at a job where the parents either ignore these boundaries or the boundaries have not been discussed, ask for a meeting. In the meeting list again all of the wonderful things you do and follow up with a more detailed list of the things you do not do.

Tip #2: Stop yourself from saying “yes” the next time your employer asks you to perform an out-of-bounds job.

At first you might say ‘yes’ because the job requests are simple enough and some can even be traced, perhaps somewhat illogically, back to an origin of child-care—something like: Clean master bathroom sink>Sometimes you wash the baby’s hands in the sink>Therefore the sink needs to be cleaned for the baby. However, soon the requests will get weirder and you will find yourself struggling to make any logical connection between the task and your job as a nanny.

If you, like myself, have been guilty of performing out-of-bounds jobs, take a moment to respond the next time a parent asks you to do one of these jobs. Give yourself time to process the job they have asked you to perform. Is it related to the kids? If not, come up with another answer such as, “I’m not comfortable doing that…Maybe we should talk about my job duties at a meeting…I’m not sure I’ll have time (list all of the child-related things you are doing!)” If saying no and being upfront is not difficult for you, than this process will be easier, but if you are more timid, or worried about your job, then take your time moving toward a more aggressive “no.”

Stop yourself from saying yes, replace “yes” with “I’ll try to” and slowly work your confidence up to a point where you request a meeting to discuss your job duties. It can actually be pretty hard to stop yourself from immediately saying “yes” because we want to be good employees, to help out, and because we as nannies become so much a part of the family that odd jobs feel okay sometimes. Remember to take a second to respond, consider the job they are asking you to perform because the sooner you start to say “yes” to weird jobs the harder it will be to stop.

Tip #3: Remember to stay calm and respectful.

While it might be tempting to hand your employer the card of a cleaning service every time they cross job duty boundaries, try to avoid this tactic. However, there is an exception to this rule: if your employer keeps bringing up that the house needs to be cleaned, and you feel, through their subtlety, that they are hinting that you should do it, here I think it is perfectly fine to say “Well, I know of a cleaning service, do you want the number?” *Only use this if they directly say the house needs to be cleaned, do not use this if they say, “our house is dirty!” These are two very different scenarios. In the first, they are allowing for suggestions, and hoping for your willingness to clean. In the latter they are simply making a statement, so there is no need to respond.

To All:

The moral of this: Communicate with your employers and employees: both parties should bring up job duty expectations and limitations. It makes for a happy home and pleasurable work environment.