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advice on managing the nanny (or: help me have a spine)

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
I've recently plunged back into work on my doctoral dissertation. What has enabled me to do this is taking on a part-time nanny (~20 hrs/wk). There are things I love about the nanny (the kids like her, she likes the kids, and values-wise, we're very closely aligned). She's done some light housekeeping for us, unasked (she often sweeps the floor, will hang up and fold laundry if she has time, etc... and once, she even mopped the floor--and boy, it needed it!). But there are boundary issues. She used my library card to check out children's magazines for the girl she watches on Tu/Th; not a huge deal, but I have a hard enough time keeping track of the library materials at *my* house. (I asked her nicely not to do that again.) She's been using the hair clips which my daughter and I use in *her* hair. (I asked her if she knew where the clips were, and they were in *her* bag, and she retrieved them, but today, she had one of my clips in her hair.) Today, she got a smear of poop on her pants (from my mischievous toddler... sigh)... I was working upstairs, and I came downstairs and offered her a pair of my pants to change into, and put her pants in the washer (and later hung them up to dry). When I got home from working at the library, she was wearing a pair of my shorts and a tank top which she had gotten out of my dresser. She changed out of them before she left, but I do *not* want her rummaging through my dresser. I just feel like some of my boundaries are being violated, and I want to gently reinforce that without offending her.

What can I say without being bitchy? I truly do like her, and childcare-wise, I feel like it's working fine. I'm just so new at this, and while I've managed people in the past, this is my first experience managing a childcare provider.
post #2 of 49
keep asking her nicely not to it again. it's a very tough relationship! honestly, when i am really pissed off about something, i have dh talk to her. they can communicate better, i think because on some level i am jealous of my nanny and vice versa.
post #3 of 49
Did the kids do her hair or did she just decide to do her hair? I know that dd sometimes loves to put a clip in everyone's hair and she gets really offended if you don't keep it in and when I forget and go out of the house with them in I usually put them in my purse and forget them until I clean out my purse. If you gave her the okay to wear your pants maybe she thought it was okay to change into something else when she got a spill or something gross on her clothes again. You could offer to let her keep some changes of clothes at your house so she has no reason to use your clothes and it may help to put some hair things aside for the kids to play with and tell her the other ones are special and you don't want them used because they are pricy and you like to keep them in the one spot.

When you start a new job in someone's house it takes a while to get the boundary things worked out. This is especially true if you came from a house where there are loose boundaries or if you come from a family who shares everything and doesn't really have boundaries about hair things and clothes. I would be horrified if someone wore my clothes without my permission but my daughter's grandma expects people to just go and make themselves at home in her things and I can see how it would be hard to get used to doing things any other way if you are used to living like my daughter's grandma does. I think the issues you list are really ones that you just have to address when they come up because they seem like issues that really can't be predicted.
post #4 of 49
Thread Starter 
She did. And she's done it again since I asked her where the clips were. I don't like being the heavy, and I do like her, but I feel like at some point, I may have to do more than just address each thing.

No, nothing was wrong with the pants; she just felt like changing (and by that point, her own pants were clean and dry). I really do think it is a boundaries thing; I am somewhat reserved, and she is less so.

Another thing I have trouble with is asking her to do things. Eg, she wants me to show her how to use my nordic track exerciser (eek, I'm paying her to watch the kids!), which I would really rather not, and I would like her to read to them more.

As my thread title says, some of this is about me having a spine and being able to speak up.
post #5 of 49
Although it may be true that things work differently at different houses, there is not one of those things that I consider even remotely acceptable. Especially since it doesn't sound like you've known her for very long or she asks permission for anything beforehand.
I had a sitter once who wore my pants because of a spill, but she washed and dried her own pants and washed mine afterwards before I got home, AND called me at work to tell me about it. If someone just put my clothes on, for no good reason, no way! That would creep me out, like "Hand that rocks the cradle" creep me out
I agree with you that it probably won't be sufficient to comment on each thing as it happens - it sounds like you need to have a talk with her about how she is not to use any of your personal things, or anything from the house unless it's for the kids. If in doubt, she should consult you beforehand.
And if she wants to exercise, she can go play and run with the kids! What the heck?!
post #6 of 49
Well, you can install a lock on your bedroom door, or you can declare that room off-limits and put things in there that you don't want messed with. Then it's clear. (Though my first college roommate was a borrow first-ask later kind of person, something we never got through no matter how often I asked her...that's where a lock comes in handy).

Re the Nordic Track and how else she might exercise, if the kids still nap, she may be looking for something to do while they're asleep...you know, other than going through your stuff. :

On the reading thing, maybe just put a number on it. You'd like for her to read to them for x minutes/day. Make sure the books are out in the open. Do your kids really enjoy being read to, or is it a struggle to get them to sit still for it?

I'm reminded of the summer I spent babysitting (and doing light housekeeping) an elementary school boy--11? Hard to remember, exactly--over twenty years ago. Anyway, the parents wanted me to get him to read more and play video games less, but there were no books in the house to speak of. The *parents* didn't read a lot, as near as I could tell, and he certainly didn't have a supply (unless he was hiding them ). And I couldn't take him to the library to check out books because the mom kept forgetting to sign the paperwork for his library card. On the plus side, I was able to do a pretty good job on the housecleaning. And I didn't rearrange the dishes.

I don't think the preceding paragraph applies to your situation; it's pretty clear that it doesn't. What I do think is that if you're going to have a person come to your home to take care of your kid, it pays not only to be clear up-front, but to make sure that you've done what you can to facilitate. And then try to be flexible, but within the bounds you've set. I've never had a nanny, but what comes to mind as I think about this is the dynamic between professor and student when doing a research project or some other kind of one-on-one instruction. A close relationship can develop, but it's still the professor's responsibility to set the boundaries upfront--timeline, how much work is expected, what kind of work is expected, how to get in contact, etc. (On that last, just for example, I have colleagues who are cool with students calling their cell phone. I'm not, except in very rare cases. So you have to be clear).

Obviously--from reading various threads about the topic on MDC--there are plenty of in-home childcare providers who are either basically clueless or convinced that their way is best....hopefully that's not what you have here.
post #7 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by KKmama View Post
Eg, she wants me to show her how to use my nordic track exerciser (eek, I'm paying her to watch the kids!), which I would really rather not,
no!
post #8 of 49
Thread Starter 
All of this has been good food for thought. I had a good talk with my dh about this (and more), and he's actually ready to replace her. I, however, feel like part of the way we got into this has been through unclear expectations and muddled communications, and I'd like to at least try talking with her in a "I have a spine" kind of way. At the very least, *I* have to try to learn something from this experience so I do a better job with our next caregiver. I need the childcare in order to have time to work on the dissertation, but I'm fortunate in that if we *had* to let her go, I wouldn't be immediately desperate for the first warm body to replace her. (And we sort of backed into this arrangement; she had been babysitting for us for occasional date nights, and then her nannying schedule opened up and we figured the time was right for me to get more daytime hours for the diss.)

Thinking out loud... I think that I'm finding it hard to say what I think when I'm seeing it ("What are you doing wearing my clothes??? I don't want you rummaging around in my dresser!") is that I know that my kids are at the end of this chain. (I suppose that if I were being rational, I'd realize that being clear and firm with her almost certainly *benefits* them.) Perhaps I feel a smidge of guilt in the first place that I am relying on childcare, that I'm paying someone to take my place. (No judgment on working and student mamas; I obviously need to cut myself some slack and give myself permission to take care of my own needs.)

Okay, one other thing which I feel a little sheepish talking about... one of the first things she has started doing when she walks in in the morning is to make herself breakfast. Out of our fridge. It was so blatant Friday morning that I was speechless. (Big bowl of fruit and yogurt, salmon burger, pot of tea.) I don't mind if she eats lunch with the kids, but this feels over the line (and like she ought to know that it's over the line; if she's arriving at 9:30, she should have eaten breakfast already at home)... I know that things are tight for her, but we're paying her well (she's quite pleased with what we're paying her, and I think it's fair; she was low on hours for a while and I'm getting the sense that she doesn't always manager her money well, but that's beside the point), but there's that side of it, too.

So I guess I'll try tomorrow with being more firm, being more clear. Maybe it will work out, maybe it won't. Making sure the kids are priority one (and that I can get my work done) should be everyone's goal--mine and hers.
post #9 of 49
Wow. I can understand your concern about the breakfast thing. It would be understandable if she started work at, say, 6am, to have breakfast with the children (positive role modelling and all that), but to rock up at 9.30 and start raiding the fridge .... it just seems like she's treating the situation like you are family friends who happen to be paying her, rather than a work environment.

I'm a bit (ok a lot) spineless too, though, so I can understand your reluctance to raise the issues with her. I'm sure I would procrastinate for so long that it became even more uncomfortable to say something.
post #10 of 49
We had a similar situation. We got into it for the same reasons, very few expectations were set at the start of the relationship because we figured they would just be common sense. We (DH and I together) had a sit down and just went over the "house rules" and a "contract".

House Rules included things to do with our stuff.
i.e. She could use the computer when DS was sleeping but she needed to bring her own equipment to save work (not use our CD's etc.).

Contract included things we were providing
i.e. We will provide breakfast when starting at 8am and lunch only on days that start later than 10am.

This may be helpful. We feel like we had a much better understanding of the whole situation when this was done and our nanny did a great job with the new guidelines.
post #11 of 49
You know, my first response this morning--after laughing out loud at the breakfast thing!--was to go with your dh on this one. <sigh> I was irresistibly reminded of certain students I've worked with who will smile sweetly when called to task, say something like, "oh, sorry; I didn't know," and then keep on doing whatever it was they were doing.

But you can give laying down guidelines after the fact a shot. I'd put some very clear timelines/consequences/etc. on it, be as positive as possible, ask for her input to the degree that's possible, and be prepared to follow-through with replacing her if it doesn't work.

ETA In your best case, this is someone who assumes her actions are ok unless she hears otherwise. So if you didn't say something about breakfast the first time it happened, she thinks it's ok. You gave her pants to wear the first time, so she thinks it's ok to wear other things.
post #12 of 49
I worked as a day nanny for a family with 2 children for a little over two years. The way that the mom set boundaries with me was this...she explained that she was a very private person and that while necessary, it was very difficult for her to have a non-family member intimately involved in the workings of her household 50 hours a week. She was clear that I was to bring a lunch. The grocery shopping that they did was for *their* family. We weren't even close to the same size so clothing wasn't an issue.

Maybe your reluctance comes from not wanting to piss off the person with so much *power* over your kids. Nobody wants a resentful nanny. Of course, no one wants the Mom to feel taken advantage of either. It might not be possible to "get it back to good" with this Nanny. Perhaps you've learned a lot and know how to avoid these issues with the next nanny. I would probably try to work it out though-devil that you know vs. the devil that you don't
post #13 of 49
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jake&zaxmom View Post
I worked as a day nanny for a family with 2 children for a little over two years. The way that the mom set boundaries with me was this...she explained that she was a very private person and that while necessary, it was very difficult for her to have a non-family member intimately involved in the workings of her household 50 hours a week. She was clear that I was to bring a lunch. The grocery shopping that they did was for *their* family. We weren't even close to the same size so clothing wasn't an issue.

Maybe your reluctance comes from not wanting to piss off the person with so much *power* over your kids. Nobody wants a resentful nanny. Of course, no one wants the Mom to feel taken advantage of either. It might not be possible to "get it back to good" with this Nanny. Perhaps you've learned a lot and know how to avoid these issues with the next nanny. I would probably try to work it out though-devil that you know vs. the devil that you don't
You so totally nailed it.

And today, she was 20 minutes late (again). It wouldn't have been a big deal, except the kids started swimming lessons today, and I was leaving to take them as she arrived. I took her with me, and I told her we needed to talk later. (As in, during their quiet time, we need to go over our mutual expectations.) Sigh. As you said, might be better to work on growing a spine with the "devil I know" vs the "devil I don't know." Another thing motivating me is that we live in a college town, and students will be coming back to town in a few weeks... If we *do* need to switch caregivers, it might be a good time to do it, as we have had good success with college students as babysitters in the past.
post #14 of 49
Thread Starter 
The talk went so much better than I feared. I went about it in what I thought was a fair way... "We sort of backed into this set-up without really establishing any expectations, and while I really appreciate and need your help, it would probably be a good idea for us to check in." I'm going to start printing her a weekly schedule of the kids' activities (I keep a google calendar that I share with my dh; it won't be too hard to just print her a weekly "this is what's going on" kind of thing.) I'm also going to start working on a binder that has useful info in it: copy of the health ins. card, suggestions for lunch and snacks (when I haven't made them ahead of time), suggestions for activities, expectations, etc. I think now she knows that I'm the heavy (not my hub), which is good. I let her know that I really appreciate the detailed info that she gives me wrt to what they do all day, etc. I was very clear about the lateness thing, talked about some of the boundaries issues somewhat peripherally, and have resolved to be better about addressing that stuff immediately when it comes up. We'll see how it goes.
post #15 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by KKmama View Post


As my thread title says, some of this is about me having a spine and being able to speak up.
I find it very helpful to write down what I want to say and give things in letter form when it is something that I feel needs to be addressed but something I feel awkward about addressing. I try to leave a day between when I write it and when I send it and take time to re-read it the next day so that I can make sure that I wasn't being deliberately rude. If more problems come up and you want to address the issue but don't feel you can then that may be an option that will work for you and her, especially if you give it to her at the end of her shift and let her have the night to think about things that she needs to change and respond in writing. Don't sell yourself short when it comes to the spine thing. It takes a lot of spine to tell people on a free discussion board that their answers are low quality because they don't have the time to address the full scope of your problems to your satisfaction. If you need to do it in person try writing it down and then re-reading it several times before you talk to her and remind yourself that you do have a write to put up boundaries and expect her to focus on the kids for twenty hours a week rather than playing with your things.
post #16 of 49
Just wanted to say I hear you! I have managed in the workplace, and it is infinitely harder to manage someone in your home, IMO. I'm having some similar problems w/my nanny, but unfortunately she's the best option by far at the moment. Sigh.
post #17 of 49
I appreciate the intricacies of the situation, but for me, bad boundaries are bad boundaries. Unless someone has an issue (such as a mental health issue which excuses it), for me there is no excuse for bad boundaries. A person with no sense of this also may not know what is appropriate behavior with your children (how your children differentiate from "her" children), how your spouse is your spouse, and many other things. In my opinion, this is not going to get better and is likely to get worse.
post #18 of 49
Thread Starter 
I've written up a detailed set of guidelines (I told her I would do this), and it include stuff like house rules, info about food, emergency numbers, some safety guidelines, etc. I wrote it with the idea in mind that I'm writing it to *any* caregiver who will be in our home at any point (so with the idea in mind that this may be for the next person). But yeah, I addressed stuff I talked to her about and more.

I had a long talk with my mom this afternoon about it, and it was really helpful. My mom, like my dh, is of the opinion that I should just let her go. Lauren, I agree with you, I have a bad feeling about the bad boundaries. But at this point, I still feel like my kids are okay. But I'm getting an ad ready to post at the local colleges, too. (I don't know if I ever made this clear, but I am working upstairs in our house.) So I'm going to follow through to the point that I can.
post #19 of 49
Thread Starter 
Well... I think I'm just going to let her go tomorrow. I went online and checked my library record in preparation for their trip to the library tomorrow. There were nine items checked out which are not at our house, and there are eight items at my house which are not on my card. (The things which are not at my house are presumably things for herself and for the little girl she watches TuTh, and the things at our house are things on her card which she checked out for my kids.) The things not at my house include 5 things due tomorrow, including 3 toddler magazines which were due a week ago but which she got the librarian to extend. I spoke to her about this over a week ago, was very clear about not wanting this to happen again, that the magazines in particular had to be returned immediately, and she said she would.

I know that the library is not the end of the world, but it's something that I communicated very clearly with her about, and I let her know in no uncertain terms that it was *not* okay to check things out on my card for herself or for the Tu/Th child (hard enough to keep track of things which are in my own house, let alone who knows where!). I called her about it tonight, let her know I didn't like it, reminded her that she said those magazines would go back. She laughed about it, was not taking it seriously. Boundaries again, I feel; if I make a request, I want her to take it seriously. I don't think it was out of line at all.

Ug. Crap. I hate having to deal with this.
post #20 of 49
KK, I totally support your decision to let her go. When you first described this to me before, I didn't get the scope of the problem. Now that you've laid it out here, it appears this is really the only choice you will have to get to a place of peace on this situation. At this point, every time she does something that makes you uncomfortable, it's just going to add to the situation.

And those library fines are not small. And the cost of replacing 8 books that you never even saw would easily be close to $100.00- that's a lot of childcare. That there is enough to put me over the edge. If I have overdue books on my card, I want to be damn sure that I have some control over that.
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