Wednesday Opinion: Working with a SAHM or a WAHM

By Nanny X

It isn’t easy being the other woman in a mother’s life. There is a delicate dance between supporting and usurping a mother’s primal place in a child’s heart. As nannies we are called by our vocation to be a loving guiding presence in a child’s daily experience but we are never a mother’s substitute.
This balance is not experienced with more attention than when working at home with a parent around. If a nanny is to do her job properly it’s essential to a child’s mental and emotional health that a mother or father is respected and acquiesced to. This can be the most challenging aspect of a nanny’s vocation.

It can be helpful to think of our host family as one would view a corporation. The parents are the CEO’s. They set the rules and the agendas. The children are their portfolio not ours. We serve the corporation and attempt to keep the portfolio healthy and in a growth market for a fixed and limited time. 

While we serve the corporation all of our endeavors are geared towards the success of the company assets. Much of what we will do as temporary investors may in the long-term go undocumented. When little Jake or Sacha complete their degrees or masters, and when they thrive and manifest happy family corporations of their own, we most likely will not be remembered in speeches or memories. But that’s not why we do it. 
As with all corporations, it is necessary from time to time for employees to maintain clear communication channels and to establish boundaries and self-purpose with employers. Nannies are no exception. If one is to work as a professional caregiver in the home, a nanny must strive to be seen as an integral part of the system. Here are some common challenges nannies sometimes face:
  • shifting house rules
  • a break down in a chain of command
  • disruptive behavior in the children that goes unaddressed
  • jealousy

Shifting house rules
Children respond to continuity and routine. If a child’s daily regime becomes schizophrenic it creates confusion and anger, and these are conditions that a nanny can be made to deal with. Example: if parents insist upon a low or no sugar rule during the time when a nanny is employed yet this same rule is ignored when parents are home, then the nanny is put in a position of being the ‘Bad Cop’. This is not an acceptable environment in which to work effectively. It is appropriate for a nanny to raise this subject with parents.   A nanny can seek a compromise whereby both the parents and the nanny are occasionally able to relax the household rules. 
A break down in a chain of command
In the hierarchy of a typical corporation, the chain of command in terms of communication must be faithfully followed if the company is to conduct business successfully. In the family home this is no different. Example: nannies do not appreciate being told by the children in their care, what changes are about to occur. It is essential for parents to speak directly to their nannies about any schedule alterations or upcoming events before they reveal their plans to their children – if – these events affect a nanny’s schedule and duties. 

Disruptive behavior in a child that goes unaddressed
Children who manifest aggressive, violent or psychotic behavior towards a nanny must be immediately addressed by the adult parties concerned. The same is true of children who exhibit a continuous disruptive stance against the authority of the alternate adult (nanny). This type of chaotic environment is not healthy or professional. It is not a nanny’s job to be the family’s discipline enforcer. If a child is presenting problems that require attention a nanny must bring this to her employer’s attention. 

Occasionally parents will actively sabotage a nanny’s best efforts to do her job out of jealousy. Perhaps the parents are forced to work full-time outside of the home and they resent the close bond between their children and their nanny.  In expressing their jealousy the parents may set a nanny up for a fall. Example: a nanny is asked to put a child to bed at a reasonable hour but then the parents come home later and rouse their children from their beds. This type of action tells the children that a nanny has no real credible authority in the home. The nanny has become a patsy to parental jealousy. Not only is this kind of treatment unprofessional it’s also unfair to the children. 
In summary, nannies who work in a home where one or both parents are present on a consistent basis should strive to maintain the connections between parent and child. Nannies supplement parental care and instruction. They take their directives from the parents as one would the CEO of a company. A nanny’s role is one of support. Communication is paramount and regular sit-downs between parents and nannies, without the children present, will ensure that unity prevails. 
Working in a close partnership with a parent or parents can be enormously rewarding. It requires subtle, intelligent navigation. But it can also bring a sublime sense of harmony to a home. If it takes a village to raise a child then we as nannies can do our part to create happy, fulfilled human beings.
What could be better than that?

SOURCE: Nanny X 2013, all rights reserved.