Working from Home Woes: A Nanny Shares Tips for Parents on Working Effectively from Home

Photo courtesy Alison Pipkalejs.

Photo courtesy Alison Pipkalejs.

by alison detella pipkalejs.

What happens when you’re forced to work with someone who has a different way of doing things? What happens when this other person is going against everything you believe in when it comes to raising a child? What happens when this other person is the child’s parent?

My friend, let’s call her Natalie, nannied for a little boy who was a three-year-old terror, let’s call him Ryan. Natalie worked with Ryan for a couple of challenging months. One particularly challenging aspect of Natalie’s job was the fact Ryan’s work-from-home father would constantly undermine Natalie’s authority, unintentionally showing Ryan that he didn’t need to listen to his nanny.

One day, Ryan wouldn’t get dressed for school. He sat in the middle of the kitchen floor in his underwear screaming his brains out. Natalie, a very soft-spoken nanny, tried her best to explain the consequences for this type of behavior. The first consequence would be losing TV for the entire day, effective immediately. Ryan ran to his dad to share his sad tale and the end result? Ryan’s dad let him wear pajamas to school, on picture day nonetheless. When Ryan got home he was allowed to watch TV until Natalie left.

I know some parents pick their battles and so do I, but sometimes it is the principle that matters. I don’t care if my charge wants to wear pajamas to school or a Superman cape. What I do care about is if they think throwing a major fit complete with tantrums and tattling on me to their parents is a way to get what they want. When parents don’t understand that they are completely undermining the nanny and showing the child this type of behavior is acceptable, it is just awful.

Surprisingly, I have had a lot of experience with parents who work from home. Almost all of my nannying jobs have been for one or two work-from-home parents. I like to consider myself a pro at navigating these terrains, so I have some tips for all the parents out there who are looking to have a nanny in the home during your work-from-home workday. It doesn’t have to be painful!

1. You’re paying good money to have a nanny care for your children, so unless your nanny asks for your help or is doing something seriously wrong, stay out of her way and let her do her job. If you doubt she can handle your kids, reevaluate why you hired her in the first place. Is it that you think she lacks competence? Hire a different, more qualified nanny. Problem solved!

2. If your nanny says no cookie until you eat lunch, don’t turn around and hand your child a cookie. I mean really, do I need to tell you this? Undermining a nanny will cause severe resentment and it’s not necessary. Not to mention, your nanny only has your kid’s best interest at heart, and this is probably something you should be enforcing as a parent anyway.

3. Keep the lines of communication open and honest between your family and your nanny. If you have a problem or an issue, just be honest. As long as you’re respectful and kind there is no reason you can’t have a productive conversation. After all, you’re all adults, right? It’s better to get things out into the open than it is to let them fester and become an even bigger problem.

4. One of the perks of working from home is the fact that you get to spend more time with your children, but it doesn’t do anyone any favors when you pop up every ten minutes to say hi. It can be extremely disruptive and cause the child to have a major meltdown every time you leave to go back to work again. Plus, I’m willing to bet your boss doesn’t appreciate these frequent mini breaks either!

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5. Set boundaries. The children I nanny for know that when mom’s office door is closed, she is working and not available. If they want to ask her something or say goodnight before nap, they ask, “Alison, can we knock on Mom’s door?” and more often than not I say yes. They also know that once mom’s door is open they aren’t allowed to run in and play on her computer or go through her drawers. That is mom’s office and none of the things in there belong to them.

6. Finally, have a conversation with your children about what it means when one or both of the parents work from home. Spell things out for them whether they are two years old or twelve. If you have this conversation from the beginning, it is more likely to stick.

In my current nannying job, I am fortunate to work with a mom who is completely respectful of the work I do and who recently began working from home. We talk about raising children, our beliefs, and viewpoints on a daily basis. Luckily, we are on the same page and it definitely makes my job easier. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and I have worked with families who had hired me and basically taken away all my authority and control and left me to play video games and watch TV with their children. Well, let me tell you, if you do that, you just basically hired a glorified playmate for your child and honestly why even bother? Hopefully these tips help, easier said than done, I know, but you have to start somewhere.