Over the past few months, we have all seen a lot of rapid change. And in many households, working in harmony – between nannies and families – has been significantly tested.
These are not necessarily new stresses, as being under one roof is a situation that’s existed for many years, but recent restrictions and lifestyle changes have certainly increased their occurrence. So it’s important to address them as the need for consistency and nurturing in childcare is critically important in our new world.
Imagine two conversations between nannies 20-years apart
August 2000 at a playground in a park
Nannies and children playing.
Two nannies start chatting, introducing themselves and their charges.
Nanny 1: Are you full time?
Nanny 2: Yes.
Nanny 1: Do the parents work?
Nanny 2: The dad does. Mum works from home.
Nanny 1: How do you find that?
Nanny 2: It’s fine, so long as she lets us have our day.
Fast forward 20-years
Same playground. The same conversation between nannies (but likely at two meters and possibly through face masks!). But now both parents are working from home full time.
This is a big shift and, in many cases, it has significantly disrupted the balance of nannies and families working in harmony.
Both parents at home with nanny all-day
Having both parents, the nanny, the children, possibly a cleaner and a dog.. all in one house – ESPECIALLY OVER LOCKDOWN – can stress the most patient of adults and children. And looking from everyone’s point of view, it’s easy to see why. There’s a lot going on within those four walls!
The home office
We’ve all been entertained by seeing the online business meetings held in a room/study, become less than professional because of an escapee toddler barging in, or a cat wandering across the keypad.
Funny of course, but not ideal from a business point of view in order to maintain professionalism on the part of the parent concerned. Which is pretty important in these uncertain and worrying times.
Let’s now go into another room: the kitchen
Here the nanny is equally trying to be professional and do her job. A parent wanders in.
Let’s be honest here, this can cause disruption to the nanny’s workspace.
Babies and children can react to new dynamics. Someone entering their play space, meal space, routine space becomes a disruptive diversion to having a nappy change or managing that final piece of broccoli which has now become even more unappealing!
Obviously your house is your home; somewhere to relax and be free to roam around at your leisure. This is indisputable. However, for someone else, that same home is their workplace for their working day. Imagine how the nanny feels as her hold on whatever the situation is lost in an instant.
Two workplaces that happily co-exist until they overlap and become unharmonious.
Finding the right tools for working in harmony
Companies have or are adapting to the new world. And home-working looks very much like it’s here to stay. Perhaps not five days a week like over lockdown. But certainly, companies are a lot warmer to that previously awkward question of, ‘Can I work from home, please?’
So to re-achieve harmony, we need to re-calibrate. And the key is that all parties appreciate that there are separate workspaces within the home. After all, every workplace, whether it be an office or in the home, needs time and space allowances for all those within it.
Plotting out the day for working in harmony
One way to approach this is to create a timetable. Think of it as an ‘Order Of Play’ with each event made public.
- Who goes out when
- Who has the kitchen and when
- Mealtimes/coffee breaks/snack times… when
- Who needs quiet and when
Working in harmony is hard to sustain if everyone is randomly disrupting any possibility of consistency and routine. It’s consistency and routine that eases anxiety and frankly makes life easier for everyone.
Top tip: Don’t forget to plan occasional breaks everyone: children, nannies and parents! Go out if necessary or possible for a change of scene. Even if for a few minutes to have a break.
The working in harmony ‘Day Board’
Put up a ‘Day Board’ somewhere communal so that all can view it and add to it. The children will then have some system to the day which can be referred to and the adults have equal rights to it. It will help with managing any disruptive overlaps for sure. We’re not talking a detailed long-winded description, just:
- AM: Park hours
- Lunch in kitchen 12-1… kids and nanny…
- 1-3: quiet time. etc etc.
- 5-10 minutes nanny/mum or dad or both time (not with little ones around) once a day would help with any quibbles or matters needing attention. This can be done during quiet time or over FaceTime etc.
Comms tools that can help
WhatsApp family groups are really great so parents don’t feel ‘left out’ as it’s normal to be curious what’s going on during the day. For example, when at the park a picture of a smiley little one on a swing. But don’t over-engineer this. It shouldn’t become a constant running commentary of every activity with responses expected after every message.
I often see nannies behaving like professional child photographers. Taking snaps of every little thing. Even setting up photo opportunities! It can, of course, be very sweet but surely it’s more fun to play with a child than take endless pictures?
However, a WhatsApp group is a good way of communicating without physically causing (yes it’s that word again!) disruption.
Finding a new balance
Let’s be realistic, situations across any day are subject to change:
- Sick days
- Stormy days
- Boiling hot days
- Crazy busy days
- Good and bad days
But if everyone has the same outlook – i.e. equal respect that we all have our jobs to do – we are all more than capable of doing well and working in harmony.
So long as everyone is given the space across the day to do their job.
A voice of experience
The approach outlined comes from 30 years of tried and tested advice and tools:
“My name is Laura. I have nannied for 30 years. I have been fortunate to work for many fantastic families with (I think at my last count) 47 babies and children! I’ve worked all over the world for many different types of people and gained a heart bursting amount of experience.
I can offer advice and tips and often, more importantly, an ear that understands all things ‘nanny’. I do my best anyway!”
Want to read on?
Check out this blog post about Welcoming a New Nanny