Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tips for Working at Home and Having A Nanny

lesley riley said...
Lindsay - How can you establish boundaries between a mother who works in the home and the nanny? who gets final say? How do you keep the children from running to mommy since they know she is there?
December 26, 2007 2:23 PM

Thanks for your comment Lesley. That's a great question. In my experience, this is a relatively common although challenging situation. Often times, this can be remedied by setting clear expectations and time boundaries. Here are some tips to achieve this healthy balance:

1) Set-up a schedule that includes everyone. Build in time when you will see your child so they know when they will see you. Not only will this reduce the anxiety your child may experience related to wondering where you are and wanting to be with you, it will also help you to really focus and get work done. If you are trying to reduce this behavior, one of the worst things you can do is dart in and out of the common areas in perfect visibility of your child. Doing that sets you up for getting no work done, and your child feeling as though they are in an unpredictable environment where they do not know when they will see mom, as well as how long it will be until they will see mom again. This can increase anxious avoidant attachment behaviors.

Here’s an excerpt of a sample schedule:
9AM Nanny arrives, Mom goes to home office. Child engages in some sort of activity depending on age that helps them transition – Perhaps off to the playground! This activity should mark that “we are ALL starting our day!”
10:30AM Mom takes a break. Pops out of office and into more of a common area. Nanny is giving child a snack, Mom visits and has a snack as well! Then, Mom back to work.
12PM Lunch! Everyone has lunch together. Discuss each other’s morning, what are the plans for the afternoon.
1PM Nap time.
3:00PM Snack time. Mom pops in for snack with child and nanny.
3:15PM Mom returns to work. Nanny and child get ready to go outside to park for a playdate.
5:00PM Mom home from “the office”. Good-bye to nanny. Get re-cap of the day from nanny.

2) If at all possible, for your own sanity, work efficiency and your child’s sense of security, set up a space that is specifically for your work. So that everyone knows that when mom is in that corner or in that room, she is working! Setting this clear physical boundary will help all involved. Having a separate space will allow you to have a sense both visually and psychologically of your own space and a sense that when you enter that space – you are “going to work”! The most ideal situation would be having an office space in your home in a separate room. For many children, no matter what the age, if mom is “out-of-sight” it helps children with “out of mind.” Not that they will forget you, it just allows them to focus on their activity more when they are not constantly thinking about “when will I see mom again?”

Now, we all know that families, don’t follow schedules and children don’t wear wristwatches! So, a couple of things to think about:

1) To help make a schedule more child-friendly, create the schedule together. Use a poster board and perhaps take some polaroids or digital pics of them doing each activity so that they can look at the schedule and see what they can anticipate throughout the day. Allow your child to take the pics of you for the parts of the schedule when they will see you.

2) Review your schedule with your child. In the beginning, use the poster board schedule with every transition- have your nanny bring your child over to the schedule look at, discuss it, and narrate aloud: 1) what the day has included so far and 2) what your nanny and your child will be doing next! This, the predictability aspect will give them a sense of safety and security.

3) Be consistent. If you are going to create a schedule, be consistent and follow it yourself as well. If you develop the schedule and then constantly fail to follow it, there is no longer anything predictable about that schedule, and it loses its influence.

4) That said; don’t feel like you have to be too rigid with the schedule. Staying on schedule improves the chances of everyone (nanny-parent-child) feeling as though they are in a predictable environment, however, it should not be a “breakdown moment” if your nanny feeds your child snack at 10:30am instead of 10:15am.

5) When developing your schedule, look for natural transitions like mealtimes to use as your transition back to your office or for your child to begin a new activity.

6) If the schedule is used correctly, over time everyone should get in a groove and know what to expect and no longer need the physical representation of the schedule. At that point you can make your child “the expert” by asking them questions like, “What happens after naptime?” They will feel happy to share the answer with you because they know – and they will be looking for your praise and recognition, “That’s right! We do have snack after nap! You are so smart!”

7) Also, keep in mind that every family is different and every family will have a different schedule!! What works for your family does not always work for another!

8) Having a schedule allows everyone – parent-nanny-child- to feel as though they are in a safe, secure, predictable environment.


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Friday, December 28, 2007

Breaking News! Seattle PI Newspaper Pick's Up The Nanny Doctor Blog!

I am very excited to share that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Newspaper website has picked up The Nanny Doctor Blog! This site will continue to be my main blog, however, it will also extend to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Newspaper's website. As the 18th most popular news site in the country, according to the November Nielsen ratings, they have an audience of about 1.8 million!


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Announcement! Save the Date!

Hello readers!

This is an announcemet to let you know that The Nanny Doctor has been asked to teach two Hot Topics classes at The Pump Station

I will be teaching: "The Nanny Doctor on Finding and Maintaining the Right Nanny for your Family" on

January 25th 2008 1-2:30pm at The Pump Station Hollywood
February 22nd 2008 1-2:30pm at The Pump Station Santa Monica

Go to or call 310-998-1981 (Santa Monica) or 323-469-5300 (Hollywood)

This class will provide you with attachment-sensitive strategies for finding and maintaining your nanny long-term. Discussion will address fears, concerns, and questions regarding hiring a nanny to care for your child as well as provide you with the tools and insight you need to maintain them long-term.

Hope to see you there!


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Monday, December 24, 2007

Your Nanny and Their Holiday Bonus

Do you value your nanny and all that they do for you and your family throughout the year? Thinking about that holiday bonus but don’t know exactly how much? Or perhaps you don’t want to give cash and you want to give a gift?

There are truly no standards when it comes to giving your nanny a holiday bonus. In fact, there is quite a range when it comes to families rewarding their nanny for their hard work and dedication over the past year. I have seen everything from restaurant gift cards to 2 week all inclusive paid holiday vacations to the Caribbean for the nanny and her family with use of the family’s private jet and crew! Just like many other aspects of your relationship with your nanny, you need to find what fits for your family, both financially and in a practical sense. Traditionally, the year-end bonus is a cash bonus equivalent to two weeks pay. Some families may opt for a full month’s salary for a holiday bonus. This option is usually reserved for nannies who have been in your employ for at least 2-5 years. Ultimately it is up to you to determine what you are most comfortable giving as a bonus.

Our nanny’s annual hire date is in December, do we need to give them an annual raise and a bonus?
Well, as always a bonus is up to your discretion, however, it is customary to give a holiday bonus of some kind. That said, the annual raise and the holiday bonus should be two separate issues and one should not be substituted for the other.

What do I do if we just hired our new nanny a month ago?
In these cases, I have commonly seen families pay their new nannies for 1 days pay for each month that they have been employed. For example, if your nanny starts at the beginning of November, you would provide him/her with a bonus equivalent to two days pay.

Should my children give our nanny a gift?
Yes. Not only do you model the spirit of giving for your child, but you allow your child to think about how much they value their nanny. This gift should be what the child wants to give the nanny. If they are too young, you may want to provide a framed photo of the nanny with your child, or if they are old enough, your child may want to create a picture. Regardless, it should be meaningful and unique to your child and nanny. Making this gift personalized and special will improve the quality of your relationship with your nanny. They will feel more connected to your family and this will trickle down to feeling more connected to your child.

What if we have had difficulty with our nanny recently? Do we still need to giver her a bonus?
Well, yes and no, it depends on your situation. When thinking about the holiday bonus, you want to review the entire year with your nanny, and become aware of a “recency effect” - where you decide on a bonus based on recent job performance. Also, I would urge you if you had not done so to take this time to review his/her performance and really gather an understanding of what their perception of their job performance has been. This models good communication and also helps refocus both you and your nanny for the New Year!

This year, finances are a little tough. What can we do if we do not want to offend our nanny and want to show her we value her, but we can’t afford to pay 2 weeks salary as a bonus?

Gifts such as restaurant gift cards allow your nanny to spend a nice meal with her family. Some families opt to either pay for or at least subsidize their nannies plane ticket back to their country of origin to see their family. Nannies just like moms like to be pampered and a spa gift card can be just what the doctor ordered. To make a spa gift card go even further, in addition to giving the gift card, you can allow them to go on a day they would normally be working for you. In the case, that you can not afford to pay a bonus or give a gift, you may always give them paid days off during this time.


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Preventing Potential Disaster: Collaborating with Your Nanny Agency

Armed with your family’s needs list and job description it’s time to approach your nanny agency. There are many benefits of utilizing an agency to find your family’s new nanny.

First and foremost, an agency, especially one that is a member of an industry association such as the International Nanny Association, is made up of professionals well-versed in this process. This piece in and in itself is invaluable. Often nanny agencies have been started by former nannies who know the industry inside and out. Hiring a nanny agency saves you significant time and effort by prescreening applicants. They meet with prospective applicants in person, review resumes, help the nanny narrow down what they need and want, all in the best interest of helping you to find the right match! They complete background checks, gather pertinent information such as driving records, TB test results, and reference checks. They can also provide you with tax and payroll information as well as resources to provide ongoing support once you have found the right nanny.

The prescreening process also means you won’t be inundated with resumes. A good nanny agency only sends you the most appropriate applicants for your family, not a copy of every resume they receive. Once you receive resumes of potential applicants from the agency, you will spend some time reviewing those resumes to decide whom you think is appropriate for your family to interview. Your nanny agency will be available during this time to discuss the details of these potential applicants as well.

The interview process is one that can bring up a lot of feelings. As a parent you want so much to find the right nanny for your child, however, these feelings, if not identified and addressed, could inhibit you from finding the right person. You may be feeling fearful about having someone else care for your newborn, or you may be overwhelmed at the thought of using alternative resources to help you find your nanny. Due to your family’s schedule, you may feel pressed to go with the first applicant you interview. Or your family may still be recovering from the departure of your last nanny. These are all common experiences that if not properly addressed, may effect your ability to find the right nanny for your family.

As The Nanny Doctor – both a licensed clinical psychologist and former nanny of 10 years – I cannot stress enough the importance of developing your family’s needs list and job description. These two documents will guide both you and your nanny agency through the interview process. Your agency will be better equipped to identify potential applicants, and you will be much more aware of what your family needs.

After you narrow down the potential applicants, your nanny agency will take steps to set up interviews for you with the applicants in your home. It is incredibly important that you prepare for these interviews. I know it’s tough when you have a baby to feed and kindergartner to drop off and a house to run, but the time spent preparing for the interview can be priceless. That time spent screening out potential problematic applicants will save you time down the road. If you can, find time at night after the children are in bed to review your interview questions. If you don’t have time, I recommend you seek out help from a professional who is knowledgeable of this step. Failing to ask the right interview questions could result in a failed match. All to often I see families who become engaged in conflict with their nanny over an issue that could have easily been avoided if only it had been asked about during the interview.


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Sunday, December 2, 2007

What are your family's needs?

Finding the right nanny for your family can be a daunting experience, especially if it is your first time. Utilizing your resources, such as your nanny agency can be of great help. There are many fears, concerns and questions that you may have, that with a little preparation, can be resolved. The result is finding a nanny who fits into your family.

Finding a nanny that is the right match for your family is a priceless investment of both time and money. When you find the right person, they grow with your family; there are decreased levels of conflict and increased levels of positive communication. The result? Less disruption to your family life, modeling of quality relationships for your children, and lasting memories. Maintaining a nanny long-term will provide your children with a sense of safety and security that will allow them to grow up healthy and confident. This process begins before you even meet your first applicant!

There are many benefits to identifying your family’s needs prior to approaching your nanny agency. Every family is unique and has its own unique needs. When you are not aware of your own family’s unique needs, you may end up hiring someone who doesn’t fit into your family, which may lead to a firing. A firing can cause distress for you and your children. It will result in a disruption to your family life as well as more time and money spent towards finding someone new.

First Things First: Your Family’s Identity
Who are you as a family? Questions to consider include: What are your values? What are your religious beliefs? What holidays do you celebrate? What holidays don’t you celebrate? Are you a bilingual family? What are your family rules? What is your schedule like? Are you laid back or do you run a tight ship? What are your hobbies? Do any of your children have special needs? Are you an active family? Or do you enjoy spending time indoors playing games or baking? Do you have pets? What are your pet peeves? Your answers to these questions will help you to find the right match. Make a list of your answers and think about what other characteristics are unique to your family. The answers to these questions will help you to develop your family’s needs list.

What are your family’s needs?
What are the ages of your children? Do you need a weekend or weekday nanny? Full-time or part-time? Live-in or live-out? Are you looking for someone who does “all-things-child”? Or do you need someone who can also help with housekeeping or errands? Someone who drives? Someone who cooks? Do you want someone who will read books to your children? The answers to these questions will help you to develop a job description.

The next step
Once you have your family’s needs list and your job description in hand, you will be very well prepared to discuss this information with your nanny agency, and your nanny agency will be much more equipped to help you to find the right match!


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