Setting & Upholding Expectations: How to Avoid Common Issues With Your Nanny

July 21, 2016

The relationship between a parent and a nanny can be very different from that of a typical employer and employee. While it does involve the exchange of wages for time and service, it’s a much different kind of employee agreement.

Working with someone’s family, in their home, creates an intimate relationship between your nanny and your family. Still, it’s important to set expectations and boundaries the way you would in an office environment.

Maintaining a balanced professional and personal relationship with your nanny will create a more positive environment for you, her and your children. Here are some common circumstances that might jeopardize that balance, and ways you can create a balance of flexibility and fun with the structure you and your family need.

Crafting an Employment Agreement and Track Benefits

It’s important to document you and your nanny’s agreed-upon nanny employment contract, including her salary or hourly wage, paid vacation and sick time, mileage reimbursement, and other benefits.

You can use a nanny payroll and tax service to handle all your the accounting and tax hassles of employing a caregiver. We recommend a complete end to end low-cost service such as HeartPayroll.

Once you have an employee agreement drafted, record it on a shareable platform like Google Docs so you both have regular access to it. Then, outline all your expectations the same way an employer would in a handbook.

In the instance that your nanny fails to meet an expectation, you can refer back to this document to create a system of accountability that doesn’t seem like a personal affront. You can also use this shared document to track paid time off, payment dates and amounts, and other important information to reference later.

Managing Your Nanny’s Personal and Medical Appointments

There may be times when your nanny needs to attend an appointment during work hours, especially if she works for you Monday through Friday from 8 to 5, when most doctors offices are open.

Ask that she schedule regular or routine appointments at the beginning or end of the workday, giving you time to accommodate her needs. There may be an occasion where she has an emergency appointment, and – if you’re okay with it – takes your kids, but those shouldn’t be frequent.

For a more personal or cosmetic appointment like haircuts or car maintenance services, ask that she wait to schedule her appointment until her time off.

Limiting Screen and Phone Time – but Not Your Kids’

It’s important to set expectations and limits for how much device time your kids have during a day. But it’s also important to establish what’s acceptable behavior for your nanny.

In a world where cell phones have become an extension of our person, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the digital world, forgetting to focus on the people around us; if abused, that behavior could be detrimental to your kids’ relationship with your nanny as well as their development.

Let your nanny know when it is appropriate to take part in personal communications (during your kids’ screen time, while they’re napping, during sports practice). As is true with an office environment, a little personal communication is okay and even inevitable. But too much can distract from the task at hand.

Dealing With Regular Tardiness

Your nanny being late can have a huge impact on your day. If you encounter a situation where your nanny is regularly late, add a policy to your employee agreement to curb the bad habit.

First, define what “late” means; for example, perhaps you offer a grace period of 10 minutes.

If you begin to see a pattern of lateness occur sit down with your nanny and find out why she cannot make it on time. Perhaps she has a personal matter or another employer is keeping her longer than she expected.

Be sensitive to her situation but let her know the issues and stress her lateness is putting on you. If her lateness continue and you feel that you will need to let her go begin properly documenting and having a formal meeting with her.

Handling Housework

How much or how little housework your nanny completes while she’s working for you will vary by family.

There are some things you can expect for her to do at a minimum, like preparing and cleaning up after meals or picking up your children’s toys after playtime.

If you expect your nanny to complete more work around the house, be clear in asking her what she’s comfortable doing, and establish whether her compensation will change with the additional work.

Creating a system that works for both of you, like a weekly list of reasonable household chores or one that changes daily depending on your needs, will allow for effective communication that results in mutually understood expectations.

Remember to Communicate

As is true with any employee relationship, the key to keeping your nanny motivated to do great work for your family lies in continuous productive and open communication.

Set quarterly or biannual check-ins to review your nanny’s performance; not only do these meetings offer a great space to connect with your nanny and give her praise, they also give you a regular time to discuss how things are going and deliver constructive feedback that aligns with the expectations set in your employment agreement.


Setting the right boundaries and expectations between you and your nanny can create a healthy environment where you, your nanny and your kids thrive. Just like a manager oversees and motivates a team, it’s your job to keep your nanny on track to get the most from her time with your family.

Use these tips to deal with common issues that might arise as you learn how you and your nanny best work together.

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