CanadianNanny.ca founder and child care expert Martha Scully answers a very common question…
“Should I be Friends with my Nanny?”
I love my new nanny! She’s very nice and I imagine we’d be great friends. I’m thinking of asking her out for coffee, but am a bit concerned that could cause problems in our employment relationship. Does socializing with my nanny step over any boundaries?
The nanny/employer relationship is unlike any other. Because your nanny works closely with you and your family in your home, it can feel like she is more like a relative than an employee.
But the truth is that your nanny works for you and you must set clear boundaries from the outset. That means no coffee during your off hours and no talk of friendship while she is in your employ.
That does not mean you cannot care about your nanny and treat her with great respect. Indeed, many nannies become valued associates over time and children often grow up feeling great affection for the woman who cared for them when you were away.
You may feel you owe her a great deal because of the work she does in your home, but there are ways to show her this respect without buying her a latte.
Why Boundaries Are Essential
It is important to remember that just because you may want to be friends with your nanny, she may not want to be friends with you. Most nannies enter into an employment relationship expecting it will be just that: a job. If you cross the boundary into a friendship, you risk making her feel ill-at-ease and unable to do her work.
Imagine you tell your nanny about problems you’re having with your kids’ teacher or issues in your marriage. Then ask yourself if you would want to have similar intimate knowledge about your own boss. There’s an element of “too much information” here, even if the nanny may have suspicions about difficulties you face within your family.
Then there is the opposite issue. Imagine your nanny telling you about personal crises that may affect her ability to do her job and expect you to help. The employer/employee relationship is inherently imbalanced.
You probably have more money than does your nanny. When she gets into a tough spot, it may be difficult for you to say no to her requests for help. By becoming her friend more than her employer, you are giving her permission to ask.
Ultimately, falling too much into the realm of friendship reduces your authority. If your nanny sees you as a friend, she may feel entitled to question your decisions about how to raise the children. She may also feel that her household duties are not as urgent as you see them to be.
There may be a tendency to slack off on what the sitter is being paid to do, and you may be placed in a position where you have to be assertive with your “friend” about her performance.
How to Establish a Strong Relationship
In order to have a positive relationship with your nanny, you must set out boundaries from the outset. While she is in your employ you must treat her well. It is entirely possible to show respect and value to your nanny without becoming her friend.
From the outset, insist upon a working agreement. This is a document that sets out the expectations of both you and the nanny and the obligations you both must meet. If you haven’t already done so, review this document with your nanny and ask her if she has any concerns.
By approaching the relationship this way, you are making it clear you consider her someone in your employ and not a friend to whom you occasionally give cash.
Include such vital details as when she’ll be paid, when she gets time off, and any other aspects of the employee/employer relationship. Your nanny is likely not on call 24-hours a day, and she probably has her own family to care for. The last thing you want is your babysitter to be absent on a statutory holiday when you have to work.
By the same token, you should demonstrate care and respect to her when she has her own emergency, family sickness, or needs time away from your home.
A positive relationship with your caregiver is based on mutual respect within the boundaries of a working relationship. Ask yourself what you would expect from your employer and try to provide the same to the woman who is an essential part of your family’s life.
Keep it Positive
If you do want to have coffee with your nanny, feel free to offer her a cup in your home. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break and having a casual conversation.
Your nanny is a human being who is very important to your children. Of course, you want to get to know her and understand the kind of person she is.
But at all times it’s essential to respect her own space and not hinder her ability to do a good job by making her a friend in whom you confide your family’s issues and problems she may be powerless to solve.
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