When it comes to living in a family’s private home, the boundaries of the employer and nanny relationship can be tricky to define. Live-in nannies not only function as primary caregiver for their employer’s children, but they function as housemates for the entire family. For this reason, the personal and professional boundaries for a live-in nanny and her employers are naturally blurred.
According to Gael Ann Dow, a live-in nanny with 26 years of experience and a graduate from the National Academy of Nannies, Inc., live-in nannies can help keep personal and professional lines from crossing by being respectful of 6 key things.
Dow advises live-in nannies to be respectful of the family’s:
1. Time with their children. When you’re off duty, it’s important to allow the children and the parents to spend time together, without you present. While young children can have a hard time understanding why they can’t come into your room when you are off duty or why you can’t accompany them on a family picnic, allowing the family to function as a unit without you is essential to both the nanny and the family’s emotional health. Dow advises nannies to plan to eat dinner with the family some nights when they are off duty, but not every night.
2. Time as a couple. For live-in nannies, knowing how to blend into the background is essential. As the third adult in the home, it may often feel natural for everyone to include you in grown up conversation and activities. While it’s fine to enjoy an occasional take-out dinner with your bosses after the kids go to bed, be sure you’re respectful of the time they have together and allow the parents time to enjoy each other’s company alone.
3. Time with their guests and visitors. When an employer has guests and visitors over, the situation can seem a bit awkward. When invited to join the guests, it can be hard to tell if the invitation was issued because of obligation or sincerity. Asking her employer’s for guidance on the issue prior to the guests arriving can often make the nanny and her employers feel more at east. Dow suggests that having a place to visit, like a friend or sister’s house, can provide an opportunity to retreat and recharge when guests are visiting.
4. Their property and possessions. When working as a live-in nanny, it is essential to utilize your employer’s property and possessions with care. Live-in nannies should keep their areas neat and clean and should ensure that the follow any house rules set forth by the employer with regards to having visitors, using certain house areas and any special care instructions. If you accidently break something, report it and offer to replace it.
5. Their private space. Typically the employer’s bedroom and office space is assumed to be off limits to live-in nannies. If you’re asked to enter these private areas for a specific reason, it’s important to do so and to avoid any temptation to snoop.
6. The family’s private matters. Live-in nannies are often privy to private and sensitive information, according to Dow. Respecting your employer’s confidentiality is paramount to building a trusting, lasting relationship.
Adjusting to both a new nanny position and new living arrangements takes some getting used to. Having a written work agreement, asking questions and dealing with issues as they come up can help live-in nannies build lasting employment relationships.