Updated: Nov 11, 2020
We are living through some crazy times, amiright? On the surface, the stay at home orders we've all been subject to don't sound that bad at all. Work from home, spend more time with your kids, spend all day in your PJ's, eat all the snacks.
In reality, it feels like a never ending summer break but with no sunshine, no vacations, tons of schoolwork, and just the same amount of work.
For those of us who still have work. I recognize that I can be counted among the extremely fortunate to still have a job at this point and my heart breaks when I hear about all the millions of people who have been furloughed or let go and are waiting on answers from their employers or their state's unemployment departments. I do have a post coming up about your options if you are deciding whether or not you need to let your nanny go during this time. Please stay tuned!
In the meantime, many Americans have been thrust into an unfamiliar and chaotic environment, where one or both parents are trying to maintain their productivity while under the same roof as their kids. For those that are lucky to still have a nanny that's able to work, there is another complexity: how do you work from home without completely disrupting your nanny's mojo with your kids??
I've been working from home for nearly 6 years, and I've found 3 key ways to keep the relationship with my nanny healthy and avoid situations that could easily turn awkward.
1. Keep yourself as separated as possible
There are a couple of reasons why this is so important. First, if you set up at the dining room table and your kids have easy access to you, they will not leave you alone FOR. A. SECOND. This is a very quick way for tensions to rise, as you get frustrated by the interruptions and your nanny feels like all day needs to be spent running interference. Trust me, it's much easier for you, the kids, and your nanny if you go close the door to a makeshift office (or a real office, if you're lucky!) and only come out for designated breaks. Second, you can clearly set expectations with your kids that when your office door is shut, Mommy and/or Daddy are working. Your kids are in transition, too, and the more clarity the better as they adjust to their new normal.
2. Let your nanny be the boss when you're working
I cannot stress this enough - do not undercut your nanny's authority just because you are home. Hopefully you have communicated about disciplinary styles and you aren't shocked by the types of interactions your kids and nanny are having, but there will absolutely be differences in the way you would handle a situation from the way your nanny handles it here and there. If your nanny does not feel supported by you and - more likely - if your kids sense that your nanny's authority is being undercut, they will run with that fast and hard. They need to understand that when their parents are working, they will be respectful and listen to their nanny, even if Mom or Dad are just around the corner.
If my kids are being especially vicious, I have stepped in and given my nanny a break while I talked to the kids about their behavior. But the message I give them is that I will not tolerate disrespectful behavior and that they need to listen to their nanny regardless of my working location.
3. Check In Regularly
Communication is crucially important as everyone adjusts to this foreign and uncertain way of life. Take a few minutes at the end of the day or during nap time to get a pulse on how things are going. Ask if there were any interactions throughout the day that made your nanny uncomfortable or that made the situation unnecessarily hard. I learned that when I took random breaks to grab a snack or water and I walked into the kitchen near my kids, my one-year-old would stop playing peacefully and start crying as she ran toward me. I usually had to run back upstairs to my room within a few minutes for meetings, so I'd leave one (or all three) of my kids upset and tough to console. After talking to my nanny about it, we determined that things would go smoother if I stocked my "office" with drinks and snacks, I would take breaks to see the kids when I had more than just a few minutes to fly in and out of the room, and if I needed to make a quick run to the kitchen I would text her so she could distract the kids. Though it felt awkward at times - and a bit like I was a prisoner in my own house - things ran smoother after implementing that strategy. And, most importantly, my nanny felt heard and like she had a voice in our ever-evolving routine.
Change is never easy and I know so many of us are ready to get back to normal life. It's so easy to say that we should just try to enjoy this time and savor these extra moments with our kids. It's so much harder to do that in practice. We acknowledge how hard you (and your nannies!) are working and that every day we get a little bit closer to coming through this together.