A large part of a nanny’s success – or a major contributing factor to her lack thereof – is dependent upon her ability to understand the individual needs of the family she works for. Just as no two children are alike, neither are the households they live in. Learning to navigate the particular landscape of family dynamics and scheduling in a new post is essential for the nanny who wishes to maintain her post for years to come.
Even a childcare provider who’s particularly adept at reading situations should take certain steps to ensure that those observations are accurate and in accordance with the needs of her employers, as depending solely on instinct can often lead to misunderstandings and even serious disputes. In the interest of performing to the best of your abilities and providing the family that employs you with top-notch service, here are a few tips for determining their needs so that you can make your best effort to meet them.
- Ask Questions at the Interview – All too often, nannies see an in-person interview as more of a one-sided interrogation than a dialogue between both parties; as a result, questions go unasked and needs ultimately go unmet. Rather than answering all of a prospective employer’s questions without asking any of your own, make an effort to discuss the intricacies of the position and ask any applicable questions. In addition to making it easier for you to figure out what the position will entail, this simple action can save both you and a prospective employer a considerable amount of time and wasted effort by revealing a personality clash, fundamental disagreement, or any other potentially problematic aspect of a post. Asking courteous and polite questions will help you to determine exactly what a family is looking for, what they aren’t yet aware that they need, and give you a brief but informative glimpse of the inner workings of the household.
- Work With Your Employers to Create a Checklist of Responsibilities – Putting the responsibilities that your employers will be expecting you to fulfill in writing by working together to draft a checklist provides a great opportunity to discuss their individual needs and the ideal qualities they’d like their nanny to have. Though nannies typically only provide services that are directly related to the care of children, perhaps your employers are in need of light housekeeping or full household management. Working together to build a definitive list of responsibilities and expected tasks will allow you to best determine where their needs fall and how you can best meet them.
- Contact Their Last Nanny, If Possible – If your new employers and their previous nanny parted on good terms they will probably be willing to provide you with an email address or another form of contact information so that you can discuss her duties and what tasks she was regularly charged with. Be warned, however, that a family whose last nanny left under difficult circumstances or as a result of a serious dispute may not be willing to disclose any of that information. In that case, it might be wise to ask them what they did and did not like about her methods, in order to get a basic idea of what their expectations are.
- Document and Summarize Your Findings – Taking the time to summarize all of the information that you’ve collected regarding the needs and expectations of your new or prospective employers and presenting them for review is a great way of making sure that you’re all on the same page, and that your initial observations are correct. Should you be off base in some area or another, it also allows them the chance to dispel any misconceptions that you may be laboring under and better explain those needs.
During the process of drafting the written work agreement that will include a detailed summary of the expectations and responsibilities of both you and your new employer, you should be provided with an even clearer picture of how the household runs, where assistance is required, and what you should or should not contribute. Because a good contract should be so thorough that it could be considered exhaustive, you should have few, if any, questions about what will be expected of you. During the first few weeks of your new engagement, make sure that you’re as observant as possible; this adjustment period can be very informative, revealing needs that your new employers might not even realize that they have.
P.S. This post was proposed to me for publication by Abby Nelson. I'm therefore publishing it by her invitation and under her permission. See also the link below fore more information: