More than 80 percent of American families have at least one employed parent, making childcare a non-negotiable for the bulk of the 74.2 million children in America. However, while childcare professionals are essential for many working families, many parents know precious little about what goes on behind the scenes with the men and women watching their kids each day.
Want to find out what your babysitter really thinks of your outrageous rules or those supposedly fun family vacations? Read on, and you might just think twice before unloading on your kid’s nanny again. And when you want to have some fun with the whole family, book one of The 5 Best Trips to Take with Kids!
They’re Not Going to Haggle With You
Don’t try to haggle with your babysitter or feign ignorance when it comes to how much you should be paying them. “When it comes time to pay me, people are always trying to tell me that I said a different number than I actually did,” says Katie, a nanny in upstate New York. However, she cautions against trying to lowball a nanny who has already told you their fee. “I am not thirteen and trying to go to the movie theater. I have to put food on the table,” she says. If you do need to cut back on your expenses, start with the 52 Easy Ways to Be Smarter with Money in 2018 instead.
They’re Not Your Captive
It’s one thing to be protective of your children. It’s another to force their babysitter to stay in a single room all day, as many parents will request. “I wasn’t allowed to leave during my 10-hour shift and I couldn’t leave the master suite all day,” recalls Katie of a particularly harrowing employment experience. “If the baby needed a bottle, I couldn’t even go into the kitchen.” And when you want to up your parenting game, start with the 20 Easy Ways to Be a (Much) Better Mother.
Parents Have Some Surprising Requests Regarding Their Kids’ Food Habits
Of course, it’s of the utmost importance to make sure your kids’ babysitter knows about any allergies they might have. However, Katie says that food fears that aren’t based in reality are often a major part of the job.
“One couple wouldn’t keep anything with nuts in the house because they were worried about their kid developing an allergy, but wouldn’t get them tested,” says Katie. And when you want to make every meal healthier, start by adding the 50 Best Foods for Your Brain to your meal plan!
They’re Not Your Therapist
It’s tempting to unload your baggage on someone who’s in your house day in and day out. However, that doesn’t mean that you should treat your kid’s babysitter like your therapist. “People I’ve only babysat for a couple of times will say, ‘Can you believe my husband?’ and spill intimate details about their relationship,” says Katie, who cautions against turning your professional relationship into a constant dish session. Oh and speaking of therapists? Here are 20 Secrets Your Therapist Isn’t Telling You.
Just Because Your Kid Is Behaving Badly Doesn’t Mean You’re a Bad Parent
Your kids may seem like they’re angels with the babysitter and demons when you’re around, but it’s probably not your fault. Katie says that children behave very differently with their primary caregivers and their nannies and recommends that parents don’t beat themselves up if their kid seems to have a major personality shift when returned to their guardians.
They See Your Private Stuff
If you want to keep your relationship with your kids’ babysitter professional, do your best to tidy up a bit before they come over. Katie admits that many of her employers would leave risqué items out in plain sight, although she cautions parents against doing so. When you have a nanny, your home is a workplace, so treat it as such. And for more on the inner life of your child, know the 40 Lies Kids Say That Parents Always Fall For.
Yelling Is an Unfortunate Constant
People tend to take out their frustrations on the person they see the most frequently, which, in many cases, is the family’s babysitter. “One family I worked for made me cry,” says Katie, who says that many employers won’t think twice before screaming at their nanny in front of the kids. And when you want to embrace a calmer, more centered life, start with the 30 Easy Ways to Fight Stress.
The Line Between Nanny and Assistant Is Always Getting Blurred
While many babysitters don’t mind doing housework, it’s important to make it clear that you expect it before hiring someone. Katie recounts working for a family who initially insisted that other domestic duties weren’t part of her job, only to ask her to constantly run errands for them unrelated to the care of their children. Luckily, when you want to take your professional life to the next level, the 40 Best Ways to Jumpstart Your Career can get you out of that less-than-ideal job fast.
Their Weekends Don’t Belong to You
The expectation that your babysitter doesn’t have anything to do on the weekends is a common one, according to Katie. However, if you want your babysitter to be on call for weekends, you should expect to pay them more, or find another nanny whose sole job it is to pinch-hit on Saturdays and Sundays.
Being Late Is a Big Deal
Just because you’re willing to pay your babysitter for extra hours doesn’t mean it’s ever appropriate to leave them hanging. If you go out for the evening and promise to be back at a certain time, make sure you’re back, or, at the very least, let your babysitter know that you’ll be late. “People will say they’re going to be back at 11 and come back at 1 without warning,” says Katie. “That is a constant.”
They Know When You’re Cheating
Want to keep your sidepiece a secret? That might be harder than you think if you have a regular nanny. “There have been plenty of times when employers are like, ‘Oh, you’re here already,’ surprised to see me when they’re entertaining a ‘friend.’ Or sometimes, you just catch a woman walking in who is definitely not the kids’ mom,” says Katie.
They Get a Pretty Good Picture of Your Finances
While you may not share your bank statements with your babysitter, odds are he or she has a good idea of how much you’re pulling in, according to Katie. In addition to the fights many couples will have in front of their nannies over cash flow, Katie says that it’s hard to disguise your spending to someone who sees every package and shopping bag that comes through your home.
The Interviews Can Be Brutal
Job interviews are hard enough as it is, but for many nanny jobs, they’re particularly tough. Katie says that some parents will bring the whole family along to interrogate potential nannies or force them to respond to virtually unanswerable questions. “[One family] kept quizzing me on how often I should feed the baby, then correct me with their own answers,” she says.
You Really Should Clean Up Before They Arrive
While most houses with kids have some sort of clutter in them, expecting your babysitter to work in an unsanitary environment is both gross and unfair. “There have been cases in which I have been uncomfortable working places because people keep their homes so messy,” admits Katie.
A Little Food Won’t Go Unappreciated
Babysitters often work longer-than-average days with few breaks, so having some food that they can eat is always appreciated. “It really sucks when they have nothing there for you to eat,” says Katie, who also recommends giving your nanny some space in the fridge for their own snacks, if you’re not providing them yourselves.
Trust is Key
If you’re letting someone watch your child, it’s important that you trust them to do it effectively. Katie recalls an employer who wouldn’t let her use a baby monitor, asking her instead to stay in the same room the entire time their child was asleep. Another employer wouldn’t let her children outside the house for more than 20 minutes. If you want to maintain a good relationship with your nanny, try to show them a little trust.
People Have Wild Ideas About Their Kids’ Well-Being
Unless they have a medical condition, it’s unlikely your children will become permanently damaged by having to go outside in a coat. Katie says that one NYC-based couple wouldn’t let her take their child outside when it was under 65 degrees out, making it close to impossible to get them adequate exercise during the day.
They Can’t Control the World’s Screens
It’s hardly unreasonable to ask your babysitter not to plop your kids in front of a TV set all day. It is pretty unreasonable to ask them to make sure that your child sees no screens at all when they go out, however. If you want your child to have a completely screen-free life, that is probably going to mean your babysitter can’t take them to restaurants, stores, or friends’ houses. And unless they’re real multi-taskers, odds are they can’t dictate the screen-use rules in the rest of the world.
Those Vacations Aren’t That Fun for Them
While getting to see a new city or country may be exciting, don’t expect that your vacation feels like one for your nanny, too. If you want your nanny to travel with you, you should definitely expect to pay for not only their transportation, lodging, and food, but for the time they spend with you, too, says Katie. If they’re working, they’re earning a paycheck.
A Little Kindness Makes All the Difference
At the end of the day, a little kindness goes a long way when it comes to making your babysitter feel welcome and respected. Pay on time, pick your kids up on time, and make sure to say “please” and “thank you”—these people are taking care of your family, after all. And when you want to bring your family closer together, start with The Single Best Way to Raise Emotionally Healthy Kids!
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