Clear rules and communication can help your nanny feel more at home.

Dear DNB, 

My daughter’s caregiver is exceptional! She prepares wonderful activities every day and she’s never been late. However, I just feel like something is missing. Since the first day, our caregiver has had a very formal attitude with us, and she’s never seemed totally comfortable in our home. How can I make her feel more at home so that she can let her guard down a bit and really reach her full potential?


Boss Babe

Dear Boss Babe,

You are very thoughtful to ask this question, and your caregiver is lucky to have a caring family like yours to work with! What you’re saying makes sense: you want your caregiver to feel comfortable in your home. 

As with most things, this will improve in time.

Depending on where your nanny is from, sometimes being very formal with employers is a cultural demonstration of respect.

More often, though, your caregiver is likely uncomfortable simply because she’s unsure. 

Think about the things that make you feel comfortable when you are in someone else’s home. Are you able to just grab something out of the fridge or pour yourself a cup of coffee? Are there extra sweaters or blankets for you to use in case you get cold?

Your nanny may have similar concerns:

Will my boss feel bad if she hears that I was freezing all day, or will she be angry with me if she finds out that I changed the temperature in her home? Does my boss find it off-putting that I bring my own lunch every day, or would she be annoyed if I ate her salami? Should I even ask these questions, or would that make it even more awkward?

As with many relationship issues, the solution is red wine clear communication. Knowing what the house rules are is the first step.

Caregivers share feedback with us every day. For example, “I would love to feel free to make coffee during the day at my job, but I feel weird asking my boss if that’s okay. I just love my coffee!” 

We advised her to simply ask her boss if it would be okay to use their coffee pot, and when she did, they were shocked. It didn’t even enter their mind that she might not feel comfortable making some coffee.

Simply set the expectations for your caregiver. If you feel comfortable with her borrowing a pullover from the front closet when she’s cold, let her know. Along the same lines, if you’re uncomfortable with her borrowing clothes, you should tell her so that she’s not left wondering. Just as you have house rules that apply to your family, you should have rules that apply to your caregiver. It’s all about communication.

And no matter what, your caregiver will relax with time. Some things just take getting used to. 

Practicing clear communication will help everyone feel more comfortable because you will all be on the same page. Your nanny will be less worried about upsetting you, so she’ll be able to focus on giving her full energy and attention where it belongs: your child.