working from home with nanny

Dear DNB,

Thanks to Covid-19, my wife and I are working from home for the foreseeable future. I realize that this scenario is not what our nanny signed up for, but there’s nothing we can do about it. How do we maintain a good relationship with her now that we’re all sharing the same turf?

Signed,

Dad at Home


Dear Dad at Home,

The fact that you’re even asking how to make this new situation work means you’re most likely doing a great job already. Here are some tips:

Rule number 1: When your nanny is there, she is in charge.

Any time your kids ask you for permission to do anything while your nanny is working, no matter how mundane it may be, say “When [Nanny] is here, she is in charge.” You’ll find yourself saying this over and over, but it’s important for your kids and your nanny to hear. Eventually, they’ll go to her first.

Rule number 2: Follow rule number one.

There will be times when you disagree with your nanny’s decision. Unless there’s a safety issue, like she promised your child a treat that he’s allergic to if he completes a chore, you should always back her up. Any non-safety issue can be discussed privately when the kids aren’t there. She’s the boss the moment she walks in your door.

Rule number 3: Minimize unnecessary interruptions.

Part of the beauty of working from home is being able to see what your kiddos are up to all day. But popping in and out breaks up the routine they’ve established with your nanny, and you may not even realize that it’s harder for her to regain control afterwards. Don’t forget: Your kids miss you, too. Seeing you reminds them of that.

Rule number 4: Let your nanny comfort your crying child.

This rule can feel impossible to follow in the moment. When your child is crying, our instinct is to rush in and make them feel better. Don’t. Even when your child is begging for you by name, stay where you are. Take a deep breath and let your nanny make it better. Coming to the rescue communicates to both your nanny and your child that you’re the only one who can make things right again.

Yes, you’re better at comforting your child. Yes, your child wants you, not her. But those are just good signs of a healthy parent/child relationship, not reasons to justify stepping in. Be proud that your kid cries for you and give them extra love when it’s your turn to make their boo-boos all better. Letting your nanny handle the tears has an added benefit: it teaches your children how to cope during times when you won’t be there in the future.

Rule number 5: Your home is your nanny’s workplace. Be respectful.

Try not to let your nanny witness arguments, nudity, and anything else you’d consider an HR violation at your own workplace.

You’ve got this!

Love,

Ask DNB Team