Professional / Education Essay

The work of nannies and expectations of employers

The work of a modern-day nanny differs vastly from that of nannies in the past. Nannies are as in demand as ever with the increasing busy lives people lead. However, the job scope of nannies is often ambiguous and highly subjective to individual employers and nannies alike. Unfortunately, this miscommunication has led to numerous childcare contracts turning sour. Well, what exactly does a nanny’s job entail, and what are the responsibilities of being a nanny?

Although “nanny” is often thought of as a job title by itself, it is actually a broad term encompassing many different types of roles. There are babysitter nannies, executive nannies, maternity nurses, housekeepers, au pairs and more. As varied as the job description may be, the scope of a nanny’s work is often left up to individual agreements between each family and their nanny.

What is a Nanny Responsible For?

Generally, nannies are first and foremost expected to tend to the needs of a family’s children. This includes playing with the children, reading and singing to them, bathing and changing young children, preparing the children’s meals, assisting with homework and projects for older children, fetching the children to and from school and extracurricular activities, as well as any other light housekeeping related to caring for the children. Some families may require the nanny to keep a record of the children’s daily activities and whereabouts, especially if the children are very young.  

Often, families also have secondary tasks for the nanny, usually other light housekeeping not pertaining to the children. This may include shopping for the family’s groceries, doing the dishes or laundry, folding clothes, cooking for the whole family, tidying up the house while the children are at school, and taking out the trash or recycling it. Additional extra tasks may include vacuuming the house, running errands for the family, ironing clothes and wiping down furniture. Some families may seek nannies with specific skill sets, such as someone who can care for children with special needs. In any case, any additional requirements should be put upfront and decided upon before any contract is signed. Ideally, the family should include these requirements in their search for a nanny, and the nanny who applies should be aware and capable of executing these tasks.

What is a Nanny Not Responsible For?

Even though the job scope of a nanny can vary greatly, there are certain things that are definitely out of bounds for nanny work. For instance, nannies should not be expected to wash the family car, clean the bathrooms, tutor the children on a daily basis, or perform any heavy-duty housekeeping, including cleaning the oven, fridge or mattresses. The nanny should leave the house in exactly the same state it was in when first arriving. This means that if the house was already in a mess before starting work, the nanny should not be expected to clean up the mess. However, any subsequent messes made until the end of the work shift do fall under the nanny’s responsibility to clean up.  

Most importantly, the family should consider how much they are paying their nanny before holding the nanny responsible for extra tasks not included under their job scope. Even if a nanny may seem like another family member, at the end of the day, being a nanny is their job and they are expecting to make an income from it. If an employer pays their nanny less than the minimum rate for a generic housekeeper, should they expect the nanny to care for the children and perform all the housekeeping duties as well?

What Are Nannies Looking For in Their Employers?

Most nannies will say that they are looking for a family they can feel at home with. They may want to be treated like another family member, and most importantly work for an employer that respects them and the work they do.

While this may seem like a simple request, it can get complicated especially with the amount of time that nannies spend in the house. Too often, nannies become like another part of the family, which can lead to employers asking more of them than they would any other professional worker. What definitely puts nannies off is an employer piling responsibilities onto their plate, on top of what was already agreed on in the contract. If the employer feels that they require more help with housework and other errands, they could discuss it with the nanny in exchange for increased pay, or consider hiring a separate housekeeper in addition to the nanny.

Nannies should also have a reasonable work schedule, consisting of five work days a week and two consecutive days off. They typically work 45 to 60 hours a week, with overtime paid according to national or state rates. Additionally, nannies should have major holidays off with pay, as well as two weeks of paid vacation per year. Nannies are more likely to seek employers that are upfront with the expected work schedule and abide by legal regulations.

How to Agree on the Job Scope of a Nanny

Given the already loose definition of a nanny’s work, it can be very difficult to suddenly introduce an official description of the role. Additionally, the fact remains that no two families are the same, thus each family will probably require a nanny with different capabilities. As such, it seems that moving forward, the work and expectations of a nanny is best defined as per individual household and nanny pairs, bearing in mind the general description of what a nanny should be in charge of.

To avoid miscommunication and disappointment, each family should ideally list down the specific requirements for their nanny. It is important to be as detailed as possible so that there is no ambiguity in the contract. For example, instead of writing that the nanny should take care of “child-related household duties”, the family could specify which kinds of duties, such as “doing the children’s laundry, preparing the children’s breakfast, lunch and dinner, and cleaning up the children’s rooms”. This makes it much clearer for any prospective nanny to visualize the type of work that is expected of them, and reduces the likelihood that a nanny does not match up to the employer’s expectations.

However, the situation is not always so clear-cut. Most nannies would agree that their job scope is never static, especially where young children are concerned. While a family may have been looking for a nanny to care for their newborn baby, a couple of years later the baby will have grown into a toddler, creating a completely different set of tasks for the nanny. Perhaps the family may even have expanded, now requiring the nanny to care for more than one child. These situations are sometimes unplanned and unpredictable. It is important for families to discuss these changing job scopes with their nanny and come to an agreement on new expectations. For instance, the nanny may be willing to work longer hours for higher pay. Or perhaps the nanny feels that they do not have the required skill set to care for a growing childnannies, and wishes to look for another family instead. 

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