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Having a nanny can be a truly wonderful experience. After all, a nanny is not simply an employee. It is quite possible she’ll become an integrated part of your child’s life, and yours too.


When your nanny first begins, you may realize there’s much more involved than you had ever imagined. Is she self-employed, or should she be claimed as an employee? Is a nanny contract really necessary? How do I get this right?

I’ve worked as a nanny with a variety of families. There are many things that make a world of difference in the lives of families, and the nannies they work with. Here’s a list of pointers that may come in handy:

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Don’t underestimate the nanny contract

Laying out a contract for a nanny may seem unnecessary. Maybe you bonded instantly during the interview and it seems like you’re on the same page for everything. Or maybe you’re worried that suggesting one implies that you don’t trust her.

A contract ensures that you and the nanny have discussed terms, and come to an agreement on things like responsibilities, hours, pay-rate, overtime, vacations, holidays, sick days, and the like. Put it in writing so that it can be referred back to. That way everyone’s needs are explicitly stated and the chances of misinterpretation and feelings of frustration are minimized. It’s also helpful to review the contract each year together just in case updates are necessary.

Help her help you

When it comes to having someone else watch your children, the first thing on your mind is safety. That means making sure your nanny has everything she needs, not only to keep an accident from happening but to be able to handle one it does:

  • Keep an easy-to-access list of emergency numbers including Poison Control, the local hospital, your pediatrician, and a ranking of family members to contact.
  • Have a first-aid kit readily available in the home, and a small, portable kit for the nanny to toss in a bag, the stroller, or the car on outings.
  • As soon as your child is mobile, have safety locks and gates in place – especially gates on steps and to areas of the house that are off-limits.
  • Provide a secure place for the child to play while the nanny uses the bathroom, installs the car seat in her car, or cleans up a particularly fun (i.e. big) mess.
  • All safety straps for strollers and high chairs should be in place and fully functional, even if you choose not to use them.
  • If there is a dangerous new habit your child has picked up, pass that along to the nanny.

Morning updates are crucial

There’s no denying just how trying mornings can be. Getting out of the house on time each day may even seem like a recurring miracle. One thing you don’t want to forget is to give your nanny a quick morning update.

Just a few minutes spent filling her in on your ever-changing child can make a real difference in the day. For instance, has your child started potty training or teething? Are they having trouble napping, or suddenly prone to emotional outbursts? It’s a small way to ensure that your nanny is going in fully armed and ready for anything the day throws at her.

Keep the necessities out

When your nanny begins, let her know where things like jackets, shoes, sunscreen, paper towels, and cleaning products can be found, and keep these items located in the same easy-to-find spots. Your nanny doesn’t know your house like you do, and the time spent figuring out how to clean a spill or find the mittens is time your nanny isn’t spending having fun with your child.

Your nanny isn’t expecting a sparkling house. However, keeping things functional is helpful. If the toddler has just wet themselves while potty training and the baby is having a meltdown, your nanny won’t be able to respond as quickly if she then discovers that the way to the laundry room is blocked, the paper towels are gone, and the trash can is overflowing.

Be honest about when you’re getting back

Your nanny has a life after work, or in some cases, more work after work, and it can cause her to feel that her time isn’t valued if you’re consistently coming home late. If you are running behind, text or call to let her know so she can plan accordingly. If the lateness is recurring, then it’s time to revisit the schedule portion of the nanny contract. Of course, don’t forget to pay her for that extra time.

Responsibilities should be realistic

A nanny will typically complete tasks associated with the children, such as picking up toys, keeping their rooms cleaned, washing dishes used throughout the day, and doing the children’s laundry. If there are tasks required beyond that, discuss them with her and include them in the contract.

For the extra tasks, extra pay is expected. Also, keep in mind when considering extra chores that a nanny doesn’t get normal breaks. Overloading her with tasks can result in her feeling run-down, and unable to dedicate the energy level you hope for to your children.

A penny saved, could be a penny lost

If you’re expecting to take a lot of time off throughout the year for vacations, or family visits, inform your nanny before she starts. If you don’t have dates, an overall estimation of how much time throughout the year you will not need her will help. Always assume that your nanny is counting on every cent she earns because in most cases, she absolutely is.

You want to find someone who can match your schedule without inadvertently sacrificing expected income. This also includes last minute days off and half days. Those can really add up. Losing your favorite caregiver is not in anyone’s best interest.

Understand what self-employment really means

Childcare is expensive. In an attempt to minimize expenses, many parents will choose to hire their nanny as an independent contractor. On the surface, this does appear to be a great option. The truth is, however, that when a nanny agrees to be self-employed, they are often getting the short end of the stick, and neither they or the parents realize it – until tax season, that is.

When a nanny is recognized as an employee, parents are required by law to withhold the nanny’s portion of social security and medicare taxes from her paycheck, and make contributions to social security, medicare, and possibly even state and federal unemployment funds themselves.

These taxes are known as “Nanny Taxes” or “Payroll Taxes.” But when your nanny works as an independent contractor, she is then expected to pay the entire amount of those taxes out of her own pocket and is no longer eligible for unemployment if she is let go.

It can be even worse if a nanny is informed of being an independent contractor just as tax season begins, resulting in a huge debt she has not had the year to save up for.

Misfiling in regards to your nanny could even be interpreted as tax evasion by the IRS. Sorting out payroll for your nanny may seem daunting. There are many resources online that make it simple to understand payroll taxes and how they affect your family. There are also payroll services that make calculating each week’s paycheck easy.  

Avoid cabin fever

Being a nanny is an immensely rewarding position. It’s not without its challenges, however. Spending hours alone with a child can be isolating and lonely at times. Be sure that you’re allowing her the opportunity to take the children to places where both she, and your child can be social. It will benefit not only your nanny, it will also encourage your child to be active, well-rounded, and to develop important social skills.

Don’t forget reimbursement and petty cash

Money for your child’s lunch, project supplies, or special activities should never come out your nanny’s pocket. Either have her keep receipts so that you can compensate her on payday, or have cash set aside in a special envelope or wallet that she can use specifically for the child.

Take it one step at a time

Life is crazy – I don’t need to tell you that – and your little ones are just as susceptible to feeling overwhelmed as you are. Sometimes, a lot of transition can be difficult and lead to aggression, regression, sudden outbursts, and separation anxiety.

Having a new person in the house taking care of them might prove to be more than they’re ready for. Consider making the transition easier by speaking to your child often about a nanny coming into the house and what this will mean for them.

You could also have the nanny come over for short visits beforehand to allow your little one time to become comfortable. You may even consider waiting on hiring a nanny until your child is in a better place to handle the situation.

Build a united front

When it’s time to hire a nanny, both you and your spouse/partner should be on the same page regarding key components of raising a child. If one parent is okay with your nanny letting the baby “cry-it-out,” but the other is not, this can lead to confusion and tension for everyone, including the child.

This also means reinforcing the nanny’s judgment calls. If a parent is regularly disregarding the nanny’s rules in front of the child, this not only undermines the nanny’s authority, but it teaches your child to do the same. If you don’t appear to respect her rules, the child won’t either.

Collaboration is key

Having a nanny is very much a collaboration. Communicating openly and often with her is key. That means considering your nanny’s suggestions, incorporating certain techniques that you notice work, and sharing with her any new tricks you’ve discovered.

It also means being honest with your nanny if you notice her handling a situation in a way that makes you uncomfortable, or that you don’t think is actually helping. This will help create consistency and allow you both to come up with more effective game plans that benefit your little one.

Let her know she’s valued

The families that best connect with their nannies are the ones that take the time to get to know her and show her she is valued. Just a few minutes spent talking about things other than the children with your nanny reminds her that you care for and respect her. Polite conversations about school, her family, or weekend plans will allow her to feel better connected to you and your family, which will make you more approachable if there is an issue.

If you see her going above and beyond to do something special for your child, let her know that you noticed it, and appreciate it. Bonuses and raises to reward her for her performance are important and should be considered, too. Everything she does is because she cares deeply. She wants to be shown the same consideration.

What do you think of the tips above? Have any of your own? Feel free to add them in the comments below.

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We've all been there. You first hear those cries that don't sound like any other cries and immediately know what's happening. It's like our mama hearts know when our little ones need us the most. Having little ones feeling under the weather is hard. They can't tell you exactly how they feel. You can't explain to them that they'll feel better soon, and all there is for everyone to do is to take it easy and stay cuddled inside until you can get them to the doctor.

The issue, by this point, is that my son is old enough to know what's coming when we open the medicine cabinet, so giving him something for his throat ends up being like a wrestling match without the fun and giggles. My son especially likes spitting out anything as a way to protest how he's generally feeling, so we both end up covered in sticky syrup feeling defeated. Because, seriously, who thought that using a syringe or pipette to squirt out gooey liquid down an unwilling toddler's mouth was a good idea? (Probably not a parent.)

That's why when I found out there was an easier and more fun way to make these dreaded sick days better, I was all about it.

Enter: Lolleez.

Lolleez are organic throat soothing pops for kids—and adults!—that are made with organic ingredients that you can pronounce and understand like honey and natural fruit pectin. Plus, they're non-GMO as well as gluten, dairy and nut-free i.e. worry-free for all kinds of kiddos. The pops help soothe sore throats while acting like a treat for when kids are feeling under the weather. I also appreciate that the pops are actually flat and on a stick, as opposed to a lozenge or round ball lollipop. They were also created by a mom, which makes me feel a million times more confident about them since I know she knows exactly how hard sick days with a little one can be.

loleez

When I introduced my son to Lolleez pops, everything changed. Suddenly the battle to get him to take something to feel better wasn't... well, a battle. In the few times he's been sick since, he's been more than happy to pop a Lolleez, and I've been more than grateful that soothing him is now as easy as peeling open a wrapper. And, since they come in watermelon, strawberry and orange mango—strawberry is the favorite in this household—he never gets bored of getting a soothing lolly.

Also, they're easy to find—you can get them at stores like Target, CVS and online so I never worry that I'll be caught without in a pinch. After the sick days have run their course and my son starts feeling better, there's nothing like seeing that glow in his eyes come back and have him greet me with a big smile when I come into his room in the morning, ready for the day.

While our littles not feeling well is inevitable, as a mama, I'll do anything to make my child feel better, and I'm so thankful for products that make it just a little easier for the both of us. So here's to enjoying the snuggles that come with sick days, while also looking forward to the giggles that come after them.

This article was sponsored by Lolleez. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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There is little new parents obsess over as much as sleep. We go to great lengths to help our babies sleep because when they sleep we finally can, too. For exhausted parents who are warned against bed sharing but want their baby close, in-bed sleepers are intriguing products—a compromise between the convenience of co-sleeping and the separation of a crib or bassinet.

They make parents feel safer when bed sharing, but are in-bed sleepers safe?

This week, Consumer Reports published an investigation into in-bed sleepers which linked the product category to 12 infant deaths between 2012 and 2018. This investigation was published the same day as a new study in the journal Pediatrics which found less than a third of American babies are only put to sleep in the products the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends: firm and flat cribs, bassinets, or Pack N' Plays which meet the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Dr. Ben Hoffman is a pediatrician and the Chair of the AAP's Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention Executive Committee. He tells Motherly he feels a lot of compassion for parents who choose not to follow the AAP's safe sleep recommendations in the hope of getting more sleep, but he's also gravely worried for them. "I'm afraid that what's going to happen is exactly what we saw with the Rock 'n Play," he says.

A baby registry staple, the Rock 'n Play was an inclined sleeper, the design of which went against the AAP's recommendation that babies sleep on a flat surface. Earlier this year, a Consumer Reports investigation into infant deaths linked to inclined sleepers prompted a recall of the Rock 'n Play and similar products. Many fans of the Rock n' Play criticized the recall efforts, suggesting supervision, not the design, was a factor in the deaths of 59 babies in inclined sleepers.

The CPSC eventually hired a third party expert (a specialist in infant biomechanics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to conduct a study. According to the CPSC, that study "examined how 10 infants move and use their muscles on flat, inclined surfaces, and in selected inclined sleep products, and whether such product designs directly impact safety or present a risk factor that could contribute to the suffocation of an infant."

The study concluded that the inclined sleep products that were tested were not safe for sleep, and the expert behind the study says the kind of testing she did (after millions of inclined sleepers were sold) should be done before products go to market.

Dr. Hoffman agrees and worries that because there are currently no federal safety standards for in-bed sleepers and boxes "it's sort of the Wild West" for manufacturers. He worries parents are being taken advantage of by companies and compares sleep products that are hailed as miracles to snake oil.

"Every parent struggles with sleep and they are desperate for something…they sell hope to a family," he explains.

The 'Consumer Reports' investigation

Consumer Reports examined data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and names three in-bed sleeping products in its investigation: The popular DockATot, the Baby Delight Snuggle Nest Infant Sleeper and the SwaddleMe By Your Side Sleeper.

Rachel Rabkin Peachman, an investigative reporter with Consumer Reports, notes that the CPSC "inadvertently disclosed information about the specific products involved in the incidents."

Motherly has reached out to all of these brands for comment on the Consumer Reports investigation. As of this writing DockATot has not responded.

SUMR Brands, the parent company of Summer Infant, maker of the SwaddleMe By Your Side Sleeper has responded with the same statement it provided to Consumer Reports.

The company states, in part: "The Summer Infant By Your Side Sleeper is not responsible for any deaths. Independent medical examiner reports of two incidents where a Summer in-bed sleeper was present in 2014 and 2015 concluded the in-bed sleeper was not a contributing factor to a child's death."

A spokesperson for Baby Delight stated in an email to Motherly that the "Consumer Reports article is a bit misleading since it equates our Snuggle Nest products with inclined sleepers." The Snuggle Nest is not an inclined sleeper and that's not what Consumer Reports or Dr. Hoffman are suggesting. Both, however, suggest parents stop using the product.

Consumer Reports states it identified two deaths that involved the SwaddleMe By Your Side Sleeper, two deaths involving the DockATot as well as three deaths that involved the Baby Delight Snuggle Nest Infant Sleeper.

Baby Delight tells Motherly that "based on the information from the CPSC Investigations, each incident was apparently a result of caregiver behavior contrary to safe sleep practices and warning labels present on product and in instruction manual." The AAP points out that the very existence of the Snuggle Nest Infant Sleeper is contrary to safe sleep practices.

The backstory on in-bed sleepers

Two of the products named in the Consumer Reports investigation, the Baby Delight Snuggle Nest and the SwaddleMe By Your Side Sleeper are comprised of a mattress with low, mesh walls. (Baby Delight describes its product as having "breathable mesh walls along with solid plastic inserts for stability.")

The third product, the DockATot, is softer, a product in a category sometimes known as baby nests or baby pods.

That's the language the FDA, the UK's Lullaby Trust (with support from Public Health England) and Health Canada have used when warning parents not to put babies to sleep in products that have soft bolsters on sides, like the DockATot does. Such bolsters pose a suffocation risk, the FDA notes.

On its website DockATot states the company "recognizes that many people believe strongly that infants and young children should never sleep with adults in their bed, while others believe that such co-sleeping provides benefits. Many who choose to co-sleep with a DockATot dock find that the sides help establish a separate space for the baby that is close by to the parent(s)."

DockATot also states its product should never be used in a crib or playpen.

Safe sleep recommendations

But a quick Instagram scroll through #dockatot proves that many parents are using the DockATot in cribs, and that is not the only way in which parents are ignoring safety recommendations from the makers of sleep products and from pediatricians.

A study released this week in the journal Pediatrics found that while most new parents put their babies to sleep on their backs, only 42% follow the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation against soft bedding, and just 32% were using a separate, approved sleep surface.

Less than a third of American babies are only put to sleep in the recommended products firm cribs, bassinets, or Pack N' Plays which meet the safety standards of the CPSC.

This follows research published in 2018 which found the number of American babies dying by suffocation has been on the rise in recent years. The majority of these suffocation deaths happened while these babies were in bed. In an email interview with Reuters last year, one of the study's co-authors suggested that the rise in suffocation deaths could be because parents are ignoring safe sleep recommendations, but suggested "It may also be that we have dangerous items on the market and in our homes, and they need to be removed."

The recent CPSC study found that was the case with the Rock 'n Play, but even though the product was the subject of a widely publicized recall, some caregivers and parents and still choosing to use the inclined sleeper.

Calls for change 

A parent himself, Dr. Hoffman does not want to minimize how much parents struggle with sleep in the early weeks and months of parenthood, calling it "one of the hardest things many people will go through in life."

It really is that hard, he says. But he also says in-bed sleepers are not the solution exhausted parents are looking for. "I've testified a couple of times before the Consumer Product Safety Commission about them, and I feel about them, honestly, the way that I felt about the inclined sleepers—that there's really not a safe way that they can be used," he tells Motherly.

And as much as Dr. Hoffman feels for parents going through sleep deprivation in early parenthood, he knows that losing a child to SIDS is so much harder and he wants lawmakers, manufacturers and the end consumers to think about that when considering infant sleep products.

"Parents are desperate for something because their child is unhappy and it makes them unhappy and everybody's miserable. But the fact of the matter is...it's just not worth the risk."

Hoffman is calling for regulatory change, but he says parents can keep their babies safer by sticking with products that meet the CPSC's standards and by always putting babies to sleep on a flat, firm sleep surface with no soft bedding, bumpers, bears or blankets. "Buy a crib or bassinet that conforms to the Consumer Product Safety Commission crib and bassinet standard. Absolutely. Anything that does not is not a safe place for a baby to sleep unattended."

[Correction: October 23, 2019: A previous version of this post stated the expert behind the new Rock 'n Play study is a specialist in infant biomechanics at the University of Arkansas. She is with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.]

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Shawn Johnson East is set to welcome her firstborn any day now, and she's taken us along on all the ups and downs she's faced on this journey. Now she's revealing how much she wanted to have this child and the role her first pregnancy, which ended in miscarriage, played in that realization.

"I don't feel like we ever felt ready [to have kids]...and then we accidentally ended up pregnant. It was a surprise for both of us and we ended up losing that pregnancy," Shawn says during a recent appearance on the Miraculous Mamas podcast. "It was after the miscarriage we both just kind of had this switch flip...it was a rude awakening of like, 'holy, crap we're going to have a kid,' but all of a sudden it was like "we're ready to have a kid and like we want nothing else.'"

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Shawn says that even though she's so close to giving birth, she still doesn't feel 100% ready to have a kid (which is a completely normal sentiment). She also explains that she and her husband, Andrew East, worry most about how becoming parents will affect their marriage, but ultimately, they just wanted to experience parenthood together more than anything in the wake of their miscarriage.

"As soon as we did miscarry, I went through that whole phase of...it was almost like a postpartum depression," Shawn reveals. "Because you have all these hormones leaving your body, which you have to deal with on top of the mental side of processing what did you just go through. With my husband it was a year-long, not battle, but back and forth. As soon as I miscarried I was like 'I want to try again. I want to still be pregnant, I want to do this.' And my husband was like 'I think we need to take a break. I think we need to heal from this and process everything. That causes tension between a marriage."

It took the couple a little over a year to figure things out, heal, work on their marriage and finally get pregnant again and while Shawn says she still doesn't feel completely ready for motherhood, we know she and her husband have got this.

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Giving birth is NOT easy. It's painful, messy, terrifying and an emotional roller coaster...but it's also pretty darn incredible. And, according to Jennifer Garner, it's also incredibly romantic.

Then again, it might not be—at least if you're anything like Kristen Bell. Jennifer and Kristen sat down together for an installment of Momsplaining with Kristen Bell to tackle this topic.

One of the moms who joins Kristen's roundtable in this episode is five months pregnant and tells the two famous mamas that while she's feeling pretty good, she is starting to get a little nervous about going into labor. "I think it is the most romantic day you'll ever experience," Jennifer declares.

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But Kristen isn't buying it. "You're a better person than I am," she says after her jaw drops. "I was going to say, 'It's going to look like a homicide...way more blood than you think there should be."

Jennifer Garner Talks Motherhood: #Momsplaining with Kristen Bell www.youtube.com

Luckily, Kristen has a piece of advice for the expectant mama. "My best advice—and I even brought an example 'cause I knew you were pregnant— is make a birth plan. Put a lot of thought into it, take a deep breath...and then just [rip it up]. It's never going to happen like that so get rid of it. And that is kind of what labor is like."

It's true...and to be fair, some may find romance in all that craziness. You also may discover your own ability to laugh at yourself and your circumstances. Take for example, Kristen Bell's story about thinking her water broke during her pregnancy. She headed to the hospital convinced she was having her baby, only to learn she had likely peed herself. Raise your hand if you've been there.

This inspired the ladies to play a game where they stuck water-filled condoms between their knees and ran around the restaurant. The game's name? "Did my water break or did I pee my pants?" 😂

It goes to show that motherhood is usually not pretty...but if you really stop to examine it, you can see the humor—and yes, even the romance—in those messy moments.

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I always knew I would marry someone from another culture. Growing up in the Dominican Republic and then moving to Miami in my early 20s, I was curious and attracted by looks, accents and customs different than mine. I started studying English when I was six and added Italian classes at age 16, so marriage was still far from my mind, but little did I know that becoming trilingual would definitely mark my life and my family's when the right time arrived.

My husband is Italian, born and raised in Palermo, Sicily. When we started dating, I was excited to learn that he had two of my non-negotiable musts in a guy: He could speak Spanish with my parents and he could dance merengue! Bingo!

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Shortly after we got married ten years ago, we started daydreaming about our future mixed kids. We could almost see and hear our child running free and jumping for joy around us. Beyond any gender or looks, all I wanted was a healthy, happy and wholly baby.

Our son is now 2 years old. I gave birth with my Italian husband-become-doula reminding me to breathe and push in Spanish, my Puerto Rican ob-gyn coaching me with his Boricua accent, and three nurses—Indian, British, and Cuban—all cheering me on in their own version of English.

The moment my son was born, I just remember telling him: "I love you! I love you! I love you!" A hundred times. English was the language that I heard myself speaking to him.

Even before he was born, we were spontaneously and intentionally looking for ways to include our cultures in his life. We debated between names that had the same spelling and pronunciation in Spanish, English and Italian. We asked his grandmothers to bring children's books from home so they could read to him in the only language they speak. We included multilingual toys in our baby shower registry and started talking and singing lullabies in my native Spanish and Daddy's Italian when he was in the womb.

Even though we often sound like an episode of Dora the Explorer, I do my best to only speak Spanish at home, and his dad speaks Italian to him 100% of the time. He loves pasta, maduros, and pancakes.

When it was time to look for a preschool, diversity was our number one priority. We chose a Montessori school where he is now learning English as a third language and where we thoughtfully share traditional desserts from our homelands when we are invited to potlucks.

When he is out of school and we have run out of ideas, I admit that he watches and dances to merengue videos on YouTube, and loves them. As a result, our boy is now growing up trilingual in the United States, in a multicultural environment filled with all Latinx experiences.

At the same time, I like to acknowledge and celebrate the fact that he was born in the United States. I make a point of having a traditional menu for Thanksgiving dinner even though none of us enjoys turkey that much.

We alternate our holiday travel between the Dominican Republic and Italy every year, and no matter where we are, he gets gifts from El Niño Jesús and Santa Claus on Christmas and then from La Befana (the old woman bearing gifts from Italian folklore) and Los Reyes Magos (the Three Magic Kings) on January 6th.

He made me feel proud when he came back from camp this summer holding a red, white and blue boat while jumping and screaming, "Our flag!" on the days leading up to the Fourth of July. And on the Fourth, he surprised us by lying on the grass to enjoy the fireworks, making us feel grateful for him and for this land that we call home.

Being a Latinx parent in the US today is a blessing and challenge at once. As an immigrant, I am aware of how fortunate I am to be able to raise my child with all the benefits this country offers, while still embracing my roots. Every day I challenge myself to keep growing, to become a better citizen and to be more visible so that we continue to break stereotypes and defy statistics.

Most of all, I want my little one to be free to express himself, to see the world and appreciate all the colors, rhythms and flavors beyond our own.

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