Nannies and au pairs can be domestic dreams, household heroes and child whisperers but any relationship that involves living with a stranger can be fraught with difficulties. When you consider different cultures, a distance in ages in ages and homesickness it can easily be a disaster while you try to establish an equilibrium.
Whether it is your first live-in child care or the fifth, each nanny or au pair is different and can be frustrating in different ways. However by maintaining a few ground rules and structure while being understanding of their position and firm of your own, you can live in a household of harmony.
When interviewing potential staff be upfront with them. Though the nanny agency would have vetted them, and given them some details about your family, clear and honest communication from the start will ensure that everybody is on the same page and working towards the same goal.
Listing all the duties expected of them, showing them where everything is and ensuring they are aware of the standard you anticipate, will make the first week intense but it will also give you a decent framework to build on and then negotiate if things do not go as well as planned.
While sticking to a routine week after week may seem impossible with modern living, it is important to ensure your child will be covered. A last minute announcement that the au pair is needed to babysit may be fine once in a while (though may cause some resentment) however if it is a regular occurrence it can cause similar problems.
The same is true for a nanny, while illness and family emergencies cannot be anticipated, social engagements should never be prioritised over their duties. If you give them notice of discrepancies in your schedule, they can do the same to nurture a relationship based on mutual respect.
Everybody begins with the best of intentions, a new nanny, and a new regime. You may plan to restrict the television to half an hour a day, and never over meal times, or introduce a sugar free diet for the whole family, however the reality is often very different. Over time standards may slip, a sickly child can be coaxed with nothing but custard or fighting your child over his television time may seem impossible after a long day at work. Maintaining the standard of discipline that you expect from your au pair is not always easy however, you cannot let them always play bad cop.
Continuing to update your nanny on the standards you expect them to maintain, will not only ensure they are aligned with your own views, but will also make you aware of the times you fail to meet these standards. A consistent approach will not only make the children aware of the rules (that should not be bent) but also will help you nanny deal with any situation without any doubt.
Image Credit: Adina Voicu