You did all the hard work: researching, interviewing, going through the list of potential candidates and then making the final decision. Finally the day has arrived, the first day with a new nanny. Setting off on this journey together is usually full of mixed emotions. On one hand, you are feeling excited that you will finally get some help around the house and with the children, and time to yourself, on the other hand you are feeling guilty about leaving your kids. The first few days will be all about getting used to each other and this is what I would like to give you a few tips on today.
To prepare for the first day, make sure to write down the daily schedule and list tasks that should be done while the baby naps. Then when the nanny arrives you can go over it together. This tool will help all three of you a great deal. You won’t have to worry as much about the nanny forgetting what happens when and she will know what her tasks are. Most importantly, your child will not be suddenly knocked off her daily routine and this will make it much easier for them to adjust to the nanny. The schedule and task list should include as many details as possible and I think should definitely include the following points:
– Breakfast time: what time, what food to prepare and how
– Morning activity, Spring, Summer or Autumn – how much time they should spend outside and where they should spend it (list of playgrounds and playhouses in your neighborhood). If it’s Winter, or if it’s raining and the children can’t spend all day outside, still specify if the child can be taken outside, for how long and what to dress them in. Also list your child(ren)’s favorite indoor activities. You can also ask her to make a weekly schedule of arts and crafts projects if your child is old enough for that (usually 18+ months), but she can also look up exercises to do with younger ones. I find the time goes much faster with planned and structured playtime with a child, much faster than just sitting around. On the other hand, children should also learn to keep themselves busy on their own. If you don’t want your child entertained non-stop, then make sure to specify that as well. For example she could do some light housekeeping, like folding laundry, which would allow her to keep an eye on baby while he plays and explores on his own. By the way, hanging the laundry, or putting away folded laundry together is so much fun for toddlers! (I remember I had a little girl I took care of, and she always helped me with the folded laundry. She was perfectly happy going back and forth between the bathroom and the kitchen with her clean bibs, then putting them in the drawer one by one.)
– Morning snack: what time, what food to prepare and how
– Lunch time: make sure to specify how you feed your child, or the ritual surrounding a meal. Some kids are allowed to play with toys and eat at the same time, some need songs and funny stories while eating, some are just so hungry by lunchtime, that you don’t need any tricks to feed them.
– Nap time: where (crib or parent’s bed) and how long. Show the nanny how you usually put your child down to sleep, step by step. For example: after lunch you brush their teeth, make them sit on the potty for 5-10 min, then change them into pajamas, darken the room, cuddle for a few minutes in the armchair, or on the big bed, than put them in the cot. A very important detail is if you leave the child in the room and they fall asleep by themselves, or if you rock them to sleep either in your arms or just standing by the crib.
– Afternoon snack: what time, what food to prepare and how
– Afternoon activity: see morning activity above
– Dinner time: what time, what food to prepare and how
Probably the most difficult part of hiring a nanny or babysitter, is the first few times you leave your child(ren) with them. It’s hard for moms, especially if you have been the primary caretaker up until that point and you have never left her in another person’s care (this is common with expats, because family and close friends are so far away). Although this may not be possible, I strongly suggest taking some time off to be able to spend the first few days introducing the nanny to your baby. It’s important to show your child that you and this ‘stranger’ are friends, that you trust this stranger and you show confidence in her. Kids pick up on everything, so it’s really important to exude confidence in the new nanny to put your child(ren) at ease. After a few days, however, it’s time to leave them alone, and let them start to get to know each other without you there. They will be good friends soon, believe me! If not, then maybe it’s a sign that something is not right with the nanny you have chosen – better than using a hidden camera, which, by the way, is illegal.
If you are in-and-out of the house a lot still in the beginning, be prepared, because your child may start crying each time they see you. Don’t worry, this is totally normal. Usually the reason for this is simply the fact that after they were happily playing away and had actually forgotten about you for a bit they see you and bam! they remember why they had been so sad before. Mommy will be always Mommy, no matter how wonderful, experienced and educated the nanny is. So, make it easier on yourself, try to schedule your day to minimize this stress for both of you, and try to leave and return at the same time each day, the child will then learn to relax and feel secure.
Lastly, I want to discuss the another difficulty with new nannies. The testing of boundaries. This is the most trying period of the ‘getting-to-know-you’ phase for the nanny too, not just you. It is imperative that you let her set up the boundaries between her and your child on her own. If you go into the room each time you hear your baby crying a bit, because the nanny said No or took some banned object away, you will achieve two things: you will undermine the nanny’s authority in the eyes of your child, and you will teach your child that every time they cry you will show up. This will just prolong the initiation process, and make things really unpleasant for everyone.
I really believe that hiring a nanny or babysitter is profitable for both you and your child. You gain a bit of freedom back, either for your career, or to spend time with friends, or just to read a book or finally get to the gym. Your child will (hopefully) make a new friend – the nanny – and that is the first step in becoming more independent, which will make going into any new social situations, like kindergarten, much easier.
Next time I will cover difficulties you may encounter with a nanny – namely if you don’t like her, or if you think your child doesn’t like her and what if she doesn’t like you?!
I`ve been a nanny in Budapest working for foreign families since 2006. I have met people from many different backgrounds, babysat for kids of all ages and have experienced a lot about what it means to become part of a family, and having the patience to handle not only many different types of children, but their parents too. Since 2011 I`m a blessed mom of a precious little boy, and have come to know firsthand `the other side of the coin` (to directly translate an expression from Hungarian). Now I`m back to work part time with my son tagging along. I`m happy to answer any nanny- or baby-related questions. I’m also happy to help moms find cleaning services, drivers, gardeners or any other help around the house.