My Time Is as Important As Yours

Summertime often means that schedules go a bit wonky. The days are longer and the weather is wonderful so evening time is now more than just dinner, homework and off to bed. The kids are out of school so there’s a lot more freedom in planning the daily activities. And then there’s travel, families head to the beach house, go on vacation or just to Grandma’s for a long weekend. All of these things can throw a wrench into a nanny’s schedule. Do any of these scenarios seem familiar?

# 1: Mom wants to get in a game of tennis after work so she’ll be “just a little bit late”.

# 2: Dad says instead of picking the 4th grader up at home, he’ll meet you at the ballpark for his game. He promises not to be late so you can be off by your regular time. That’s great except the field is in the opposite direction of your house which means you’ll get home 45 minutes later than usual.

# 3: The parents are going to do a bit of work at home then head out to the beach house mid-morning Friday. They want you to drive the kids down later on in the day after they’ve finished their music lessons. That means you’ll be stuck in the Friday afternoon shore traffic plus you’ll still have to make the drive home before you’re officially off.

As a nanny, you know it’s important to be flexible. And let’s be honest, part of the reason parents hire a nanny is for the convenience factor. But you want to be able to enjoy your summer too. You’d like to join your friends at the pool after work or get an early start on your weekend trip. Yes, you’re the employee but your time is just as valuable as theirs. Your plans are just as important to you as theirs are to them. So what’s a nanny to do?

First, take a deep breathe. These situations almost always trigger our defenses and that mindset won’t help you solve the problem.

Second, try and come up with a few solutions that work for both sides. This is the easy part because nannies are natural problem solvers. For scenario #1, you could drop off your (older) kids at the court with Mom. For #2, you could arrange a ride for your budding baseball player with another mom you often carpool with. For #3, you could reschedule the music lessons so the kids can ride down to the beach house with their parents.

Third, talk with the parent. Start by showing an understanding of where he or she is coming from. Statements like “I know you love playing tennis and after work in the summer is about the only time you get to play outside.”, or “I know it’s important to you to be at Sam’s game and it’s hard juggling that with work.” will go a long way towards setting the stage for a respectful and productive conversation. Follow that with “however”, the ultimate transition word. Then state your boundary. Next propose your solution. Make sure you include all the details and add how it will help both of you.

So if you’re talking to your Mom Boss who wants to get in a game of tennis after work, your response to her might sound something like this.

“I know you love tennis and playing after work is about the only time you get to play outside. The rest of the time you’re stuck in those bubbles. However I have plans tonight and can’t stay late. I can drop the kids off at the court with a backpack full of snacks along with their i-pads at 6.00. You can finish your game while they get in their daily screen time. Will that work for you?”

If she says no, move onto your second possible solution. And third if you have one. But remember, ultimately this is her problem to solve. You’ve given her lots of great choices that will allow her to get her needs met. If none of those work for her, then her last option is to skip tennis and come home on time. What I find is that parents usually jump on the solutions presented if, and this is a big if, they take your boundary seriously. And that has little to do with them and a lot to do with you. Have you set boundaries in the past and stuck to them or have you caved when the parents applied a little pressure? Each time you cave, you’re teaching them that the way to get what they want is to apply pressure. As a nanny, you know better. That’s why with kids when you say no you stick to it. Because if you don’t, you know what’s going to happens the next time the same situation comes up.

If you haven’t been sticking to your boundaries, don’t worry. It’s never too late to start. Going back to our example, if the mom rejects the solutions presented then restate your boundary. That might sound something like this. “I’m sorry none of those solutions work. However I do still need to be off by 6:00.” Yes, this is incredibly hard to do but the alternative, living with being consistently taken advantage of, is even harder. And yes, a mom who’s used to getting her own way will probably give you some push back or a huffy attitude. But let those things go for now. Focus on stating and restating your boundary (I call this a broken record statement) and reaching your goal; getting off on time. Each time you define and stick to your boundaries, you’re teaching your employers how you expect to be treated. This can truly transform a relationship.

So now go out and enjoy the summer!!