More Answers About Childcare

The answers you find here are intended to serve as suggested best practices for domestic employment, and have been crafted by Hand in Hand with the National Domestic Workers Alliance. They are designed to help you take steps toward creating a mutually beneficial domestic employment relationship—and help set a framework for conversations with the domestic worker(s) you employ. Please understand that these suggested best practices may differ based on the particular domestic employment relationship and that these possible best practices do not constitute legal advice.

What are best practices in a nanny-share?

It’s important to be clear about your priorities as both a parent and an employer before you agree to partner with another family. And even if you have shared values, as we all know, the hard part is putting values into practice in everyday situations. Sticking points can include a worker’s pay, schedule, and vacation time, as well as the kids’ screen time, sleep time, and access to treats. When you consider a nanny-share, you want to make sure that you and the prospective family/families are truly compatible. You should enter into a nanny-share with the expectation that you may have to compromise on certain issues in order to have the benefits that come with such an arrangement.

What can help:

Before you even begin to look for a childcare provider, all participating families should agree on work terms as spelled out in a written work agreement. Ideally, the work agreement would embody the same best practices that you would implement solo.

Try to find consensus on the hot button issues, such as sleep, screens, food, safety, discipline, and whatever else feels important to your group. These agreements, whether verbal or written, will help guide you in the interview process and provide important clarity for the worker you hire. Remember: You create stress and confusion for a worker if you leave it up to her to juggle conflicting instructions from parents. As employers, your job is to support a worker to do her best.

Park Slope Parents has compiled a document on the topic that you might also find helpful.

What if other families in a nanny-share don’t agree with me about employment practices?

When a disagreement emerges, one option is to try to explain how and why you came to adopt a “best practices” framework. As we all know, a judgmental approach often doesn’t lead to constructive discussion; it puts everyone on the defensive and wrongly suggests that some of us have never struggled to find the money, time, or will implement best practices.

What can help: Share information that was useful to you. Explain your self-interest in fair employment practice: you want your kid(s) to be cared for by a person who feels content and respected in her job. But if discussion doesn’t bring you any closer together, this family is likely not the right match for you.

What if there are differences (cultural or generational) between how I parent and how a domestic worker approaches childcare?

In one way, cultural and/or generational differences between you and a worker can be a great benefit to you and your family. You might learn about new holidays and community rituals as well as different philosophies about childcare. We know from experience that it can be a relief to learn about all the ways a child can happily be fed, carried, changed, sung to, and put to sleep.

At the same time, differences can be challenging. Differences between two parents. Parents and in-laws. Parents and domestic workers. There is nothing easy or simple about raising a child no matter who’s involved.

Common flashpoints can include sleep training, breast/bottle feeding, introduction of solid foods, screen time, discipline, and monitoring of play dynamics.

What to decide: You need to determine which issues are most important or non-negotiable to you (category A) and which issues you have untested preferences or ideas about (category B).

What to do: Give a childcare provider explicit directions about the high priority, category A issues, letting her know that they are very important to you.

Have a discussion about the category B issues, soliciting a worker’s views and learning about her experiences as a childcare provider and/or mother. See where it goes. Over time, you might not alter your views or you might be more comfortable trying a different approach than what you had in mind.

What to remember: When you hire a nanny/childcare provider–or when you leave your child in the care of any other adult–you are ceding some control. Accept that you will not be able to anticipate every scenario or control the outcome. It’s important that you and the childcare provider you employ share general values, instincts, and ethics. That will help you feel confident that she will make decisions that work for you.

What should I say about cell phone use?

At the start of your relationship, it is a good idea to make your feelings clear about cell phone use at work. The safety of your children is the worker’s first priority and she should not be distracted. At the same time, it’s important to be honest and flexible, knowing that many of us use our cell phones while we parent. Sometimes we have to take a necessary call. Sometimes we talk to a friend because being with our kids or other family members has become tedious. Domestic workers are no different.

Open communication about this issue will help you trust that, even if a worker is engaged in a short call at the park, your family member’s well-being is her first priority and will not be compromised. Remember to include this information in your work agreement.

I am having a second child. Should I pay the nanny/childcare provider I employ a higher wage?

The added responsibility of a second child warrants a raise of $50-100 per week ($1-3 per hour). This increase should be provided in addition to any annual or merit raises. If you are consistently home during your maternity or paternity leave and a second child is not yet a worker’s primary responsibility, you can start the raise when you return to work. But make sure the childcare provider you employ knows that she will be getting a pay increase and the date that it will go into effect.

What should I do if I am going to take parental or other paid leave? I may not need as many hours of help from a domestic worker during this time.

If you know you are planning to take a temporary parental leave, and will need fewer hours of support from a worker, you must not reduce a worker’s pay during this period. We know that this can be a significant financial burden for you to bear. But it’s important to recognize that unless you’ve found another position for your employee during this period, she likely cannot afford to support herself on a reduced salary and might start looking for another job.

What can help: If you continue to pay a worker her full wages during a leave, you might be able to benefit from a schedule change; discuss with her the possibility of covering some evening or weekend hours during this period. The worker may also be amenable to taking on other responsibilities during this time, including helping with housekeeping, errands, or cooking meals for the family.

Tip: It’s helpful to bring up this scenario during the interview process if you are able to anticipate the need for your parental or other paid leave.

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