Advice for Employers of Nannies and Childcare Providers

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, between parents and in-laws; and between parents and domestic workers. There’s nothing 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.

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.

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.

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.

If you know you are planning to take a temporary parental leave, you may need fewer hours of support from a worker. However, we strongly suggest you keep paying as usual during this period. 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.

Try this: Instead of changing the worker’s pay, discuss the possibility of a change in schedule. For example, having them covering some evening or weekend hours. They 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.

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.  Read more about nanny shares.

Read more about child care