Are You Friends With The Babysitter?

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I love my nanny. She’s been with our family for a while now. But I’m not her friend.

I’m her employer. And I think there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed there.

The tricky thing is that I love her and care about her as I would a friend. She loves my children – and they love her. She is someone I depend on (often) more than my husband. She probably knows everything about my life. But there are still personal questions I would never ask her. I try to keep some professionalism intact, as much as possible.

But having a good relationship with your child’s caregiver doesn’t mean you have to be her friend. It means you have to create a level of respect and trust with her. Here are some guidelines.

1. Create a contract. This might sound incredibly formal, but you should write down all the expectations you have of this job. Will she do laundry? Dishes? How clean does the house need to be each afternoon? Getting this all out upfront creates a lot less chaos later.

2. Discuss payment. It’s most important to discuss pay cycles, post-tax salary, paid time off, overtime, holidays and vacations. And be fair. What will you pay her if you’re running late? How can you coordinate vacation time? Can you pay her for the most important holidays (even if she doesn’t have to work those days)?

3. Respect and trust her. Once you have a good sense of your new caregiver’s personality and the activities she does with the kids, you can stop micro-managing. Did the kids have a good day? Great! No need to ask about each and every plan going forward – it will only come across as intrusive.

4. Care for her. If your caregiver has gone above and beyond, get her a gift card or present to show your appreciation. If she’s sick, check in on her (perhaps with a meal). Understand that her job can be very exhausting (no matter how perfect your kids are) so make sure she’s creating ways to give herself a break or keep herself engaged.

5. Let it go. When someone is basically living in your house during the day, there are bound to be little things you both do differently. But don’t nit pick. If she doesn’t hang her coat up or likes to vaccum instead of sweep, who cares? She’s still making your life work, and that’s 100% more valuable than hanging up her coat.

Katie Bugbee is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of A busy working mother of two, she’s an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter.