Training your domestic worker
12:51 (GMT+2), Fri, 30 September 2011
The nanny. Aka Second Mom. The person you choose to look after your child gets to know him just about as well as you do, and your child will become attached to his nanny too. As South Africans, most of us were carried on someone’s back when we were little, and truth be told, that person probably helped shaped who we are today. So the importance of choosing the right person for the job and training them to do it properly is right up there with voting for president and washing your conditioner out properly.
Mary Poppins or Cruella de Ville?
It’s quite difficult to choose the right person to look after your child. You need to be able to trust that person with the most important thing in your life, so hiring a stranger to come in and take over should be treated as a serious matter. Here are some tips on where to start:
Use an agency
Using a placement agency is a great way to help you find the right person to hire. Most of them pre-interview the candidates and check their references before placing them in someone’s home. The nice thing about using an agency is that you’ll have an opportunity to meet quite a few potential nannies – interview a few candidates until you find a fit. Visit www.supernannies.co.za for some insight on how these services work.
Keep it in the family
If you have a family member who is willing to look after your child while you work, you should consider this option. But be warned – this might seem easier and more cost effective, but can be tricky as well. When you hire someone, you’re the boss, and whatever the boss says, goes. With a family member, this isn’t the case. If you decide to ask a family member to look after your child, be prepared to be more sensitive and diplomatic than ever.
Love what you know
It can be a great idea if you already have a domestic worker and would like her to take over the responsibility of Nanny as well. Just remember that a higher salary should accompany the increased amount of responsibility. Also, cleaning a household while trying to look after a little one is almost impossible, so it may help to employ someone to help her with the washing and ironing once a week. This way, she can also dedicate more time to your child.
Questions to ask
Whether you’re interviewing an outsider, your domestic worker or a family member, you’l need to ask certain questions, but make sure you’re making the right decision. Don’t read their CVs only, but take the time to check that their references are legitimate. With someone you know, it’s important that you’re both on the same page when it comes to what you expect from them, and what they’re willing to do for you.
Once you’ve chosen someone to help you raise your little one, the hard work begins. Make sure that any routines you’ve set up for your child are stuck to while you’re not around. And if you haven’t got a routine, now might be the time to introduce one – even a flexible one will do. A routine is important because it will give your nanny some guidance as to how you bring up your child.
Introduce the nanny to your child before you leave the scene completely. Take two weeks or so to share the responsibility of looking after your child during the day. You can then monitor how your child and nanny interact, and your nanny can see how you go about things. This also allows your child to get used to the new nanny, and you won’t be leaving him with a stranger.
Here are some things to let your nanny know:
- The basics – when your child eats, sleeps and baths.
- What kind of entertainment and play time your child likes. And no, teaching the nanny the Barney song is not below you!
- Your child’s likes and dislikes.
- Stick a list of emergency numbers on the fridge, including yours, other relatives’ numbers and emergency services. A poison guide that tells you what to do according to what the child has ingested is also a must. (See the March and April 2011 issues of living and loving for first-aid checklists)
- Even if your child isn’t crawling yet, show your nanny some child-proofing essentials, and they’ll turn into habits.
- Your nanny needs to know what to do if your child gets sick. Either show her what medication to give in certain situations, or let her know that she should call you for your advice.
- Have an open conversation about safety in the house. She shouldn’t let anyone in the house unless they’re expected, and you should say whether or not you mind the nanny having visitors over.
- If you want the nanny to be able to properly stimulate your child and play age appropriate games for educational purposes, consider sending them on a course in your area that specialises in these things.
- Personal hygiene is important. If you’re adamant on washing your hands before you wash a bottle, let her know that she must too.
- There should be a guideline on what to do and what not to do when accidents happen and there’s blood involved.
Easy does it
Sharing the responsibility of raising a child doesn’t make the job any less strenuous, but there are things you can use to make both your lives easier, and free up more time to spend with the little one:
- A decent baby monitor. This is especially a must if you ask your domestic worker to look after your child. She can listen out for any cries while moving around the house.
- A bottle sterilizer that works quickly. This saves a lot of time and ensures that everything is as clean as it needs to be.
- Different play areas around the house. Keep a few different toys in different places. This ensures that your child won’t get bored by being stuck in the same room all day.
- Pre-made food. Whether you make it yourself or buy it in a jar, make sure it’s ready and available so that Nanny has the right tools to give good nutrition.
- Sending your Nanny on a child rearing course is a great idea that will put your mind at ease. She’ll learn so many useful things, including CPR and child care.
- The Nanny Notebook (R120) is a compilation of everything you and your nanny need to know about what’s going on in your child’s life. The Nanny Notebook has great features, like a space for the nanny to fill in information about what your child ate during the day, how many dirty nappies were changed, nap times, and even a shopping list so you know what to buy next time you’re at the shops. Check out www.thenannynotebook.com
Jackie, 33, realised that she needed help with her baby twins when she started working from home. “Instead of getting an outsider to come in, I asked our domestic worker to take on the extra responsibility. I decided that she was the best choice because I trusted her, and the children were comfortable in her company already. But it wasn’t all easy going. There were a lot of boundaries to set and I had to learn to be more reasonable about my expectations. Looking after a household with children in it is tough; looking after those children at the same time – well, there’s a reason Mary Poppins is only a movie. We butted heads with a few things, but after I learnt that it was about compromising and not dictating, things started running smoothly.”
Rosina, 40, had been a domestic worker for years before the family that employed her asked her to look after the new baby of the house. “Being a mother of four, I love children so was happy to take on the role of nanny. It was trial and error to start with, especially learning to balance the housework with looking after a baby. But after a while, we employed someone to help with the ironing twice a week and this freed up my time to not just look after the little one, but mentally and physically stimulate him too. I did receive an increase in salary for the extra work. But seeing him smile at me everyday and getting to know him like my own doesn’t seem like extra work at all.”
What you should have learned…
- Hiring a nanny isn’t just about employing someone; it’s choosing someone to help raise your child.
- Open communication is the only way to make it work. Both parties should have an input as to what could work for your child. Be open to suggestions.
- If there are products you can use to make your nanny’s life easier – then use them! The more efficient they are, the better off your child is.
- Don’t be scared to look around before deciding on who to employ.
- If you choose someone you know make sure you’re both in agreement on what’s expected from each of you.
- Remember, just as you’re learning the right way to do things as you go along, so is your nanny.
- Don’t overreact if your child is as happy to see the nanny as he is to see you. This is a good thing.
- The more people who love your child, the better.