The sitter is supposed to be here in 3 minutes, I’m still not ready and I haven’t had a chance to write down all of the “instructions”. The girls know we’re headed out, tipped off by the frenzy of our last minute preparations and are now super clingy.
The door bell rings.
Somehow I never get the chance to present the calm, “got-my-s@*#-together” front I always dream about in my head.
“Come on in! It’s a bit crazy right now...” I trail off with that little crazy laugh that says “when is it sane, but please go along”.
And as I realize I’m going to have to wing the walk-through, I wish I had a handy checklist that I could just cover off.
I’ve lived through this scene countless times and never got around to actually creating that checklist. It wasn’t until I started seeing how every parent suffers from the same problem that I could see exactly what points are most helpful to cover off to make sure everyone is happy at the end of the day or night.
At Poppy, after helping with thousands of bookings, we have seen how important clear communication and expectations are at the beginning of both every relationship but also every handoff. We’ve used those learnings to come up with different ways to communicate household rules and routines and help facilitate that conversation.
But there are still some important questions that is helpful for every household to make sure everyone has the same clear expectations. After all, great caregivers are experienced and can handle a range of situations but I’ve learned that sometimes as parents we can forget that they’re not mind readers.
So to help, here are 5 questions to make sure you cover:
1. How do you want to communicate, and how often? Some parents like myself, like to check in every so often and I love getting pictures of what the kids are up to. Doesn’t matter if it’s date night or a regular work day. Others prefer the “no news is good news” policy. Whatever your preference, just let your caregiver know.
2. Is there any thing specifically off limits? Screentime, snacks/food, outdoor play, areas in the house. This is a biggie but probably the most overlooked in most walkthroughs. We parents are so focused on what should be done that we forget to communicate things that are off limits. Kids are wily and will try to get away with all sorts of things if the caregiver doesn’t know they’re not allowed. So things like screentime or snacks or if you’re okay with kids going outside (and what are approved outdoor spaces) or areas that are off limits in the house. Again, the objective is to highlight some of the house rules and expectations that are super important to your family so the caregiver can seamlessly enforce them as well.
3. What things are really important to you today to get done? This is something similar but a bit less critical. These are the specific schedule things you need to be done while you’re away. Like dinner around 6pm or lights off at 8:30pm or bath and homework. These expectations help the caregiver plan out the time using these as the milestone markers. Try to pick only the few most important ones and trust an experienced caregiver to be able to fill in the rest.
4. Where can you be reached if the caregiver can’t get through on your phone? While you likely will and should exchange phone numbers, we’ve seen all too often phones that run out of battery or no answer if the parent is in a meeting. If a caregiver needs to reach someone, give them one or two other options - ideally a neighbor nearby and a spouse/ other family member.
5. When do you want the caregiver to reach out or consult you?
This is a tricky one but is really important if the caregiver doesn’t yet really know your family. Like communication, some parents trust the judgement of an experienced caregiver to make the right call - whether it’s getting a child to eat or going outside for a walk. Other parents prefer to be consulted if there are any questions at all. For example - say a caregiver is changing a diaper and the notes say to use diaper cream but the caregiver can’t find it. Some parents are okay if the caregiver uses the vaseline that’s there and others would prefer you text/call and ask where the cream is. No judgement on which way is right - it’s the preference of every family. But communicating that expectation upfront makes it easier for everyone so that you’re not irritated by questions asked that you find trivial or you’re not frustrated when you find your detailed instructions weren’t followed to the T.
Bonus: many parents these days may be sticking around the house to work or do errands. In this case, an important question to cover is: How do you want to handle being in the same space?I’ve learned this one the hard way because I used to work from home. And as much as I wanted to pop in and say hi whenever I wanted, I quickly saw how this undermined the authority of my nanny and how inevitably when I would need to leave again, I would be handing a crying mess back to her. That wasn’t fair to her and it confused the kids. So now I set clear expectations that I’ll be working in my office and if I need to come down I’ll text to give her warning to move the kids somewhere else. The point is, the more you discuss how you’d like that to work, the more the caregiver is able to effectively do their job.
It’s no surprise - all of these questions are rooted in basic expectation setting through clear, honest communication. I’ve personally found that while it felt a bit awkward in the beginning, now it’s second nature to discuss these things and everyone is happier.
What questions have you found helpful to discuss?