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The Complicated Threesome of Mom, Dad and the Nanny

It may be the most indispensable threesome you'll ever have: you, your spouse and your children's nanny. Together, you work as a team to care for and manage the daily lives of your children.
10/30/2014 06:47pm ET | Updated December 30, 2014
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It may be the most indispensable threesome you'll ever have: you, your spouse and your children's nanny. Together, you work as a team to care for and manage the daily lives of your children. While employing someone to care for your children is a lifesaver and a necessity for many, it can also create challenging relationship dynamics for spouses who struggle to co-manage the caregiver. You can avoid misunderstandings and head butting with your spouse by discussing your management plan before hiring the nanny, making unified decisions, and maintaining a professional relationship with healthy boundaries with your caregiver. Here are three tips for working together with your spouse to build a strong relationship with your children's caregiver, without adding stress to your marriage:

Create a Management Plan with Shared Responsibilities

You should put as much thought and planning into how you and your spouse will manage your new nanny as you do in finding and hiring the right person for the job. Often families don't take the time to create a management plan for their nanny because they assume they will fall into a natural rhythm of managing an employee who will be working under their roof to take care of their children. More often than not, one parent, typically the mother, is frustrated that she's become the sole manager by default and is often times stuck in a "Bad Cop" role, dealing with issues or problems they may have with the nanny or that the nanny may have with the children. Her spouse, by omission or sometimes default, is seen as the good guy who's there to hand out praise and raises but never criticism. Similarly, few things will raise your blood pressure as much as being the last to know that your spouse has made a big decision about the nanny without consulting you, such as giving her a day off when you really need her help or agreeing to a change in hours. In these go-with-the-flow management situations, one spouse feels taken advantage of or under-appreciated, and the nanny's feelings toward one parent tend to sour. Ultimately, the day-to-day management of a household employee requires a plan with clearly defined responsibilities and roles, and a commitment to making joint decisions about your children's care.

Build a Warm, Professional Relationship

Professionals, who have no problem managing in the workplace, often find it difficult to manage the nanny they employ at home because the relationship becomes too personal. You have an employer-employee relationship with your children's nanny, but it's much more complex because the employee takes care of your children and works in your home. Strive to maintain your role as her boss, while also taking the time to build a caring, trusting relationship with her, akin to a friendship, but clearly defined as professional. Give her suitable authority and make sure that your children respect her authority as much as they do yours and your spouse's. Recognize her as a childcare professional with specialized skills, experience and expertise that you depend on and pay her to provide. Make sure she knows you value her knowledge and respect the decisions she makes in your home while you're away, and back them up when you return at the end of the day.

Additionally, take the time to nurture and grow the relationship you and your spouse have with your nanny by making sure she knows you appreciate the love and support she provides. Without overstepping boundaries, intruding on her personal life or sharing too much about yours with her, show an interest in her as a person and go out of your way to make her feel like she's an important part of the family.

Establish Boundaries by Clearly Defining Roles and Expectations

At the end of a long, tiring day, it can seem natural to come home and happily embrace the extra set of helping hands that your nanny provides as a welcoming, even integral part of the busy routine of evening time with babies and small children, especially if one spouse isn't yet home. Your nanny is an integral part of your parenting team, but relationships deteriorate when one parent feels that the nanny can stand in for him or her in roles that haven't been jointly discussed and defined. When the roles become blurred, one side begins to feel taken advantage of or resentful, which can quickly sour the relationship. In order for the relationship to work, set boundaries, including clear expectations of job duties and work hours. For instance, define whether Mom and/or Dad will handle dinner, homework and bedtime or if the responsibilities are a regular part of the nanny's role.

With open communication between spouses and their nanny and a mutual respect for one another, your nanny can come to feel like part of the family. If you're looking for the right nanny for your family, UrbanSitter can help quickly and easily find a reliable, trusted provider who's just right for the job.