Golden Rules for Nannies and Au Pairs
Be courteous at all times. That means being punctilious with your 'pleases' and 'thank yous' and never barking commands.
Never, no matter what the provocation, shout at your nanny. If she has offended you in some way or made a mistake, take some deep breaths and think about it quietly for a few minutes. You may regain a sense of proportion and realise that her mistake was minor or understandable, and feel able to let it go.
If, on the other hand, you still feel outraged, then sit her down, and speak to her calmly and politely, explaining in detail what she has done wrong.
At the outset, you should outline clearly the tasks, responsibilities and perks of the job.
Try and explain how your household runs; what time you get up, have breakfast, go to work, come home, eat dinner, put the children to bed. Many nannies will find their jobs easier if there is a perceptible pattern.
If, on the other hand, your life is unpredictable and hand-to-mouth, make this clear from the start, and explain that patterns are broken and sudden calls are made on your time. Ask the nanny if she is ready to step in and take over when things get out of control - she might actually welcome the extra responsibility.
Don't 'invent' new layers of responsibility as you go. This isn't fair on the nanny, and she may - justifiably - feel resentful. If you do find that there are extra tasks, then sit her down, explain, ask her if she is willing to take them on. Offer her something in return - extra money, more free time, or even compensate by relieving her of one of her existing duties.
The nanny is a guest in your own home, so of course you should expect high standards of politeness, cleanliness, cheerfulness and willingness to help. If your nanny is sullen or sulky, you should talk with her and try to find out why. If her moodiness is not related to your own behaviour, then you are justified in pointing out that her demeanour is dispiriting, and that it's rude to sulk.
Good nannies are like gold dust, and you may find yourself gazing longingly at other parents' nannies. Tales of desperate mothers sleuthing round museums, spying on the nanny that is showing herself off best, shadowing her and then trying to woo her away into their employment are no exaggeration.
Don't even consider joining their infamous ranks; such grubbiness may pay off in the short term, but your children will not thank you for the loss of dignity and decency that nanny-poaching entails…