Full Disclosure: The New Standard for Nanny Cams

Parents are increasingly turning to nanny cams to ensure the safety of their children with in-home care providers. This trend has been driven by media coverage of nanny abuse cases, but it is also largely influenced by the culture of connectivity we live in. Video surveillance is no longer just for the overprotective or suspicious – it is a way to participate in milestones and see what your kids are up to when you’re away, and a tool for communication with your nanny.

Nanny cams provide peace of mind and quality assurance for parents who would prefer to hire a nanny but have shied away due to the lack of supervision present in facility care. By using a nanny cam, you are able to have both the high end, individualized care of a professional nanny, as well as proof that your children are getting the best care possible.

There is, of course, a catch.

The use of nanny cams is often viewed negatively by nannies and au pairs, but not because they are being filmed. The primary aversion is due to the lack of trust a hidden camera implies, and concern over their privacy being violated in places such as bathrooms or private bedrooms (this mainly applies to live-in nannies and au pairs, but also includes live-out nannies who have a designated room in the home for when they work extended hours or overnight). While it is legal in all fifty states to have hidden cameras in your home, if your nanny discovers she’s being filmed without her knowledge, it could permanently damage your working relationship, and even result in her quitting.

For this reason, companies such as Seattle-based NannySure are going beyond standard surveillance tactics, providing a transparent resource that benefits both parents and nannies. Observations customized to each family are compiled into a report that is provided to both the parents and the nanny, and either party can request footage. This benefits nannies who want advice on behavioral issues, and is especially helpful if parents are not wanting to believe their little cherub was capable of said behavioral issues. Obviously trusting your childcare provider is paramount, but also being able to eliminate hearsay from your 5-year-old? Yes, please.

Justin Baram-Blackwell, founder of NannySure, states his company’s approach builds on the proven concept that “employees will perform better when they know they are being observed,” and that “covert monitoring not only destroys trust but fails to proactively protect your family.” By creating an environment where there’s mutual trust and open communication, parents are able to more effectively manage their employees, and nannies are able to have their hard work acknowledged. “After all,” says Baram-Blackwell, “how can you comment on a job well done when no one thought you were watching?”

Another caveat to covert monitoring: you may not be the only one watching. Baby monitors and nanny cams are alarmingly easy to hack if they aren’t secured, so it’s crucial to hire an expert if you aren’t (hacker level) tech savvy. It is also a good reminder to parents that if they would feel violated being watched without their knowledge, so would their nanny – a point well worth considering when it comes to maintaining such an intimate working relationship.

Deciding whether or not to install surveillance is a personal choice, but one that is best addressed by first voicing your concerns to your nanny directly. There is no substitute for healthy, open communication. Technology has never been more prevalent in our world, and there are advantages and disadvantages to taking this route.

Bottom line: if you’re gonna do it, do it right.

Copyright © 2018 Seattle Nanny Network. All Rights Reserved

Nanny vs. Babysitter: What’s Really in a Name?

As a nanny, one of my greatest pet peeves, which I’ll go out on a limb to say is a communal industry gripe, is when my job is reduced to “glorified babysitter.” It happens all the time. At dinner parties, family events, and even random social encounters, the topic of profession often comes up, and upon finding out that I’m a nanny, I get responses like: “You’re a nanny? But…what do you do all day?” Or better yet: “So how long have you been babysitting them?” To imply, obviously, that their understanding of childcare is turning on Nick Jr., throwing together mac’n’cheese, and texting all day.

Okay, maybe not everyone thinks that, but as someone who puts 50 plus hours a week into a job that I am deeply invested in, it can be frustrating to have that work so casually diminished.

Emily Dills, founder of The Seattle Nanny Network, worked as a nanny while in college, an experience she never forgets when sitting across from applicants she feels are undervalued. “I would have made a career out of working with children if there were more recognition in it. The nannies we represent are not just educated and experienced – they have a gift. They have chosen to dedicate their lives to working with private families in much the role of a teacher, yet there is no formal acknowledgment of that in this country. It’s frustrating.”

The biggest problem is that the majority of people don’t know what a modern nanny’s role is. Having a nanny isn’t the norm for most parents, and even in circles where it is, America doesn’t have the cultural familiarity with professional caregivers the way other countries, such as the United Kingdom, do. When we conjure images of nannies in the US, stereotypical – and often socially and historically uncomfortable – portrayals come to mind. We have turned the role into a caricature, so much so that we have no idea how to react to the real deal. It makes sense, then, that we would try to relate it to the nearest experience we are familiar with, which for most people is their neighborhood babysitter. But the two are not interchangeable.

A babysitter comes over for a few hours to monitor kids that she may or may not know well, usually so the parents can have a date night. She is there to make sure they eat and go to bed on time, and hopefully is able to make the process as fun as possible. More often than not, the majority of her babysitting time is spent while the kids are sleeping, and she is free to watch TV, talk on the phone, or do homework. She is paid in cash. She is likely on a roster of several local, trustworthy sitters the parents call from time to time, but is not indispensable to the family or an integral part of the children’s development.

On the other hand, a nanny’s role is to partner with the parents in raising their children. She is their physical extension when they are away from home. She is there almost every day, often for years, to nurture, protect, and teach the children she has been entrusted to, and has a major role in their development. While some nannies are paid under the table, most professional nannies worth their salt are salaried with benefits and, along with their employers, are complying with tax regulations. A nanny typically has years of experience in childcare, and many times has obtained degrees and certifications related to her job. Often, her expertise and wisdom is relied upon in situations where the parents might lack experience (for example, how to help a toddler transition with a newborn, potty training, dietary challenges, etc.). Nannies are often present at doctor’s appointments, sporting events, birthdays, and other family celebrations, and are a major part of the family’s life. So, why the lack of regard for such an important role?
I wanted to look into how the United Kingdom, which is the birthplace of the nanny, approaches the profession, so I reached out to Royal Nannies in London (a nanny placement agency serving the UK and making placements as far as Riyadh). Lucy, a recruitment consultant at Royal Nannies, offered a jumble of post-nominal abbreviations when asked about the applicant qualifications for their agency: “Nannies usually [have a] CACHE diploma, and often also have a NVQ diploma, MNT training, NEST training…”

Wait, what?

“And,” she added, “our nannies have to have at least five years of professional nanny experience” to qualify for application, explaining that many candidates with daycare or primary school backgrounds wish to apply, but that the families feel it necessary they have “household experience” as well as degrees. So how does all this translate into, um, plain English?
In the United Kingdom, CACHE is a two-year degree from The Council for Award in Childcare and Education. According to Royal Nannies, about half those who graduate with the degree will become nannies, while the rest go on to be employed with nurseries, schools, and hospitals. Social workers with this degree “are particularly suited to work in child protection and residential children’s units,” they claim. And, if these qualifications aren’t enough, or if your children are older, you could also hire a governess. This role is an advanced version of a nanny in England; someone who, “in contrast to a nanny, concentrates on teaching children,” both as a primary and supplementary form of education.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Ms. Dills said, with regard to raising awareness and recognition for the professional nanny here in the US. “But we have come a long way in the two decades I’ve been in the industry. There is a lot more confidence from the applicants, if that makes sense. I see more people wearing the title of ‘nanny’ with pride because of greater understanding of their role and acceptance.”

Perhaps we can take a cue from overseas where the industry is more regulated and formerly recognized, leading to respect for those who work within it. In the meantime, the best advocates for educating others about the role of a nanny are the nannies themselves, and the families who employ them.

There is nothing wrong with the title of babysitter; I started off as one. But a babysitter watches children. A nanny helps raise them.

Copyright © 2018 Seattle Nanny Network. All Rights Reserved

Blurred Lines

Ten boundary busters between nannies and families

Thanks to Fräulein Maria, reruns of The Nanny, and Jude Law’s epic philandering, most people conjure ideas of a romance between the father and nanny when they think of boundaries being crossed in this profession. While it may happen in rare cases, in my experience it is more likely that potential angst on the side of the parent is over the bond between their children and nanny, rather than anything to do with their partner. In this case, the stereotype is (almost always) far juicier than the reality.

The most common situations where boundaries are crossed between a nanny and family are just that – common. It is due to this commonplace nature that so many instances go unchecked, until a simple, usually avoidable breakdown in communication results in a nanny losing her position and a family without childcare.

Emily Dills, founder of Seattle Nanny Network, Inc., says that when clients call with a concern over their nanny’s performance, the first thing she asks is whether the nanny is aware of the issue. Often, they admit they haven’t even discussed it with her. This approach can ultimately result in the parents choosing to fire their nanny over an issue she was completely unaware of. Nannies too, are guilty of concealing their frustrations over work-related grievances, fearing they could jeopardize their position if they spoke up.

So what are some typical examples of boundaries being crossed? Here you go:

No sleeping on the job

Can you imagine if your office job allowed a paid nap break? Nothing says professionalism like your boss finding you drooling on the couch while their four-month-old naps. Baby monitor cranked all the way up or not, you might want to clear that first.

Stop with the “scope creep!”

Almost every nanny has experienced the infamous scope creep: agreeing to a specific job for a specific amount of money, then months later finding the work has magically multiplied while the check has not. It is one of the fastest ways to create job dissatisfaction for a nanny, yet something so completely avoidable. If you as an employer realize your needs have changed, address them with your nanny and pay her accordingly if additional duties are added to her workload.

Keep your clothes on

You’d think this would go without saying, but there are more than a few people who find nothing wrong with walking around in a towel (or less!) while the nanny is on duty. It doesn’t matter if you have abs of steel or look like Jabba the Hut. It’s always inappropriate.

Decline (no, I don’t want to be your friend!)

Social media accounts are very personal, and adding your boss or nanny to your friends list not only blurs the lines of professionalism, but is an open invitation for snooping and over sharing.

Yes, I belong to the 1% and no you can’t ask me for more

Many times nannies will state what their salary range is prior to an interview, then raise their price considerably once they meet the prospective family. Or they will frivolously spend the petty cash or rack up their work credit card because they feel their employer should be able to afford it. Just because an employer is affluent doesn’t mean they throw money around, and their financial status is not something to that should be taken advantage of.

I’m paying you to watch my kids, not your phone

Pretty self-explanatory.

I’m not your therapist

Nannies often get stuck in the position of family therapist, and it is one of the most uncomfortable situations to be in. Whether an employer has had a tiff with their partner, is in the midst of a nasty divorce, or has some other family drama it is not fair for them to dump that on their nanny or even worse, expect her to take a side.

Just tell me if there’s a nanny cam

Fewer things destroy trust levels faster than discovering you’ve been filmed without your knowledge. If a parent feels the need to have a nanny cam, there is no reason why that shouldn’t be disclosed to the nanny. In this digital age of connectivity video monitoring is not only accessible but often welcomed by the nanny, who fully supports your desire to know what the kids are up to when you’re not home.

The playdate is for my kids, not you

Playdates are naturally social for both children and adults, but there is a big difference between a nanny meeting up with other nannies or parents for an actual playdate versus lunching with her girlfriends with her charge in tow…especially if she is putting the tab on her employer.

Who is in charge when everyone’s home?

Both the parents and nanny tend to cross the line on this one. It is crucial to have consistency and mutual support, especially in front of the kids. One of the main ways this gets derailed is when one party undermines the other. If a nanny has worked all afternoon to curb a difficult situation that required disciplinary measures, it can be maddening to have the parents come home and undo all that hard work. It is also a major point of contention when the nanny oversteps her role and tries to tell the parents how to parent.

Every family has different parameters they are comfortable with, which is why communication is so critical. What was allowed and even encouraged with one family might be considered a huge offense to another. Nannies should make sure to ask how their bosses would like things managed, and employers need to set clear expectations and boundaries with their nanny from the start. And most importantly, both parties need to be forthcoming if things develop over time that they aren’t comfortable with, so that issues can be resolved quickly and smoothly.

Success can be had and the vast majority of stories are positive, but clear communication and expectations from the onset are the key to avoiding conflict later.

Copyright © 2018 Seattle Nanny Network. All Rights Reserved

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