The first time you’re getting ready to leave your child with a nanny or daycare can be an overwhelming experience. Of course, you’re going to miss your little one, and you’re also likely concerned with the transition back to work and how you’ll manage. You’re probably also a bit nervous about how your child will respond to your childcare provider. There’s lots to feel!
Setting boundaries and expectations with childcare providers, regardless of whether they are nannies, babysitters, daycares, or even family, can be complicated. You want your provider to feel trusted and welcomed, but you also want your expectations to be considered and followed. There can be a fine line as to how you manage this relationship because though you are employing this provider, they are taking care of your baby and the last thing you want is for them to feel resentful or dissatisfied.
If you’re nervous about managing this relationship, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
1. Start from the beginning
You might want to seem like the cool, laid-back mom, but there is a time and place for that. With your childcare provider, you first want to set the tone as kind, but firm and confident. As your relationship with your childcare provider develops, there will be plenty of time for warmth and friendship, but as your child’s mother, you have a responsibility to first and foremost make sure your child is well cared for.
This goes for both in-house and center-based childcare providers. Though center-based providers often have set guidelines and a method of operation (and you have ideally chosen one that fits well with your family’s values), you can still be clear with teachers and directors on your expectations.
2. Maintain open communication
Once you have chosen a provider, make sure you keep clear, consistent communication. That means regularly checking in, listening actively when your providers fill you in on the day, and asking about difficulties or issues that need resolving (and working together to resolve those in a way that is amicable to both parties). Yes, you are technically the employer, but relationships, especially with childcare providers, are just that – relationships. Relationships require honesty, communication, flexibility, and symbiotic learning.
As new parents, we don’t often want to admit that we have a lot to learn, but we do. Some of our biggest lessons can come from the people who care for our children, but only if we are willing to look for them.
3. Have a written agreement
Center-based settings require written agreements, and if you’re opting for in-home care, there’s no reason you shouldn’t do the same.
“Taking the time to draft, agree on terms, and sign a work agreement can improve communication between both parties,” says Elizabeth Malson, President of AmsleeInstitute, a licensed online technical school with a childcare curriculum specifically designed for professional nannies. Even more importantly, it can ensure everyone has the same expectations. “Confusion between a family and nanny or sitter is reduced when everyone is clear on the responsibilities,” Malson notes. “A too-informal work arrangement can cause confusion, whereby a written agreement can provide clarity and make disputes easier to solve amicably,” she says.
A work agreement is simply a written document that specifies the relationship between an employee and an employer and often includes expectations and compensation. The agreement can range from an outline to several pages. Not sure how to make one? Free templates are available online.
A work agreement can (and should) be updated and modified at any time, especially as your child grows and the needs of the provider change, Malson says. This way, “it’ll remain a helpful tool to resolve communication issues, clarify expectations, and provides a way for parents to exert their wishes.”
4. Pay attention
As the parent of your child, you have an important role of being an advocate for your child in every regard. Kayla O’Neill, from Parenting Expert to Mom, tells us, when it comes to childcare, “If a provider is doing something that you don’t feel is appropriate or you don’t agree with, then you need to speak up.” And, in the same regard, if you have a disagreement with your care provider it is important to hear out their reasoning, O’Neill explains. “Make sure you are knowledgeable about what is being done and why,” she says, “Does the practice or method that they are using have researched-based evidence behind it?”
Doing some research and getting to know the foundations of early childhood education, learning, and development can be useful to you for a number of reasons, and getting on the same page with your childcare provider is definitely one of them.
5. Listen to your kids
If your kids are a little older, you have the benefit of learning their experience with their childcare provider first hand. In order to get an accurate glimpse, make sure you take into account your child’s personality when listening to their take (for instance, my kids complain about having to go to school, but enjoy their friends, teachers, and experiences while they’re there, so I know that though their preference may be to stay home with me, there isn’t an underlying issue to worry about).
To get a good perspective, ask open-ended questions regarding what they enjoy and don’t enjoy when with their childcare provider, favorite/least favorite parts of the day, what they like about their nannies/teachers/friends, etc. Listen to their responses and read between the lines.
It’s important to remember that parenting is a huge undertaking, and learning along the way is integral to its success. In childcare settings, every party – parents, childcare providers, and children – will be required to bend, learn, and grow. You don’t have all the answers and neither does anyone else. By keeping an open mind and constantly working together with your childcare providers to create a positive and healthy environment for your child, you’ll be able to foster a terrific situation where many people love and care and want the best for your little one.