Managing Expectations: 3 Ways to Handle Overwhelming To-Do Lists

September 8th, 2015 by

Nanny Expectations

We know some aspects of the nanny job can be tricky to navigate. If you’re a career nanny, the following situation will likely be familiar to you.

You’ve been with your nanny family for a while now, and you love them. The kids are great and the parents are understanding; in every sense, it’s a dream job. One day, the parents ask you to do a small household task outside the realm of your usual nanny duties. You are happy to do it, but then, as the months go on, you start seeing a to-do list full of these little tasks. It becomes expected that you do them in addition to caring for the children. You start to feel stressed and overwhelmed. You don’t know what to do. Should you bring it up with the family? Ask for a raise? Quietly accept it as your job duties expand?

The above situation is referred to in the industry as “job creep.” When a nanny stays with a family for a long time, expectations and responsibilities naturally evolve with the needs of the family. However, many nannies and families aren’t adequately prepared for this shift, and changing expectations can cause friction if the lines of the communication do not remain open. We’ve compiled a list of tips to help you navigate a conversation with the family:

1. Request a meeting to talk to your employers. This may feel uncomfortable, but it is perfectly reasonable to schedule periodic meetings to talk about your performance and changes in the position. There are a few reasons it’s useful to actually plan these conversations rather than simply telling the family how you feel when it occurs to you.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, it is easy to let your emotions get the best of you. You don’t want your employers to feel ambushed or attacked, so you need to be able to have this conversation calmly, honestly, and rationally. Scheduling the meeting allows you to have time to plan out what you’re going to say beforehand. Remember, always lead with the positives; you want the family to know how much you respect and appreciate them. It might be helpful to write yourself a script in which you pick out a few key points you want to make sure to make, such as how added duties may affect the quality of care you are able to provide for the children.

When you work as a nanny in someone’s home, sometimes the standard procedures one would go through in an office job do not seem to apply. However, the more professional you are with your employers, the more professionally they will treat you. Be sure to point out that you value your position and have agreed to complete extra tasks to be helpful, but would like to discuss it in detail if these are going to become regular expectations and duties.

2. Use your Terms of Employment. When you accept a nanny position, we recommend you and the family sign a Terms of Employment. This document outlines exactly what is expected of you; it should list hours, pay, and duties. If you have a work agreement, bring it with you to the meeting. Point out the duties you’re assigned, then politely suggest a new agreement be negotiated to include any additional expectations. If you bring up compensation, do so respectfully. Stating outright that you won’t take on added responsibilities without a raise can come across as confrontational, and families who feel they’re given an ultimatum may opt to find a nanny who will do more for less.

3. Set boundaries and offer reasonable solutions. It is possible that the family is asking you to do things that a household manager, housekeeper, or personal assistant would do because they are unable to take on another full-time domestic staffer. By offering to split some of the extra duties for a small pay raise or to help them find a part-time staffer who can handle the overflow (so you can focus on providing excellent care for their children), you can let the family know that you’re willing to work with them to find the best solution. Do not, however, feel bad about saying “no” to some requests; an over stressed nanny is a less effective nanny. It’s important to know your limits and to express them.

Remember, no family wants to cause a great nanny to burn out. Most of the time, the families don’t realize just how much extra work they’re assigning. By initiating a respectful, professional conversation about nanny expectations and duties, you can circumvent the problem without losing your cool—or your job!