Changing Nanny's Job Description and Figuring Out What To Do With Nanny When the Kids Transition to School

It's inevitable that your childcare needs will change as your kids grow older or work schedules change. But what can you do to still keep your nanny? According to PSP Nanny Survey Data, only 12% of nannies transition into the afterschool pick up. Here are some words of wisdom from PSP members who have changed their nanny's job description over time.

This article contains advice from two discussions on the PSP advice forum. One from 2014, and another from 2017.

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Original Poster (2017 question and advice):

 I'm curious to hear from others how they have managed their nanny relationship/job requirements as their children have gotten older.  Specifically, our kids are at school for a portion of each day this year, and next year it will be more of the day.   We're starting to have conversations with our caregiver around taking on other chores/responsibilities in the 4 hours of paid time without kids she has each day currently (and will soon be 6 hours of down time) and are experiencing some pushback.
Our nanny -- who has been part of our family for five years, is amazing with our kids, and to whom we are deeply attached! -- isn't willing to take on responsibilities that aren't related to the kids, which means she doesn't want to do our laundry, run errands, cook food for us.  When I work from home, I watch her spend an hour doing light housekeeping and clean up, but then she sits on the couch and reads/texts/talks on the phone, or she goes out and does personal errands for herself, for several hours each day.  This morning, I asked her to fold my laundry and she told me no (and then proceeded to take care of personal errands for herself during that time, arriving back home with some shopping bags from Target).
We will continue to need significant childcare next year, with help doing morning drop-offs a few days each week and then 3pm onwards support every day.  Do others have their nannies take on additional responsibilities during those hours, or is my expectation out of the norm?  It feels like a lot of money to be paying out to not be getting some household help in exchange.
I appreciate any feedback you can share.

 

Replies:

 

Turn nanny into a household manager and cleaner:

"Our kids are now both in school FT but we have kept our FT nanny on (for several reasons, including that kids are in different schools with different vacation schedules, meaning we have lots of days where we need childcare coverage; my spouse and I both work FT with a lot of travel; as an atty I need to pay someone on the books and such nannies are hard to find; and some other reasons). Given that she is now free from 9 to 3 daily, our nanny now has replaced our cleaning lady, and does all of the cleaning, cooking, laundry, errand-running (groceries, dry cleaning, pharmacy prescription runs, etc.). Otherwise, it is very hard/impossible to justify the cost. By Friday afternoon, when most of the week's work is done, I am sure she has a couple of hours free for personal time, but I don't mind because she is basically running the house during the week.I would suggest a polite but direct and honest conversation with your nanny; you aren't paying her to do personal shopping from 9 to 3.  How would she justify her payment for that time?  Is she only insurance for the days when your kids are sick and home from school? If that doesn't pan out, perhaps you could consider a different FT nanny who knows up front that doing household work is part of the bargain from Day 1; or switch to an afternoon-only person."

 

See if the nanny is available for housecleaning:

"I've had my nanny for 12 years. When my daughter was a baby she did the usual nanny duties but she also did cooking, (delicious Jamaican food and anything else you asked her to prepare) cleaning, laundry, going to the supermarket. My daughter is now a teenager but Because my nanny is such a part of the family, she still comes in once a week to do housekeeping. I'm sorry that you are going through this but it seems you are being taken advantage of.

but remember...

"It's a common situation all around. In my experience nannies look down on housework and see it as not their profession. But your needs are changing and you need fewer hours of childcare now while you still have other household needs. It's pretty simple really in terms of options: she agrees to reduced hours, you find someone else who will do the reduced hours you need, or she and/or someone else does childcare hours plus other household jobs like grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry. Everyone navigates it at some point and you will too. Listen to your gut and decide what makes your life easiest and then arrange that. Good luck."

 

Have nanny help with errands and chores:

"We had a somewhat similar situation with our nanny a year or so ago with our nanny where she had a couple of mornings without kids at home but we paid her for those hours to be able to keep her on full time. I can tell you she had no issues doing mostly anything we asked her to do around the house to help out. She is not a cook, but she was happy to shop for food for us, take or pick up dry cleaning, return library books, take shoes to be repaired, wash, hang up and fold the whole family's laundry, make kids food or do simple prep cook for the household adult food (like washing and destemming, chopping fruits and vegetables). She even cleaned our bathrooms a couple of times. She was and still is only occasionally on her phone and she only does errands for herself if they are en route to things she is doing for us (like buying food for herself if she's already shopping for us).
It would absolutely not be acceptable to me to pay someone to sit in my house and do nothing productive for my household or go out and only do errands for herself. I personally would much rather work with someone who is hard working and flexible, even if it means letting go someone to whom the whole family is attached. There are many great nannies out there that are both wonderful with kids and also willing to be helpful in many more ways, especially to keep a good full time job. I know what you're describing is not unheard of but it's also very common for nannies to be willing to do non kid related work to fill hours that they are being paid while the kids are in school. In your place, I would insist on her working for you during the hours that you are paying her and if she refuses, I personally would be inclined to look for her replacement."

and:

"We no longer have a nanny but when we did she was always willing to fold clothes, tidy up etc. Yes, she also talked on the phone quite a bit and ran personal errands but on the way to and from pick up or when other chores were done. Seems a bit much to refuse to do these tasks.

and:

"When our nanny is not otherwise occupied, she runs errands for us (like post office drop offs), does our laundry every week, etc. As my kids get older I will definitely fill the school downtime with additional responsibilities and if she's not comfortable with that I'd either change compensation during those hours ($20/hour is not reasonable for several hours of rest time) or look for different help that is more flexible. We set these expectations upfront and hope she will be flexible in a few years when both kids are in school. Things I would have her do that she doesn't have time for now include food shopping, errands (like dry cleaning drop offs), and miscellaneous household chores."

 and:

"We are in the middle of this transition period with our longtime nanny.  She has been willing to pick up extra chores and generally has had a great attitude about being flexible.  She has added responsibilities such as picking up basic groceries for the house, cooking simple food for the whole family a couple days a week and she always keeps our house spotless - including messes that didn't occur on her watch.  She doesn't do our laundry, but definitely pitches in to fold our stuff if it's left in the dryer.  And she often handles visits from repair-people, or window washers, etc. because she is home anyway. We drew a bright line at heavy duty cleaning, so there is zero expectation that she will scrub the bathroom or the oven or mop the floors, but she does quite a lot of tidying every day.  We also shifted her hours a little versus how they were set in the past, but we did this as a one-time rearrangement with a lot of notice and at her agreement (it may have been her suggestion), and we do not change them around from week to week. Also, at some point, we let her know we wanted to discuss formally how to make the transition, and set a meeting time with her during her working hours (we came home early) and put the kids in front of a movie, and had an hour long discussion that included all these points.  Being clear and open was really helpful.  I hope this is helpful.  Given the amount of detail, please don't post to the list!

and:

"I think it is common for nannies to take on extra work when the kids are at school.If you the kids are about to be full time with her in the summer, maybe it is better to hang in there. In the meantime maybe you devise a list of things related to the kids and have her do them in her down time. I take it she does the kids laundry? Shopping for them? Making their meals, their lunches for school and even prepare dinner? Organize their toys?"

 

See if nanny can transition into a nanny share:

"My kids are now 6 and almost 8, and we've had a nanny working with us in some capacity since they were born. Our first one was with us for 5 years. She cooked for the kids (and sometimes for us too), did light housework, did the kids' laundry, and would sometime clean the house (we'd pay her extra for this). Once our older child started pre-K and our younger started a 2's program two days per week, we did a nanny share with another family. Then when my son started Kindergarten, we all decided together that it was better for her to take a full-time job with one family who had younger children - more secure for her and a job she'd have for the next 3 or 4 years. She went to work for some good friends, and we transitioned to putting our daughter in a 5-day 3s program and having my son do the after-school program at his school.

We hired a friend of our first nanny's to work part-time - pick up my daughter from school (and sometimes also pick up my son on days neither of us could do so), cook meals for all of us, do all of our laundry and clean the house (she would clean one day/week while the kids were at school). This worked really well until my husband changed jobs and my son started needing more support with homework. While we loved the nanny we had at the time, she just couldn't provide the homework help my son needed, and we needed someone who could stay late in the evening. We got really lucky to find an amazing part-time nanny who is college educated, an incredibly gifted artist, and has an immense amount of patience. He's been with us now for 1.5  years. We hired a separate house keeper who comes once a week to clean, do laundry, and cook. The nanny will cook meals for the kids if there isn't any prepared food in the fridge, but this isn't more than once/week. But he's only with them from 3 - 7:30 p.m. He takes them to after school activities and otherwise does homework, art projects and builds LEGO creations with them.

Long-story-short is that the first nanny we had for 5 years, who was (and still is) like a family member, eventually wasn't what we needed, and at that point we weren't what she needed either. Same with the second one. So at some point, I think it's worth reassessing what your family needs, and as hard as it is to make a change, it may be better than keeping the same person who doesn't seem to make sense now that you don't need her full-time. I know your situation is tricky, since you need someone some mornings to help with drop-offs and then not again until afternoon, but it's expensive to pay someone a premium for full-time work if they are not working full-time. It makes my blood boil that she said 'no' to helping fold laundry. I completely understand the part about her being like a member of the family, but if you had a teenage son or daughter who acted so entitled, would you still pay their allowance at the end of the week? At the end of the day, she is an employee, and it seems like now is a good time to renegotiate her contract."

 

Reduce nanny's hours or reduce pay when children are not present:

"Another thought I had is to adjust her pay based on the work she chooses to do (or not do) while the kids are in school. You can continue to pay the same hourly rate if she's working, but if she doesn't want to do the work, you will pay her a reduced rate (maybe minimum wage, which is $11/hr now in NY) during the hours the kids are in school. "

similarly,

"What a tough situation given that she's unwilling to be flexible.  Does your school have earlybird drop off?  In which case it may be better for you to handle drop off and have her show up at say 1 o'clock each day and work we little longer in the evening?  And/or pay her a slightly higher hourly rate to make it worth her while to be partial time.  You may save some money. I will soon be in the same situation and I just plan to reduce my nannies hours and have her come in the afternoon on the days I really don't need her all day.   But I'd love to see how others handle it as well."

 and:

"My sitter started FT with me when my daughter was 3 and when she started full day pre-k switched to parttime.  For the first 2 years she stayed with me and found a morning job to round out her day and then she started going to school in the mornings.  She just graduated summa cum Laude from Pace and she is now in medical school training to be a pediatric nurse.  She still does half day sitting but currently has a job.  Maybe you can find someone like her."

or:

"Have you considered just being honest and telling her that you don't want to lose her but you can't keep paying her for that much down time. You can give her a choice of doing other work while the kids are in school or going part-time. Given that choice she might decide its time to look for a new family and you'll have to start over with someone who'is. prepared for a different arrangement or she might become more amenable to other work. No nanny likes looking for new work."

and:

"I might offer that if she isn't working for the family during those hours that you pay her less during those hours, kind of like a retainer to stay on. She might not be willing to take less money, but the alternative is doing more work for you or finding another job with smaller children."

 

See if nanny can swap hours for a date night or a weekend:

"It also seems like you might be able to swap out a once a week date night for the 9-3 time off.  OR—maybe a weekend every other month?"

 

Stand your ground with expectations:

I have full time nanny and when my kids start school full time (which is happening in Sept) she is absolutely going to be doing house chores instead during the hours that she would have been watching the kids. Your nanny is basically saying she just wants to be paid to sit there, and isn't will to be a team player, and in my view she should be doing everything to be helpful, as her job is a support role in your household. At the end of the day, you don't have her job as is existed prior to your kids going to school full time, that's not the position anymore. The position has changed and if she doesn't want it, then it's not the job for her.

and:

"My personal feeling is that you decide what you’re willing to pay for, not your nanny. It is your home and your family. I certainly would not pay 20-30 hours a week for someone to do their own thing or shop at Target when there’s work to be done. And I think good career nannies are very well aware that transitioning to helping around the house is part of the job cycle as the kids get older. It sounds like this lady is really taking advantage of your good will. It also sounds like she might be using her closeness to your kids as leverage. Job descriptions change routinely in the working world—I wouldn’t feel any hesitation to say that your needs as a family have changed."

and:

"Some nannies will want to keep a FT job and agree to do other work, some will not.  If she won't you should just switch to a PT situation.  You may lose her but she can't expect to be paid to sit around, I know my boss wouldn't pay me to do that."

 

Consider parting ways with nanny to find a new nanny who can accomodate these new schedule changes:

"It sounds like it may just not be a good match anymore. I was a nanny for several years for various families. Although I loved each family and am still in contact with every one of them, I was not interested in taking on tasks unrelated to the children either. I didn't mind picking up the kitchen once in a while as a kind gesture but being asked to do laundry for the rest of the family or clean areas the kids don't use felt to me like a bit of a line cross in my job description. I was, after all, a nanny, not a housekeeper. That being said, I also would in no way have expected a family to keep paying me for several hours a day where I was not watching the kids or doing kid related work. All caregivers, including nannies need down time so an hour during the day to scroll a phone, eat lunch, or just sit seems reasonable to me. Several hours of personal errands/work etc. would have made me feel guilty (unless the kiddos were sleeping and I needed to be sitting in the house with them anyway). I viewed my work the same as any other professional position- my job description only allowed for so much flexibility but I also wouldn't take several hours everyday to do personal things while I was "on the clock".
Perhaps it would help to add up the hours needed in the coming months/years and see if it does, in fact, balance anywhere near the hours she was on kid duty in years past. If it does, then her pay should reflect that and those hours in between can be hers. If there are less hours now, maybe a reworking of your agreement is in order.
Just to be clear, I think it's ok to ask a nanny to take on extra tasks but those tasks should be outlined ahead of time so that no one feel taken advantage of or thrown for a loop. She may just be resistant because it's not what she's been used to. An honest conversation about your  needs moving forward and her thoughts on the matter could really help clear things up moving forward."

 and:

"We have transitioned from a full-time nanny to after-school babysitters and overall it’s less stressful not having to manage the nanny relationship. For all our (former) nanny’s warmth and patience towards my children, she was passive aggressive towards me. We now have two kind, bright, responsible, creative and fun babysitters who my 4 yo twins love. I think it's been good for the kids as the babysitters encourage their independence in new ways and there is a different social interaction. It’s worked out much better for us, and it feels good to have moved on. I’m just saying there are many wonderful babysitters and nannies out there to choose from, who will not mind pitching in as requested. I hope you find the best solution for your family."

similarly:

"From what you described it sounds like you have a long history with her but you should consider letting her go and find a babysitter who is flexible especially when she's pushing back on doing enough to earn the pay. I know other family that asks their nanny to do errands shop for groceries and prep dinner (not cook) to fill time but it's admittedly very difficult to justify all that free paid time. It's hard to let go of the comfort and make your kids adapt but honestly we find that our kids need more of an active (and younger) caretaker aka a babysitter at their ages of 5 and 7 anyway. We no longer needed the nanny type. Our kids love our more playful babysitters that we've hired (3 of them!). Can't imagine our nanny from those early days playing the same way with our kids."

and:

"It's sort of outrageous your nanny would just use paid work time to run her own errands and talk on the phone.  That's totally taking advantage of the situation and your relationship with her. IMHO I would cut her loose."

 

Sit down with nanny to formally review new expectations:

"You have to have a discussion with your nanny and to specifically explain your expectations. You have to explain to her that you are paying her for these hours and agree what you expect her to do during this time. We have two kids in school ft (although for longer time daily) and we kept our nanny by renegotiating our agreement, specifically what we expect her to do, and she now cleans, does laundry for all of us and cooks (mostly for the kids only b/c my husband and I are picky eaters). The cleaning is is once - twice a week. Cooking - usually once or twice a week + as needed. We recently also gave our nanny a credit card so she can buy anything that may be missing (although I usually do a major weekly buy, but she sometimes makes things for kids where she needs something we ran out of). We used to leave her cash but this has been easier, and if by Wednesday we have no milk, eggs or something else basic - she'll get it too. She gets to have some downtime as well, but it's not the whole 6 hours every single day. Good luck and keep in mind that it's just like any other job - it's all about clearly setting expectations and open communication."

 and:

"This would drive me BANANAS.  I anticipate needing to have some of this conversation with my nanny in a year or two, but haven't done it yet so can't yet speak from experience.  However, in reading your email, I wondered if you'd tried taking a step back and having a big picture conversation with your nanny about expectations and job changes as your kids get older.  It might be easier to have a fuller conversation if not in the context of a specific ask -- if the conversation is less "can you fold laundry right now" and more "over the next year, as our kids are in school more hours per day, we want to update our working norms with you."  It would be useful to know if she isn't comfortable doing certain things, why not (e.g. she thinks they're beneath her, she just doesn't like them ... OR she doesn't really know how you like a certain thing done, she needs more guidance.)  It might also be useful to ensure she really understands that her willingness to take on more household tasks is really important for your willingness to keep her on for the long-haul."

 

It helps if these things can be discussed ahead of time and upfront:

"This is an issue that I've given a lot of thought about. However, it was also something that came up at the beginning of our hiring process since we hired a nanny when our daughter was only 5 months old and I was still spending some time at home with her. We therefore wanted someone who'd be OK with the fact that part of the time I would be with my daughter, and that in that time we expected her to do other things. So we asked all the nannies we interviewed if they'd be comfortable doing laundry for us, and perhaps a few other chores in the home, such as cleaning our cats' litter box. We made it clear that this would be an integral part of the job, and we were surprised at how many nannies we interviewed who said straight out that they wouldn't do it. So it seems like it's quite common for professional nannies to only take on chores that pertain to the children. We had some say to us that they would do laundry, but only for the children. We ended up hiring someone more flexible, who was OK doing other things. For us that is very important since we can't afford to pay someone a full time salary if they aren't working for us full time. But I know some families who are OK with their nannies reading magazines or taking time "off" when they're not with the kids. I guess it's very personal and has to do with your expectations and what you're OK with. It is certainly easier when things are spelled out at the beginning of a professional relationship.. but if you're attached to your nanny, perhaps it is worth discussing the situation, how it has changed, along with your expectations, now that she is no longer looking after the kids full time. (I know I wouldn't be OK with our nanny running errands for herself during work hours...) Here's to hoping she can show some flexibility!"

 

As one parent asks the PSP Group (2014 question and advice):

We've employed our full-time nanny for over a year now and she works 55 hours per week. She is beyond great with the kids, but is a strong character and resistant to change. However, our childcare needs are "evolving" because, from next week, both kids will be out of the home (either at special needs school or camp) for 25/30 hours per week. We adore our nanny, think she's an amazing caregiver and really don't want to lose or replace her. Can anyone who has faced the same issue suggest ways in which we could tactfully and respectfully ask her to take on more responsibilities around the home (light cleaning/laundry etc) during the hours when the kids are absent and she is not cooking for them/preparing for their return? This would hugely help with the running of the household and help justify the expense of employing her. We didn't draw up a nanny contract when we first hired her so have nothing in writing to refer to about duties.

 

Replies:

"I ran into the exact same issue with our caregiver, when my first daughter entered pre-school. We adore her (she's been with us almost 5 years now) and didn't want to lose her, offend her, etc. Also, at the time I knew we were trying to have another baby so I wanted her with us long term. I decided to have an open conversation about it and have her help me make the decision. I told her we could cut her pay/hours, but that I thought she probably wouldn't want that. And I asked if she would mind taking on additional responsibilities instead. And I asked for her input - essentially saying "we love you. we want you to stay. but we need to fill up those hours if you'll be working." I think what helped as well was to emphasize that this would be things for when the kids weren't there... not to take on, say, cleaning/cooking AND watching our kids all at once. I'm lucky that she's very easy going and has always naturally pitched in around our house so it ended up being a very easy transition. And as I expected, she preferred to take on some extra work versus not having her hours cut. Good luck! I know it's a hard conversation especially when someone has a strong personality.

 

"We recently faced the same situation, and here's what we ended up doing. My spouse and I sat down and calculated the number of hours we would need "traditional" childcare hours (i.e., the kids are home from school) during the school year. Then we sat down and made our wishlist of tasks we wanted the nanny to handle. After we knew where we stand, we sat down to have a conversation with her (we told her a couple days in advance that we'd like to sit and discuss work arrangements for the fall). The way we chose to present it was to say that beginning in the fall, we would only need X hours of childcare a week which is X% less than what she's working. However, we love her and would love to keep her on, and we know that she needs to keep earning her full time salary. We also need the backup for days that school is out, the kids are sick etc. So we need to bridge that gap (which in our case was very big -- the kids will be going to school full time). Then we asked - what type of tasks do you think you could perform that would help us. The nanny then offered up things she would be willing to do (cleaning, grocery shopping etc.) and we offered some tasks. We did not get everything we wanted -- there are certain household tasks that we would have loved to have help with that she's not comfortable doing, and we accepted that. We felt that by setting up this dialogue, she was able to set the parameters of her new job description, which is important. In a way, I'm glad we didn't get everything we wanted - she should feel that she has the power to negotiate and that her positions are respected. This way, I can feel comfortable that she didn't just say yes to everything because she felt she has no choice.
We also pushed the end of the day by 30 minutes (since she will be starting her day much later) to have additional flexibility in getting home in time, and we agreed that once every other week she would stay a bit later, with the understanding that if we come home after 9 pm, we will send her home by car service.  Again, there was some negotiation about this and we wound up with what she felt is fair.

In addition, we agreed that if we need some help during the week (Verizon or what have you), we could ask her to be there to meet the service person. Otherwise, we agreed that it was up to her to arrange her schedule as she sees fit - as long as she got all the tasks we agreed on done, we did not care if she shows up every day a bit earlier, starts very early one day a week etc. We did agree that cleaning should be done when the girls are in school. She has been with us for 5 years, she's a self-motivator and there's a lot of trust there -- in a different situation, we may have opted for a more set schedule. Our agreement is that during the summer when school is out, we will revert to our existing schedule and arrangement and we would pick up the extra work.

We have yet to actually start the new schedule, so we'll see how it goes, but the conversation, at least, went well.  Nannies in this situation often fear that you are looking to cut their salary. I think by starting the conversation establishing that you are not looking to do that, and that you respect her need to have a full paycheck and steady employment, you set yourself up for a more productive discussion. You can (and probably should) update your work agreement after the conversation to reflect the new arrangement, but I would advise against sitting down to this conversation with a list of tasks you want her to do -- I think it looks too intimidating and undermines the idea of a dialogue."

 

A reply to a different poster who posed a similar problem:

 

"I dealt with this about 3.5 years ago and our transition was awkward (see below) so my advice is, to ideally be clear with your sitter now/early in the summer if you're going to reduce her hours to a set schedule, and post now/discuss now/give her the chance to find alternative full time work OR fill in with part-time work, and don't be too upset if she moves to another full time job, it may be best for all. And if you don't want to give her a long lead time, consider over-paying for the # of hours during a transition period if you want to "reserve" her while you get acclimated to your new schedule. (it's kind of like a long letting-go or severance period, and it's her livelihood and your sanity) The best nannies, IMHO, start interviewing in May for September - that's how we found our former nanny. (then again we wanted her for June and she refused to abandon her job until the agreed-on period, Labor Day, to her credit, so we tried to hire someone else and it never felt right so we semi-waited for her and it was worth it) As for finding your own part time sitter I'd ask around amongst friends, on your block, on the listserv's, these hires are often more word of mouth/casual than full-time sitters.

Our situation was as follows: our goal had been to keep our full-time nanny for all 5 afternoons and for her to find a morning job to fill in the difference (basically a nanny share) and the fall came and she hadn't found a part-time job (actually, we found a family to share with, and they backed out after hiring her, using an excuse), so we kept paying her full time through the fall while continuing to try to find some way to keep her, and finally in November we told her January we were reducing her to part-time ... at which point she took a full time job and remains there, and we put our son into extended days at preschool which was a little bit of a long day for him but much less expensive, and did the same in K with a bit of a hodgepodge of part-time sitters 1-3 afternoons per week, then for the past 1.5 years have had a part-time sitter 2 afternoons per week and done after-school programs the other 3 days, and it's working great. Our sitter lives a couple of blocks away, sits for about 3 friends afternoons or evenings, we and our friends double up and tag team and we all give and take with each other and our sitter, and the sitter has a grown child and another part-time career and is flexible and great with our son, so it's win-win for her and us."

 

Further Reading on PSP:

Transitioning from Nanny to School

The PSP Guide to Afterschool Babysitters