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Employing a nanny can be a fantastic way for busy, often overworked parents to ensure their children are kept safe and given the care and attention they need, thus removing much stress from those shoulders. However, many families don’t know exactly what to expect their nanny to do and while a well-rounded nanny can perform many wide-ranging tasks supporting a busy working family, there are plenty of things that stand beyond the realm of their responsibility.

It is important to recognise that the primary focus of the nanny’s job should be on your children. As nannies begin to feel more like a member of the family than an employee, it can be easy to forget that they are a skilled professional, performing a specific job. But if you want to maintain a strong relationship with your nanny and ensure they stay with you long term, you need to keep your expectations fair and realistic. So, what should you expect from your nanny, which tasks do you need to handle yourself and what is the difference between a nanny and a nanny housekeeper?

What to expect: A mutual and clear understanding of the duties of the job

When you first take on your nanny, it is crucial to take the time to sit down and outline the duties you are expecting them to fulfil by putting together an employment contract. This is one of the advantages of using a reputable agency, because an agency will help to prepare a draft contract for you and guide you in amending it for your specific requirements.

Indeed, we advise on deciding on specific parameters of the job before you even begin to interview candidates. If you would like your nanny to assist with homework, plan play dates and take the children on outings, let them know by laying this out in the job spec and subsequently the employment contract, and you can expect him/her to strive to achieve these agreed upon duties.

What not to expect: A Nanny who does everything

Most nannies are more than happy to perform some housekeeping duties and indeed some are a fairly standard expectation of their job, but it is important to recognise that a nanny is not a cleaner or a servant. Your nanny has a very particular job, made clear from day one, namely to care for your children. This means that your nanny will manage things that relate to looking after your children and meeting their daily needs. If you and your nanny understand this, you will enjoy a better ongoing relationship and everyone, particularly your children, will benefit. When nannies become dissatisfied with their positions, it can often be because their employers’ expectations repeatedly change or are set rather high.

Typical Nanny Childcare Duties

There are specific childcare duties you will always expect from your nanny. These should come first for them and should be expressed clearly in the contract. They might include:

  • Caring for babies – changing nappies, making up bottles, weaning
  • Bathing the children
  • Helping the children to get dressed
  • Potty training toddlers
  • Supporting the children with reading, writing and homework
  • Helping the children to acquire new skills such as tying shoe laces, brushing teeth, using a knife and fork
  • Planning fun and age appropriate activities such as arts, crafts, cooking
  • Taking children to activities such as swimming, football, dance classes
  • Organising play dates
  • Caring for the children when they are sick, including giving appropriate medication
  • Playing games, inside and out
  • Taking the children to the park, museum, library

Typical Nursery Duties

There are certain housekeeping/ non child care duties which are a fairly standard part of the nanny’s job, often termed as “nursery duties”.  Nannies typically expect to complete any household chores which are related to taking care of children and essentially leave the home in the same condition it was in when they arrived/started their day. These could reasonably include:

  • Making/changing the children’s beds and keeping their rooms clean and tidy
  • Cleaning/sterilising baby bottles
  • Keeping the playroom clean, tidy and organised
  • Doing the children’s laundry and ironing
  • Preparing and cooking healthy meals/snacks for the children and clearing up afterwards
  • Cleaning up after arts/crafts/cooking activities
  • Ensuring the bathroom is clean and tidy after use with the children
  • Preparing packed lunches or snacks to eat during activities, trips or outings
  • Packing for the children when they go on trips
  • Putting away the children’s books, clothes, toys after use
  • Hoovering round the areas in which the children have been playing/eating in, at the end of the day

Additional Housekeeping Duties

There are other housework and day to day activities your nanny may complete, but they should be agreed to and compensated for accordingly.  Many nannies are happy to take on additional non childcare related housekeeping duties, provided they have the time, for example when the children are at school/nursery and to boost their salary.  But these are more typically expected of someone performing a nanny housekeeper role and this is very different.

It is important to be realistic and fair about what additional work is expected in the time available, include this in the contract and remember that the childcare remains the primary responsibility for the nanny. So, for example, if the children are off during the school holidays, the nanny is not going to be able to complete as many housekeeping tasks. If you don’t handle these extra jobs properly, there is a danger that your nanny may feel overwhelmed and/or under compensated. Examples of these additional duties which we would classify within the job spec of “nanny housekeeper” could be:

  • Making/changing all the household beds
  • Doing all the household laundry and ironing (some nannies don’t mind washing the parent’s clothes with the children’s, but ironing them can be a very big job in itself)
  • Cleaning the bathrooms not used by the children
  • Preparing and cooking meals and snacks for the entire family / guests other than children regularly
  • Running errands including dry cleaning, grocery shopping, post office
  • Organising, vacuuming or dusting rooms other than the children’s bedrooms and playrooms
  • Buying supplies or clothes for the family
  • House or pet sitting
  • Sweeping and mopping floors throughout the house
  • Caring for a sick family member
  • Liaising with tradespeople, taking phone calls, sending post

Not all nanny housekeepers are actually expected to do full cleaning – this can vary from family to family and depending on the time available.

It’s also worth saying that nannying and housekeeping is two quite different skills – not all nannies make great housekeepers, and vice versa.  In general, nanny housekeepers are at the more experienced end of the scale, and command a higher salary (both in total terms and when calculated by the hour rates) as they are expected to be excellent all-rounders both at childcare and managing a family home. 

In summary

A nanny will often go above and beyond the call of duty simply out of practicality. For example, if they are washing up after the children’s lunch and finds the employer has left a bowl and spoon in the sink from their breakfast, it’s likely they will wash that up also. Equally, if preparing a pasta dish for the children’s dinner, he/she may very well make enough for the entire family, or will put the parent’s laundry in with the children’s. However, it is give and take; and mutual respect and understanding help form and build the crucial bond between nanny and employer.

If these acts of kindness/practicality become expected or taken for granted by an employer, resentment and relationship problems are more likely to build. How are you planning to divide up household duties and how clear are you being with your nanny about his/her responsibilities outside childcare? Light housekeeping is going to mean different things to different people. Clearly articulating the responsibilities which meet the employer’s definition in the contract will help prevent misunderstandings.

Take care of your nanny for taking care of you and your family.