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Nannies Transitioning from Non-Staffed to Staffed Households

Are you considering starting a Nanny career within a private household or have you ever worked for a family that comes with ‘chefs, drivers, cleaners, grounds-men, personal assistants, house managers, security, and multiple Nannies?’.

Here I share my experiences and thoughts, explain how different it is from working with a family who has none of that and hope to help prepare you, for when you are in a similar situation.

When I started Nannying, a few of my positions involved multiple household tasks as well as nursery duties. I was often called ‘Super Nanny’, by friends and family who would ask ‘how do you do it?’. I remember as soon as I put the children down for a nap or quiet time, I’d be running around the house doing the laundry, washing up, preparing meals, cooking, cleaning the children’s spaces, writing lists and planning the next activity. Every time the parents came home from work, I’d be sat completely relaxed with the children all fed, bathed and in their pajamas with all jobs, activities and errands done. I liked going the extra mile and helping the families out as much as I could. I was learning about how much it takes to run a household and care for children full-time.

However, as I furthered my Nanny education and experience, my next positions were completely different. Becoming a part of a private household I had to learn to work alongside other household staff and had to accept that ‘its not my job anymore’. Times cropped up where I was required to make a snack or drive the children to where they/myself needed to go and when required to travel with the family, my duties increased. On a whole I pretty much spent my entire working hours, focusing on caring solely for the children, filling their day with as much stimulation as possible, whilst other household staff completed their required duties.

Working in a private household comes with many challenges, as no two days are ever the same. However, this variety can make the role really enjoyable, if you have the right attitude and personality. You do become an integral part of the family and are relied on heavily to keep the household running smoothly. Families that have a lot of help often live a fast-paced lifestyle, so having flexibility and be able to work with ever changing timetables and routines is a skill you will require.

Each family will be different and you must therefore adapt your working style to suit each individual household. Some families will want to interact with you and will want you to feel that you are part of the family, other more formal households will not want this personal interaction. They will want you to be seen but not heard and will expect you to do your role with very little conversation, with family members.

You will encounter times where you want to step back and give parents some space to spend time with their children, some parents appreciate that or request you to take a break. Others may not want you to leave when they are interreacting with their children because when they have had enough, they are able to leave the children in your care right away so they can do as they please. Having household staff run your home is ‘the norm’ in some countries, in others only the rich or famous would live like this.

It is vital that you take your time when applying and interviewing for positions as finding the right family to suit your personality and working style will have a direct impact on your level of enjoyment and success in the position.

Speak with parents about all aspects of the job, hours can be long and you need to make sure you both know each others expectations before you start. Getting so involved in the day to day running of a home in previous positions, where families haven’t had household staff is a big change to working in private households, as taking a step back can sometimes be quite challenging. By talking through exactly how the home is run should prepare you more so, helping you to settle quicker.

Working with household staff, you become your own little family and many of them usually come from different parts of the world, which is a great way to learn about different cultures and cuisine. Other incentives for Nannies can be lots of travel, higher salaries, experience living a VIP lifestyle and other rewards and benefits.

Now, not every day will run smoothly, but if you find a family who works together, communicates and respects each other, you will find it to be a very positive environment to work in.
Remember, the perfect match between yourself and a family can result in a rewarding and successful Nanny career.

Maintaining a healthy Nanny/Employer relationship

Maintaining that Nanny/employer relationship is one of the most difficult relationships to manage. It is easy to blur together the professional and personal boundaries, causing emotions to often run high. While everyone’s best interest is in the child/children, differing viewpoints on how to achieve a goal can cause underlying tension in the relationship. However everyone needs to remember that they are a TEAM and everyone is working equally as hard to make sure that the child has the best balance and start in life.

Keeping that balance is key to having a healthy relationship and I find that when these 5 tips are followed your Nanny/employee relationship is successful.

  • Be respectful

Respecting each other goes a long way in this relationship, if you have this, then your relationship will work. For example, respecting each other’s space, working and living in a private household is a challenge due to the intimacy you have when it comes to drawing that line of ‘off duty’ and ‘on duty’. It is difficult to do this sometimes particularly when younger children are in the house, when the Nanny lives in the family home, young children will never understand when their Nanny is off and on. So it is easy for them to be calling the Nanny’s name on weekends around the house or coming into their bedroom asking questions or even just wanting their company. Families need to be mindful of the Nannies privacy so they feel like they have had a break, but of course Nannies do have to be flexible with this and understand that this will happen – anyway to be loved so much by someone so little isn’t such a bad thing is it.

Another way to be respectful is respecting your contract/work agreement, make sure you are turning up to work on time just as the employers should be returning home from work on time.

  • Be flexible, when possible

We all realize that not everyone’s plan/schedule will run smoothly every week and so both parties need to be flexible. As part of a Nannies job a lot of the time families will specify at interview or in the contract that they need flexibility as routines can quite often change especially if they travel a great deal etc. Nannies and employers often work general business hours which leaves little time for other personal matters, for example doctors/dentist appointment’s. Making time for these things in each other’s schedule’s will help Nannies/employers feel supported in taking care of themselves and their personal business.

  • Show appreciation

Showing appreciation is so important and doing this action can go a long way.  It can be as little as writing a note, or giving a bunch of flowers. These unexpected things can make someone feel valued.

  • Give incentive

It is always nice to give incentives to Nannies to allow them to feel appreciated and give them a desire to continue their great work and to always go above and beyond. A good way to do this could be, salary increases, bonuses, gym membership, days off, reward cards to their favorite coffee shop/food or retail outlet.

  • Be committed

Investing time in finding the right Nanny for your family takes time and chances are you want the relationship to work just as much as the Nanny wants the employment. There will be high and low points as always in any relationship but knowing you are both committed makes those small hiccups easier to overcome. The Nanny/employer relationship is a rewarding one and so putting in that effort will make a difference, at the end of the day everyone just wants what is best for the child/children.

 

 

JET LAG FROM TOTS TO TEENS

Traveling to any destination with a time-zone change with children, can feel impossible and exhausting. Many families do decide not to venture to far from home, to avoid the disruption of routines and their sanity. However, you shouldn’t let the fear of jet-lag change your decision from deciding on going to that dream destination you’ve desperately been saving for, rather than settling for that holiday close to home. Here I have explained some of the best ways to tame your children’s jet lag, minimize the effects of time-zone travel and help save your family vacations.

Consider the age of your child…

Firstly, you should consider the age of your child…. Newborns – 2 months generally aren’t aware of their own sleeping patterns just yet, so jet-lag will most likely not impact them. Children who have already established a sleeping routine and sleep through the night are the ones who most likely get affected the most. You may experience more waking’s in the night which would be completely normal if you’ve travelled through time zones of a greater difference than 2 hours.

Older kids who no longer nap in the day, tend to respond similarly to adults physically, but are usually less driven than adults to stay awake in attempts to adjust to the new schedule.  As children get older, they do learn to make adjustments like adults do, which makes time traveling less of an issue.

A good idea if your child is verbally capable, is to pre-warn and talk to them about the time zone changes you as a family are going to endure, which will somehow prep them slightly for the upcoming changes, that way it’s not such a shock to them when it does happen.

Plan ahead…

Flight planning is also a great way to improve jet lag, if you can fly during the day and avoid disrupting a good night sleep, then do it. Of course, understandably families do take into consideration cost and most of the time the cheaper flights, are the ones with the most terrible flying times, but if you’re on a budget sometimes the night flights or early mornings are the only options you have, which is fine if you are prepared.

For long international flights I recommend choosing a flight time that lands in your destination in the morning/midday, meaning you then keep the family awake all day to kick start adjusting to the new schedule. Try planning something exciting for the family that day, it’s always a great way to keep children occupied and entertained forgetting that they are even slightly tired, it is more likely they will then crash later on and sleep all night.

Enjoy the journey, not just the destination….

There are lots of products on the market that make traveling with children a whole lot easier, stress free and gets your children sleeping. After traveling with families all over the world, these two products have got to be my favorite especially during over night flights.

  1. Cozigo – Cozigo is a must have for flying and travel, it is a multifunctional airplane bassinet cover and pram sunshade cover. It helps to prevent inflight meltdowns and over tiredness from your baby when out and about. It is a universal fit for all bassinets, stroller types and airplane cots and improves babies sleep by upto 500%. Cozigo won most popular product in Australia’s mother and baby magazine in 2017 and has continual 5-star reviews. You can find this product at www.cozigo.com
  2. Plane-Pal – Plane Pal is a custom designed inflatable cushion that fills the space between your child’s seat and the seat in front. It is light weight and compact and comes with a pump for stress free, easy inflation after takeoff. This awesome product was designed with children 2- 8 years old in mind, as they can utilize it to its full potential, by stretching their legs out or lying flat. It has been approved on over 41 airlines making traveling with children stress free and more enjoyable. Plane Pal can also be used on trains and buses and for car travel. You can find this product at www.planepal.co.uk   
Arriving at your destination…

When you’ve landed, getting straight into a schedule in the destination you are in, is important from day one. If you can do that, the family should be adjusted to the new time zone within 3-5 days depending on how long you are staying. Try and eat at the new local times instead of snacking all day, this will help prevent midnight feasts and having hungry children at 3am. Fill your day with activities to keep children entertained, they are more likely to last longer. A few days of that and you won’t even remember what jet lag feels like!

If your child cannot cope with staying awake all day and you feel they or you do need a catnap, that is okay, just ensure you or your child does not sleep for too long, as you could make bedtime all the harder.

Coming home…

Don’t forget when you return home, keep in mind your body clock will have to adjust back. Depending on the how far you have flown will depend on how fast your body will adjust. For international flights up to 8 hours’ time difference I would recommend scheduling in at least one recovery day, anything above 8 hours I’d give two days.  However, some families have also found that sending their child/children back to school the day after they return off an international flight helps them get straight back into routine. With them being distracted at school with friends and activities, means when they come home they are so tired they then sleep all night, more or less adjusting straight back to normal schedule.

Just enjoy the time…

Always remember to let go of all expectations, not every time you travel will everything go to plan, this could include flight delays, lost baggage, or even just your child struggling to adjust to a new time zone despite all the preparation you have done to help them. Be sure that this is all okay and totally normal, make light of any situation and try and make your holiday the best it can be in any situation.

SIGNS THE KIDS IN YOUR CARE NEED BETTER SLEEP

And What To Do About It

Most nannies with any length of experience can tell you that sleep can be a huge issue for families. Whether it’s a bedtime that takes hours, a non-existent schedule, or a cranky, overtired baby, you pretty quickly get in-tuned to how well a baby or child is sleeping, and whether or not the family has instilled good sleep habits.

Some amount of fussiness is normal, and bedtime is hard for most babies at some point, so how do you know if the issues you’re currently observing are just temporary glitches, as opposed to a chronic problem that needs to be addressed? Read on to find out how to discern the difference between normal sleep disturbances verses chronic sleep issues, and learn simple changes you can tactfully suggest to help everyone get more rest.

Baby is cranky when he wakes up in the morning or after naps.

Sometimes it can take a while for a baby or toddler to become fully awake, and grogginess can cause a bit of grumpiness. But if a baby or toddler wakes up crying and fussy in the morning and after naps, or is especially cranky in the evenings before bed, this is a tell-tale sign that his/her schedule is off and needs to be adjusted. Babies and toddlers should typically be waking up around 7am and going to bed between 6-7pm for babies, and between 7-8pm for toddlers, depending on their exact age. If the children in your care are staying up late every night, they will probably still be waking up at the time their natural biological rhythm wakes them, around 7am, or even earlier if they’re overtired. This means they will be missing out on 2-3 hours of sleep overnight, which will steal from their body the rest it needs to restore, heal, and grow.

Baby is falling asleep at random times and places.

The occasional car seat or stroller nap is to be expected, but if the children in your care are constantly falling asleep on the go, in strollers or car seats, but don’t take good, long naps at home, this is a sign that something needs to be adjusted. One client I worked with wouldn’t take longer than a 30 minute nap, but would constantly face-plant in his dinner plate, sound asleep. His parents thought this was cute (and posted hilarious pictures to Instagram), but were unaware of how overtired their toddler was. When babies and toddlers chronically miss out on sleep, their brains don’t have a chance to rest, get rid of “waste”, or to transfer their short-term memories to long term memory, seriously inhibiting their learning ability. Some children have such amiable personalities that they will make the best of their situation and just steal sleep wherever they can, but this really isn’t optimal for their development.

The child in your care gets very hyper, “bouncing off walls” instead of going to sleep.

This often throws parents and caregivers for a loop, thinking the child is actually not in need of sleep because they are seemingly so full of energy. However, really the opposite is true. When our bodies are lacking sleep, they go into survival mode, and start producing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which can result in hyperactivity. A child that isn’t given the opportunity to go to sleep at age-appropriate times for adequate amounts of time gives his body a message that it needs to push through the tiredness, so the body is “tricked” into producing hormones that help the body stay awake. Sleep consultants often wonder how much of the increase in ADHD diagnoses in the past several decades actually correlates with the average decrease in sleep for children in the past several decades. What we know for sure is that getting good sleep is essential for a child to be able to control their impulses, stay calm, and follow directions. (Link: https://scienceofmom.com/2012/02/13/why-sleep-matters-to-babies-and-parents/) The average 12-month-old, for example, needs around 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period (12 hours over night, and 2-2.5 hours of nap sleep), but the average 1 year old gets far less than this.

Bedtime takes a very long time.

Whether you’re spending hours rocking a baby to sleep for naps and bedtime, or fighting with a toddler whose excuses seem to go on without end, a child who is fighting sleep she truly needs is almost definitely overtired. For the same reasons as mentioned above, an overtired child will have a very hard time settling to sleep at night or for naps, resulting in massive efforts by caregivers and parents to finally get baby to sleep. Fights at bedtime for toddlers may also indicate the lack of a structured routine, as the uncertainty of each night lead to battles and testing to see if he can find the boundaries he needs for security.

Baby or toddler is still waking up multiple times per night.

After the first few months of life, there is no good reason a baby needs to be up every 2-3 hours. As long as he is getting enough calories during the day and growing well, he doesn’t need to feed more than once per night after 6 months, and usually not at all after 9 months. So, if the child in your care is still waking up more than this, it’s a sign that he probably needs to learn to fall asleep independently and/or needs a schedule adjustment.

So, what are some simple changes that you can suggest to help the child in your care get on top of this overtiredness and get caught up on sleep?

Suggest an early bedtime.

If your baby is showing some or all of the signs above, it’s almost always helpful to institute an earlier bedtime. For a baby under a year, a 5:30 bedtime for a while can give her a chance to make up for lost sleep. For a toddler, a 6-6:30 bedtime may be in order for the sleep debt to be paid. Parents may worry that their child may suddenly start waking up too early, but usually the child just sleeps longer and more deeply, because they are getting the rest they need.

Follow a consistent schedule.

You must allow a child’s body to get in a consistent pattern, to set their circadian rhythm and to help their bodies regulate internal patterns, which will help them fall asleep and stay asleep much more easily. Usually, a 7am – 7pm schedule works well for babies, give or take a half hour for toddlers. Naps should start during biological naps windows, which occur between 9-10am and 12-2pm. For instance, a 12 month old would wake at 7am, nap from 9:30-10am, 12:30-2:30, and have a bedtime around 6:30. A 2 year old won’t take a morning nap any more, but will nap about 12:30-2, and sleep 7pm-7am. Regardless of what the exact schedule, the schedule should remain consistent each day, as much as possible. Even when traveling or on vacation, do whatever you can to encourage consistency and adequate sleep. This will ensure the days are spent with much more pleasant, well-rested children.

Suggest a chat with a sleep consultant.

If you observe many of these signs detailed, you may want to suggest a chat with a sleep consultant to the child’s parents. Chronic sleep issues will usually not be solved simply by a few schedule adjustments, and can certainly cause long-term problems. A more comprehensive plan with support may be needed. Most sleep consultants offer free consultations, and it’s a great chance to get an expert’s eyes on the child’s sleep habits, to know if something truly does need to be done. If the child has never learned to fall asleep independently, a sleep consultant can suggest ways to work towards this. If certain family schedules and dynamics create challenges to the child’s schedule, a good sleep consultant can work to find a plan that fits the individual family.

Be positive and hopeful about sleep changes.

Sometimes, the biggest thing you can offer your family is hope that things can be better! Many times, families have been in their sleep deprived state for so long that they’ve given up hope, and begrudgingly accepted that this is the way things are always going to be. Be confident that with positive changes, pretty much every (healthy, developmentally normal) child can and will sleep better given the opportunity and help they need, because their bodies are wired for good sleep.

Have specific questions about the family you’re working with? Email me directly at Lindsey@sleeplittlelamb.com, and follow Little Lamb on FB/IG for more tips: @sleeplittlelamb

My plea to parents on water safety

Over the last few weeks, I’ve met quite a few adults that have told me they cannot swim. Every time I hear that I am always so shocked. When I ask them ‘why?’ their usual response is ‘I’ve just never learnt’. But one particular person I spoke to, told me ‘my parents were too busy, there is so many life lessons a child needs to learn and swimming is just one that they never taught me to do’.

Oh wow! I didn’t even know how to respond, which is why it has brought me to write a post on this.

Teaching your child to swim should be one of the most, if not the most important life lesson

Drowning is still one of most common causes of accidental death in children and swimming is the only sport that can save your child’s life. I cannot express how important it is that your child learns to swim.

Swimming not only can save your child’s life but swimming is also an amazing form of exercise because you have to move your whole body against the resistance of the water. It builds muscle strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness which can be so good for children in the long term.

Traveling the world, I come into contact with so much water and after becoming a qualified lifeguard I am always switched on in my surroundings. There has been more than one occasion I have been sat around the pool at hotels and beaches with my NK’s and I have had to rescue other children that have slipped off the step or got into difficulty because they couldn’t swim.

Incidents like this happen so often and young children are especially at risk – they can drown in less than 2inchs (6cm) of water. They can drown is places you would least expect it; toilet bowl, fountains, buckets, inflatable pools, sink, and small bodies of water like where rain has fallen and created a puddle on the ground.

I am appealing to you parents! If your child is able to learn to swim then please make it one of your priorities to get your child swimming. Any children over the age of 4 should learn to swim, but also children as young as 6 months are able to get in the water and could benefit from it, but check with your doctor first.

If you don’t have time to teach your children to swim, get someone to do it for you and enroll them in lessons.

It’s also a good idea to make them water wise. Talk about the water, about where is safe for them to go and where isn’t. Children should learn what is good behavior around a pool to prevent any slips or accidents. Let children know that they should contact a lifeguard or an adult if there’s an emergency.

Although no child is safe around water unsupervised whether they can swim or not, they are still at risk of drowning. Knowing your child can swim surely is so much better for your peace of mind than if they couldn’t. Any infants, toddlers and weak swimmers should have an adult swimmer within arm’s reach to provide supervision.

These are the facts!

In the time it takes to….

  • Cross a room for a towel (10 seconds), a child in a bathtub can be submerged.
  • Answer the phone (2 minutes), a child can lose consciousness.
  • Sign for a package at the front door (4-6 minutes), a child submerged in a tub or pool can sustain permanent brain damage

Water safety and hiring a Nanny…

If you are planning on hiring a Nanny or hosting an Aupair, I suggest you ensure that the person you hire is a strong swimmer. Your child will be around water every day; meaning they drink it, play in it, wash in it or are learning to swim.

Families that travel extensively, have boats, live by the beach or own a pool are especially at risk of fatal accidents with children. I am sure you would not want the guilt on your shoulders if your child got into difficulty swimming and the person caring for your child couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything to help them, because they themselves were scared of the water.

It is so important that if you are wanting to leave your child in the care of someone else, they should be able to swim.

It takes as little as 20 seconds for a child to drown and not only are toddler drownings quick, they are usually silent. Most children do not yell for help.

Swimming is such a fun sport and activity, it is a skill you will have for life and something you will never forget. Swimming is something that could take a few months to learn but something that will benefit you your entire life. Swimming is really fun but if not taken seriously then can be dangerous.

PLEASE TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO SWIM AND PLEASE SUPERVISE THEM AT ALL TIMES!

The Importance of communication

Communication between the family and Nanny is so important for the relationship to work and you should have this from the start. A good way to have this is to plan meetings or discussions regularly for you and the parents/guardians to sit down and discuss issues, personal subjects or child related subjects relating to their child/children. In doing this, it will create a strong relationship, gain trust in each other and everyone is then aware and on the same page.

It is important that families and Nannies go over all of their expectations and requirements from the beginning, that way all parties are aware of what is expected and a lot of problems will be avoided. When issues do arise, it is usually over little things and would be avoided if discussed upfront. When dealing with confrontation use ‘I’ instead of ‘you’. For example, ‘When you tell me I’m not doing something right in front of the children you make me feel embarrassed.’ Instead, you could say ‘I feel embarrassed when you discuss the things I do wrong in front of the children.’ This way you take away the blame off someone and make it personal and the opposing party will respect that making it an easier way to fix things.

As a parent, it is important to check in with your Nanny on a regular basis to make sure she is doing okay and is happy. In most cases Nannies leave their home country to come to work in your country to take care of your children. That Nanny has left family, friends, loved ones and has come alone and so making sure she feels welcome and you showing a caring nature towards her will make her feel more settled. When you get home from work ask ‘How are you?’ ‘How is it going?’ Usually 9 times out of 10 the Nanny will immediately tell you exactly how she feels because they will know then that is a good time to talk about anything they need/want to talk about.

In turn, when the parents and Nanny have excellent communication this will ultimately benefit the child/children.

Is my Nanny working while my child sleeps?

As a Nanny myself I find this a touchy subject. Yes, this scenario is real and happens more often than not.

I can see where parents are coming from with this, they pay a lot of money for someone to come to their home and take care of their child but if the child is asleep… parents often tell themselves that their child’s caregiver isn’t really working and they won’t count it in the Nanny’s weekly hours.

Believe it or not parents, your Nanny/babysitter is not doing ‘nothing’, they are taking care of your child. Your child needs to be taken care of even when asleep otherwise you wouldn’t have hired someone in the first place. What if that child wakes up?  What if there is an emergency?  That is what your Nanny/babysitter is paid for.

If it is seen as doing ‘nothing’ then that Nanny/babysitter would be allowed to leave the child unattended to go and do her/his own thing.

To not count their working hours when your child is sleeping is insulting, considering the reason they are a part of your child’s life is that you need/want the extra help and that is their profession.  This also applies to night Nannies, when the Nanny is allowed to sleep while on night watch, particularly when a baby monitor is on this should also be counted as work.

Even though your Nanny and baby are sleeping, your Nanny still has a monitor on to enable them to hear and listen to the movement of your child during the night. I can assure you when this is the case your Nanny does not get a peaceful and completely rested night’s sleep whether your child slept through the entire night or didn’t. Your Nanny is still conscious and aware of her own sleep and of your baby whether the Nanny and baby sleep in the same room or separate rooms.

When you hand over the responsibility of your child, whether it is while they are awake or asleep and they are needed to watch a baby monitor or listen out of for your child, your Nanny/babysitter is on duty and supervising your child whether you like it or not.