The Friend or the Nanny? Where to Draw the Line?
By Elizabeth.Hawksworth on September 13, 2012
It’s been a bit of a rough morning – I woke up to the stench of cat pee on my pillow (my two girls are having a war over whose territory my bed really is, and it’s getting VERY old), Glo-Worm is doing her every-10-minutes-wake-up for nap today, and my day doesn’t end after nannying – I have to go and babysit Diva and Footballer, so it’s going to be busy! (But fun – I’m definitely not complaining about working!) So when I saw this blog on my newest nanny group, Nanny Care Tribe on Facebook, this morning, it got me thinking. Where do you draw the line between friend and employer?
I’ll start by saying that many of my employers are also my friends. I can think of two off the top of my head – SaraBeth, mom of Diva and Footballer, and Dr. Stones, mother of Doctor and Whirlwind. We don’t just talk about nannying – we talk about our experiences, I’ve shared details of my life with them, and they have given me tips that are outside the general professional realm of nannying. Are they the type of friends I could call up and chat with on a whim? No. And why? Because there’s a fine line between friendship and professionalism, and I don’t cross it.
On the other hand, one of my friends, Anne from the Belle Jar Blog, became my friend even though during our first meeting, I looked after the Kraken and that was my purpose for meeting her! But we had been friends online before then, and she knew a lot more about me as a person as opposed to me as a nanny. I have looked after the Kraken many times afterwards, but we have remained friends first, employer/employee second. However, I don’t work full-time or even on a regular basis for Anne, which is why I think our friendship was preserved over a more professional relationship.
In the blog I linked above, the nanny writing it describes a sensitive situation between her employers – their marriage. It became clear to her that their marriage was bad and crumbling, and she was, as she says, forced to be a spectator to it. She describes losing respect for the mother, who was verbally abused and used her nanny to vent to, and finally ended up yelling at her that her marriage was falling apart. The mother is described as being shocked and hurt, and in my opinion, I’m surprised that nanny didn’t get fired. However, she went on working for that family for a few more years, but their relationship was strained.
I have to say that though she’s a good writer, I was fairly disapproving of her choice to tell her employers’ story to the Internet. That is not professional, even if you no longer work for that family, and definitely not respecting their privacy.
I’ve been privy to a lot of secrets, venting, and other personal conversation that may not happen between an employer and an employee in a more formal setting. A nanny does become part of the family. I love that aspect of my job, but I always keep in mind that above all, my professionalism is what is going to carry the day if or when the parent who is venting to me realizes that they’ve said too much. I get along well with everyone I work for. I genuinely enjoy their company. But like I try not to share too much of my life with my employers unless we’re really close (though I think everyone would tell you I probably chatter too much about other things!), I try to remain aloof and professional when too much gets shared with me. It’s partly why I don’t share many of the stories here on the blog, though I have many stories that would curl people’s hair! It’s about discretion and privacy, and gossiping just doesn’t fit into that persona I want to portray to the people I work for.
I love reading tell-all books about nannying. I love watching Beverly Hills Nannies. We all love gossip. But in the end, to maintain the respect and the professionalism that I am hired for and expected to exude, I keep an invisible boundary between myself and my employers. In the end, you are there to do a job, no matter how close you get to someone. Complicating that with getting too close and saying or hearing too much is going to jeopardize not only your relationship, but sometimes even your employment.