Working in a private home is hard in certain ways. It’s your workplace but it’s also your employers’ home. That means they often have very specific ways they like certain things done. However, it’s hard for employers to tell their nanny to put grocery items in the fridge this way or fold the laundry that way. To them, those personal preferences often feel petty and unimportant and they’re afraid to upset or insult their nanny.
The biggest challenge around this issue is to not take those preferences personally; to not view them as a reflection on your performance. It’s helpful to create a clear mental divide between your work performance, how well you provide high quality care and family support, and the parents’ personal preferences, the small details that have nothing to do with you or your performance. When you recognize that certain things drive an employer a little crazy no matter who is doing them – the housekeeper, the nanny, the spouse, the visiting Grandma – it becomes easier to let go of any emotional response and just focus on changing things to better fit your employer’s wants.
In a new position or when taking on new responsibilities in a current position, you can ask for informal yet helpful feedback on both performance and preferences using three simple questions:
1. Looking at child care and household support, how are things going?
2. What am I doing that you’d like me to stop doing or do differently?
3. What am I not doing that you’d like me to start doing?
These questions will open the door for parents and take away the discomfort that often prevents these small but important things from being discussed.
It can be hard to hear these small things when you’re doing an amazing job with the big thing: their kids. Just remember this has nothing to do with your work performance and everything to do with showing your employer the small things matter to you too. Of course, if your employers answer those questions with a laundry list of things they want you to change, you might have to have a conversation about compromise and meeting in the middle. A few personal preferences is one thing; intrusive micromanaging is another.