Tuesday, 17 September 2013

While there's life.....

I think my brain is rapidly slipping into holiday mode, and my mood into relax and enjoy!

Doing something different is an important part of life and helps refresh us for the next phase, or that is my excuse when my children say "you're not off again are you, Mum?" And the anticipation is almost as good as the holiday itself, as you plan, day dream about what you might do and count sleeps until it happens.

My elderly friend, who is blind and rather frail these days, finds that she needs things to look forward to so that she feels she has a reason to get up in the morning.  I think this is true for all of us.  Hope is under-rated as a virtue.  It might be as simple during a rainy day as hoping for a warmer sunny one soon, or that the well watered ground will nourish the plants in the garden.  Think of little children as they hope for the tooth fairy to bring a coin to replace the lost tooth, or anticipate a birthday or Christmas.  In war torn countries people hope for peace, and in famine stricken parts of the world, people hope for food, for survival.

So in a spirit of hope, I leave you in good hands with some guest posts about families, children, nannies and our usual array of topics.

Keep looking, and read and comment on the posts and I'll see you again in late October!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Safe products for babies and toddlers

In the good old days, we bought or received (new or pre-loved) a bassinet, a pram, a baby's bath, a pusher (now known as stroller!), a cot and perhaps a changing table.  There wasn't much choice and designs were pretty basic.  We knew enough about safety issues to ensure that the paint used wasn't lead based, and that there were places where straps could be attached.

As in all areas of modern life, design, fashion, cost and safety factors have taken over the provision of baby and children's needs.  The canvas seat that hooked over the front seat has been replaced by all manner of super safe baby and toddler capsules and seats; old wicker or smarter vinyl prams on massive suspensions have been replaced by slick modern, easily folded contraptions and so it goes.  The cost of all the latest equipment has become amazingly high although the pre-loved baby fairs are booming.

What brought all this to mind was an article in the weekend news about new safety concerns with prams.  It was particularly concerned about the safety of seats for toddlers on prams, but also raised the issue of children jamming their fingers in folding mechanisms.  Many children are treated in Australian hospitals each year as a result of incidents connected with prams, mostly falls from them.

It seems to me that while minimum standards for pram manufacturers are important, parents themselves need to use some commonsense when using all children's equipment.  For example:
  • Babies and toddlers should always be strapped into prams and strollers;
  • Brakes should be applied before putting the baby into or out of the pram/stroller; 
  • Children should not be left unattended on changing tables: have everything needed for the change and cleanup ready before putting the baby on the table;
  • Children should always be strapped into high chairs and not left unattended;
  • Toddlers should be strapped into their car seats before putting the baby into the car and the baby should be removed first before releasing the toddlers;
  • Prams/strollers and carry baskets should never be placed behind or next to the roadside door of a car;
  • All children should be securely fastened in the car and any children not travelling should be held by the hand by another adult or inside the house under an adult's supervision before a car moves off.
Equipment for babies and children is regularly reviewed by the Australian Consumers' Association and results are published in their magazine Choice and online.  Guidelines for choosing equipment are given as well as reviews.  While detailed reviews need to be paid for there is a free 'Guide for Expectant Parents' that can be downloaded to help sort out what will be needed and how to make choices. The Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne also has a Safety Centre which can be visited by appointment as well as a website which looks in more detail at safety in the home, including fact sheets and other material to download and a very useful home safety check list.

Previous posts related to safety:
Safe Pedestrians 17/09/2012
Children, nannies and cars 09/09/2012
Safe Summer  11/12/2012

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

What is it about housework?

Perhaps it's the title: housework.  Yes, maintaining the everyday running of a house is work. It involves cleaning, shopping, washing, possibly ironing (unless you believe in the 'clean but crumpled approach'!), cooking and lots of planning to get it all done.

There are those who are dedicated to a spotless environment where, as the saying goes, 'you can eat off the floor'.  Then there are those who like clean and tidy but are more relaxed.  And then there are those who are a bit chaotic, and vary from untidy to downright dirty.  Some of us have periods when elements of each of these might apply.  I remember a mother I worked with in the community who had a serious drug problem and mental health issues for whom housework was therapy: when she felt her life sliding out of control she would wash her flat and everything in it, including the walls and window coverings, a most positive approach.

When you have a nanny, various issues about housework may arise:
  • The nanny may be untidy and leave the children's toys and other belongings lying around, and not clean up after meal preparation.  This certainly requires action.  Be clear about what you expect in the way of standards, which in all honesty shouldn't be higher than your own.
  • You may expect the nanny to do housework, washing, cleaning, ironing or cooking for you as you feel they need to use the time you are paying them for while the children are having their sleep.  This also requires action, as the nanny is entitled to some 'down time' during the day, and unless employed as a 'nanny housekeeper', general housework is not part of the normal duties for a nanny.  This is an area that should be dealt with initially as part of the employment agreement.  If the nanny is employed to care for children, the agreement should spell out the areas of housework required which are generally preparing meals for the children, maintaining their bedrooms, doing their washing and tidying away their toys. If the nanny is employed as a nanny/housekeeper far more housework should be specified and the rate of pay increased to cover the extra duties.  If a nanny believes that the housework required of her is beyond the agreement it is right for her to make her views known to you and if the matter cannot be resolved, to involve the Agency.
When a nanny goes to work in someone's house, she may also have issues:
  • As already mentioned the work may be different from the employment agreement and it is appropriate to address this issue, first with the family and then, if necessary, with the Agency.
  • The nanny may be confronted by very different standards of housework, tidiness and hygiene than she is comfortable with.  Sometimes these standards may be higher than those of the nanny and in that case, it is important that the nanny conforms to the expected standard.  Unfortunately, sometimes the standards may be somewhat less, and in that case the nanny has at least three possible courses of action:
  1. If the overall standard is quite dirty and unhygienic, the nanny is best to contact the Agency for advice, as the Agency has a duty of care to ensure the nannies are in a clean and safe environment.
  2. If the house is very untidy, the nanny should endeavour to set a good standard in her areas of duty so that in matters relating to the children everything is clean and tidy.
  3. If the nanny has a good rapport with the family, she can also use discussion and her own example to help re-educate the family!
As always, the secret to maintaining a good relationship between nanny and family is good communication and the use of non-blaming and inflammatory language.  And remember, for both nanny and family, the Agency can assist in working through issues.

I would be interested to hear your experiences, both nannies and families and how you have solved the issue of housework and different standards.  Please leave your comments below.