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.

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