Working From Home Can Be Really Awkward With My Live-In Nanny

work from home momI received this message from a stranger last week. It read:

“You mentioned in your book, Wiped! how you felt awkward around your nanny when you first had your daughter. I didn’t have a nanny with my first but I have a live in nanny from the Philippines now and she’s great, but she’s been here for three months already and I still feel really awkward. She’s nice but it’s always awkward when I’m home and she’s with the kids and I feel like she’s judging me if I’m not at work but still want her around to help me. Did you ever feel like that? It’s weird, like I feel like I have to explain myself to her all the time, like take the baby I have to return emails or I have to go grocery shopping. I feel like when I need to be away from the kids that she stands there expectantly wondering why and judging me. Am I being crazy or is this a thing other moms with nannies deal with? And since you seem to be exactly the kind of mother I am I respect your opinion so can you please weigh in on this for me?”

Well, of course I can! (Especially because you respect my opinion!) It IS really awkward when you have a live-in nanny, especially if you work at home, like I do.

I love my nanny. But you have to get used to living with someone else, or rather someone else living in your space, especially someone you barely know. I wrote back to this woman that it IS totally awkward sometimes, but it does get easier, and the nanny isn’t judging her. I reminded her that she is paying her and that’s her nanny’s job to look after the children.

For me, the funniest thing (but not exactly a good thing) is that my nanny doesn’t realize when I’m working even if I’m on the phone and typing away manically at my computer. The other day, for example, I was interviewing someone on the phone, while typing on my computer and she was literally vacuuming under my feet. She actually said, “Can you lift your feet?” as I was interviewing someone. And then, later, she was emptying the dishwasher and everyone knows that emptying the dishwasher is not the most silent of chores.

Pretty much, I have been getting used to all the noise my nanny makes while I work.

But I was telling my fiancé about how she was vacuuming in the room I was working in and needed to concentrate and he said just to tell her that I’m working and can she please do the vacuuming later. However, I’m so torn, because I want a clean house too. Thankfully, like I said, it does get easier.

At first, because she started with us six weeks before my son was born, there was not much for her to do. So those weeks were pretty painful, not just for me, but for her too. There was nothing for her to do and she wanted to work. Also, I knew she was slightly scared to come upstairs at night when she wanted a snack, even though I had told her numerous times to make herself at home, because it IS now her home.

So, now, after nine months, everything feels just right. She eats with us, cooks whenever she wants, and we actually talk about her boyfriend and relationships. She’s kind of become my friend. (As most of my friends say, “I would rather keep the nanny than my husband.”)

I also wrote to this woman that it doesn’t really matter if she is judging you. I can only imagine what my nanny thinks of me when I go upstairs for my one and a half hour nap each day. She probably (I would guess) thinks, “What’s up with this lady? She’s so lazy!”

But now it’s just my routine and she knows it and that’s the way it is. The best thing anyone with a live-in nanny, if they are worried about what the nanny things, is say, “Are you happy?” It opens up a conversation at least. But it is like meeting your roommate at college for the first time. It takes time. Quite frankly, I am used to the vacuuming under my feet while I work away now. Plus, she is not only wonderful with my children, she has great stories about her boyfriend. So I’m keeping her.

(Photo: Bartosz Ostrowski/Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Rebecca Eckler, on twitter.
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    • BrendaKilgour

      #humblebrag

    • Jessie

      On the flip side – as someone who was a Nanny through college – I always felt extremely awkward when The Mom was home. I knew I would be judged – and on some levels rightfully so. However, I always found kids tended to act out more when their parents were home, they would go to them when they didn’t like something I had told them, or look to them for the things they needed to be looking to me for. It was always hard to figure out what my place was in these situations, I especially found it hard when parents would knowingly or not undermine me in some fashion. It is a sticky situation. For the most part I only judged anyone when I felt that I was being undermined – other than that I didn’t care if you were paying me to watch your kids while you went and stared at a wall. If I may, could I suggest you talk to your nanny about mutual expectations if you haven’t already – and have a similar one with your kiddos!

      • Melissa

        Yup! I had this same experience.

      • Kai

        Totally with you. If they have a home office with a closed door, and can tell the kids that mommy’s off to work, it’s not so bad (I worked for one guy with a basement office who was working on a masters. no problems.)
        But when the parent is around, yes, it’s really weird. The kids don’t look to you as the authority when their parent is around, you’re not sure what you should be doing or not doing, and I can’t imagine cleaning around a parent’s body!
        It’s totally an awkward situation for both parties, and extremely helpful to make everything as clear as possible.
        But I suppose a live-in nanny is a bit of a different item, as she’s going to be around with the parents regularly. So all the more reason to hammer out how things work, but hopefully less awkwardness in time.

    • http://fairlyodd.net Frances Bean

      I don’t understand is why you can’t simply say “can you vacuum at such and such a time, and not when I am XXXXX?”. That would drive me nuts since I need a certain level of quite while working but I would have no problem politely asking any of my former babysitters to put it off for a bit if need be. Why does it sound like she’s saying it’s a now or never thing? Like the house will never get clean if the nanny doesn’t do it right that second? I will admit that I’ve never had a live-in babysitter or nanny, but I don’t see how that would make a difference as long as you were cool about it.

    • Cliff

      As a single person who raised kids while working from home, without a nanny. Allow me to play you a solo on the worlds smallest violin. Poor baby.

    • Diana

      Have I mentioned before how I have a nanny? A LIVE IN nanny? No? Well I do. She lives with me and she’s RUINING my child and I have to take her on vacation, or, god forbid, look after my own progeny for five minutes. You know what I’m talking about girls? These useless people we pay to raise our kids and clean up after us! They are SUCH an inconvenience Amirite? I’m sure I’m a joy to work for and not a high maintenance princess at all.

    • FormerNanny

      Work at home mother are the most judgmental customers for a nanny to have. I was a nanny for years and whenever I was working for a “work at home” mother, I dreaded going in every single day. This article reminds me of why I finally became more choosy about the people I’d work for.

    • lin

      I think this is the ifrst article I have read by her that I kind of just looked at it from her perspective, and accepted that she is very affluent upper-class, and these are her issues. It is just weird to blog about them like this. I doubt many people reading could even begin to relate to her, her lifestyle, nor any of her “problems”. I mean, I am sure she has real problems, that doesn’t change when you become rich, but the ones she chooses to blog about are just not things I would consider problems, nor can I relate in any way. Shopping spree issues, vacation issues, live-in nannny issues, all with a very ego-centric spin… Does she write to brag? To get the comments? I don’t think she is actually writing to her peers, not sure what her deal is.

      • Diana

        I’m starting to think that this is all a long Andy Kaufman style prank…I hope so.

    • OttawaMom

      I don’t have a live-in nanny. I don’t need one as I have one child who is in school full-time and has after school childcare. For the Christmas break my husband and I are switching off on vacation days so that we can each spend some time with our daughter. That said, we’ll be getting ivf done in the new year so we’ll have to examine our childcare options.

      I’m Canadian and like Ms Eckler live in Ontario (?). Daycare in Ottawa where I live and in Toronto is extremely costly. For babies under 1 years old it is almost impossible to find daycare spots and often it is running into territory that is about $80 per day. Many middle class to affluent families in both these cities get nannies because they’re more cost effective overall than more conventional childcare (especially with more than 1 child). Also the kids get to stay in familiar surroundings.

      Not every article in any parenting magazine is going to be relevant to everyone. People have nannies and people getting nannies sometimes have questions. If it bothers you then don’t read it, but I feel the snark is undeserved.

      • lin

        She is getting attitude because of all her other articles, not just this one. Being upper-class with firstworld problems is her thing.

    • Sandy

      as a former live-in nanny with a work-from.home mom I never judged her. Actually I admired that she was able to work and let me deal with the kids! I mean I would probably come running if my baby cried. She didnt, she trusted id come to her if something was really bad. The kids also knew not to run to her but to me. sometimes she had friends over while I did the laundry but I didnt mind, I didnt even think about it

    • absolutly judging

      *snicker snicker* do i sense a little bit of…dare i say it…putting your secret little guilty fears onto the nanny? you’re right, she probably does think you’re damn lazy and pretty fortunate. but who fucking cares? you’re paying her to be there. she wouldn’t volunteer, and ultimately i would suggest these desperately awkward and uncomfortable upper-class women to ask themselves if they feel they are actually doing something productive with their lives – and no, i do not count self-indulgent semi-blog-entries on a mom site to be particularly productive. because i would guess that…you probably waste quite a bit of time, doing whatever important sitting on the computer stuff you do. get over yourself….you probably wouldn’t worry so muh if you had a useful purpose on this earth.

    • Bluebelle

      A little cheese for that whine, madam? #finallygottouseadadjoke He’d be so proud!

    • Sara

      Based on this and a couple of other articles where you describe your relationship with your nanny, I think the big issue here is one of unclear and/or inconsistent boundaries. For example, in one of your comments on another article, you talk about how your nanny is like part of your family (I think I’m getting that right) and how you “love her” (not usually a term employers use in describing their employees), but here you also talk about how she’s your employee and you pay her to do xyz and she’s living “in your space”. Nothing is wrong with either outlook, but the problem is that she can’t be both. Family members (or those who are treated as such) should be free to make themselves at home, and there’s a reason we often don’t employ family members–because this type of tension around boundaries and expectations can get really awkward.

      I think you need to decide which your nanny is–is she an employee who is living in your space as part of the perks of her employment, or is she a loved “honorary family member” who has a close personal relationship with your family? The answer will determine how you communicate and the expectations for your working relationship, but either will have to come with compromises on your part.

    • drmtoboggan

      Newsflash!- That awkwardness you feel is the budding realization that you are living in a bizarre and insular world where class disparities and inklings of slave culture are being laid out bare before you.

      The problem isn’t, “Ohhhh dear she’s vacuuming! That’s slightly annoying and poorly timed!” It’s, “I am paying someone to clean my house and rear my children instead of cleaning their own house or rearing their own children. I effectively own this person and they help me maintain my expensive and consumptive lifestyle for money. Money that they can’t use for anything because they live here in service under me. She is uncomfortable with this and I am uncomfortable with this. Maybe this is wrong?”

      It sounds like your answer to that little whispering question in the back of your mind is “NOPE! Help these days, amirite? ;D “

    • Honey Momo

      I think the bigger issue is that your nanny is your employee and you seem to be a crappy manager.

    • http://www.facebook.com/rainie.flores.7 Rainie Flores

      It sure can be awkward, especially when you think that you’re supposed to be the mother, and yet you feel like you have to answer to another person when it comes to your own child. Anyhow, it really shouldn’t bother you. Sometimes, it’s just your guilt, no matter how baseless.

    • greatnanny

      Oh you selfish people! You think it is only awkward for you in the house? Trust me it is way more awkward for the nanny herself! I mean come on, you couldn’t understand why you had to ask the nanny to take the baby form you? Nannies also feel the need to be sensetive to the parent child bond, so of course she would wait until you ask her to take the child. Also of course the nanny will wonder why you are home and not wanting to see your kids if you are not working! They are your kids! And if you need a break from the kids you should go somewhere outside of the house, it is awkward for a nanny to keep the kids occupied while all the kids want to do is see their mommy! And for the noise of cleaning, why hold a grudge about it, you should just comumnicate in a nice way to do it later!

    • Jessica

      If she can afford for someone to care for her child 1-on-1 while she works, who are all of you to judge her for it? You wouldn’t say a word if she put her child in daycare, where the poor thing would be practically neglected, but if she pays for someone to take care of her child in the child’s home, where the child is comfortable, and where the child can receive as much attention as he/she needs, then the woman shouldn’t, simply because YOU happen to be broke?