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Three Types of Nanny Care

May 8, 2012

Six months ago when Sharon hired her nanny, she couldn’t have been more thrilled. Her nanny’s background screening was clean, her references stellar, her experience and education extensive, and her easy going personality made her a real pleasure to be around.

Everything obvious seemed to indicate that Sharon had found the perfect nanny for her family.  Their parenting styles were similar, they both voted republican and they even attended the same type of church. Her nanny’s salary requirements were within her family’s budget, the nanny lived only 15 minutes away and most importantly, the nanny was looking for a family that she could stay with for the long haul.

Sharon’s twin babies loved their new nanny, and although they couldn’t say it with words, the huge smiles and belly laughs they greeted her with each morning didn’t lie.  All of Sharon’s expectations were exceeded and she was sure to let her nanny know how much she was appreciated.

As days on the job turned into months, tension began to grow between Sharon and her nanny. Sharon preferred that her nanny stay inside the house and follow the daily instructions that were left for her, but her nanny was pushing to take the babies out and suggesting that changes be made to their daily routine.

While Sharon surely wanted a nanny to care for her children, she failed to communicate the type of nanny care she wanted. Sharon wanted a situation where she was able to dictate exactly how the children spent every moment of their day, but her nanny was used to working with families that gave her free reign to spend her time with the children as she saw best. After one year of working together, Sharon and her nanny’s employment relationship came to an end.

While there are many factors that contribute to making a great nanny / family match, one that is often overlooked is the type, or model, of nanny care that is desired. For the nanny and family relationship to flourish and last, the type of care that the parents want for their children and the type of care that the nanny wishes to provide must match up.

The three types of nanny care include:

Coordinated Care. Coordinated care is when the parents and the nanny work together as a team to raise the children. Both the parents and the nanny are involved with making daily decisions that are guided by doing what is in the children’s best interest.  The parents and the nanny have a true partnership and a mutual respect and trust for each other. The nanny is treated as a professional and her opinions and input are asked for and valued. The nanny is given freedom to plan the children’s days.

Custodial Care.  Custodial care is when the parents outline how the children will be cared for each day and the nanny follows the outline provided. The nanny takes specific daily direction from the parents with regards to how to physically and emotionally care for the children. The parents provide the nanny with a plan of how the children will spend their day and the nanny executes that plan. Limited input on child rearing is expected from the nanny.

Surrogate Care. Surrogate care is when the nanny serves as the child’s primary caregiver. In a surrogate care relationship, the nanny often has complete oversight of the physical, emotional and social health of the children. Parents who require surrogate care often travel extensively and as a result, the nanny spends the majority of time with the children. Parents who require surrogate care for their children often employ several nannies. Typically there is a head nanny that calls most of the parenting shots.

Before hiring a nanny or accepting a nanny position, both the parents and the nanny must identify and articulate the type of nanny care arrangement that they are looking for.  Only when the parents and nanny are looking for the same type of nanny care will the relationship flourish and last.

By Michelle LaRowe, 2004 INA Nanny of the Year and author of Nanny to the Rescue!, Working Mom’s 411 and A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists


5 Responses to Three Types of Nanny Care

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Nancy says:

It’s so important that both the nanny and the parents dictate what type of care they’re looking to have provided for the children. Too often I’ve seen nannies compromise what they want because they need a job, but then they end up miserable and leaving the position much sooner than they would have if they had waited to find the right fit.

April says:

THIS. You should never compromise what you want for a quick fix position. Most of the time the job ends bc you settled and then you’re back where you started… whereas if you had just waited for the right job you wouldnt have to be searching for the perfect position twice…

Gina Hanes says:

GREAT article and reminder to really know what both you and your nanny are looking for before signing on the dotted line.

Elle says:

Do you think it’s easier to find one type of care vs. another?

Jennifer Atkins says:

I think you’re more likely to find someone wanting coordinated care or custodial care vs. surrogate care, but that’s just my opinion – every family is different. Its probable that some families won’t fall into any of these categories but will instead want a mix of them.