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Finding Work/Life Balance as a Full-Time Nanny

January 8, 2014

After a full day of chasing toddlers, rocking babies to sleep and ensuring homework is complete, it can be exhausting to even think about having a social life as a full-time nanny. However, in order to maintain optimal mental and physical health, it’s important to find a work/life balance.

“Nannies are often hired to provide families more work/life balance and securing a job will have a lot to do with a nanny’s positive attitude, her flexibility and her willingness to help the family however needed,” says Dr. Alicia Clark, Washington, D.C.-based clinical psychologist. “Often, the best nannies are caretakers through and through, and daily think of others’ needs ahead of their own.”

Although this is an important quality to have when caring for children, as their needs are immediate and meeting them is fully consuming, Clark warns that full-time nannies can face burnout if they do not devote time to themselves. “Days are long and needs keep coming, and the opportunity to stretch in caretaking is ever present,” she says. “The same people who easily think of others first can sometimes struggle to think about themselves enough, not remembering to care for themselves in their off time.”

This ultimately can lead to an imbalance between work and life, leaving you feeling overly fatigued, irritable and even burned out. Avoid the negative effects to your emotional and physical health by scheduling some “me” time that you deserve.

Time is of the Essence

Structuring time is probably the most important element of protecting balance, says Clark. “Full-time nannies can be expected to be available at all times, but this is a recipe for burnout,” she says. “Having a schedule that you can count on is key to being able to take care of yourself in your off time.”

Clarify a schedule with your employer and ask that they abide by it unless notice is given in special circumstances. “A nanny needs to know when she can make plans for herself and needs to be vigilant about negotiating a schedule that allows for ‘me’ time,” says Clark. “Like with any job, look to have a portion of every day’s waking time free for yourself and ideally two full days per week off.”

If this is not possible, Clark suggests negotiating for paid vacation time or blocks of time you can claim for yourself. “Once a schedule is negotiated, a nanny needs to work hard to maintain time boundaries,” she says. “She needs to be on time, if not early to work, and be finished with her tasks at the end of work so she can leave on time. Maintaining a schedule is the cornerstone of finding balance between work and leisure.”

Finding Your Passion

Even though you may be exhausted when that ‘me’ time arrives, it’s important to follow your passions and pursue your interests and hobbies versus vegging on the couch for a two-day movie marathon.

Sports Psychologist Dr. Shannon Reece recommends using your ‘me’ time as a period of time in which you relax and do something you enjoy. The key is finding the activity that works for you.

Here are a few suggestions to get you moving toward self-fulfillment during your off time:

  • Group Exercise: You don’t have to join a gym to get in your daily workouts. Enlist the help of friends and family by forming a walking or running group. The social interaction with adults will help stimulate your brain and the exercise will stimulate your body.
  • Find Nature: If you’ve been cooped up in your employer’s home all week with a sniffling child or a tantrum-throwing toddler, some fresh air may do you some good on your off days. Take a hike or ride your bike through wooded trails. You just might conjure up some creative ideas for outdoor play with the kiddos when you head back to work.
  • Meditate: What better way to find yourself than to become immersed in a soothing, relaxing environment? Allow yourself time to be at peace with your thoughts, stretch and practice yoga poses, or enjoy some pampering at a nearby day spa to refresh your mind and body.
  • Be a Kid: Even though you are deemed the ‘grown up’ on the job, there’s nothing wrong with acting like a kid on your days off. Break out your favorite video games or challenge your friends to an interactive online game. The challenge and competition may be just what you need to get re-energized for the work week.
  • Get Away: Treat yourself to some new scenery with a leisurely drive or a stay at a bed and breakfast out of town. Bring a book to keep you company or invite some friends to join you on your weekend getaway.

Regardless of how you choose to spend your ‘me’ time, the important thing is that you take the time to care for yourself. Doing so ensures that you are energized to provide the best care for the children who rely on you when you are on the job.


7 Responses to Finding Work/Life Balance as a Full-Time Nanny

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Sarah Davis says:

What do you do when the parents start encroaching on your free time? I feel like sometimes it happens so slowly that I don’t even realize it until I’ve been working longer and longer hours for months and am already burned out…

Willa Torres says:

I love the suggestions from Dr. Shannon Reece! It’s so important to remember to make time for YOU during your day, especially as a nanny!!

Elena Gomez says:

One of my favorite things to do when I get home from work each night is to go for a walk to get some fresh air and have a little “me” time. Even if it’s only for 20 minutes, I always feel rejuvenated afterwards!

misty davids says:

i try to schedule one weekend a month out of town where i go visit friends or family or even just go away and do something i’ve been wanting to do, like a retreat or something like that. it can make all the difference in avoiding burnout.

Megan Adams says:

How do you find the energy to do things after work? I feel like I’m so drained when I get off work that all I want to do is go home and sit on the couch at the end of the day!

It’s so important to recognize your boundaries and respect them. Regarding time, its ok to say you can’t do something, or ask for time “off” as compensation for extra time “on”. Childcare is hard work, and you and your employer both want you to be at your best when you’re with their children. So don’t be afraid to remind your employer, and yourself, that you need time to yourself. Bottom line: respect yourself (and your needs) and your employer will too!

admin says:

GREAT advice! Thanks for sharing!!