A Kenyan Woman’s Guide To Keeping Your Nanny
Everything I have learned about everything has been from my mum. It’s no secret to anyone who knows me how amazing I think my mum is – because she is. I used to think I knew how amazing she was until I had a baby and she out did even herself. Mums are amazing. Give yours (or your adopted one) a hug today!
The one thing my mum has always been great at is keeping great House Managers (nannies, DMs – whatever you want to call them. NEVER Maids. Never.) Growing up, I watched her even without knowing I was and saw how she related to them. We had nannies for long stretches of time and I remember each one of them because they loved me like their own. So naturally when I got my first live in nanny, I looked to my mum for advice and replicated everything I had seen over the years. I was lucky enough to get a wonderful soul to care for my baby and in order to maintain status quo, there are a couple of things I do that can help you as you navigate the tricky waters of having a nanny for the first time.
You’re actually dating your nanny
Okay. Hear me out. This person lives in your house, eats what you eat, takes care of you and your baby(ies) so it is impossible not to view it as a relationship. True, you have a boss/employee dynamic and it’s important to remember that when you want to beat stories with her forgetting she has actual work to do. But, it doesn’t take away from the fact that you will begin to learn intimate details about each other. The way you like your tea? She’s got that down. Her kids’ performance in school? I’m sure you’ve asked. Your undies hanging in the bathroom? She has seen them and remarked to herself with wonder about your thongs (do people still wear these? I’m all about sensible underwear). You get it. Like with any relationship, it takes time to build and a lot of patience. The one thing to remember is she probably didn’t grow up thinking she wanted to do this job but here she is. Taking care of you. Treat her with kindness and be gentle even when you want to scream. Apologise when you step out of line and correct with learning as the end goal. After all, you want her to stick around don’t you?
Always go the extra mile
A few minutes in a salon will tell you the horrible ways in which people treat their nannies. The story is always, “Usiwache akuzoee” (Don’t let her get used to you). The assumption being that if she does, she will begin to take advantage of you. 9 times out of 10, you’ll find the people spewing that nonsense treat their nannies the worst. The women who care for our children also have kids of their own so wherever I can, I try to go the extra mile. This looks different for many people but for me it means buying all her toiletries, never restricting what she eats and making her NSSF and NHIF contributions for her (outside of her pay). These are the little things I can do to keep her happy and make sure that she’s not worrying about pads in the middle of the month. It costs you nothing and I’m willing to bet you drop more in a night of drinks than she pays for her kids’ fees. So always go the extra mile, no matter how small because she will appreciate it.
Sounds obvious doesn’t it? You’d be surprised how many people over look it. In the beginning, I used to lose a lot of patience with my nanny. I got tired of saying things over and over again. Once I even uttered the phrase, “Sitaki kusema tena” (I don’t want to say it again) while complaining about something. I walked away from that situation feeling very icky. My husband, who had heard the exchange pointed it out and said to me that every moment is an opportunity for someone to learn. If you start saying things like that, it’s disrespectful and it does not show kindness. I apologised to my nanny and I now have the patience of a saint. My go to phrase is, “Ni sawa lakini next time...” (It’s fine but next time…). Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
If like me, you’re on baby number one and just got a live in nanny who makes you feel like a clueless mum I have some advice for you. She is not trying to replace you. She doesn’t think you’re a bad mum. She loves your baby just as if s/he were her own. Trust me. I used to be insecure because my baby responded so well to the nanny and it was easy for her to put her down. I used to struggle. Looking back, I know the baby was feeding off my anxiety. I had to put my pride away and ask her to teach me how to take care of my child. There was no shame in it. This is her job! That’s why she’s so good at it. Nothing brings me greater joy than to see my child light up when my nanny comes back from the weekend. I see that, and I know everything’s alright.
Any tales from you and the amazing women who look after your kids? I would love to hear them! Drop me a line below.