Nanny Socializing During the Day

Archived Q&A and Reviews



We have a three month old baby who is alone with a caregiver in our house up to 10 hours a day. I am wondering what other parents feel is an appropriate amount of time for the caregiver to be away from the house with the baby on walks, at parks and other public places. We have asked that the caregiver not have friends visit at the house. However, it seems as if nannies like to meet and socialize with their little charges at parks and other public places. This does not seem unreasonable, however, we would like to make sure that her first priority is the baby. Any counsel from other parents regarding what is an appropriate amount of time to be away, and any boundaries which may be set to manage this situation would be much appreciated.

When we were looking to hire a babysitter, we intentionally chose one whose sister worked in the neighborhood. This worked out great for us. As it turned out, she didn't socialize with her sister much (that employer didn't want her child to leave the house until she was a year old), but she did get together with other caregivers. Three of them always got together, and that provided a wonderful social context for my child -- all the books say getting together often with the same kids is better than getting together with a lot of different ones for only an occasional time each. Another plus is that rather than less attention being paid to my child, there was more, as all the caregivers were watching the 3 of them together.

Of course, all this depends on your caregiver being responsible, and that's something we can only decide from our gut. However, I had stay-at-home mom friends (who my caregiver didn't know) who occasionally were at the same parks, and they reported that our caregiver was extremely attentive.

This is in response to the person who wrote asking advice about her nanny and socializing. I was a nanny for 8 years and just recently had my first child. Could you imagine sitting in somebody else's house 10 hours a day just talking to a 3 month old. You would go crazy with no other socialization. I think it brings out the best being with other people who have children the same age, you talk about the children your taking taking care of more than anything. They play together, they're outside, you learn other ways of playing with your child, new songs, all kinds of things. This is all saying you trust your nanny is taking good care of your baby, because if she is in your home or out at parks or playgroups etc. your baby should be her first priority. Don't be afraid of asking your nanny what they do when their at the park. Communication is the most important thing in a parent, nanny situation. Especially when it's about the most important part of your life. Maybe if you knew more about what they're doing when they're out you would feel more comfortable. Also, if you don't want them out, maybe you should consider opening your home to her other nanny friends.

It seems pretty natural to me, and pretty human. Our babysitter, who's been with us for 4 years, always visits with the other babysitters in the neighborhood. Through her our son has met other kids in the neighborhood who are still his friend, and we have met their parents, with whom we socialize with and swap babysitting. Also as the kids got older the babysitters would go together on the bus to places like the zoo (always with our permission), and it was more fun for the kids to have other kids around, and easier for the sitters to have a couple of adults around.

Of course you want to make sure your baby's needs come first, but if you have serious doubts about that you should probably reconsider your choice of a babysitter anyway. Other concerns: you can think about whether to ask her not to leave the baby alone with anyone else (babysitters have to go to the restroom too, and it probably seems natural to them to ask their friend/fellow babysitter to watch the kid for a few minutes). You can make sure that they're in a stimulating/appropriate environment for your child (playgrounds etc. - I think a lot of babysitters hang out there together anyway; also we would ask that our children not be exposed to smoking).

One couple we heard of knew someone whose child was molested by a friend or relative of their babysitter - but presumably they won't have the opportunity if they're not allowed to be alone with the child. Our babysitter actually knows people in the neighborhood and her husband then bought a business in the neighborhood, but by this time we had known her for awhile and trusted her. She does visit her friends and family in the area (my only objection here is that her friends try to spoil the kids with candy) but also makes sure that the kids get time playing in playgrounds etc. And the kids get free haircuts from a friend of hers!

I feel strongly that if you are entrusting someone with the care of your beloved child, the caregiver is not just an employee, but a partner with you in raising your child! Expect them to do what you would be doing if you were at home with the child, by first of all not taking at home too literally. Anyone, mother, father, or caregiver, will go buggy if spending 10 hours a day inside the house with a 3 month old! And a caregiver who's gone buggy is not going to take good care of your child.

If you were the one to be at home all day, would it be reasonable for your partner to set limits on how many hours you are allowed out of the house with the child? Shouldn't the caregiver go out, just as you would, whenever it would be a nice thing to do? Babies love to be outside, even before they can crawl. Your caregiver and your child will flourish if they have the possibility of meeting other people, get exercise and fresh air and a change of scenery, and enjoy a walk or some time at the park. Associating with other caregivers and their children will provide needed adult companionship as well as a wider social group for your child. If for any reason you're not yet sure about how well your caregiver is taking care of your child, being out in public is an asset. I was always thrilled when friends told me that they'd seen my caregiver at the park with my daughter, and commented on how wonderful she was.

Also, just being at home doesn't guarantee that the caregiver will be focussed on your child at every moment. At home they could ignore them by watching TV, for that matter. Or, if you've also asked them to do housework, they may feel torn between playing with the child and producing a spotless house. Once your baby is a little older, you may also want to rethink the prohibition on having friends over to the house or yard, and you may be relying on your caregiver to engineer these proto-playdates along with the caregiver or parent of another child.

The only boundaries I can think of would be whether you feel comfortable in having your caregiver drive somewhere. Otherwise, I see no conflict between the baby being the caregiver's first priority, and the caregiver leaving the house. Help her find places to go (if you're in Berkeley, Totland is a favorite hangout, a nice playground surrounded by a fence, very popular with parents and caregivers.) Later on, you might want to find other activities (some of which could be done by public transportation), such as going to Habitot, the Little Farm at Tilden, etc.

While I do agree with the spirit of the messages posted today (i.e., that caregivers should be expected to take charges to parks etc & that some socializing is good for everyone), I would like to emphasize that it REALLY matters who your caregiver is in this respect. As a working mom who has employed a number of excellent nannies in the past, I understand the demands of the job. But as someone whose schedule currently allows her to spend some time at the park with her son during working hours, let me also tell you that I have seen a good number of sub-optimal nanny situations at the park and that a fair number involve socializing groups. In some cases, the adults get so engrossed that the kids get only indifferent attention. In other cases, the kids get almost none and get into dangerous situations. I find that when I am at the park I regularly have to take care of kids I don't know, who have been injured on slides etc, run over by tricycles, or overcome with runny noses, and whose nannies aren't paying attention to them, usually because they are socializing with friends. I usually try to talk to the nanny about the situation. But sometimes I can't even figure out which nanny goes with the kid in question. I sometimes wish nannies wore nametags so I could let a family know what I've seen in the park....

The best advice I can come up with is that it looks like that good attentive nannies generally hang out with other good attentive nannies (and with parents) and that not-so-good nannies often hang-out with other not-so-good nannies, irrespective of cultural background. In other words, the socializing tends to reinforce the standards of the nanny, whatever they may be. So pick a REALLY GOOD nanny!!! and be happy if people who know your child and nanny from the park think the nanny is the parent and you are the babysitter--always a great sign! Hope this is useful.

I'd appreciate any advice anyone has on a difficult situation which has arisen between the other mother with whom I share a nanny and me. We are sharing a full-time nanny (approx 8 hours per day) who is responsible for my 6-1/2 month old child and another 2-1/2 month child. The nanny wants a high degree of autonomy to take the children out to the park, to visit other nannies, to go on outings, etc. with her nanny-friends. While she's working at home, the nanny wants to be able to talk on the telephone with her friends. Whereas I think its perfectly O.K. for her to use the phone occasionally, it appears that her phone useage goes on for long periods all day. Also, the nanny does not speak English well and does not pass on telephone messages. For that reason, I asked her to let the answering machine answer calls during the day. The nanny evidently is unhappy about this situation.

I am not comfortable with the nanny having so much autonomy. Although I think she's basically a responsible person, I feel it is within my rights to ask the nanny to stay home certain days (e.g., if the weather seems bad or if I need someone to be at home because PG is coming anytime between 8-5 that day). The other mother feels that the nanny should be allowed to do what she wishes and we should leave where and when she goes with the children to her own discretion and judgment.

I would appreciate hearing about any of your experiences with nannies. Is it common for nannies to be out and about constantly with the children without informing the parents where they are going? Is it unreasonable for me not to want her to answer my phone? Also, what is the going rate these days for nannies in the area? Thanks in advance for any responses.

Sounds like maybe you need to look for someone to share with who has more similar notions of what is acceptable. In my view, you (and the other mom) are the employer and the nanny is the employee. It is absolutely fine for you to define her activities such as answering the phone (or staying off it), informing you of where she's going with your child/ren, responding to your instructions for staying in/going out, etc. This is her job. No matter how clever, nobody can pay 100% of her attention to her charge/s when she is on the phone (wait until they're toddlers!). While I like and respect a babysitter who is energetic, creative, and independent, I certainly expect mine to let me know what she plans to do before, and what she and the kids did after, and to know where my kid is at all times! Perhaps if there is a language barrier, writing down your expectations would be helpful. Good luck.

It is completely within your right to ask your nanny to tell you where she is taking your child. I would feel very uncomfortable if my nanny were taking my child out and was unwilling to explain to me where they were going. It is also within your right to ask her to let the phone machine answer your calls. It is your house. She can always make outgoing calls. If it were me I would feel okay about her using the phone while the kids were sleeping but I would want her to be attending to them while they were awake.

Although you want to have a friendly and close relationship with the person that you entrust your child to, the bottom line is YOU ARE HER BOSS. She works for you and just like any other employee she has to follow a set of guidelines put forth by her employer. Clearly you don't want to be a dictator about it and restrict her every move, but you sound like you are being very reasonable in your requests.

Have you tried telling the other mom that it makes you feel uncomfortable? Have both couples met all together? Maybe having the fathers' input could help and you could all work together to achieve a compromise. If it were me and I couldn't come to a comfortable compromise with the nanny and the other family I would look for a new care situation - probably not what you wanted to hear.

As far as rates go-in my searches people seem to be paying a total of between $12-$15/hr. for two kids in a share care. Anna

Go with your instincts and what you feel is best for your child. I wasn't in a share but I had a nanny who was on the phone all the time. When we told her she had to reduce the time on our phone she went and bought a cell phone! When our twins were small I didn't mind her talking when they were sleeping (which was a lot during the day) but as they got older it was becoming a problem. I didn't know it though until someone observed my nanny at Totland. Luckily that person tracked me down and told me my kids were being ignored while the nanny was on the phone. We thought we had a great nanny but I think she couldn't handle the situation as the babies got older (there was also somewhat of a language barrier too). This is over a year ago and since then I have someone else who is terrific, never uses the phone but is given autonomy. There is a routine though so I know when she is at Totland or Habitot and when she comes home with them for lunch and nap. I also have had parents tell me how good she is with my kids (people volunteer this - I never ask!). Your child is the most important and if you don't feel comfortable with the situation it probably needs to be changed. Marissa

There are two issues here: (1) what to expect of the nanny and (2) achieving agreed upon goals with the co-sharing parent.

From our experience with nannies, you are certainly reasonable in your expectations. You are hiring her to take care of the children, not to plan social events. That said, we found, especially with small kids who sleep a lot, the nanny needs *something* to occupy the quiet time and cleaning up the kids' areas and washing their clothes only consumes so much time. Talking with friends on the phone when the kids are asleep is fairly harmless. Park dates can be OK to (though I recommend dropping by the park occasionally -- some nanny meetings at the park evolve into nannies talking while the kids are ignored). You should *always* know where your child is (similarly, the nanny should always be able to reach you for emergencies). As for the answering machine, can you turn the volume up so if it is her friends she can pick up the line if they are calling and otherwise let it record the message?

However, if you are co-sharing, you need to get the other parent to agree to these ground rules. That's tougher, and if you're uncomfortable, get out and find another co-share that better agrees with your childrearing views.


I have had a couple of experiences with nannies. The first time, I did not realize that I gave the nanny too much autonomy -- so that when she asked if I minded that she watch tv when my baby was sleeping, I said okay (now, I laid the foundation and there was no changing it) -- What a pleasant surprise I had with my 2nd nanny, who never watches tv nor talks on the phone -- rather, when my baby sleeps she does dishes or straightens up. I do not think this is an unreasonable expectation (especially when I was feeling so jealous of my many friends who had let me know this is what their nannies do.) As to going on outings -- I was very pleased that both nannies would take the children out for walks to the park, to the zoo, or wherever -- but, I think having a pager or cell phone for the nanny on such occasions might give you more of a sense of comfort for checking in or an unexpected emergency -- AND, you and the other mom should talk out your expectations and see if you can find a middle ground. The nanny and share experiences should be positive for both your child and you...Good luck! Laurie

Without knowing the entire situation, sounds like it's time to look for a new nanny share arrangement. I struggled with similar issues and tried talking to the other parent, who I liked very much as a person, but although she was willing to go along with my wishes she wasn't willing to reinforce them with the nanny. I also spoke to the nanny on a number of occasions and she would get defensive. You must go with your gut feeling on this one. I tried for almost 5 months before I changed situations. I know it seems like the last thing you want to deal with, especially with a very young child, going back to work etc. However, when you do find the right situation you will realize what a tremendous amount of energy was going into the bad situation. We decided to bite the bullet and hire our own nanny. It was only slightly more expensive and well worth any financial sacrifices that we had to make. We've now had a wonderful relationship with a great nanny for 18 months.

I highly recommend the book In-Home Child Care: A Step-By-Step Guide to Quality, Affordable Care by Debra K.Shatoff, PhD, available at Amazon. My daughter is almost a year old; she's been cared for by the same sitter since I went back to work full-time when she was 3 months. I cannot tell you strongly enough how helpful this book was as a resource to both shape our thinking about what we wanted/ needed from childcare situation as well as to help us with the practical aspects of setting this up. All aspects are covered - emotional, practical, legal. It has been useful in negotiating with our sitter and with setting up a share situation. It give tips that help you prevent problems like this in the first place.

We started out hiring the sitter ourselves with the understanding we would add another family later. The first child we added was a complete flop - we lost a fair amount of money on that situation, and a lot of anxiety was experienced by all. BUT, our new situation is fabulous, the babies and all parents involved are a great match, and our sitter is still very happy.

That said, I think your requests for knowing where the kids are during the day, and minimizing time spent by the sitter on the phone are reasonable. There is a balance between giving the sitter autonomy and making sure your child's needs are met. Unless those two kids are napping at the same times, I'm not sure how much time I personally would have for phone calls if I were watching two little ones, and I'm not sure how someone else could handle it either, without NOT paying attention to the babies. At this point in their development, they can't be spoiled and should be conscientiously attended.

I do think outside activities are important, and I know I wouldn't be any good for the kids if I was trapped in the house all day. As the kids get older, trips to the park will be increasingly important. And I think it's fine if our sitter wants to have a cup of tea with her friend and take the kids along. Her satisfaction is important. We are toying with the idea of getting our sitter a pager or cell phone, because a couple times she has had the kids at the park when a doctor's appointment opened up at the last minute or some other random event happened and we could not find them quickly.

I hereby give you permission to pull the plug on any situation that doesn't feel right. There are lots of people looking for shares right now and you WILL find a situation that works for you and your family. If your gut is concerned, listen to it!

I am also part of a full-time nanny sharing situation. My daughter is 6 months old and we share the nanny with the mother of a 2 1/2 year old little girl. I completely agree that you have the right to know where your child is going during the day and to set reasonable limits. The nanny is an employee - one who takes care of your most precious possession. Employees in more traditional settings (ie. an office) certainly don't get to do anything they want all day and/or talk on the phone to friends all day. I think her requests are very unrealistic and am surprised that the other mother has no concerns.

As with any situation, the greater the level of trust, the more flexibility that employee can be given. It sounds like there is not a real level of trust with this nanny. Perhaps you should look for a new situation? I just know that the trust I have in my nanny gives me such peace of mind during the day. But I still reserve the right to make judgements regarding my child's whereabouts and activities during the day while still giving the nanny the needed flexibility.

Additionally, in a share situation, having the same philosophy in terms of child care with the other parent(s) is so crucial. Otherwise, as you're finding, it becomes a difficult situation. Once again, perhaps a different child care set up would be better for you and your baby.

In terms of our nanny, she can use the phone but does so on a very limited basis. Because she also speaks limited English, we prefer for the answering machine to pick up our messages. Our solution - if the phone rings a few times, is hung up, and then rings immediately again, that is the signal to the nanny that the call is for her. This way, we can reach her if need be and she can receive the occasional personal call. The system works really well. Perhaps this would work for you. Hope this helps! Jill

It sounds to me like your problem is with the nanny more than the other mother. It is your right to know where your child is, and to have your phone free for you to reach the nanny with messages and for your friends to leave messages for you. It also seems completely reasonable to me for you to have some say in where your children and nanny are during the day, particularly if you have concerns about weather or need the nanny to be home to meet a repair person or take a delivery. If your nanny is uncomfortable with these limits, then get another nanny! If there are other things you really like about the nanny, one solution might be to get her a cell phone to use during the day, and ask her to receive her phone calls on the cell phone. That way your phone will be free for messages, and if you want to check up on your child while she is out and about, you can reach her on the cell phone. (And if the phone is always busy, that will tell you something else about the attention your child is getting from the sitter). When my children were under two, I expected their sitters to take them out to the park, and sometimes on errands for me, but I also expected them to be home for a good deal of the day--eating, napping and so forth. I also asked the sitter to let me know her plans for the day, where they might go, with whom, how she could be reached. I made this clear in the interviews, and had more than one sitter turn down the job because they wanted more freedom to roam. On the other hand, the sitters I hired were great, three of them stayed for extended periods of time (2 years to 6 years), and only one left because she found it too hard to be home with an infant.

For the woman who was concerned about her shared nanny spending lots of time on the phone and with her nanny friends ... your question really hit a nerve with me. I'm a stay-home mom. I go to parks with my kids during the day a lot, and there I see many, many nannies congregated about talking and visiting with each other, while their charges are running around unsupervised, sometimes playing too roughly with other kids or getting hurt because they weren't watched closely enough. I try to remember the faces of the nannies I see doing this so I can avoid hiring them in the future. Call me crazy, but I think that when you hire someone to watch your kid, they should be primarily attending to the needs of your kid when he/she is awake. Interaction, supervision, and bonding are so important, they shouldn't only happen during a lull in conversation!

It sounds to me like she's taking advantage of the situation, and honestly I don't think as a paying customer you should have to take it. LET HER GO!!! There are so many excellent women available to take care of your little one. In my family alone there are about 6 care givers who often, in addition to watching the children, cook and clean for the families they work for. There is no way I would pay someone to take care of my child and allow them to do what they want with the child and at my home. I agree, nannies should have some autonomy but c'mon there is a difference between accomodating someone and letting some roam free. No way, I wouldn't take it, but then again that's my opinion. Ccoqueta

Your description left me with the impression that you are dealing with two related but separate issues: having a difference of opinion with your share partner, and not feeling completely comfortable with your nanny. Differences of opinion with a share partner are virtually inevitable, and most of them can be worked out, but differences in comfort level are much trickier. And if you're not feeling absolutely comfortable with your caregiver, then this is a major source of stress for you regardless of whether or not your share partner feels the same way. Ideally, you want a nanny whose judgement is close enough to your own that you don't feel you need to give detailed instructions. (This seems to be how your partner feels, but that doesn't mean that you should feel that way -- it's a very personal thing.) You can accommodate some things, and you can make an effort to spell out your expectations (and you have a right to see them respected -- you're not just the employer, you're the parent), but if your gut feeling is not one of comfort and confidence then you should be giving serious thought to making a change.

To the mother concerned about the autonomous a mother who is part of a nanny share (and I have a wonderful, attentive nanny) I had to throw in my thoughts. After reading your request, I thought autonomous ought to be replaced by obstinate.

First, do you have a written or verbal contract with your nanny? The first item in that contract should be: the employee's(nanny) major responsibilities will be the care of the children. You don't pay her to talk on the phone with her friends!

Second, you don't pay her to have social hour(s) with her friends either. I see so many nannies, especially at Totland, who are too busy chatting with their other nanny friends that they are NOT watching/playing with the children. Any mother who frequents Totland may be aware of the group of nannies to which I am referring. I see these children either wandering around aimlessly, falling off the play structures, and begging/crying for attention or food.

Third, it is completely reasonable that you should know where your child is at all times. What park the nanny wants to take them to(if you agree), outings, another home etc. What if your nanny takes your child to a public place or even private home that is unsafe? What if your nanny took your child to a private home(you've never been there, you don't know the occupants) that may have a sexual predator living there or visiting. What if even your nanny doesn't know all the occupants of the home she takes your child too? Ask her EVERY day where she plans to be, and let her know when you disagree with a particular plan/outing. You simply have to say, this is my child, and my first priority is his/her safety and well being. It is okay to tell your caregiver when something makes you feel uncomfortable. Also, ignore the pressure from the other mother who is more relaxed about the nanny, this is about the care and safety of YOUR child.

Does your nanny think she'll miss HER important phone call if she lets your answering machine pick up? Again, completely reasonable request on your part to have your machine pick up calls, or even to ask your nanny to be home for the PG person.

Lastly, is your nanny's social agenda so important that she takes your young baby out in inclement weather? The high winds last week created a dangerous situation for pedestrians/children strollering with branches/trees falling. Do you want your young baby exposed to that kind of danger?

All of your desires and expectations are more than reasonable. If these are not met, fire her, and look for someone you feel comfortable with. Your child is too important to have these kinds of concerns(daily), and not have your expectations met. Maya

Oh my god, you've hired my former nanny! I've lived through this one, I resolved it by finding another arrangement and firing the nanny as she was completely unreceptive to getting off the phone. I saw what was happening first hand when I occasionally worked at home and was home several weeks on a disability. The children were secondary to the nanny's phone conversations, diapers weren't changed and children were left to cry until the nanny finished her phone call. There was very little interaction between the nanny and the children because she was always on the phone. My own messages were never passed on or she just refused to take them, as reported by those who tried to leave messages with her when they didn't get a busy signal. (by the way, if her English isn't good enough to take a phone message, it probably isn't good enough to deal with PG) My children and other children in the share were toddlers, so I had the added bonus of having my house destroyed while she chatted on the phone. As far as going out with the children, my nanny did the same thing but I knew all of her nanny friends and where they worked so it really wasn't a problem (so when she said her friends got to talk on the phone I could call the other parents and find out that really wasn't the case) When she started driving I insisted she was not to drive my children anywhere that she had not specifically discussed with me. You're not paying the nanny to chat on the phone to her friends. Good luck - Melanie

I don't know if it is common for nannies to be out and about constantly with the children without informing the parents where they are going, but it definitely should NOT be! I would want to know when and where the nanny was going with my child. Also, it is not unreasonable to ask her not to answer your phone. In fact, I would think this would make her job easier!

I don't think any of your expectations are at all unreasonable. You are paying the nanny to provide care and a safe loving environment for your baby, not to talk on the phone all day and meet up with friends. I wonder what the babies are doing while she is busy on the phone or on outings. Since the babies are too young to take advantage of being at a park or socializing with other babies, what are they doing while she socializes? I would have to wonder if their needs (feeding, changing, holding, etc) were being met.

When my baby was 6 mos old, it was hard for me to even get out of the house some days (and I only had one) because she demanded so much of my attention. You have every right to expect your baby to recieve that same kind of attention whether he/she is with a nanny, grandma, or whomever. Maybe you should consider working from home on one of the days she is at your house, just to see her with the children. I had a situation in which our shared nanny refused to come to my house, and I think it might have been because I was working there. This made me a little uncomfortable, even though I saw that she seemed to be doing fine with them and giving them alot of attention.

If I were you, I would talk again to the nanny about your preferences, and if it doesn't work out, look for another situation. It sounds like the other parent is fine with this type of childcare, but it may not be right for you. When putting your child in someone else's care, I feel you either should be 100% comfortable with the situation, or change it.

As far as cost, when we were in a nanny share with 3 other families, we had the nanny 2 days a week with one other baby and paid about $6. an hour. I think the going rate is between 6 and 8 dollars an hour for a shared situation.