Q: My fiancé has a high-powered job with a work schedule that requires a lot of overtime. His children have had the same nanny since they were babies. She currently works in my fiancé’s home when he has the kids — a week with Dad and a week with Mom. I also have two children, and have always been a stay-at-home mom.
I would like to continue to stay home with the kids after I move in, but that means there will be no need for a nanny — and that presents a problem. I get along well with my fiancé’s ex and his children and the last thing I want to do is upset everyone. Are we making the right decision to let the nanny go? What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: The decision to have help in the house was because your fiancé was not home to take care of the kids and now that you will be home it seems like a logical choice for nanny to move on — but I suggest you do that slowly — not announce that now that you are there, Nanny’s gone.
Reason being, children often acquaint change to the person enlisting the change. That means if the kids love Nanny and she leaves when you show up, the kids might acquaint that change with you and you may be sabotaging your relationship with them.
So what to do? This will need to be a finely timed coordinated effort. Start by making sure you’re on the same page with their dad before you move in. Decide upon your responsibilities toward each other’s children, establish house rules and chores for each family member and then stick to them.
You mentioned that you are already cultivating a good relationship with the children’s mother. This is crucial for the “week with you/week with Dad” arrangement to work. Fifty/fifty custody can be disastrous for the children if all the parent figures are not cordial with one another. You have made important inroads if you and Mom have a good relationship.
Next, coordinate an exit plan with Nanny — and remember, if she’s been the children’s caregiver for years, this could be very difficult for her. Here’s an idea for an exit plan: Before you officially move in, start by helping Nanny with some of her responsibilities while she’s at your fiancé’s home. Pick up the kids from school one day a week and help them with their homework while Nanny is present. Over time, increase it to two days and then slowly let her leave early for the day.
Finally, don’t forget to include their mother when coordinating the exit plan. Even though you think you get along with her, that was before you were performing some of the same duties she performs for her children. Nanny was non-threatening. Make sure she knows you want to support her, not take over, or Nanny leaving will be the least of your worries.
Jann Blackstone is the founder of bonusfamilies.com.