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if you have domestic help how do you 'manage' them

32 replies

Junjulaug · 27/10/2020 16:18

Very first world problem. Sorry its long.
We have had nannies and cleaners in the past, and have a recently employed a nanny/housekeeper 2 days a week. As an employer, I'm just rubbish at managing them. I want to be friendly, but don't want to be their friend. I want to be able to tell them when something isn't right a) without upsetting them and b) with what ever the problem is being rectified. Some examples. Our nanny was always late. I highlighted this on more than one occasion, including in writing, but it made no difference. In the end if I needed her at 7.30, I'd ask her to come at 7.15 and pay the for 15 minutes she was late. Once the kids were school age she obviously had a lot of free time during the day. She wouldn't do any non child related domestic work (fair enough), but I often came home and the children hadn't been fed, nor had she made anything in the 6 child free hours she had during the day for me to feed them, so after 11 hours out of the house I'd come home to make food for the kids from scratch.
With respect to our new nanny/house keeper(NHC), last week we had an electrician doing some work at the house. I was WFH. After she had taken the kids to school she tidied up a bit in the kitchen and did a micro clean of the bathroom and then said she couldn't do anything else as the electrician was here. The electrician was in the hallway, landing and utility. She could have hoovered all the other rooms and properly cleaned the kitchen and bathroom and made some food. She said she'd make up the hours later in the week, but I felt like it was our fault for not telling her about the electrician, so said she didn't have to, but she did. But I don't really think it is our fault - the electrician was in 3 rooms, I simply don't see how she couldn't have worked round them, and I didn't feel i could say " do you mind washing the kitchen floor and putting all the bins out and making our dinner". Its become very obvious that cooking isn't her strong point, so we can only ask her to do the simplest of meals. She came with glowing references. We really like her as a person and would like to increase her hours in the new year, but I can only do this if I can 'train' her to do a better job. Have others done this? How? Or is this a lost cause? The other problem is that we live in quite a rural area and it took me months to find her in the first place, so I'm not sure she can be easily replaced, even if I wanted to.
We pay about £3/hr above the going rate. Thanks for reading to the end.

OP posts:
Sunnydaysstillhere · 27/10/2020 16:32

What was discussed at her interview? Have you tried leaving her an expected schedule?

ireallyamthewalrus · 27/10/2020 16:41

You need to practice being polite but direct. You’re paying them, they are not doing you a favour by turning up.

The issue of her saying she would make the time up, you feeling like it was your fault, and her making the time up anyway ... it’s not clear why you felt like that. But in any case a quick ‘yes the electrician is downstairs so could you hoover upstairs’ or whatever would have sufficed and if she really didn’t want to be in the house with him and you were amenable to her making the time up, then fine say ok unapologetically.

The cooking is an issue for a housekeeper if it’s part of the role description. Is it coming up with the ideas that’s the problem or the quality of what she does? I think you need to have a chat with her, say that the meals she is preparing aren’t as good as you had expected and suggest ways she can improve eg cookery books, watching booking shows etc. But you need to speak to her.

Pipandmum · 27/10/2020 16:43

Why can't you tell her what to do? And why did you pay the other nanny the 15 minutes she was late?
Sounds like you need to be more assertive. Sit her down and spell it out: when kids are at school I need you to do X,Y and Z. Unless you give her clear instructions she will not think you're bothered and as you have demonstrated, not about to pull her up on it.
I have a cleaner and have no problem telling her what needs doing. I have other people who work for me and they have become friends (I'll ask them to dinner etc), but somehow I can tell them what needs doing in a way that's clear. They also understand how it works - they do their job and when working I'm in charge. But I'm not bossy or rude, and so far have not had to tell them they are not doing good work. I suppose they would not have become friends if I didn't also think they were good at their jobs.
But regardless, you don't have to be friends, but you do have to be authoritative. She won't respect you if you act like a doormat while secretly seething!

Junjulaug · 27/10/2020 16:44

@Sunnydaysstillhere. At interview we discussed ad hoc childcare, whole house cleaning, laundry, ironing, food prep once a week, dog walking plus any other jobs I need doing - to be specified at the time. I said "you need to be me when I'm not here - so mum jobs and household jobs". She will literally do anything I ask - shopping, posting parcels, anything. I write specific jobs down for each time she comes. I just don't think I should have to write things like "wipe the table", "clean the limescale off the sink" because you don't seem to notice it. She doesn't tidy as she goes.....if there is stuff sitting on the table she just leaves it - all our previous cleaners would have at least put it in a neat pile. She also makes no effort to put kitchen stuff back in the correct place (and Ive been WFH enough for her to ask). But this is a recurring theme and I'm beginning to think I'm just not clear enough - however, having said that I have written the most detailed lists for cleaners before and its been ignored.

OP posts:
Junjulaug · 27/10/2020 16:48

@ireallyamthewalrus - she doesn't come up with any ideas for cooking!! I tell her what to cook, and we have had some fairly disastrous meals. We are pretty much limited to spag bol, shepherds pie and chicken curry. She says she likes doing meat and 2 veg. but we aren't a meat and 2 veg family and the food she needs to make for DH and I needs to be reheatable stuff as we often eat way after she has left.

OP posts:
Justmuddlingalong · 27/10/2020 16:49

I think you need to have an appraisal. You seem like you don't want to upset her by pointing out issues, and she seems to have noticed and is taking advantage of that. You need to toughen up, set out a schedule for the basics and tell her what else you expect to be done on an ad hoc basis. You are paying her, she's not doing you a favour out of the goodness of her heart.

Junjulaug · 27/10/2020 16:53

@ireallyamthewalrus . When she left early because of the electrician she seemed a bit huffy - like she would have liked to have known that she couldn't do her full time today, so I felt bad for not telling her. But I didn't tell her because I don't see what the problem was. We had the same with our nanny who complained that we'd made her life really difficult by moving into temporary accommodation whilst having our house renovated. Our temporary accommodation was closer to her house, and aside from having less toys for the kids, I really couldn't see the problem, but she seemed to think that it was some huge hardship.

OP posts:
TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross · 27/10/2020 16:53

If you weren't very good at your job, what would you expect your boss to do? Just let you get on with being a bit rubbish at it and pay you anyway?

Junjulaug · 27/10/2020 16:54

Sounds like you need to be more assertive. I think so....but I'm rubbish at it.

OP posts:
caringcarer · 27/10/2020 16:58

I have a cleaner twice a week and I gave her a list of Tuesday jobs and a separate list of Friday jobs. She just works her way through the list. She also sews on name tags to uniform and Scout badges too. She comes occasionally on Wednesday morning too. She is always on time and pleasant. I think you have been unlucky. Having a list of jobs is good.

MelodramPatheticism · 27/10/2020 17:12

Doesn't sound as though she has much initiative. Tidying up as you go is very basic.

Junjulaug · 27/10/2020 17:20

So, ladies, how do I start this conversation? Do I sit her down and say " I don't think I've been clear enough with my instructions" and go form there? I'm not sure she has ever had an appraisal or would even know what one is.

OP posts:
Junjulaug · 27/10/2020 17:24

I have been really specific about some things, like "please go through the fruit and veg and throw out any past its best", but if I want this done I have to specify it every time. Its just a bit exhausting, surely after 2 or 3 reminders she gets that this needs to be done regularly and should just do it - or am I expecting too much? At the beginning I specifically asked her not to make the kids beds and to encourage the children to do it. But she doesn't do either, so the beds never get made. I feel like I need to start again, but really am not sure that even with a huge amount of effort by me this is going to work.

OP posts:
Justmuddlingalong · 27/10/2020 17:28

Sit down yourself first and make a plan about when and what you expect from her. Make notes and mean business. You can be friendly and assertive at the same time. Explain that it's been a bit bumpy to begin with but that now she's been there for , you feel she needs to follow your instructions and also see what needs done and use her initiative. You don't have time to chase her tail to see that things are being done, that's why you employ her. Ask her if she has any issues, feels she's settling in ok, but don't be a soft touch anymore.

soberfabulous · 27/10/2020 17:45

We have a nanny/ housekeeper. Like any other job or role we set out a clear job description with everything detailed and a sample schedule of what needs to happen which day. We adore ours and she has been with us for 7 years.

Having things in writing really helped us...could you do this?

HotPatootiebootie · 27/10/2020 17:50

Honestly this is so simple. Just write a list of daily chores, weekly chores and monthly chores. Laminate them. Either have a list of chores that she is 100% responsible for and you another that you are 100% responsible for or put them all on one list on the fridge front. You have a yellow pen, she has a blue pen. If you have done a chore, cross it out with your colour. If she does a chore, she crosses it out in hers . But make it clear to her that she is fully expected to complete whatever % of each column that you both agree on. Find a few simple recipes and laminate them. Add the ingredients for the 2-3 meals to your weekly shopping so she always has the stuff in for those 2-3 staple meals.

babychange12 · 27/10/2020 17:50

My cleaning lady just does her own thing 😅 turns up when she wants but she's bloody brilliant. She has lots of initiative and every time she's here she tackles a job like oven or sweeping the front patio or whatever. I don't really have to tell her she just sorts it.

Mumisnotmyonlyname · 27/10/2020 17:50

Exactly. Ask for what you want. Give positive feedback. And when necessary pick up issues you are less happy with. Absolutely don't leave things which matter to you I said, or they become "the new norm" . An agency said to me, don't say "if you have time", as too many nannies will then never find the time! Repeat lateness would be a huge issue for me, with warnings, because that could cause you to lose your job.

olympicsrock · 27/10/2020 18:00

Oh dear . She does seem to show initiative and is taking advantage of you or maybe she doesn’t want to interfere.
I would arrange a time to sit down and talk about ‘how the job is going for both of you” with opportunity for feedback both ways. Start with positive feedback but present a list of her duties . She is clearly not the sort of person who is self directed . Agree a time to meet again afterwards and be prepared to let her go if she does not step up there are more people looking for work post covid!

AmelieTaylor · 27/10/2020 18:13

It's very hard 'to be you' when it's not your house, not your food & you're only there on a very part time basis. You don't know what's going to be in the fridge or pantry.

Did you specify 'cooking meals' or just 'food prep'. If you said 'food prep' then I'd expect you to know what you wanted & let me know what you needed doing (peel/chop veg).

As hoc childcare sounds very vague as well and really getting her to make the kids make their beds is not something that you can land on someone that's only there 1 or 2 mornings a week.

I do think it's rude/inconsiderate to organise someone to work in the house & not have
told her in advance. It's her work space.

Was the electrician turning the power on & off?

I think she's new, not 'at home' enough to just throw food out, unless specifically asked and you're expecting her to be a bit of a mind reader. Plus a bit of confusion between you what her remit really is.

You need to decide what you want her to do & write a list then you need to be ckear if you want something specific done that day. 'Be me' really doesn't work when some is there so infrequently.

MaryBoBary · 27/10/2020 18:28

OP you've said that in interview you required meal prep once per week. Could this have been the problem as you seem to want her to cook meals more regularly than that? Did she think meal prep meant peeling the veg etc for you to cook later? Also surely you should be planning your meals and doing your shopping so she doesn't need to think of meals, you just tell her what needs doing that night? If it's only once per week and her cooking is that rubbish why not have meat and veg. Once per week is OK isn't it?

combatbarbie · 27/10/2020 18:59

Food prep doesn't mean cooking to me. You'd just need to tell me what the meal was and I'd peel veg, take any meat out freezer but I wouldn't cook it.

Your contract is key here. But I don't know many housekeepers so can't really comment on the rest. That said a housekeeper/nanny to me is dealing with the kids, normal housework and laundry. I wouldn't be happy posting your parcels or doing your food shop. I find that a bit like treating her as a skivvy personally.

In regards to the electrician, if he was in 3 rooms and especially with covid, I'd expect you to let me know. Did he clean up any mess he made or did she have to do it?

Junjulaug · 27/10/2020 19:45

Thank you for all the replies.

To clarify, I said she had to cook meals for us - so not just chop veg etc. I give her a recipe and have got all the ingredients out for her until yesterday when I was away and left her to find them herself.

@MaryBoBary if its meat and veg and can buy chopped veg cheaper than paying her to chop them, and I don't really want to eat reheated veg and meat.

@combatbarbie, i really wouldn't want her to feel like a skivvy.....I'm not asking her to do it for free and for any jobs out of the house she gets paid mileage . Doing 'errands' is in her contract. She lives in a town, we live rurally - its SUCH a help to me to not have to do these jobs and I'd rather be posting parcels or collecting dry cleaning than cleaning someones loo. Re the electrician - he has cleared some of the mess and the rest is waiting for me or DH to do. She didn't do it.

@AmelieTaylor power only off once for 10 minutes. Thank you for your comments. I appreciate that 'be me' probably wasn't that helpful, We did envisage that we may want her for more hours (if she was available), and I guess I'm debating whether she is up to the job of essentially running our house 4 days a week from April or whether we should be looking for someone else.

I appreciate that I haven't been clear enough, and perhaps a chat would help, but I'm also concerned that she doesn't have enough initiative to keep the house ticking over while I pursue a new role at work.

OP posts:
LaurieFairyCake · 27/10/2020 19:53

She has no initiative but it's a massive ball ache to keep re hiring

So you need to do lists of what to do - daily tasks/weekly tasks and have her tick them off

I would put out a sheet on side in the kitchen and get her to tick them off every day - any not done properly add them at the bottom of next days

This shouldn't be hard if you just print out a pile and keep them in a folder

PoorMansPaulaRadcliffe · 27/10/2020 19:56

She doesn't sound like she's working out, but then - some of your instructions are bloody woolly. So - she's not to make the kids' beds, but they're not being done? Because her 'encouragements' aren't working? So - either you tell them to do them, or tell her she has complete authority to tell them to do them.

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