Did you ever have a day or a week or perhaps a whole month where nothing goes according to plan? And I mean NOTHING. This seems to happen to me all the time! I pride myself on being super organised, it’s how I stay on top of my stuff. So when things fall apart, I am so relieved that I have a secret weapon. Her name is Faith, and she is my girls’ nanny. Although that title just does not seem sufficient.
Faith is so much more than a nanny to them, she is their second mother. There are times where neither of my girls want me and they only want Faith. At first I felt devastated but the more time I watched her engaging with my girls, the more I realised how lucky they are to have her in their lives. Being a huge believer in the power of play, I have said to Faith that her primary role in our home is to spend time with my girls. I do not care if the place is a mess, the ironing is delayed or the bed is unmade, if my girls are feeling loved and valued then that is an excellent job well done. I am however EXTREMELY fortunate because Faith’s abilities as a nanny/parent, is not something that can be trained. Having said that, I do however feel that everyone, in every job, can increase their skill set if it is their desire.
I work full time as an Occupational Therapist and part of my job is to help my employees grow and improve their skills as therapists. And I feel the same way about Faith. She is an employee (and SO much more) and I have committed to helping her grow her skills. She is also one of the main reasons Play Matters exists. I needed to provide her with activities to do with my girls while I was at work, which I did but she wanted to know more
She wanted to understand why I had given her that specific game, she needed to know what the aim was and therefore what the outcome should be. She was so eager to learn and I was so happy to impart my knowledge.
In the South African context a nanny in the family is a common reality. But imagine going to work every day and doing a challenging job with very little guidance or support. Imagine dealing with a small but demanding dictator who needs constant entertaining. Imagine working in isolation. Imagine feeling so completely out of your depth that you’re not sure if you should ‘fake it till you make it’ or fess up that you’re feeling at a loss. I was not willing to let this happen to one of the most valuable people in my life who I rely on enormously. She is after all also a working mother who also has a struggle with her own juggle.
I need her to feel as valued and important as she makes my girls feel. So while I had sent her on the 2 day childcare course, which is hugely educational, I want to provide her with daily tools to improve her confidence, minimise her stress, limit the guess work and allow her to do her job effectively while enjoying the time spent working. Let me share what has worked for us:
Ask: keep talking by asking questions. How are you coping? Is there anything you need? Remember you cannot buy loyalty and that we are not that different, being “seen” is hugely valuable
Listen: so having asked, you need to actively listen. This is very different from hearing. Pay attention and try not to dismiss feelings. Even if there is little that you can do, the act of acknowledging stressors may be enough
Praise: never underestimate a kind word, thoughtful act or a simple “well done”. This does wonders for motivation and we all need motivation in order give our best
Thank: this does not happen enough. When was the last time your employer simply thanked you for just doing a good job. The validation this instils is unmatched
Educate: we all know the value of education. So consider cooking courses, at home play programmes, group classes or even supporting a formal education dream
Put yourself in your employee’s shoes, change your perspective and recognise that the juggle is real, for everyone. So while I struggle with my own juggle, I can rest assured that my most valuable employee (read my right arm) feels supported, confident, empowered, appreciated, heard and happy. This then allows her to have things well under control in our home.