Those of you who rely on the aid of a babysitter or a nanny to help you care for your little one know what a blessing it can be to have childcare help. Raising a child is hard work, after all! And while many cultures around the world consider it the norm to have extended family help with childcare, that’s not usually the case in the Western world. Here in the West, many parents are often alone in their child-rearing.
So having the help of a babysitter or nanny can be a real godsend! But what happens if your babysitter or nanny, well-meaning though he or she may be, simply won’t stick to your carefully-crafted schedules and routines? If that’s your situation, then having a babysitter or nanny may not feel so helpful after all when it comes to helping your baby or toddler get the rest she needs.
Why Your Routines and Schedules Matter
If you’re a Baby Sleep Site® regular, you probably already know why we think schedules and routines are important. Simply put, babies and toddlers thrive on consistency and predictability. Most babies and toddlers like to know exactly what’s happening, and when it’s going to happen. Consistency is key when you’re sleep training especially. If you’re working towards helping your baby learn to sleep through the night, or towards helping your toddler overcome her sleep challenges, then having predictable and consistent schedules and routines is a critical component.
And if you’re working on getting your baby or toddler to nap well? Oh, yes! You’re going to want to have a predictable daily routine going, in order to encourage consistent naps!
This isn’t to say that routines and schedules are important to every family. They’re not. Some families are more on-the-fly with their daily activities, and that’s okay! But most of the families we work with prefer to stick with consistent daily routines. For these families, having a babysitter or nanny who doesn’t observe the schedule is a problem.
5 Steps To Take When Your Babysitter or Nanny Ignores the Schedule
If you’re a schedule-oriented parent, yet your child’s babysitter or nanny (and sometimes a spouse) just won’t stick to the routine, what exactly should you do about it? Below are 5 steps we suggest taking to solve this problem:
- Evaluate your expectations, and make sure they’re reasonable. This is an important first step. Are your expectations about schedule-following reasonable, or are you asking too much of your babysitter or nanny? Remember, even the tightest, strictest schedules need to have some flexibility built in. Life happens! Our little ones get sick, go through bouts of teething, and experience sleep regressions. There’s a lot of unpredictability built into your child’s early years.So it’s important that you offer your babysitter or nanny the option to be flexible, and to bend the schedule when necessary. Obviously, this will require some trust on your part, and some discernment on the part of your babysitter or nanny. But be sure you’re extending your childcare provider the same kind of flexibility that you’d extend to yourself.
A sidenote about evaluating your expectations: if you’re working on sleep training, and you’re using any form of the cry-it-out method, be aware that it can be challenging to ask other people (like your babysitter or nanny) to do this with you. Nobody enjoys the sound of a wailing baby, and while you may be able to tolerate it, your babysitter or nanny may not. I speak from experience here. When my oldest was a baby, my family briefly lived with my parents. I was working on sleep training at that time, and I was trying some Ferber-style sleep training with my son. My mom could. not. handle. it. It was making her frantic, having to listen to my son cry for even 30 seconds. It became a point of contention between us. So just know, moving forward, that this scenario can be tough.
- Clearly explain the schedule, as well as your expectations. This might seem obvious, but it’s important that you clearly outline the schedule for your babysitter or nanny. Don’t take anything for granted here. Don’t expect your childcare provider to “just know” what the schedule is, and how to follow it closely. Instead, take the time to explain the schedule in detail. Write it down and put it in a visible place in your home, so that there can be no confusion about what’s supposed to be happening and when.What’s more, you’ll need to explain your expectations regarding the schedule. Conversations like this can be a bit uncomfortable. (At least, they are for conflict-avoiders like me!) But don’t shy away from this. People in any job (childcare or otherwise) tend to perform better when they know exactly what’s expected of them, and when a definite standard has been set.
- Share why consistency in following the schedule is important to you. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. Share with your babysitter or nanny why it’s so important to you that they stick to the schedule. Direct them to this site, if necessary! 🙂 If your babysitter or nanny understands the philosophy behind your schedule-oriented approach, he/she may be more likely to “get on board”, and to make consistency a priority each day.
- Check in regularly, to determine how things are going. Once you’ve laid out your schedule for the babysitter or nanny, and explained how and why you want it to be followed closely, you’ll need to follow up. Ask questions! What time did lunch happen? Did she go to bed right at 7? Did he get 30 minutes of tummy-time before his nap? Again, asking these kinds of questions may feel a bit uncomfortable, but it’s important for you to follow through on your expectations. Alternatively, consider having your childcare provider fill out a daily log that you can review at your convenience.
- If all else fails, consider finding a new babysitter or nanny. We’re not telling you to fire your childcare provider. That’s your call, not ours! But if your babysitter or nanny just won’t stick to the schedule, and if consistency and routines are something that’s really important to you, it might be time to get a different caregiver. It may just not be the right “fit.” No doubt that your nanny or sitter may have years and years of experience, but you still want someone you can work with long-term. Again, not every family will care about consistency in the daily schedule, but if you do, then the person who cares for your baby or toddler each day needs to care about it, too.