I find that parents are in one of two camps with their initial understanding of this question:

  • parents who assumed the nanny would simply hang out at the house and they thought that they’d pay less during this time
  • and parents who thought the nanny was going to mop, prep dinner, and wash sheets

Neither perspective is correct. So, what does your nanny do while your child naps? Your nanny will:

  • be the responsible adult at home who is checking your child’s monitor
  • take a 15 minute paid break or take a 30 minute paid lunch break if they work 5+ hours during the shift
  • perform child-related tasks such as fold children’s laundry, wash bottles/children’s dishes, sanitize/organize toys, tidy craft supplies, sort clothes your child grew out of
  • plan learning activities or outings for your child, or…
  • do something else entirely: I know parents who share their Peloton membership with their full-time nanny so that the nanny can essentially “go to the gym” during naptime

Some nannies complete laundry for the family or prep family meals, and that usually calls for a higher hourly rate. These types of tasks fall into a job title category known as a family assistant. It’s a common misconception that nannies should “stay busy” with all types of housekeeping or cooking while a child naps. Some nannies enjoy organizing or cooking and they have the skills to do it. That said, your home is simply the childcare workplace where your child’s caregiver comes to do the childcare work. Great nannies are not necessarily cooks or home organizers. If you need more support you could consider speaking with your nanny about becoming a family assistant. Alternatively, you might ask your nanny to research some housekeeping or meal preparation services for you to call.

You want to encourage breaks, rest and lunches. Nannying is physically demanding work and the repetitive movements fatigue the back and shoulders: lifting and lowering children, getting down on the ground, picking up toys over and over again, and so on. Taking appropriate breaks and stretching is incredibly important. Your nanny might start their break and then need to attend your child multiple times, so they may try again later to finish that break or lunch. This means that you may see your nanny appear to have lunch twice or take several breaks. You want to foster an environment of trust and professionalism where your employee can be responsible for their breaks and monitor their energy levels. Nannies sometimes worry about taking breaks if a parent works from home. They’re concerned that the parent might walk by and think that they are “just sitting around.” This can cause nannies to burn out or injure themselves.

Caring for children calls for emotional energy, vigilance, creativity, patience, and planning. Ensuring that someone else’s child is safe and well is a huge responsibility. Ensuring that your nanny is safe at work, doing well, and taking proper breaks is your responsibility as the employer. You succeeded in hiring a great nanny, and you can succeed at being a great employer, too.