how can we get dinner privacy with a live-in nanny?

A reader writes:

Due to COVID-19, we decided to hire a live-in nanny, “Jane.” Jane, though very sweet, takes so long to clean up at night that it is eating into our privacy. My husband and I both work during the day, and dinner is our time to be together after we feed our toddler. When we initially hired Jane, she expressed that she would like to go on walks around 7 or 8 pm. I told her that was perfect and suggested good walking areas around the home.

However, since she started working for us, it’s been taking her several hours to clean the kitchen at night. We are very neat and clean, so I’m not sure what’s taking so long. We have asked her to have our child’s dinner ready at 6 pm and told her we would feed her. All she had to do was clean up any pots used to cook our child’s meal and after that, she is done for the night. Ideally, I want privacy after 7 / 7:30.

She has sat down next to us for dinner when my husband and I were in a serious financial discussion. This made me very uncomfortable as these issues are private.

We also had my best friend’s family come for a few days. Jane did not sit down with us for dinner, but she did stay in the kitchen the entire time, either washing dishes for hours, or sitting and eating her down dinner at the kitchen island behind us. I would much rather have dinners with our friends in private!

I have already expressed to Jane that I’m uncomfortable with her working that late every night and that she should take her own time after 7. I also mentioned that it’s nice for us to also have our time too. But it has not stopped her from staying in the kitchen past when we finish dinner every single night. Last night, she waiting in the kitchen for her laundry to finish, making it feel very uncomfortable for me to speak freely at our dinner.

She has an entire separate 1500 square foot floor to herself in our home, so it’s not because she has nowhere to go.

How do I address the two issues of: 1) We don’t want another person hanging around during dinner time and 2) she needs to pick up the pace when she does dishes (I’m not sure what the problem is, but what takes me 10 minutes takes her 1 1/2 hours seemingly). I don’t mind doing dishes myself, which I have told her several time already. I even tried to show her how I do dishes, but she tells me that she does the the same way.

She is a very sweet woman and our daughter who is usually picky with people, loves her. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but this can’t go on. I can’t seem to get through to her :(

You’ve got to be more direct! You’ve been dancing around what you want and hoping she’d pick up on what you were getting at. And to be fair, many people would have. It’s not the worst thing to start out with a soft approach like the one you’ve used because often that will take care of what you need. But when it doesn’t, you need to be more direct.

So many people find themselves where you have: They try a soft approach, hoping it will work. When it doesn’t, they feel frustrated — why isn’t this person picking up on what I’m saying? how do I get through to them? But they feel that way because they haven’t moved to the next logical step, which is a more direct conversation. (My mail is full of letters from managers who are stuck at the first step and don’t realize there’s another step that would likely solve their problem.)

In your case, I suspect there’s an extra layer of awkwardness because nannies fall into a weird category of not really family but not just an employee either. This is someone who works in your home and bonds with your child and is part of the intimacy of your home life. The boundaries get really blurred, and that can make it feel harder to have straightforward conversations when something is happening that you don’t like. Of course, those are the very factors that make it even more important to do — but the reality is, it’s tough. You’re not alone in finding it tough. (There are whole books about the challenges of this dynamic.)

Anyway. It sounds like you need to sit down with her and talk. Tell her how happy you are with her work and how great she is with your daughter. Then say that now that you’ve all settled into this new arrangement, you’ve realized it’s important to you to have privacy after 7 pm — and that means you’d like her to plan to finish up in the kitchen by then, and if she doesn’t have time to finish cleaning up by then, you’ll take over at that point. You can say explicitly, “It’s important to (husband) and me to have time for just the two of us once we sit down for dinner. And we want you to be able to relax and enjoy your evening, not feel you’re still on duty. So we’re going to be sticklers about kicking you out of the kitchen at 7. Please don’t take it personally!”

And then you have to follow through on that. If it’s after 7 and she’s still washing dishes, etc., you’ll need to say, “Jane, I’m kicking you out of the kitchen! Your workday is over and we’ll take over from here. Thank you for everything you did today and go enjoy your evening.” If she protests that she doesn’t mind, then say, “We’re in evening mode ourselves, so please do leave it — we’ve got it from here.”

I’d focus on that — carving out private time after 7 — rather the rest of it. It sounds like doing that would give you plenty of space for private conversations and dinner with friends. And I think it’ll be more effective than trying to get her to wash dishes more quickly, which you’ve already tried without success. Anyone you hire to work in your home is going to have some weird quirks, and if hers is that she’s a bizarrely slow dish washer … well, it’s not the worst thing. You can work around it (especially since it’s not her primary job).

But I also think you have to accept that you do have someone else living in your home as part of your family right now. Yes, she’s still an employee, but the job is so woven into your family — especially since she’s live-in — that you’ve got to keep it looser than you would with an employee in your office. She might sit down with you for a meal or when you’re having a conversation she didn’t realize is private, because that’s the nature of having someone living in your house (doubly so during the pandemic, when she might not be getting much contact with anyone outside your family). It’s okay to enforce off-duty hours and set up some boundaries, but keep in mind that you’ve asked her to make this her home … and so you’re going to have to adjust to having her around when you previously would have had privacy.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 525 comments… read them below }

  1. Colette*

    I agree you have to be direct. But I also think you need to stop thinking of the kitchen as a place to have private discussions you don’t want her to overhear. She lives there, and you presumably don’t want her doing a lot of socializing with other people; she’s going to want some adult contact on occasion. That might mean you invite her to eat dinner with you when you don’t have guests over, and plan your conversation accordingly.

    1. mf*

      Agreed–Jane may want/need access to the kitchen after 7 PM for food and drinks. Although she doesn’t need to be hanging and doing dishes for 1.5 hours, she shouldn’t be made to feel like she can’t enter the kitchen at all, even just to grab a glass of water.

      1. Colette*

        Normally, that kind of thing could be easily solved (with a water cooler or bar fridge in her living area) – but the lack of social contact isn’t as easy to solve during COVID.

      2. DinoGirl*

        Yes, this is a significant issue… She’s presumably watching the child all day, she needs time to cook for herself, grab food/drinks etc., assuming she’s not staying in a suite. I am 100% a “me-time” person, so I get where OP is coming from, but as the nanny, I wouldn’t want to feel like a bother if I’m around the home at night, either. These are extraordinary tubes, too…she can’t go out to do much.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          With 1500 square feet upstairs there’s space for a bar-sized fridge, microwave, and coffee maker or electric to make things a lot homier for her up there. (For readers outside the US, that’s 139 square meters….bigger than my old house.) I’m assuming ventilation/access for fire code of course.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

            1500 square feet just “upstairs”!!

            Maybe it’s a US (or certain areas of the US anyway) vs UK thing, but here in the UK the place I live in is about 900 sqft for the whole place and that’s a fairly average size! and I have a standard kitchen with all the appliances etc as its own room within that… as do most people… so I expect there’s space for far more than just a bar-sized fridge and coffee maker! You could almost put in a whole separate kitchen up there!

            It seems to me either or both that Jane doesn’t have her own facilities up there, or it’s more of a social thing like wanting the company or not being sure of expectations or something similar.

            1. Mel_05*

              Not just a UK thing. Most of the places I’ve lived have been 1500 sq ft or less. Right now I live in a 3 bedroom house that’s just over 1500 sq ft and the kitchen is pretty large.

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              The average size of a US house is 2,600 square feet. My house has a 900 sqft ‘mother in law’ suite, with 1 BR, living room, and full kitchen, so yes there’s tons of room within the 1500. It’s more about the social time. Nannying all day, then ‘taking a walk’ at night would be painfully isolating.

              It’s a difficult line to walk, having an in-house nanny who can’t have any outside in-person social time bcs COVID.

              1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

                Ahh interesting! About 3x the average in the UK (based on a quick google.. for the UK I mean, I just trusted your number as fact!) — although I guess the average across the US as a whole would take into account areas where there’s loads of space and you can have a relatively huge house for a relatively average cost, as well as places like NYC (?) where I suppose space is at much more of a premium.

                It would be really interesting to see average floor size by state / metro area, actually. :-)

                1. UKDancer*

                  Yes, my friend who is an estate agent in London says Americans coming to London are frequently surprised by how expensive property is and how small places are in comparison with the US.

                  I think it comes down to the amount of space and the number of people, as well as desirability of a particular area. There is more land in the US so it’s cheaper and people can build bigger houses and be more spread out.

                  Obviously if you’re looking in a desirable area then that too pushes prices up. I did a comparison with a friend in Leeds and my 1 bedroom flat in London cost nearly as much as a 4 bedroom house in the part of Leeds she’s in.

                2. Jasper*

                  Yeah, but I mean, London. They’d also be surprised at how little you get for how much money in San Francisco or New York. It’s more about moving to the big city than about differences between continents.

                3. MM*

                  Yes, it does vary that way. I’ve mostly lived in East Coast cities, which tend to be denser, and I remember once when I was doing a grad school visit in Ohio the university put me up in a hotel room that was practically the size of the entire ground floor of the house I shared with three other people back in Washington DC. I was astounded, especially because it’s not like universities shell out tons of money for grad students who aren’t even theirs yet. I had to remind myself that in the Midwest there’s just more room (even in the cities; this was Columbus) and the cost per square foot of space is just different. Some New Yorkers spend hours on Zillow looking at houses for rent for a comparative pittance in other places just to marvel at the concept.

              2. Gray Lady*

                Is that the average size of US house, or the average size of a newly constructed US house? That seems really high for “average” (as an American myself.)

              3. TardyTardis*

                Our house (that we share with several thousand books and where we raised two children) is about 1340 square feet, and only that much because the garage was converted to a family room. Plenty of room, really.

            3. MollyStrongMama*

              Yeah, I’m in the SF Bay Area and our 3 bedroom house is 1000 sq. ft. I think this is more about the social isolation of being with kids all day and no adult interaction at all. Maybe there’s a way to invite her to stay a couple of nights per week so OP can have more privacy the other 5 nights.

            4. mgguy*

              My fiancé and I are living in a 900 sq. ft. house(that she bought before we even knew each other) built in the early 1950s. We’ve been shopping for something bigger for a couple of reasons. It’s 2 stories and 3 bedrooms, but a fair bit of the upstairs space(which is 2 bedrooms built into the eaves and about 4ft tall at the side walls) is cramped-I use one room as by office and just my desk and a a couple bookshelves fill it decently, while the other upstairs room has a bed that takes up nearly all the room and a few other pieces of bedroom furniture that don’t leave a lot of breathing room. The master bedroom is mostly taken up by the bed, there’s one bathroom, and if both of us are working in the kitchen it’s hard to pass each other. It works for us now, but we both want more space(and a 2 car garage!).

              At the same time, I keep thinking of the fact that the family that built it raised 6 children, so it’s definitely a case of changing norms/expectations about how much space even two people need. Most of the houses on the street(and adjoining streets) are the same age, and this is probably one of the smallest houses but most others are not more than a few hundred square feet larger. With that said, most of the newer construction(probably 80s and newer) that’s within a mile of here is 2000-3000 square feet, which I’d say is normal for middle class houses 3-5 person family around here and also other places I’ve lived outside the center of larger cities.

              I came from an 1100 sq. ft. 3 story townhouse, which was more than big enough for me(probably too big considering the amount of stuff I moved out), but it also felt roomier just thanks to the way it was laid out. The kitchen and living room were all one big room, and each bedroom had its own floor with a full bathroom(and a half bath in the downstairs). My parents house, where I was raised, is 2500 sq. ft. and so I guess that’s what feels “normal” to me.

          2. Artemesia*

            1500 feet is a two bedroom house — our last condo with huge great room, kitchen two beds and two baths and walk in closet was 1500. I would think she probably has a kitchenette, but if not providing a refrigerator and microwave at least would be a good idea.

            She does during these times need some adult human interaction. Perhaps think about how to make that happen. It could be dinner with the owners on certain days of the week. Or perhaps have her eat with the kids but then join you for cocktails before your own dinner. Or get more creative — but if you want her isolating for your health then I’d err on the side of providing her with more interaction but structure it so you get some private time too.

          3. Chinook*

            True, but are those items actually down there? Does she have a mini kitchen available to her in the basement? As well, part of the basem5would include the furnace room and probably storage, so it probably isn’t as big as they think.

            OP also mentioned that the nanny was waiting for her laundry in the kitchen. If that is the laundry room, is she allowed to do this type of personal chore while on the clock?

            Lastly, OP may need to clariy that privacy=stay in the basement, which onky works if a) she has access to a kithen there and b) she is required to provide her own food. If her salary jncludes room AND board, then she needs access to the kitchen 24/7, in which case Allison is right that you have to consider the kitchen a communal area.

            1. A*

              Something about “after 7pm you need to stay in the basement” sits really poorly with me. Only way I could get on board with this idea is if it included a compensation package that is on the very high end of competitive pay for that kind of work in that area.

              Sounds like a lonely experience for Jane.

              1. Lizzie*

                Nannying is a lonely experience. Except for other nannies, there’s really not a lot of people to interact with socially. Your employers aren’t your friends, usually (I have worked for friends, but the longer and better paying gigs I took – summers in college – were not) and they’re not expected to be. You are an employee, not their buddy.
                So yeah, they can ask for their privacy at various times of the day, and you need to respect that. She’s lucky to have so much space for her own. I was lucky if my room didn’t open into the kid’s room.
                Also, these days, most people aren’t socializing much. It’s not her employers’ responsibility to ease that for her. Like everyone else during these strenuous times, she needs to make the most of online socializing and phones.

      3. Shouldbeworking*

        Where I live, most people with live-in nannies or au pairs have a nanny suite downstairs with a bedroom, full bath, kitchen, and sometimes living area. When I read the letter, I assumed that with 1500 sq ft for the nanny, the letter writer also has such a set up.

      4. Colin*

        This is what I was thinking. What is the quality of Jane’s private floor? Is it a comfortable space with a little kitchenette, or is it a large but mostly unfinished basement? Just because it has square footage doesn’t mean it is functionally a private apartment.

      5. staceyizme*

        In all likelihood, there is at least a kitchenette on the nanny floor. 1500 square feet is a small house, so I’d be surprised if that were not the case.

    2. The Grey Lady*

      OP says that Jane has a 1500 sq foot floor to herself, so I took that to mean that Jane has her own kitchen or kitchenette. I could be wrong though.

      1. Colette*

        Maybe – since the OP said she’d feed Jane, I don’t think there is. But I also don’t think that the problem is that Jane wants to do anything food related. I think she probably wants to be around other adults – and unless the OP is OK with her doing social things outside the house on a regular basis, she should try to meet that need without resenting Jane.

        1. J!*

          I don’t know, sitting at a separate counter eating alone to the side while your boss socializes with her friend as in one of the examples seems EXTREMELY uncomfortablebc of everyone involved, including the nanny. I can’t imagine she’d choose to do that if she had her own kitchen and dining space.

          1. Rose*

            She has a living space larger than any apartment I’ve lived in in my adult life, and I don’t live alone. It’s not like she couldn’t fit a table and chairs in 1500 square feet.

        2. mf*

          Yes, I got the same read: Jane is intentionally hovering/hanging out during and after dinner in order to be a part of the adult socializing.

        3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          Yes, I took it to mean that OPs expectation is for Jane to prepare the food, but OP would feed the daughter with the prepared meal (e.g. coaxing her into eating all the vegetables and so on) so that Jane would prepare the food but wouldn’t have to take care of the “getting the daughter to eat it” part.

    3. Mediamaven*

      Yeah and like, is she supposed to be banished to her bedroom during her time? That doesn’t sound like her time. Maybe not have a live in nanny if you don’t want them around at night.

      1. Artemesia*

        A 1500 apartment is not ‘her bedroom’ — but of course the problem is privacy and isolation issues.

      2. Rose*

        She has a huge private space to herself. I’m banished to far less than 1500 square feet after work.

        1. Nesprin*

          Eh, but presumably you have friends nearby and the ability to go out to see them. Jane may not Know anyone nearby or have access to a car or reliable transportation which’d essentially isolate her with no adult interactions all day long. Thatd be my personal hell.

          1. JSPA*

            Hello, we’re all socializing by Zoom and Skype and Snapchat these days… Covid isolation is hard, making friends can be hard, but your employer =/= your social life.

      3. Scarlet2*

        Seeing as it’s twice the size of my whole apartment (and the size of a huge luxury flat in the European capital city I live in), I’m amazed some people seem to portray it as “those evil Thénardiers want to banish her to her room”.

    4. Ben Marcus Consulting*

      Came here to say exactly this. This is a big sign that she needs more adult contact. I’ve been couped up in my home all summer because of the pandemic and 100% sympathize with her.

    5. Cats on a Bench*

      I wanted to say the same thing. As a stay at home mom, after a whole day with little kids (even my with my big kids) I craved time with another adult! Going off alone to my room would be terribly depressing. If you’re restricting who can visit her in the house and where she can go out of the house, then she’s probably incredibly lonely. I bet if you joined her in washing the dishes it would speed things up and help give her some social time with another adult. Another thing to consider, too, is that if she doesn’t have a kitchen or even just a way to store and make snacks in her room, then she’s going to be coming back into the kitchen periodically for those things just as anyone else living in a house would. You need boundaries, so be more direct, but please consider how isolating it is to be with only children all day and then be expected to disappear into your room once the parents want their house to themselves. Also, move the financial and other private conversations to your bedroom while she’s living with you.

      1. Carlie*

        Yes. I thought she sounds terribly lonely. She can’t socialize during the day while she’s working for you, and after 7 there’s not really anything pandemic-appropriate to do with others. Poor thing.

        1. NotAPirate*

          Devils Advocate – even in a pandemic you have other options. You can zoom/facetime/google hangouts/snapchat call/skype/discord/etc your friends or other relatives. Or even old fashioned phone calls. You can play xbox online games or steam pc games in multiplayer with others. Or find a park to sit 6ft apart from your friends in. Her options for socializing are not OP or nothing.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              I’m sure this depends on the person… for me, a phone call is a fine substitute for in person socializing (assuming the connection is good enough we’re not straining to understand each other).

              Hanging out in outdoor spaces like parks with 6 foot distance between you is literally socializing in-person, though. So is going for a walk/skate/bike ride together. It’s not a substitution because it’s the real thing.

              1. Beth*

                Those distanced-in-person activities are also hard to do after 7pm in a lot of places, though, especially as it gets later into summer and starts getting dark earlier. Many parks close at sunset, and walks and bike rides on roads (and on sidewalks where you need to cross roads sometimes) can be dangerous in twilight hours if it’s not a high-pedestrian area where drivers are used to watching for non-car traffic.

            2. NotAPirate*

              sitting in a park together is not a substitute for in person socializing?? What do you think those of us who live alone have as options right now?

              1. Gadfly*

                As someone who lives alone, I have to agree that they aren’t equivalent substitutions. That they may be the best we can do doesn’t make them more/better than what they are.

            3. pandop*

              Substitutes for in-person socialising is precisely what they are.

              They are not exactly the same as in-person socialising, but they are substitutes that people make do with when they can’t be together for whatever reason.

              That’s not to say that better communication of expectations isn’t needed on both sides here

            4. Oaktree*

              You’re right, they’re not. And millions of us are still living with that, because that’s what you do in a pandemic. I live miles from my friends and rarely see anyone in person (three times in the past 5 months). My family I haven’t seen since December, since they live in an adjacent country and the border’s closed.

              I have nothing but sympathy for her, but she’s not alone in this, and she can suck it up and find workarounds like the rest of us.

          1. Rose*

            Yea, I honestly don’t see how this is different from most other adults right now. I work all day, mostly alone, and then at night I call friends, Skype with my brother and his kids, go for runs, etc. Yea the pandemic sucks, but I don’t look to my boss to manage my emotions around it.

            1. Name Required*

              Yeah. Jane’s need for socializing doesn’t trump OP’s need for privacy. They are both reasonable needs to have. Perhaps OP could have Jane join them for dinner occasionally, but OP shouldn’t be expected to cater to Jane’s need for socializing at her own expense exclusively. There are other ways for Jane to get her need met, but OP’s need for privacy only has one solution.

    6. Quill*

      Yes. The fact that she’s a live in nanny and the kitchen is a utility area… it’s currently her kitchen too! It’s where her food and her laundry is, and she can’t get these chores out of the way during her work day any more than you can.

    7. Mama Bear*

      This is something where I think people go into it with certain expectations and then the reality isn’t what really works for them. Having a live-in person (au pair, nanny) indicates to me a certain level of blending between family and job. It may not be a situation that OP would have entered without the pandemic, but that’s where they are now. I suspect that the nanny is lonely, or possibly eavesdropping. I would try to find a middle ground between banishing her to her “quarters” and wanting privacy. OP hired her to live there, but are they unnecessarily restricting how she lives? I agree that a further conversation is necessary, not just about general expectations, but maybe get to know if she has any family or friends to talk to.

      Also, I agree that private conversations should not be in the kitchen. Go to the office, or bedroom.

    8. Lavender Menace*

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. I’d go so far as to say if you really want to be able to have private conversations everywhere in your house without the possibility someone will overhear you, you probably do not really want a live-in nanny.

    9. Des*

      I really agree that OP needs to understand what contact Jane has with other adults outside of their family. If it’s none, then is it really surprising she’s hanging around in the evenings instead of locking herself up in an empty suite?

  2. Adrienne*

    I really really want to know if she has her own kitchen area. And a private living area of her own?
    How does this work?
    If she doesn’t have a kitchen, does that mean she doesn’t have access to the kitchen after 7?

    1. Lalaroo*

      Yes, I was wondering this as well, and also with the laundry. It’s great she has an entire 1,500 sq. ft. floor that’s all her own, but if that floor doesn’t also include its own kitchen and laundry then it’s not really fair to make yours off-limits after 7pm. I wonder if there’s a way to move your dining room to a different room that’s more separate from the kitchen?

      1. Georgina Fredrika*

        I would be shocked if it didn’t include a kitchen with that sized. If the apt is attached you can go back to your own room while waiting for the laundry.

        As a former nanny I can see how the kitchen thing is blurry if there’s only one kitchen, but I also think there’s ways to work it out – like making your food while you make food for the kid, etc. It honestly sounds to me like she’s loitering a bit bc she feels like the kitchen is just “off the clock” space, so definitely a more firm convo is needed.

        1. Jasper*

          I would be shocked if it does include a kitchen. It’s pretty clear that while LW calls it an apartment, it’s just the top floor of the house.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yes, it sounds like this is a temporary set-up so I was assuming the space was not furnished with the purpose of being a separate living area. Everyone keeps referencing the size of the space like that is a meaningful number… but the amount of square feet doesn’t mean as much as how it’s furnished in this situation I think.

            Sure if you’re looking at renting or buying a place then that’s an important number because you’re thinking about what you could do with all that space. But she can’t do anything except for live in it however it is already set up by the homeowners. So I think knowing how it is set up is really important information that is missing from the letter and would have a big impact on how reasonable I think it is to suggest she should stay there any time she isn’t working.

        2. Lavender Menace*

          I wouldn’t be. I’ve been in some pretty large homes with floors around that size that only have bedrooms and bathrooms.

          Personally I think it’s a little weird to have a live-in employee and then ban them from a common area after certain hours.

          1. Jaw Drop*

            For real! I am still shocked reading this! You need to be direct OP. But my mouth is still hanging open if you expect a grown adult to live in your house and to not have access to the kitchen after 7pm. Just sounds so weird and selfish.

            After 7pm, if I am told that I am off the clock, that is when I SLOW DOWN… relax. Sit at the kitchen table with my book and meal. Are you going to send her to eat alone in her room after spending all day with your baby? Tell her that she can only eat in the dining room, and no where else? Just weird.

            There’s got to be an explanation that I am not seeing. I look forward to OPs follow up.

            1. Lizzie*

              That’s part of nannying, to be honest. I was a nanny for a while in college. Once I was off the clock, I was expected to keep to my own part of the house, and out of the family’s way. Occasionally, I’d be invited to join them for an evening. But the standard arrangement was to let them have family time. Because while nannies are taking over part of the job of parenting, they are still not really members of the family. They’re employees.
              LW, like many other bosses who are new to managing employees, needs to set down clear rules, give concrete feedback, and not budge on the things that are important to her to make this arrangement work. If having the kitchen be private after 7 is what she needs, then she has to both make sure her employee understands that clearly and that she has everything she needs for her own self in the evening in her private space so she doesn’t have to invade family time. Make sure she has a mini-fridge and a way to cook, at least, as well as a few dishes of her own. Make sure she has a designated time to use the washer and dryer for herself, unless she has her own, too. Things like that.
              But it is not the employer’s job to be a nanny’s friend, nor to socialize with her all hours of the day.

        3. Galloping Gargoyles*

          Our basement is about that size. It has a family room, two bedrooms, a full bath, an exercise room and a large storage room. We host college aged athletes for a few months each year. They get the basement mostly to themselves, although I do use the exercise room and we go into the storage room as well. They have full access to the kitchen, space in the pantry if they need it, etc. Since they decided to hire a live-in nanny because of the pandemic, I would not be surprised if that space doesn’t include a kitchen of some sort since it wasn’t planned as a nanny-suite (or whatever you would call that area).

          It really sounds like OP needs to have a clear conversation with Jane about expectations. I agree with everyone that is saying though that telling Jane she has to only stay in her area after 7:00 isn’t really fair, especially since she didn’t hire on under those expectations. I’ve never been a nanny but know people who have and they are allowed full access to the house, not just relegated to “their space”. Best of luck to OP and to Jane as they work it out together.

        4. LCH*

          I would be curious: were you a nanny during COVID? I know that a lot that was once considered normal is now not.

    2. Ali G*

      She has 1500 square feet! That’s a giant apartment! If she doesn’t have her own kitchen/kitchenette, they should get her one (and possibly her own W/D if it’s that important that she can be totay self sufficient in her own space).
      I wonder how much of this is Jane wanting some adult contact, since she spends all day with the kid.

      1. Adrienne*

        Yeah I guess I was more thinking about the kitchen and how private the space is, as in what can she do there? probably not have friends over…because the reason for the live in is bubbling and quarantine. So no space to have a private life.
        My words were not the greatest!

      2. Liz*

        It’s seriously 2.5 times the size of MY apartment. So if there isn’t anything there, fridge, and so on, i think there needs to be.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I mean, my two-story house is only about 1600 sf, so I agree that there’s plenty of room for a kitchen/kitchenette, but we just don’t have that information.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah, this. If she doesn’t at least have a mini-fridge and a microwave in her room (or suite), then it’s not fair to kick her out of the kitchen.

    4. KR*

      Yes, this is what I was thinking. Does she have enough personal space in OPs home? I can see why she may not want to go sit in her room after work.

        1. Yorick*

          It’s definitely big enough, but is it set up in a way that it can really be her home? Or is it like banishing her to a big empty bedroom in the attic?

          OP can explore adding something to that space to make it a better private space for her, if needed.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, there’s a difference between a large, unfinished basement with a bed and not much else and a furnished apartment. Space is not the only thing that matters.

          2. juliebulie*

            No, that was strictly a response to the question of whether she had “enough personal space.” In other words, size is not the issue. (Though I agree that if it lacks amenities, it should have them.)

        2. Glitsy Gus*

          I’m wondering if the 1500 sq ft is HER space, or just the rest of the house that isn’t the kitchen, which is on a lower floor with the laundry room, and only one room of that 1500sf is actually “hers.” If you are saying “just be in the rest of the house, rather than the kitchen area,” that’s fine, but also realize that if the kitchen and laundry are there, and she doesn’t have other access to the stuff in there, you’ll need to let her do what she needs to do.

          It is reasonable to ask for her to not hang around when you have company. On other nights, though, I might consider inviting her to join you for dinner and moving the private conversations to a more private room. I’m guessing part of the deal here is that she isn’t allowed to have visitors or go visit others, correct? She must be so bored and lonely if she only ever talks to your kids. I get wanting to have your private time, but you may want to consider asking her to join you at least a couple nights a week.

          I would also really suggest not discussing private things in public spaces of your house. Discuss them in your home office or bedroom. I get that it is your house and all, but part of not treating nannies and other household staff as “the help” is realizing that this is their home too, so some small accommodations should be made on your part to help make them comfortable as well.

          1. MM*

            Exactly this. The part I can’t wrap my head around is OP’s unwillingness to imagine that having a live-in nanny might mean they and their spouse ought to change even the smallest iota of their lives, like, say, having a financial discussion in the privacy of their bedroom rather than over dinner. (What are they going to do when their kid gets older, boot her out of the kitchen at 7?) They’ve invited an adult into their home 24/7. That is going to have ramifications even when the adult is there to do a specific job, because said adult…is there 24/7. You have to get comfortable with some degree of intimacy/nonprivacy unless you want to playact 19th-century British nobility and have everyone keep up a rigid social facade that those things aren’t happening. In some ways the nanny is doing a better job of this, actually; sitting at a separate counter like that is basically assuming OP, guests, etc. will treat her as invisible. I might even suggest that this confronts OP with the fact that this relationship is fundamentally about inequality, and that is adding to their sense of discomfort.

            Sociologists who have studied live-in domestic workers have made it very clear that these social dynamics can have tremendously detrimental effects on these women’s psychological well-being and ability to have a social network. It’s not OP’s fault that the virus means that the nanny is limited in outside social contact (whereas a lot of employers place similar limits on their domestic help themselves, which is atrocious), but it means the family has an extra responsibility to treat the nanny as a human person who has some rights to the shared, public spaces of the home and deserves to be socially acknowledged, even if some of the time that feels tiresome (welcome to having roommates). I think it’s fine to ask her to make herself scarce if you’re having guests (though how the choice to have guests compares with whatever restrictions on contact the nanny is expected to follow is also a question worth reflecting on), just like I would have let a roommate know I was having someone over back when I had roommates. But “let me forget you exist after 7” is not a humane thing to ask.

            1. DisgruntledFormerParalegal*

              Your comment was very insightful! I find it hard to form a solid opinion on this issue because the class dynamic here feels a bit “icky” (for lack of a better word), and that’s hard to get past in order to look at the situation objectively.

              On the one hand, she’s an employee, and the family that hired her certainly has a right to their privacy and enjoyment of their own home. But on the other hand, she needs adult connection that might be difficult for her to seek out on her own in this climate, and if she doesn’t have an apartment suite then the house’s kitchen is her kitchen too.

              Your comment helped me identify what I think is the biggest issue with the scenario: the family seems to want her to disappear after a certain time every night, which echoes a very antiquated understanding of the relationship between the family and their staff. I think the family’s expectation really brings that dynamic to the forefront.

            2. littledoctor*

              As a former nanny, THANK YOU. This sums up all my thoughts about this situation so succinctly. This house is the nanny’s home too.

    5. nnn*

      That’s what I was wondering.

      I know installing a kitchen is no small matter, but a “You’re off the clock, go home!” policy is far more reasonable than a “You can’t access portions of the house where you live after 7 pm” policy.

      (And if she does have a fully self-contained apartment, you can really emphasize “Your time is your own! Your apartment is your own! You’re off the clock! See you tomorrow!”, which is far more generous and far easier to say than “Go away!”)

    6. Zanele Ngwenya*

      It’s not clear if they have their own facilities- it would be great if OP clarified, because it’s not fair to limit a roommate’s access to kitchen facilities or laundry during reasonable times of use. Also, if OP works long hours, it sounds like they are on the clock for a long time and that may be their only chance to do their own meals and laundry. Maybe this is me looking at it from the background of someone who could never dream to afford a nanny, but the idea of telling an adult in my home that they could not attend a dinner in which we have our friends over strikes me as very strange. Private conversations can be held elsewhere when you have someone living with you.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        She’s not a guest; shes not a roommate; she’s not a member of the family; she’s an employee. It’s not as though OP took in a poor relation, who makes herself useful with the baby in return. She’s an unrelated third party who is paid to provide childcare and provided living quarters (1500 sq ft! ) as part of her compensation.

        I would find it presumptuous if she were to plop herself down in the middle of a dinner party.

        1. LisaH*

          That is what I was thinking. I own a small business and I don’t expect them to be involved in my social life and I would not be involved in theirs. Even during the pandemic. Her working hours are over at 7pm and she needs to retreat to her living quarters. This opinion only stands if she has private bathroom, kitchen, laundry facilities (her own apartment).

          1. jules*

            Do your employees live in your home, and do you expect them to spend time completely isolated from all other adults? If not, this situation is a bit different from your business.

        2. Lavender Menace*

          Yes, she’s an employee. But this is also her home, and if she does not have her own kitchen and laundry room the sheer size of her “quarters” doesn’t matter – she’s got to do her laundry and cooking sometime.

        3. Riverlady*

          100% no. She’s an employee when she’s on the clock. OP has every right to instruct her on how to discipline the child, feed the child, etc. The minute she’s off the clock she’s a roommate and the house is as much hers as OP’s. We have no idea if the 1500 sq ft is a fully contained apartment (obviously it doesn’t have laundry facilities) or if she is as free as OP is to have her best friend’s family stay for a week (she should be!). But no matter what no one is an employee 24/7, no matter where they live. Some of the time they are a human being.

        4. Eukomos*

          She’s an employee and a roommate. She lives in OP’s home, it is now her home too, and it needs to be a functional home for her.

      2. Courageous cat*

        Yeah, I think this is 100% you looking at it from the background of someone who couldn’t afford a nanny. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t either, but this is a job much like any other and should be treated as such, with some small adjustments here and there I’m sure.

    7. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      I’m wondering if what’s going on is that OP has the nanny living in something like a large (perhaps walk-out) basement that has a bathroom, maybe shared laundry, but can’t legally be brought up to code as an apartment because it can’t accommodate a full-on kitchen. Something like that might not even be a fully finished basement!

      It would sort of change the interpretation of the question because while that set-up is a nice problem for the OP to have, it’s not one that’s necessarily indicative of the kinds of privilege that people might be reading into this question.

    8. Spero*

      I don’t think she has her own kitchen if she’s making and eating her food in their kitchen – the letter also specifically mentions her ‘waiting in the kitchen’ for her laundry to finish which makes me think no laundry either. I also think the LW would have written ‘and her own kitchen’ after the 1500 sq ft comment.
      It’s completely unreasonable to expect her to stay out of the shared kitchen after making the baby’s meal, no snacks or dinner of her own? Maybe she says she’s still doing baby dishes because she’s worried LW will ban her from making her own food if she finishes dishes before her meal?

    9. Clisby*

      I do, too. The LW says “We have asked her to have our child’s dinner ready at 6 pm and told her we would feed her. All she had to do was clean up any pots used to cook our child’s meal and after that, she is done for the night.” So when/where is she supposed to eat her dinner?

      I also think not socializing with her at all would be unreasonable – is she allowed to have visitors in her own living space? She surely needs some source of adult interaction.

      1. TootsNYC*

        also, maybe the OP should clean up the pots?

        (though I agree with all the comments about adult time)

        1. Rayray*

          I agree. I get that this nanny is a paid employee but why not just take such a minor responsibility off her plate? Or maybe at least allow her to let dinner dishes stay in the sink till the next day.

          I was saying a while back I wished I’d tried this kind of job when I was younger, just to experience a different city but I think employers of this kind of job can often be incredibly nit picky and demanding with no care of the nanny as an actual human being – they’re just the hired help, who cares if they get hungry or want to enjoy theirselves.

          1. Erstwhile Poppins*

            This is 100% dependent on the family. Some employers do treat their nannies as “the help”. There are others, however, that are wonderful – understanding that their nanny is human, forgiving faults, being flexible where possible, treating nanny as extended family. As a former nanny, I’ve had all kinds. In my last role I had the latter. They had requests, of course, and pet peeves – we all do – but by and large as long as the kids were loved, fed, and well-taken care of, things were good. They’d include my staples in their grocery shopping, and plan meals on “my nights” around my dietary restrictions. I was given flexibility in duties (ie, I did the kids’ laundry; ‘when’ didn’t matter as long as they had clean clothes). I had a credit card and was trusted to exercise discretion on when it was appropriate to grab take-out lunch on the way home from morning activities. My humanity was respected; I was included (and welcomed) in family-only birthday parties and had the opportunity to forge personal relationships with grandparents, etc etc. I had another role where Mom would arrive home while kids and I were eating; after dinner, I’d go to clean up and she’d admonish me to “relax!” while she did the dishes (I was still on duty and worked through bedtime). We’d hang out & chat while the kids played downstairs, then divide & conquer the bedtime routine. (This was an afternoons-only job, hence the late end.)

            Not all families are like this, of course. And even with the good ones, there will always be interpersonal things to navigate; it’s not always flowers and sunshine. But nothing about having a nanny *makes* a family micromanage. And frankly – knowing many nannies locally – families who treat their nannies well will get better care in the end. Just like any employers, they’ll attract & keep better candidates, and even more importantly, their nanny will be happier at work – which is something you desperately want when this is an employee whose role is care & rearing of your children.

            (In terms of LW – I think she said she has offered to do the dishes. I’d be curious to know what restrictions the family has imposed on socialization due to COVID; I suspect Jane is craving adult contact. Additionally, did Jane relocate for this role? She may not know anyone locally, and even if “social distancing at a park” is approved, it’s really hard to meet people in the current environment.)

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      It’s almost as though we need a bingo card for these kinds of comments.

      1. English is Lit*

        It was a quote from Friends about gold shoes. Apparently too offensive for this site :)

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          It’s *diamond* shoes, and although I loved Friends, everyone on that show is … kind of awful.

        2. ThatGirl*

          Then you didn’t even get the quote right, because Chandler mentions diamond shoes. :)

          But regardless, even well-off people are allowed to have problems and ask for advice. And this is the sort of thing that can also be helpful in other situations, or say, to the nanny!

          1. English is Lit*

            Of course well off people are allowed to have problems, for crying out loud; making a joke is just one way of highlighting that this is a very easily-solvable problem! That’s my frustration with it. Talk to your nanny! Who you hired! Who likely just wants to do a good job and doesn’t realize she’s bothering you!

            1. Lily Rowan*

              … and that’s the same advice for a huge proportion of the letters here, and that’s why Alison has the rule. It would be very easy to be rude to many many letter writers if that is your standard.

            2. Environmental Compliance*

              It is a good assumption to make that text-only communication makes joking comments very difficult to parse due to lack of obvious tone, and therefore, what you are attempting to present as a ‘joke’ will simply come across as ‘rude’.

              Very related to the concept that if you have to explain the joke, it’s really not that funny.

          2. Mystery Bookworm*

            Yeah! And we WANT privileged people who are in the position to employ nannies to write in when they’re unsure. It’s a field that’s notorious for fraught boundaries and power-dynamics. Employers likely have more power to shift the dynamics than employees, but if they’re ridiculed for soliciting advice then they’ll just have the conversation without outside input.

            1. EPLawyer*

              THANK YOU. We WANT people to seek help even if they are “privileged” “entitled” or any other word you want to use. Otherwise how can ANYONE learn and grow?

      2. Butter Makes Things Better*

        Thanks for saying this, Alison — this is especially important since there’s plenty of overlap between people of privilege and bosses/company owners, and it’s clear from the incoming letters that the more AAM-trained/savvy bosses & company owners are, the better the working world could be.

    2. Anon234*

      Please don’t automatically snark at those who hire nannies. You don’t know all the facts.
      I hired a nanny because it was $20 more a day than putting my 2 kids in daycare. My daughter has a medical condition which meant that she often was low level sick enough to be not allowed In daycare anyway and I would have had to quit my job. Also, My husband and I are both in healthcare so erratic shifts.
      Knowing my kids could be at home and the nanny could come in at 6am if need be meant I could carry on working in a medical specialty which looked after children with heartrending medical problems. In fact, until they went to school I lost money continuing to work.
      Not all people who choose something like this childcare arrangement have their toes pinched by diamond shoes.

      1. Amy*

        Same. The cheapest childcare in my area is $10 per child per hour. I have twins. For $20 an hour, I can have a nanny come to my home. Even with her sick days and her paid vacations, it makes more sense than paying $20 an hour for kids who I’ll need to pick up and drop off daily and who will be frequently sent home due to 99 degree temps etc.

        1. Freya*

          Here, too. I don’t have kids, but my city has some of the highest childcare costs in the country, and daycare costs about $13-$14/hr per child, plus or minus childcare subsidies and multiple child discounts and so forth. A live-in nanny is $20-25/hr (including superannuation and agency fees), or more for very experienced people.

          When you include the fact that you pay for a place at childcare, whether or not your child can attend, and that reputable childcare centres have waiting lists (one of my friends reported being unable to get places for both children on the same weekdays at the same centre), a good nanny is pretty cheap when you’ve got two or more children. Even cheaper if you’re sharing their services between a couple of families!

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Exactly. When you live somewhere where the average monthly cost of legal daycare is pretty close to what you’d pay for rent on a worse-than-average one-bedroom apartment…going the nanny share route makes a lot of financial sense for regular middle-income folk.

      3. thatoneoverthere*

        Yes, please! Growing up we had a nanny. Given she was not live in, but she was there everyday without fault. She helped my parents around the house and cared for us. She ended up being like a grandparent to us. Our family loved her dearly. Having kids myself now, I realize how much 2 working parents need help. Not only in caring for kids, but around the house too. We were not rich by any sense of the imagination, but we really lucked out in having her around. My parents paid her well and respected her.

  3. Female-type Person*

    She may also be quietly desperate for the company of adults after a long day of nothing but young minds.

    1. Gracie*

      I agree 100%. They don’t get into her family/friends situation but she might be extremely lonely.

    2. ampersand*

      Exactly! Hopefully LW is mindful of that possibility…it’s so difficult to spend all day with kids and not have adult interaction.

    3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      Absolutely, especially in these times. But consider what we’ve all been saying in response to other questions about loneliness at work: your colleagues/employers don’t owe you companionship. That’s probably even more the case if you’re seeking companionship in ways that disrupt their existing relationships (like being around for a private financial discussion).

      1. Tui*

        I think if you want a live-in nanny and you want that live-in nanny to take strong precautious about COVID (which I assume they do) then you might have to flex your rule about not owing someone companionship. The rule can’t be “You never have an adult conversation, ever again, because I don’t owe you, a young woman who is required by her employment contract not to see anyone else, anything, not even a dinner conversation”.

        1. alienor*

          I mean, I assume there’s nothing stopping Jane from FaceTiming/Skyping or calling her friends and family once she’s in her own living space–it’s not ideal, but a lot of other people are in the same position. That said, I agree that under the circumstances OP probably also needs to be more flexible than they might otherwise be. These are strange times for everyone.

          1. HoHumDrum*

            I get your point, but FaceTime just isn’t at all equivalent to actual human interaction. In fact I often feel like connecting digital often enhances my feelings of loneliness and isolation. Like I agree this nanny isn’t totally cut off, just saying she could be facetiming for hours every night and still need some IRL adult interaction from LW at least a few times a week.

            1. Carriem*

              Also, if the rules are strict for Nanny, why wouldn’t they be strict for OP (best friend’s family in her house)?

        2. Quinalla*

          Yes, maybe agree to have 2-3 nights a week be private dinner with you and your spouse and the rest a more communal dinner? So 7pm on those nights and maybe 8:30-9pm on the other nights? But yeah, be more direct and also be willing to be flexible as even if her living area has a kitchen, etc. she is likely lonely for adult company.

        3. Metadata minion*

          Yeah, I would feel way more lonely if I were living in a house where there were other adults but I was effectively not allowed to socialize with them than if I were living completely alone.

      2. jules*

        I think a possible exception would be if your live-in employers ask for social isolation as a condition of employment. Obviously that isn’t specified here, but if shes being asked to stay home at all times for the child’s safety and then cut off from the adults living in the home, that may not be sustainable.

        1. Clisby*

          Yes. If she’s allowed to invite people over to her living space, that’s one thing. If she’s not supposed to be bringing strangers into the house, that’s quite different.

      3. ampersand*

        Yes, but–the nanny/employer relationship is different than your typical employee/employer or colleague relationship. It’s a bit weird to have someone in your home who is both an employee and is part of your family. It’s its own category of thing.

        Another way to look at it: if your typical employer required that you could only see them and no one else, or you had very limited contact with anyone else, then they should expect you’re going to want to talk to/interact with them sometimes. Most people don’t do well being isolated all the time.

      4. TootsNYC*

        though in this case, w/ COVID restrictions, the employer is disrupting HER existing relationships. The nanny can’t go out for drinks with friends, have a few people over for game night, etc.

        Private financial discussions should happen in the den. They don’t have that luxury anymore.

      5. HoHumDrum*

        I’ve worked as a nanny and I have to say that kids are basically kids wherever you go- the big difference between the gigs I loved and the gigs that were nightmares was the parents.

        Parents who treated me like a person on their team made my job so much easier and happier, and it was easier to recycle that positive energy right back into their kids. Even just a simple adult-to-adult debrief and chit chat as the nanny transitions into her offtime can be huge.

        1. Cori*

          The nanny works (presumably) long hours with only young children to interact with, then the parents want her scram out of the kitchen at 7 PM and socially isolate for the rest of the evening. I have so much sympathy for this person who is probably under a lot of stress. LW needs to start treating the nanny more like a human adult member of the household and less like an annoyance. Also the “lesson” on dishwashing reminds me of an incredibly patronizing dad I worked for briefly.

        2. Riverlady*

          Hugely this. I’ve also worked as a nanny and the dynamic where we’re all part of a childcare team that includes parents, teachers, etc. all in their own roles but all working together was so much better for everyone (especially the kids) than a dynamic where the parents act like The Boss, issuing instructions and expecting mindless compliance. I actually left a live-in gig six months before I had intended to because the latter situation made me so miserable. I was too young then to tell my employer what I’m telling OP now: if your nanny doesn’t have all the facilities of the shared space (laundry, kitchen, etc.) then your laundry and kitchen are hers too. She should have her own shelf in the fridge, her own cabinet for her snacks, etc. the same as a roommate would. You want a happy, fulfilled adult caring for your child, not a disgruntled servant wondering how long she can stick this out.

    4. Hills to Die on*

      It really seems like that. I wonder if you could give her some time to socialize with adults that is outside of your private time. Maybe that will give her the outlet to be around grownups so then she won’t feel like she wants to hang out in the kitchen.
      I mean, I do think you need to have that direct conversation with her. But you also don’t want her to feel isolated. Perhaps time to be social with you will allow her to have that and then be content giving you privacy.

      1. Jasper*

        With covid the way it is in the US, that’s probably not an option right now. They’re already a large family, the exposure group shouldn’t get much bigger than that.

        Depends a bit on state and even county, of course, but there’s plenty of places in the US where they (and I mean both the parents and the nanny in that they) definitely should not allow contact With outsiders.

        Of course the fact that LW mentions having company over kind of puts the lie to that, come to think of it. If they’re having their company over, then asking the nanny to completely isolate is completely unreasonable.

        1. tangerineRose*

          I think some people are using sort of a bubble theory, where they only see people in person when those people are in their bubble, and the bubble is small.

          1. Tau*

            If so, this actually limits the nanny’s social interactions in a way that they wouldn’t be if she were living alone – she can’t invite *her own* friends over without mixing her bubble with the parents’ (big no-no), so she’s stuck socializing with her employers’ friends, not at all, or risking everyone’s health and safety.

    5. The Bad Guy*

      This seems soooooooooooo likely to me. This person is with a child all day, adults finally come home and they want alone time. That’s part of the job here but in normal times, they can go see a movie with friends after 7 or go on a date. Right now they are probably so lonely.

      1. C in the Hood*

        That’s exactly what I was thinking. In normal times, a nanny might go out with friends, a church group, or whatever. But right now everyone’s quarantining. She’s probably dying for human (non-baby) interaction.

        1. ampersand*

          Now I’m totally feeling for this nanny and just want to reach out to her and give her a hug. Which isn’t possible for all the reasons, but still.

    6. Anononon*

      This is almost definitely the case (though I could be projecting some…or a lot…) Ugh, I can just feel the loneliness and hope that if she lingers in the kitchen, maybe this time the OP will invite her to join the conversation.

      Yes, I know that’s unreasonable, and in large part, the answer to the nanny is just “tough, suck it up,” but from experience, it sucks so much.

    7. Save the Hellbender*

      I came here to say this!! I’ve worked with kids as a full time job before and I was starving for adult conversation at the end of the day. LW, know that she needs that and maybe find a way to give her that while still having your bonding time with your husband.

      1. Maggie*

        I’d bet the nanny is trying her own ‘soft approach’ with her employers that is ALSO not working. She takes 1.5 hours to do 10 minutes of dishes? She’s probably desperately hoping you’ll just be her friend and hang out and talk to her so she can have some adult conversation. Having no adult conversation is so, so difficult. OP should spell out her concerns directly, sure, but she’d be a good human by also checking on the nanny’s mental health and asking if the nanny has adults to talk to when she’s “off the clock.” If she doesn’t, over time, eventually she might quit if she needs companionship.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yes! She is dropping all kinds of hints that she wants to hang out, or at least be nearby — the same as the employer is dropping hints that she should skedaddle! An explicit conversation should really help this.

    8. Koala dreams*

      That’s a good point, there are so many articles about how the most difficult thing with taking care of small children is the lack of adult conversation. What’s difficult is individual, of course, but in these times a lot of people are lonelier than ever.

      The nanny doesn’t have family to go home to at night, and she has limited opportunity to invite guests over. If it’s an option for her to invite guests to her room or to the garden, it’s worth pointing out your expectations for that too, it’s something where expectations can vary a lot. If not, you need to take into account that most people are social beings who need some interaction to thrive.

      1. NotAPirate*

        Why not remote hangout options like Discord or Skype? Why not online games with friends like Drawful? Why not phone a friend or family member? Why is it hang with OP or be LONELY.

        1. HoHumDrum*

          Those are all great options! I do a lot of those things, but for me they just aren’t equivalent for IRL adult interaction. And honestly a lot of online social stuff often makes me feel more isolated and lonely. That doesn’t make it LW’s responsibility to become Nanny’s new best friend, but just saying it might be nice if LW let Nanny eat dinner with them occasionally or some other similar low stakes social interaction.

        2. Koala dreams*

          It’s in the employer’s best interest to make sure the nanny has good living conditions, including socially. It’s not sustainable for most people to isolate for a long time. With the pandemic, many of the usual social hangouts are not accessible. Many offices have virtual coffee breaks, not because it’s required but because it’s nice. I see this situation as similar.

          Those two options, lonely or be together in the kitchen, are not the only ones, many commenters have come up with various suggestions, from getting a TV for the nanny to having meals together a few days a week. Hopefully the letter writer can find a good solution that works for them and the nanny, either from the suggestions here or something else.

      2. Jasper*

        Given that LW mentions having dinner with company over, it’d be pretty damn hypocritical for her to require zero human interaction for the nanny. This does not mean it’s not the case, of course. Lots of people definitely want The Help to be safe even when they aren’t.

    9. allathian*

      Yes, this. I’m pretty introverted but when I was on maternity leave, I was desperate for adult company at times. I’m in the Nordics so I was still on parental leave when my son was an active toddler. At the time, my husband was supervising the construction of our house after work and he did some stuff himself on weekends and evenings as well. I barely saw him, and the mommy friends I had and my retired MIL were a treasure.

    10. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I had a similar job to this when I was younger, and even though I adored the children and had occasional contact with other adults during the working day, by the time the children were in bed I was *desperate* for physical adults-only company, even if that was silently reading or otherwise not interacting.

      I can’t imagine how greatly that feeling would be increased by quarantine/shielding conditions.

      Sometimes my bosses wanted their own space, at which point they just quietly and tactfully retreated to their own space. Sometimes I wanted my own space, ditto. But those shared hours were invaluable.

  4. MayLou*

    I was a live in nanny several years ago and ran into similar, but not quite the same, issues. We kept communicating past each other and what my employer thought was blindingly obvious and didn’t need saying out loud… really did. Equally what I thought was fairly obvious was also not said out loud – partly because I was in a position of less power and quite young, and didn’t feel able to say “since you are requiring me to leave the house for the weekend so your guests can have my room, it would be reasonable for you to pay for my hotel room” or whatever.

    Be really clear with yourself what you want and then set it out plainly. Remember that this is a person living in your home and also your employee so may not feel able to speak up about what they need/want (especially if they didn’t realise there was a problem here and are mortified once you explain), so try and ask specific and clear questions about things they might need to change, not just “are you happy with the arrangements we have?”.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      That seems really rude of your employer to kick you out of a bedroom, even if it’s their house. And then not even pay for you to have a place to sleep after displacing you. How did that turn out?

      1. MayLou*

        My mum ended up coming to stay, and rented a holiday flat through the flat-share scheme she’s part of, so that I could go and stay with her. It really helped me that my mum was horrified about the situation – I was starting to think I was the one with completely off-base expectations.

        They also didn’t like me to be in the house at the weekend when I wasn’t working, so I had to just sort of wander the streets. I ended up getting a cinema pass and seeing a LOT of films. To their credit they let me have a friend come and visit for a couple of days when they went away for a week without me, but there was an awkward miscommunication about whether or not my friend and I were allowed to eat the food in the house. I asked “is it okay if my friend eats here while she’s visiting?” and my boss assumed I meant… I dunno, is it okay for her to consume food she has purchased inside the house, or does she have to sit in the road and eat it? And of course what I actually meant was, since part of my wages includes the food I eat even when not working, can my friend also eat that food?

        There were good points to that job. A lot of the problems would have been resolved if I had been better at direct communication (and/or if my boss had). But on the whole it was not great and I am glad it was a long time ago.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          Man, while it sounds like your employers were really pretty unreasonable this also points out the myriad ways that live-in domestic employment is so different from other industries!

          There are so many little things to think about that normally wouldn’t come up, like yeah, so your food is included in your wages, but what about people visiting you? I mean, I’m assuming a friend wouldn’t eat a week’s worth of groceries in one sitting or anything, so often it’s probably a good idea to allow that, but that is a question that should be worked out rather than just leaving it out there as a vague, ‘who knows?’.

          1. Riverlady*

            Ugh, the food thing. I was in a live-in arrangement where food was included but I didn’t realize until I lived there that it was only food from the mom’s pre-approved list, to be purchased once a week and eaten on a strict schedule. Non-approved food (like soda) could be bought from my own money but could not be stored in the kitchen at all. Ways of combining the already-purchased foods also had to be pre-approved (I learned this after putting salt and ketchup on fried potatoes led to a Discussion – I was giving the 7 year old unhealthy ideas).

        2. wittyrepartee*

          Ahem, I feel like your boss didn’t understand the rules of childcare- which is that when someone’s job is in-home childcare, part of the deal is free access to all but the most expensive of food.

          I dunno, did you eat all the truffles or something? Because outside of drinking all their Pappys or something, I think you were pretty reasonable.

    2. All the cats 4 me*

      OMG. That was outrageous! Not even having full control of your own room and being kicked out so someone else could use it when it was convenient for them?

      Wow, talk about taking advantage!

      I worked briefly as a live-in in London, UK, and it was quite *interesting* but overall a good experience as I was able to spend weekends with UK friends who I wouldn’t have normally seen and explore London and parts of the UK I hadn’t seen before.

      I now feel quite lucky that my employer family was as outrageous as yours.

    3. Homebody*

      I was once a live-in housekeeper for a family, and I remember the wife would continually invite me to dinner with the family, but then get really passive-aggressive about intruding on family time when I did. I eventually just stopped coming regardless of the continual invites, and waited until later in the evening when the kitchen was empty to clean up and make my own dinner. I think because I was living with them the wife felt she had to play the host, but really did want privacy in the evening.

      I know it can seem weird to define boundaries when you have someone living and working for you at the same time, but it really really helps. I didn’t do many housework jobs after that, but I always made sure to have a contract in place going in to prevent unsaid awkwardness from brewing later on. (For that, and for people not disclosing or lying about having certain pets. I am very allergic to cats!)

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Ah the age old “courtesy invite” that they expect you to turn down every time. I’ve seen this happen as a kid with invites to family dinner, every time you accepted, you got that weird cold shoulder vibes because you were supposed to say “oh no thank you, I have plans already.”

        Yuck. To do it with someone who you employ and lives with you sounds about right for the sort of people who have done this in my own personal sphere.

    4. FrenchCusser*

      Yikes! I was a nanny myself for 10 years (although in my late 30s and early 40s), but being forced to give up your room (since room and board is part of your compensation) is NOT acceptable.

      Their guests should be ones in the hotel if there’s no room in the house. Not you. You live there!

      1. Jasper*

        You could have a discussion about whether they could bribe you to leave for the weekend so family could stay in the room… but it wouldn’t be weird to say no, depending on how much it feels like your room vs just a room you’re staying in (like a hotel room would be), and it shouldn’t be about saving money on hotel costs for the guests that are coming in (since they’d spend a similar amount or more on sending you to a hotel and/or spa as they would for their guests).

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      We briefly had someone in my former church who was a live-in nanny. From what she told us, it was not that easy of a job even before Covid! The family that she lived with had a house in an upper-class suburb where there were no sidewalks. She didn’t have a car and didn’t drive, so was trapped in their house; except for Sundays, when they would give her a ride to church and back. Unlike OP, the family wanted to eat dinner together, and the husband did most of the cooking. Which sounds great, but Nanny was an older woman and had a hard time digesting the husband’s spicy/heavy cooking, but that was the only food she had access to. She never got a good night’s sleep, because as part of their contract, the (8 months old) child’s baby monitor was in her room and it was her responsibility to wake up and go to the baby’s room to take care of the baby at night. She’d found them through an agency, that she contacted from her home country after she won the Green Card lottery. She did not even last a year with that family. She contacted the same agency, and they found her another nanny job in a different state. She moved away and I never heard from her again, hopefully she is doing well. She told us that the first thing she did after giving her 2-week notice was take the baby monitor out of her room and give it to the parents. Frankly she was pretty miserable in that job. And that, like I said, was before the pandemic, so she could technically go out on her time off, attend a church, socialize with people, make friends. It looks like part of Jane’s job (seeing as she was hired due to Covid) is to just stay on her floor and not talk to anyone… including the family she lives with (except for their two-year-old)? I am guessing that my nanny friend’s employers also didn’t have any prior experience with employing a nanny. They thought they were providing her with good working conditions (“you can eat our dinner of fried hot peppers and lard with us! you can go on walks in the road, try not to get hit by a car, have fun!”) but missed a lot of the details as they had no knowledge of what providing good working conditions to a live-in nanny entails (TBH? I don’t have that knowledge either.)

      PS. I, too, want to know what happened after your employer kicked you out for a weekend. Were you able to afford a good place to stay? How long did you continue working for them after that?

    6. PenicilliumIHardlyKnowEm*

      I was also a live-in and had similar issues about what they thought was blindingly obvious. It eventually built up and I found an angry passive-aggressive note left for me which felt rather surprising. No one had said anything and now they were pissed that I hadn’t just done them (like grocery shopping for the family, their laundry, or dropping them off at the airport for a flight they hadn’t even told me about). Luckily, I didn’t get pushed out of my room for anyone.

      tl;dr Yes, be super explicit about how you’d like things to go. Just because things feel obvious to you, doesn’t mean they’re obvious to anyone else. This is good advice in general.

  5. Office sweater lady*

    I think this employer had an unrealistic expectation going in that they could somehow have all the benefits of a live in person without having to make any compromises. Presumably, part of the reason you asked her to live in was so she would not be exposed to other people. She takes care of a child all day and perhaps has little other adult social outlet besides you and the husband. I think the op should be more considerate and perhaps explicitly plan to socialize with the nanny for the duration of the pandemic. Perhaps that means inviting her to eat two days a week with you, and then politely asking for along time with the husband the other nights.

    1. Smithy*

      This is a really good point. I also wonder if part of the live-in arrangement was developed during a point of the pandemic where the asks of social distancing were very strict around in-person interactions. If the OP’s expectations for the nanny remain the same now – then it may be worth at least checking on how the guidelines are impacting her.

      It may be that the nanny’s personal social distancing preferences means she wants to remain in a very contained social bubble, but I could see loneliness potentially being a huge issue. Another thing to perhaps explore might be whether there might be a time of day when she’s currently working that would be more beneficial for her to reach out to friends/family. Maybe one or two additional nights a week, you give the nanny the night off at 5pm in advance of your daughter’s dinner if that means she can have Zoom happy hours before 7pm when maybe those people aren’t as available.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Yes…even those of us who *want* a contained social bubble are feeling it start to chafe.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          It chafed many months ago, TBH. I haven’t seen my family or friends since March, and there’s no end in sight when the majority of people around you think the pandemic is a hoax.

        2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Yeah, the part of my brain that does well at math and science wants the very small and constrained social life I currently have. (I have video chat plans with a friend tonight where we’re going to stream a movie together, for example.)

          The rest of me wants to go out to bars, drink whiskey, and listen to live music, and is frustrated that I haven’t been to a convention since January (and everything on the list of cons I’d normally attend is cancelled through at least NEXT January, so it’ll definitely be over a year between conventions, which will be the first time in over 13 years for me that I haven’t attended multiple conventions in a year, and I’m not entirely sure when the last time I didn’t attend a single con, faire, music festival, or other similar thing for a solid 12 months was).

          Math and science brain is going to keep winning, but the level of general crankiness from the rest of me is increasing.

          I’m lucky enough to have a large yard (and useful backyard access to second bathroom house layout) that I can set up with two tables far enough apart that I can have a regular visitor, but it’d be pretty miserable to live with Adults! To have conversations with! Sitting right over there! and never get a chance to talk to them if I had no other source of adults to talk to. Heck, by this point I’d probably be trying to get them to form a band with me. (The toddler could play tambourine.)

    2. a lot to think about*

      I was thinking exactly this. I think it’s a little rude (though not intentional) to expect someone to live with you and then just expect them to leave for the day. With the pandemic going on, you specifically hired someone so they would be staying at home with you. Like it or not there are 4 people in the house, regardless of living quarters. In addition taking a walk is only 1-2 hours a day outside the house.

      I feel like the nanny is 1)starved for adult attention; 2)thinks of herself more as family, whereas you think of her as an employee and 3)she might be a bit naive about the situation. I kind of feel like she’s hanging around because of options 1,2,3. I think everyone needs to compromise a bit.

      OP you also need to be realistic that this pandemic is going to be around for a while. You can’t have her just “stop being there” because you want alone time. It is your house… but while she has her own floor, you also have your whole house with other areas for privacy. What if she legitimately has a reason to be in the kitchen – like wanting to eat a snack or do homework. FYI your letter said that she has a whole floor to herself – I’m interpreting this as a loft or third floor with bedrooms. I am assuming there is no kitchen, etc.

      Maybe do likeOffice Sweater Lady said invite her to dinner a few nights a week. I’m sure evening can get quite lonely, especially with social distancing. Also do like Alison said, be direct. Maybe set up a schedule for her.

      1. mrs__peel*

        “In addition taking a walk is only 1-2 hours a day outside the house.”

        It’s also the worst part of the summer for being outside for prolonged periods! It’s 85-90 degrees here, and I can personally only manage about a 15 minute walk before I become a sweaty mess.

        1. a lot to think about*


          I was thinking more along the lines of it sounds like the nanny is stuck in the house most of the day with a toddler. Probably walks are the only time they get out of a confined area of the house, get fresh air, etc.

          I would of said the same if the nanny wanted to sit on the front porch or back patio for an hour.

      2. Sparrow*

        To be fair to the nanny, I don’t think you even need to be thinking of yourself as family to find yourself in this situation. Even thinking of herself as just a resident of the house (who probably doesn’t get to interact much with adult humans otherwise), I think could easily lead to her feeling ok lingering in common spaces as long as she’s largely butting out of family conversations. After all, this is the place she lives. OP should set some clearer expectations so the nanny isn’t guessing what is and isn’t ok, but OP should be reasonable, especially in the current circumstances.

        I like the idea of explicitly inviting her to join them a couple of nights a week, but I’d make sure to frame it as something non-obligatory, like, “We would like to have the kitchen to ourselves on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays from 7 to 9. If you are free on Tuesday or Thursday nights and feel like joining us while you eat your dinner, you are welcome to.”

    3. LizM*

      I don’t know what terms OP has set up around social distancing, but the people I know who have hired nannies in the last few months have often done so with explicit expectations that that person would social distance. If they expect the nanny to curtail her social interactions to maintain the family’s “bubble,” they need to acknowledge she doesn’t have a lot of opportunities for adult interactions.

      It seems like agreeing to 2-3 days a week where she can spend time with the family, while picking other evenings that are “family only” is a good compromise. You can’t expect the same level of distance between live in employees as you get with employees that go home at the end of the day. Especially if her living space isn’t a self-contained apartment.

      I have a young son, and the says I spend with him are wonderful, but I am exhausted and craving adult interaction by the end. If I had to go sit alone in my room afterwards or go for walks by myself, I would probably slip into a minor depression (but I’m not a child care professional, there’s a reason I didn’t choose that career path). I’m also not sure where OP lives, but in my neighborhood, by 8 at night, it’s getting dark enough that I wouldn’t be comfortable walking alone without a dog. I wonder if there’s time you can give her earlier in the day to get outside, if that’s a concern?

    4. LizM*

      I also think that OP can compromise a little bit, and not monopolize common areas for private conversations. If it’s truly a sensitive topic that she doesn’t want the nanny to overhear, she may want to remove herself to her bedroom or study. And let the nanny know ahead of time if they’re having houseguests and would like the common spaces to themselves, so she can make plans. It’s not at all unusual for our friends’ live in nannies to join in dinner parties after the kids have gone to bed.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Yes, sensitive financial discussions should happen in a closed bedroom. That’s the tiniest of minor concessions to having someone who lives with you in your house, meaning that the nanny’s entire living space is not really her own.

      2. jenkins*

        Yes – if you hire a live-in nanny, you effectively now have a housemate, and communal areas are, well, communal. Especially if she doesn’t have her own kitchen, of course she’ll need to use the shared one. When it was just family living there, the whole house was their private space, but that’s no longer the case. That’s what hiring someone to come and live there *means*.

    5. Alli525*

      Seriously – she didn’t JUST hire a nanny, she also acquired a roommate. This is the nanny’s HOME, even if it’s not quite as fully her home as it is her employers’. I also agree with everyone in the comments remarking on the nanny’s likely loneliness and isolation. Her employers are likely the only adults she spends time with on any sort of regular basis and I don’t think OP has internalized how hard that must be.

  6. Squeeble*

    My first thought–does Jane think that she needs to be available to help out while you’re having dinner? Does she assume she’s still on duty? Be clear about that, too.

    1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      We hired a new sitter recently and had to repeat several times that we didn’t want or need her to do dishes before she really believed us. We put it in our contract too. It’s so common for people to assume in-home childcare workers also do housework that the workers internalize it as part of their job or fear they’ll be fired if they don’t.

      LW, if you really want this line to be firmly drawn, don’t even ask your nanny to do the dishes from feeding your child. But more importantly, be clear about whether she should see you as a social outlet or not. It’s okay to say that you don’t want socializing to be part of your professional relationship, or that you’re happy to socialize with her on weekends but not weeknights, or whatever—but you have to address it explicitly.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        THis is a good point! On top of the other things mentioned here, a lot of us who have done this kind of job at one point or another have fallen into the trap of the employer saying, “oh, really, leave it, I’ll take care of that…” then being told later that we were slacking of or not doing the job because we were, “leaving all this behind for me to do.”

      2. Jasper*

        Also, if your contract prohibits here from having social interactions with others because covid? Then it is actually *not* ok to specify that she also gets no interaction with the employer, who are literally her only option for socializing.

      3. fhgwhgads*

        I’d even go as far as to say, if considering this type of arrangement in the future, these sort of details should be spelled out before someone accepts the gig. Then neither one would be doing all this guessing/talking past each other about this stuff. Too late with this nanny, but I think an important framing for OP to have in mind.

  7. Kaitlyn*

    I don’t mean to be snarky, but is the 10-minute kitchen cleanup you do something you can just…do? And then she’s not spinning out a 90-minute job, and you’ve got some privacy. It’s possible that she thinks that her cleaning = working (which it obviously does) and that she wants to be seen as always working if she’s around you. Let her off the hook, either by saying “It doesn’t matter if the kitchen is clean or not at 7 PM, that’s when we need the space back” and then actually be okay with doing that 10-minute job?

    1. The Grey Lady*

      OP said she’s fine with doing it, but it’s not unreasonable for OP to expect Jane to do the job she is paying her to do.

    2. DinoGirl*

      Yes, if this were me, I’d probably ask her to do whatever light leaning she can during the day and forego the evening kitchen clean up.

    3. valentine*

      is the 10-minute kitchen cleanup you do something you can just…do?
      I think there’s a lot unsaid here that, if said directly with specifics, would be a great relief to OP and possibly to the nanny (I’ll call her Alex) as well. It could be that OP is fine with Alex leaving the dishes but has not said they will do them before Alex enters the kitchen the next day. Meanwhile, Alex thinks that, despite any talk of “Don’t worry” or “You don’t have to,” if the dishes are there anytime between Kid’s bedtime and breakfast, OP wants her to do them. And if the contract says, “Alex will do Kid’s dishes x nights/week,” Alex may be worried OP plans to pay her less every time she doesn’t do those dishes. And are there pots and pans and she is also cleaning up mess or cleaning counters or floors? Maybe they are saying only “cleanup” and not specifically “doing Kid’s dishes,” which Alex thinks is closer to cleaning the entire kitchen. If no, I would think back on anything I might have said about “I love a clean kitchen in the morning” that Alex might have taken as a directive.

      If they haven’t already, OP should buy appliances and dining/living furniture worthy of the family area for Alex’s space, so that it’s perfectly reasonable to obligate her to stay out of the family space during evenings/weekends. Having a massive space may be useless to Alex if she can’t afford appliances/furniture or, when the job ends, would have to abandon them (no other living option or the alternative lacks space/security).

      And if OP/hubs have said Alex is family or they love her, that just adds to the murkiness. Imagine Alex’s POV: I’m family and they love me, but not after 7. I’m good enough for them to sit with, but not good enough for their friends.

      I don’t think OP should have to go to some other room for privacy, when talking things over during dinner in the open kitchen/dining area makes sense.

      1. Kaitlyn*

        Yeah, I think deciding between either a job-completion status (you work until the kitchen is clean of all dishes/kid’s dishes/dinner prep dishes/whatever) or an end time (you work until 7 PM/the parents sit down to eat), and then communicating that, would clear some of this up.

        It would also be helpful to come up with the three dine-together options (nanny assumes she can always eat with parents; nanny only eats with parents at their invitation; nanny can eat wherever she likes after she goes off work; nanny is expected to eat in her apartment unless she’s been invited ahead of time, etc), and communicating some kind of schedule/expectation around all of those.

  8. Just a thought*

    Are you and your husband the only adult contact she has? Anyone who has had the primary care responsibilities for an infant/toddler knows that you crave adult time, too. Maybe if you set up some breakfast dates or coffee breaks with her (when the spousal unit takes the child-care duties), she’ll back off at night?

    1. ABK*

      But that’s still very passive. This can be done ALONG with having a direct conversation about needing privacy.

  9. Jed Bartlet*

    Did she not sign some sort of contract when your hired her on? What does the contract say and how are the work hours arranged in the document?

    1. MayLou*

      I’ve been doing professional private childcare in one way or another for over a decade and have never had any kind of written contract, or anything in writing about my hours or responsibilities. Not to say that it wouldn’t be a good idea, but it is far from standard.

      1. valentine*

        have never had any kind of written contract, or anything in writing about my hours or responsibilities.
        *internal screaming* Ideally, you would also have your own lawyer to look it over.

        I’ve been wondering if there’s any oversight for live-in employees so they’re not working 24/7 during the pandemic.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          This is a situation where there’s even more of a power imbalance than your standard small employer setup. I’m shocked that people even thought to ask about an employment contract because I just assumed there’s not.

          I’m also [pleasantly] surprised some folks even pay payroll taxes for their live in employees.

          They’re certainly not tracking hours traditionally and are paid in such a way that room & board are considered compensation. So it’s such a weird section of employment that’s barely evolved passed indentured servitude.

      2. ampersand*

        It’s good practice, but yeah, it may not be standard. We have a contract with our nanny because I can’t imagine not having one, both for her and for us. We also do everything very above-board so that’s where everything re: pay rates, pay schedules, taxes, vacation/sick time, mileage, etc is. I don’t know how you’d communicate all that without a contract. I feel like it would be extremely piecemeal and something would be missed.

    2. Koala dreams*

      It’s possible it isn’t clearly written down, and they only realized the issue after the nanny moved in. I think it would be unusally detailed in a contract for a nanny, even in places where contracts are common, to write the exact times for access to the kitchen, doing laundry and how long time you should take doing the dishes. The overall working times could have been agreed up-front, but how long something really takes can be difficult to assess, especially with small children around.

  10. StillAtTheLake*

    If she doesn’t have a separate kitchen in her living space, consider purchasing a small refrigerator and microwave oven for her. That way she can have snacks without coming to the kitchen.

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      At 1500 sqft, I’d be shocked if the nanny’s space doesn’t have at least some sort of kitchenette situation going on.

      1. Caliente*

        Welll, depends – we have 4 floors and only one kitchen (on the ground floor) Each floor is about 1200 sq ft.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, the electrical and plumbing hookups often are ONLY on the ground floor and a spare “apartment” could be anything from a finished basement to an above-garage situation. Or maybe there’s a kitchen but no in-unit laundry.

      2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Getting construction permits for a second kitchen can be really hard, especially in the sort of neighborhoods that have large square foot houses. They want to prevent people from *gasp* renting *swoon* part of their homes out.

        1. Amy*

          Many municipalities have different rules if it’s not intended to be rented – for example a space for a mom/MIL, nanny, college student, au pair. This is often not considered a rental situation.

      3. Jasper*

        If it’s an apartment of that size, sure, but it isn’t, it’s just a section of the house they’ve cordoned off.

      4. Lavender Menace*

        Size =/= amenities. 1500 sq ft could be an entire house, a MIL suite, one floor of a giant house, a basement etc. Just because it’s large doesn’t mean it has a kitchen.

    2. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

      Can people please stop recommending this? A microwave and a mini fridge is in no way a replacement for a kitchen, and you’re doing a disservice to live in help suggesting it is, as some people are going to say “since you have it, you cannot use the kitchen at all.” The potential knock on effects, both in the cost of microwaveable/takeout food and how unhealthy can be long term, would make requiring someone to live on just those appliances inherently exploitative.

      The bigger issue in this case is that you have another adult who is signaling desperation for adult interaction, and if the Letter Writer is requiring them to isolate for the family’s safety, the letter writer has a moral and ethical obligation to provide some level of that, which they seem not to have realized

  11. AnonInTheCity*

    I might be making assumptions based on the fact that your nanny’s extra floor is twice the size of my entire house – but it sounds like your home is quite large? Is there not anywhere else you could go to have private conversations rather than the shared kitchen space? When you live with people, whether they are roommates or partners or employees, it you usually have to make some compromises about privacy.

    1. ThatGirl*

      You’re not wrong, but it’s also pretty normal for married couples to have private conversations over dinner. Certainly they could wait and discuss it elsewhere — but the large problem is that the LW wants to be able to talk openly in her own kitchen. I do think having dinner with the nanny 1-2x a week might be nice for some adult company for her, but that should ideally be talked out too and planned ahead of time.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Just to throw this into the conversation, I talked to my sister about this letter, since she had a long-term nanny for years (but not live-in) who is still close to their family (like seriously close, they socialize all the time and it’s been years since she worked for them, and my nieces now babysit for the nanny’s grandson). I liked her response, which was: “I think it’s okay to set boundaries. Having a live-in nanny doesn’t mean giving up all privacy, especially if the nanny has a 1500 square foot space of her own! The problem is that they haven’t told her directly what they want. If she was an au pair, that might be different, but a nanny is staff. Even if she becomes like a member of the family, like Alice on the Brady Bunch, Mr & Mrs Brady still should be able to have a private conversation over dinner.”

        1. Adrienne*

          I think that’s reasonable in normal times, however if the nanny is discouraged (or forbidden? in terms or something?) from having company or going out it becomes less reasonable. If she can’t see people outside the house, maybe one small concession toward her comfort could be having private conversations in a more private area than the kitchen or common-ish dining area?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, for sure! My sister also said, “One other thing to consider: Are they requiring that the nanny self-isolate from everyone else in her life? I’ve heard of families doing this. If that’s the case here, the nanny may be terribly lonely.”

            1. Adrienne*

              I’m in the DC area and that’s what I’ve been hearing. It’s something people contract for, so the expectations and boundaries are well defined which is great!!!…and then the realities of only interacting with your employer set into the grind aaaaand it’s a LOT of weight.

                1. TTDH*

                  Yeah… I really feel for the nanny here. There’s a tremendous power imbalance with in-home workers, and being in isolation only magnifies it. I doubt the LW realizes it but they’re being kind of cruel.

            2. Quill*

              Additionally, and not to harp too much on OP’s pandemic preparations: OP has admitted that they’ve had houseguests. OP is currently making decisions about the nanny’s exposure to external vectors of potential infection and the nanny can’t realistically do much but trust their judgement.

              OP also states that the reason they found a live-in nanny was because of Covid, so I’m assuming that they have some sort of agreement about where the nanny cannot go or how she can socialize… and also assuming that they have never had to negotiate this situation (with an employee who is also a housemate) before.

              OP and her husband may need to have a private (outside of the kitchen!) talk about the specific boundaries they want to enforce and also ensure that their pandemic agreement doesn’t effectively state that they can socialize however they deem safe and potentially expose the nanny to infection, but the nanny can neither socialize in person nor express discomfort with OP’s choice of quarantine exceptions.

              (Yes, the nanny is potentially exposed even if she spent the whole visit in her ‘apartment’ based on short term surface transmission and the shared ventilation system. Not to mention the kid as a potential vector of spit or unwashed hands.)

        2. ThatGirl*

          Good point! I agree, even within close families in the same house there can be an expectation of some privacy, after all.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Maybe OP’s home is large, maybe not.

      I have a 3 br ranch from 1970 that is a little over 2000 SF. The basement is also 2000 SF, and if we finished it, it would be a nice place for an apartment. However, the main floor living area isn’t that big for a family of 4, and we also have an open kitchen/LR area. The office is off the LR with glass french doors, so the only private room is our bedroom. It’s not big with a lounging area like new large houses have.

      1. Ash*

        A finished basement is counted for square footage. So your house is actually 4000 square feet. That’s huge. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that someone lives in a big house.

        1. Ash*

          Sorry, I see you said it was unfinished. Scratch what I said. I maintain that a 1500 foot *floor* means that the rest of the house is rather large.

          1. Else*

            It might be a finished attic. That’s a nice big space, and it must have a bathroom from the way she’s talking about it, but it doesn’t mean that the house is unusually large. Still, if she has a full bath in that extra floor, and she must, she can put in a fridge and microwave or toaster oven space.

            1. Jasper*

              This… what? You can’t put a microwave or toaster oven, let alone a fridge, in a bathroom. It’s ridiculously unsanitary, for one. I have my living space arranged that way, but the space does not include a toilet, just a bath, and it’s arranged that way by my choice in a house my family owns, not something an employer provides. It would not even be a little acceptable as facilities that an employer provides.

              It’s also not electrically safe.

              1. doreen*

                I don’t think Else meant to put the fridge, etc in the bathroom – just that if it’s finished enough to have a bathroom there are most likely electrical outlets , etc that would allow for a kitchenette somewhere in the space. It’s probably not a 1500 sq ft large space with single light fixture and no electric outlets or plumbing.

              2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                I think it would depend on the bathroom layout, although I agree with you in general. On the other hand, the master bedroom at my mom’s place has a small room with a toilet and shower, and then the sinks in the bedroom right outside of that bath, with the closet on the other side of the sinks. I’ve often thought that it would be easy to turn that closet into a kitchenette space that shared sinks with the bathroom space (there are two sinks, so the one closest to the new kitchenette space could be replaced with a kitchen or bar style sink, even).

          2. AnotherAlison*

            Yeah, I didn’t really make the point that I was trying to make. . .I often get distracted by my job while writing comments. Anyway, just trying to say, certain house layouts (like mine) are amenable to adding an apartment like the OP has for a live-in nanny, renter, or other out-of-family resident, but the house that’s left for the main family would still be small. 9x out of 10, I’m going to guess someone who can afford a live in nanny and has 1500 SF extra, probably does have a large house (15oo SF + 3500-4000 SF minimum, I’d guess), so overall, I’d agree with you.

            1. AnonInTheCity*

              It’s interesting how differently people perceive “small” when it comes to house size! It’s somewhat relevant to the letter writer since she may have a different expectation of how much space she needs in order to feel like she has privacy than someone else might. Your 2000 sq ft house sounds massive to me, but then again I once got into a conversation where someone was offended that I described my 860 sq ft house as “small.”

              1. AnotherAlison*

                I live in the fake country outside a pretty affluent suburb. A lot of people from the burbs want acreage, so they come out here and build a $500,000 huge house on 10 acres, and the all-in cost is $750k. People don’t pay $250k for a lot and then build a $250k house on it because they’re coming here from much larger houses in town, but my house is one of the original post-farmhouse homes out here and we were able to buy out of a short sale and do a gut remodel for a pretty good price.

              2. Liz*

                I know what you mean. Everything is relative. I’m from the UK and I live in a 3 bedroom house that is 650 square feet which I describe as spacious. In my 20s, I lived in a 4 bedroom shared house with 3 other people that totalled 750 square feet with one singular bathroom between us. To my British eyes, American houses are mind bogglingly huge. I wouldn’t know how to furnish one!

                1. Alex*

                  Tea room, TV room, movie room, sewing room, kinky room, … okay I’m running out of ideas here how to furnish a 4000sft place myself. ;)

                2. ThatGirl*

                  In my experience you can always find ways to fill a space – we moved from a 800 sf apartment (1 bd w/den) to a 1600 sf house (two stories, 3 beds, 2.5 baths) – it seemed huge at first, but after 9 years, while the smallest bedroom is just full of boxes and “stuff” we’ve had no problem filling the rest of the house.

                3. Doc in a Box*

                  I think even in the US it varies. When I was a student living in NYC, I shared an apartment that was technically 2 bedrooms but we had converted most of the living room into a 3rd bedroom. 600 square feet, one bathroom, three women (plus one of my roommate’s boyfriend was there about 75% of the time). It was a nightmare sometimes.

                  I now live alone in a 2 story, 1900 sqft house. One bedroom is still just boxes, another was converted into my home office (which has been a lifesaver with the pandemic). My parents live in a 3000 sqft place, which was fine when we were 6 people (parents, me and my brother, and one set of grandparents) but now it’s just the two of them and they just kind of rattle around in there.

              3. MayLou*

                My house is 400 sq ft, and I’d describe it as small but it’s also larger than my first two flats and just about the right size for me and my dog. Working from home and the pandemic has certainly tested that though!

                1. Jack Russell Terrier*

                  I know – I describe mum’s flat in London to my American friends as – small, with European size rooms but lovely and light. Every Brit comes in and says ‘isn’t it spacious’. It’s two bedroom, 636 sq ft.

              4. AnotherAlison*

                Y’all might find this amusing or disgusting. . .

                One of my more ridiculous neighbors has what’s easily a 1000 ft second house on their property. We thought it was a guest house. It’s actually a house for their cats. She raises exotic cats.

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  A barn would look more in place, actually. Nope, this is fully finished out like a house. It’s been on the news.

              5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                In terms of getting away from other people within a house, layout can matter as much as square footage, though. A lot of current American houses have this big open “great room” design where the kitchen is open to the living room is open to the dining room and the only private space is bedrooms and bathrooms. Even if that great room space is large enough to play soccer in, it doesn’t solve the problem of privacy for/from the nanny if it’s the only common area (although if her dedicated space is 1500 square feet, that should be more than large enough to have a seating/common area and such in assuming it’s furnished that way). I’ve seen several houses where the only doors on the main level are on bathrooms and closets, then upstairs is “officially” nothing but bathrooms and bedrooms (usually at least one is set up as an office or den).

                (I haaaaate that all of the public space in my house is this way, but at least it’s a small enough house that it doesn’t feel ridiculous. I’ll probably put in sliding doors between the living room and the dining room once the pandemic is over and I have company again, though, and add a door between the kitchen and the living room, so my house can have separate rooms even though that’s not trendy. I just need to make sure I’m not going to sell any time soon first since I’d have to tear it all out again.)

                1. Amy Sly*

                  The first move toward the “open living” concept was back in the Arts and Crafts movement (1900-1920). My first house (900 sq ft) was built in that style, and it originally had curtains in the archways between the foyer and living room, and the living room and dining room.

                  Instead of installing new doors, you could get ceiling-mounted curtain rods and hang curtains to easily convert the space from open to closed without massive cost. I have an archway between my new house’s living room and dining room where I plan to do the same thing. It’ll be less for privacy than for sound deadening; big rooms and hard floors make for a very echo-y space, and fabric helps absorb the sound.

  12. Archaeopteryx*

    Is she isolated from other friends outside contacts while you are having friends over to your house in the middle of a pandemic? I understand having a live in nanny if you have the means to do so, but it doesn’t seem very fair if she lives there but both doesn’t get to regularly have dinner with you guys and you guys are breaking social distancing yourselves.

    1. D3*

      I noticed that, too. Hire a nanny to live in to minimize exposure, expect privacy from said nanny who gets no other outside contact to protect you and the kids, HAVE FRIENDS OVER?
      Some serious side eye from me.
      I’d be hanging around hoping for adult connection too.

      1. Quill*

        Have friends over is where I figured OP was not fully taking into account their own pandemic plans.

        If I chose to have a friend over who has also been socially isolating, that’s my risk… if I had a roommate I’d have to take their comfort into account regardless of whether I was ALSO their employer.

      2. Rose*

        It doesn’t say in the letter that the nanny is not allowed to socialize with friends. It says she was hired due to covid. That could mean anything from all the daycares in a reasonable distance were closed to I don’t mind being exposed to one nanny but three teachers and twenty kids is too much.

    2. ThatGirl*

      It says the friends were there for a few days; I think as this drags on it is possible to have people who’ve been quarantining themselves over if you’re careful — but it would also be a kindness to the nanny to let her have someone she can include in their bubble sometimes, with some ground rules of course.

      1. Jasper*

        Except that’s not how quarantining works. No, you can’t safely have friends over just because they say they’re also careful. Even if everyone is careful, there is still spread. Because nobody is 100% safe. Every contact between unrelated groups doubles the size of the spread, including that one.

        1. jules*

          But social distancing isn’t quarantining; quarantines generally have an end date. Some people just cannot safely go for a year or more without in-person interaction and don’t have “approved” options available to them.

          1. Squirtle*

            It also depends on where the letter writer lives. The letter writer mentions having friends come to stay, so I wonder if they live in a place where social bubbling has been okayed by the powers that be. In Ontario, where I live, the government introduced the concept of ‘social bubbles’ of up to 10 people that you don’t have to social distance from, including people not in your household. People do have friends come over, and positive cases have continued to decline here since that policy was put in place.

            That said, social distancing rules are not the same everywhere, and if the nanny is working in a hard-hit area then she may have few options for socialization beyond her employers. (And while other alternatives are available, in my experience things like Zoom calls after the first month of lockdown just felt depressing, and were a poor substitute for in-person interaction.)

        2. ThatGirl*

          I should have put “quarantining” in quotes, people are using it in sort of a casual manner now. A true quarantine lasts a set amount of time and then is over. But if two households are both staying within their individual bubbles for, say, two weeks at a time and then have a visit, it’s pretty low risk. Yes, any time someone goes to the store or interacts with another human being that risk is raised somewhat, but as jules noted, it’s not really mentally/emotionally healthy to go an entire year or more without in-person interaction with loved ones. There are ways to see friends and/or family that are lowER risk, at least.

    3. anonymous 5*

      Yeah, thirding the agreement with this. I’d be pretty miffed if I were expected to isolate more stringently than my employer was willing to do themselves (and unable to speak up, because it’s my employer; and unable to get away, because it’s also my housing).

  13. Amy*

    I’d just handle the kid’s dinner dishes myself, especially if it only takes the LW 10 minutes and it’s taking 90 minutes and causing an issue.

    But I wouldn’t feel too bad about the weirdness – some of it is just baked into having a nanny. We’ve had a wonderful nanny for 2 years and I very quickly discovered that if there are dishes in the sink, she will do them. It makes me feel awkward to her scouring our Dutch oven from the night before. So I always make sure to have our sink empty and gleaming by 8AM on weekdays in a way I never did before we had a nanny.

    It’s just habit for me at this point and I prefer it to the alternative.

    1. Leona*

      Man, I wish you’d been my employer! Thanks for noticing when things like dishes magically disappear.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I might do them just because it bothered me to stand around with idle hands. I’m bored, there’s something to do, I’ll do it.

      I once cleaned off my cousin’s kitchen island because we’d been hanging out at his house for a few days, and I was getting stir-crazy just having conversations. And I wasn’t in charge of my own leisure, nor chores for myself. So I started putting things away.

      He and his wife invited me to stay with them instead of in a hotel and loaned me a car on a later trip, so I don’t think they were insulted. I have a feeling they knew what was going on.

  14. Julian*

    This is good advice! But: If I were Jane, doing this intimate kind of work in this isolating kind of circumstance… I’d be so lonely I too would probably– even without realizing it– lurk around other adults any chance I could get.

    I had a room mate who was a totally shut in until the moment I had my own friends over, and then he invited himself along. Was it annoying because he was otherwise bad at communicating about, well, dishes? Yeah a little. But I get it. Add the enormous weirdness of it being a job during a pandemic and… wow poor Jane.

    The advice here is good, but I have a feeling it won’t be *enough* to be straight forward. I hope Jane has non-kid, non-work friends she can distantly meet in a park nearby.

  15. Leona*

    Just wanted to say that as a former nanny/housekeeper/family chef, I’m glad someone wrote in with this question. It is indeed a delicate relationship that comes with all kinds of blurred personal/professional boundaries and I would so much rather this employer write in to AAM (and be open to advice) than simply commiserate or seek input from other wealthy friends who employ live-in help. Not to say that there aren’t great employers of nannies – just that it’s often a fairly homogeneous and occasionally sheltered group of people, and wealthy families should not be left alone to establish and reinforce professional norms and boundaries without outside input. Looking back on my experiences, I was young and had never navigated an employer relationship like that before, and with the added power dynamics of wealth and age, I didn’t feel comfortable questioning things or advocating for myself. I wish my employers had asked more questions of experts! Thanks for addressing this with grace, Alison.

    1. chips and dip*

      I’m with ya. I employ a part-time housekeeper and I feel weird if she’s there when I need to take a shower or do something else super personal. The longer I’ve known her, the less this stuff bothers me, but it’s definitely an adjustment to personal/professional boundaries. If I didn’t enjoy her company as a person I’m sure it would be even more uncomfortable.

      1. TootsNYC*

        we hired a contractor to redo our kitchen. Our co-op rules say one of us has to be home when he was here. Since DH was working from home, that was him.

        But one day that was me. I played on the computer all day while he was working. When DH found out, he thought that was “JUST WRONG!” He was really disappointed in me, that I’d been idle and at leisure while Kieran was working. But…what was I supposed to do? I wasn’t able to help.

        That discomfort with being idle while someone else is working is hard to get past. As is the idea of being occupied with your own life instead of “entertaining” whoever it is that’s in your home.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes, I know what you mean. I felt awkward to begin with having the cleaner in and not helping. Then I reminded myself that she’s there to do a job and isn’t likely to be unhappy that I’m leaving her to get on with it.

        1. tyrannosaurus vex*

          Yeah, like if a big Broadway producer last-minute hired a live-in nanny who was working in a bridal shop after being dumped. Imagine the hijinks!

          1. Mystery Bookworm*

            Wait, is that The Nanny? I was shade too young to watch when it aired. Worth checking out?

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              It’s on COZY TV and it’s garbage, don’t bother with it. I said it. Come for me, sitcom Gods!

              1. Jasper*

                The 90s was a different time. The average quality of TV was the same, but there was less of it, so it’s easier these days to fill out days with only the best of the best.

                Which is to say: it’s a nineties sitcom. It’s not a bad 90s sitcom — it’s not nearly as annoying as Full House or Home Improvement, to name a few Big Names (each with their own successful movie star spinoffs, even) — but… it’s a 90s sitcom. With all that that entails.

                1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                  This is fair, not much from the 90’s hold up to the test of time. But the sitcoms were painful in a lot of ways. It didn’t help that there’s a lot of racism and bigotry seriously ingrained in them, yikes! Not in that “we’re poking fun at racists, look at Archie Bunker” stuff, just straight up racists being treated like they’re totally respectable and great but “tragically flawed” characters.

                2. nonegiven*

                  What I liked about it was they had on Millie Helper from the Dick Van Dyke show to play the Nanny’s grandmother.

                1. Archaeopteryx*

                  (Or at the very least, the theme song for The Nanny is great. Bring back explanatory theme songs!)

  16. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    You know the saying “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean?” You can customize it for this particular situation. Try this on for size:

    “Before 7, time to clean. After 7, time to lean.”

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I do NOT know that saying….enlighten me. Perhaps it will explain why my office stays tidy & organized but my house does not. :D

      1. Kelly L.*

        It’s usually a smug thing people say to you in customer service jobs if they catch you taking a moment to breathe and relax when the rush lets up briefly. Generally followed by assigning you some random chore.

      2. Aurora Leigh*

        It’s very common from retail/fast food bosses — basically you better be working every minute of your shift even if there’s not customers to wait on.

        1. LizM*

          During my first job, my manager would sit in his truck in the parking lot across the street where he could see into the ice cream store where I worked. We couldn’t figure out how he always knew when to call in with random chores, and could somehow sense that brief window when a rush let up when we all needed a breath and some water. Until one day, someone saw him when she walked over the fast restaurant in the same parking lot during her break. It was super creepy, but at least we knew to look for his truck, and were able to figure out what parts of the store weren’t visible through the window.

      3. Threeve*

        “If there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean!” was my manager’s favorite phrase when I worked at a coffee shop when I was younger. And he meant it literally. No rest of any kind when you’re on the clock, not even briefly leaning against the counter when you’re behind the register and there’s a brief pause between rushes. It was awful.

      4. Archaeopteryx*

        Having worked retail in a very slow store and being forced to performatively clean shelves which were already immaculate, I’m verrrry familiar with that awful concept :)

  17. The Grey Lady*

    My sense is that Jane is taking her time with chores because she wants some adult company. Maybe OP could be clear about the rules like Alison said, but then schedule some time throughout the week where they allow Jane to do fun things with them. Maybe play a game, watch Netflix, talk about what great books you’ve been reading (I have no idea what Jane likes to do so, adjust as necessary…)

    1. Littorally*

      This is a great idea. If you build in time for Jane to explicitly be spending time with the family, that makes it easier to carve out the rest of the time as time for Jane to not be with the family.

    2. Alex*

      This is also the feeling I get – as long as she “cleans”, she can be near adults.

      As others have said, it does not sound like she has her own kitchen/laundry facilities (waiting in the kitchen for her laundry to finish, which implies that the laundry is NOT done in her space) – also, being expected to social distance EVEN FROM THE PEOPLE YOU LIVE WITH (being a live-in employee nonwithstanding), while they get to go out, and have friends over – sometimes for multiple days – would make me feel very alone and left out very quickly.

      It might not be my perogative to be included as a family member, but this is the reality of sharing a home together – especially if the accommodation is not a separate, fully equipped apartment that ideally has its own outside door (so you can have friends over too if you so desire).

    3. Actual Vampire*

      I wonder if LW would be ok with Jane hanging out watching TV in the living room or something while LW+partner eat dinner. That way, LW has some privacy, but Jane can get kind of a normal family-living-in-a-house experience (if that’s what she’s after) instead of feeling like she’s been banished to her room or told to take a hike (literally).

  18. Dust Bunny*

    I’m going to assume that Jane is social-distancing, so are you her only in-person social contact? Because the isolation is really kicking a lot of people’s butts right now. You have a spouse and children to share on your off time, but it sounds as though she doesn’t, and for some people Skype and the phone don’t really cut it. Being “put away” after dinner might be harder on her psychologically than you seem to have considered.

    It’s fair of you to set hours and then tell her she’s definitely off after X:00, so whatever she needs to get done while she’s on the clock needs to be completed by that time, but don’t be too cavalier about banishing her once you’re done with her, considering that she can’t safely go out and socialize with any of her own friends right now.

    1. Adrienne*

      yes. being ‘put away’. like a possession or a tool whose job is done.
      Thank you for that.

    2. Uranus Wars*

      I think that’s a bit of a stretch. The OP wouldn’t have written in and would have been harsher if she was of the “done with you, ta ta” mindset. This is a new situation for everyone involved…new and during a pandemic, when things are already stressful and lonely.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I don’t think that’s what OP is actually thinking, but it may be how the nanny feels if she’s chivvied out of the only part of the house that contains adults at 7 o’clock every day.

    3. blink14*

      Was going to make a similar comment. This is a really hard time for everyone, the OP and her husband may actually be the only in person, adult contact the nanny has on a regular basis.

      It sounds like firm rules weren’t set out from the beginning, and that is the mistake here. If the nanny has her own privates space that includes at least a kitchenette and a bathroom, you should be able to directly lay out the time you want her “off the clock” and designate certain spaces in the house for privacy after hours. If her laundry access is in the kitchen, then you’ll need to work around that, because if her free time to do her laundry is at night, and that’s the only laundry facility available, you can’t realistically expect her to never do laundry when you’re in the kitchen.

      That being said, if she doesn’t have a kitchenette at all or not one that meets her needs (a stove top instead of just a microwave, a realistic refrigerator size, a sink, etc) then you need to rejig your “private time” and use another room, because she will need to access the kitchen as a common space to prepare meals and eat there. I think you can specify that her kitchen tasks need to be complete by a certain time and anything left behind you’ll clean up, but you can’t really deny her access to food preparation or laundry.

      All this being said, it takes time to adjust to someone new living with you, whether that’s a friend, relative, or an employee. Maybe save private conversations for another space and use an office space or another room to discuss those items. It is inevitable that someone living with you and working in your home daily is going to hear about private matters and see more private parts of your life. If you can’t get used to that over time, perhaps the live in situation just isn’t for you, and that’s totally fine.

      1. Risha*

        “If you can’t get used to that over time, perhaps the live in situation just isn’t for you, and that’s totally fine.”

        Yes, I was thinking that too. Not that the OP can’t draw boundaries with someone that is their employee, but if you’re not comfortable with an employee sharing your private space at least some of the time than maybe having a live-in employee just… doesn’t work for you. I hate having non-family people in my home, which is why I’ve never tried to get so much as a weekly housecleaner, even though I hate cleaning and could afford it.

    4. Jennifer Thneed*

      Plus, the LW had outside people come to visit. Maybe Jane was nervous about being exposed to them? But she didn’t have a choice, did she?

      Is it usual for nannies to also do housework? I know that as a babysitter I never did housework.

  19. Quasi state worker*

    I do agree she might be wanting some adult time, and I’m also wondering if there are any cultural issues at play (it doesn’t say if they’re all the same cultural background), where the nanny has a different expectation about her relationship with the family. In any case, all the advice is good about clarifying the role.

  20. a lot to think about*

    OP just looking at your example of taking 90 minutes to do the dishes…. any chance this is a money thing? Is she paid hourly? Maybe she is milking this for all she can. As a live in during a pandemic this might be the only way she can make some extra money.

    Side note I did reply to someone’s thoughts above; my response is more along the lines of what I was thinking. Everyone keeps mentioning the 90 minutes and this came to mind

      1. a lot to think about*

        I was thinking hourly because OP said they hired her temporarily for during the pandemic.

        Admittedly I don’t know much about the nannying field so perhaps this is a straight salary position.

          1. a lot to think about*

            I stand corrected. As I said I don’t know much about nannying and earned pay. Thank you for clarifying for me.

  21. MarissaC*

    I’m wondering specifically about the line in the letter that says “We have asked her to have our child’s dinner ready at 6 pm and told her we would feed her.” I don’t think its at all a crazy interpretation of that statement for her to think “we would feed her” is an invitation to have dinner with you. You may need to clarify with her what you meant by that. If you meant you’d make a portion for her when making dinner for the two of you, but that she should eat that in her room, tell her. If you meant you’d buy groceries and she could take them to her space to make her own dinner, tell her that. She might just be hanging around waiting for dinner with you two and not wanting to be idle is taking a long time to clean.

      1. MarissaC*

        Ah, I am now seeing that that could mean have dinner prepped, but that actually giving it to the daughter will be their responsibility. That makes sense.

    1. CDel*

      I took that to mean the nanny would make the child’s dinner and the parents would than feed the child the dinner. Not that they would feed the nanny (although it’s not wild to think they would feed a live in nanny).

  22. Koala dreams*

    I think a clear conversation about expectations is the most important thing. For you, the kitchen is part of your private space, but for many people the kitchen is the central hub for socialization, and whether you like going on walks does not mean anything about how you see the kitchen. Also, the fact that it’s her workspace could make it harder for her to see the kitchen as a private space.

    I’m a bit confused about how you expect your nanny to eat and cook dinner, though. If she cooks for the child at six, and cleans up 10-20 minutes after that, and then at 7 you two eat dinner, and after that you have private conversations in the kitchen, there doesn’t seem to be any time for your nanny to use the kitchen for herself. If you expect the nanny to cook and eat her meals alone in another part of the house, that’s something to speak clearly about too. The same about the laundry. Arguments over laundry habits are a regular part of living with other people, but with only a few people living together you can probably find a compromise. A lot of people find laundry a touchy subject, but sometimes a short conversation can save a lot of awkward moments in the future.

    1. Not That Kind of Lawyer*

      This exactly. As I was reading, I kept thinking, “When can she cook her own meal? When and where can she eat her meals?” Many people eat dinner between 6 and 8 but it seems like she is either still working at shooed out after preparing the kid’s meal. The letter writer does not say if there is some sort of kitchen set-up on the nanny’s floor. Do all of her meals have to be microwaved?

    2. Batgirl*

      Yeah, I can really see myself making the same assumption as the nanny; that a kitchen is a public hang out area. In her shoes, I would assume that the OP’s private time with her husband would be in a TV room or a bedroom and that would take place after dinner. And if the private time coincided with dinner, that it would be coded more like a date, and I would be notified so I could plan on staying out of such a public, useful area. I would only share OPs automatic feelings of intrusion if this was a designated dining room, away from where OP does her laundry etc. Nevertheless I think a clear conversation resolves all how-to-household assumptions. Just tell her you want some alone time dining with your husband! It’s very reasonable! However do keep in mind that she may need kitchen access/company occasionally and go into the dialogue ready to listen to what she needs too.

  23. Green Door*

    It might help to frame it in the context of work-life balance. Start by explaining that you and Spouse find it important to have some private time after seven and you don’t want to be “on duty” as employers after than. By the same token, you want her to be able to fully unwind, to – so that’s why you’re insisting that her workday end at seven, even if the dishes aren’t done. Framing it as “W e need a hard stop to our day and you deserve the same” might help, especially if she doesn’t feel that she has permission to stop working. A lot of people do treat live-in help like they should always be on call. Maybe she’s assuming you’re the same?

    Also, I think it’s awesome that you’re asking how to facilitate this – there are so many horrible stories out there from nannies whose employers have ridiculous expectations, mostly wanting their nanny to be a 24/7 servant.

  24. Uranus Wars*

    Before I finished the second paragraph I thought This girl wants some adult interaction! and am glad Alison touched on that point. I completely understand boundaries getting blurred and finding a balance, but right now specifically she is trying to get used to living in a new place IN ADDITION TO living in a world where socializing is so hard.

  25. A penguin!*

    I didn’t see this come up in the comments, but if it’s just dinner you want private time for, tell her you’d like the kitchen from 7-8 (or whatever dinner takes for you) but she’s welcome after 8. Don’t try to banish her to her area from 7-morning if all you are really looking for is an hour or so.

  26. nnn*

    It might be useful for LW to mentally work through a few scenarios about private conversations.

    For example, suppose you kid was a teen or young adult, and you wanted to have a private conversation with your friends away from the kid. How would you handle that?

    Suppose your friends were staying over and you wanted a private conversation with your spouse. How would you handle that?

    Suppose you wanted to have a private conversation with another household member away from your spouse. How would that play out?

    Obviously, none of these dynamics are identical to the dynamic with your nanny, but it might give you some insight.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      That’s a great suggestion. It’s useful for both now and the future, because this will definitely come up again once the little one gets older.

      Some family friends of ours have a policy where if the bedroom door is shut, you only knock for emergencies like bleeding etc. They have enough space where they set up two comfy chairs at the foot of their bed so they can relax and have some quiet time throughout the day. That’s where they go when they need to have important conversations, decompress, or just talk after a long stressful day. Common spaces are fair game at all times of the day, since it’s hard to keep people out of them. Would that be an option, OP?

  27. Jennifer*

    You could just wash the dishes. Sounds like it’s just a few pots and pans since they are only used to cook a child’s meal. If she’s kind of new, it’s possible that she just wants to make sure everything is done to your standard of cleanliness and once she’s been there a while she’ll relax.

    Also, if she does not have a private kitchen, even if you have guests, you may need to be a bit more flexible about her coming down for a snack or a glass of water in the evening.

    I echo the sentiment that she may just be desperate for adult company and that’s why she drags out washing dishes. Maybe you can invite her to have dinner with you a few times a week – being completely clear about the fact that she is free to decline.

  28. Veryanon*

    The letter didn’t specify if the nanny had her own laundry/kitchen facilities in her apartment, so if that’s not the case, it’s not really reasonable for her not to be able to access the house facilities after 7pm. Is there any reason why LW and her spouse can’t have their private conversations elsewhere in the home? It sounds like they have a pretty large house. Just a thought.

  29. Alex*

    Telling her “you aren’t on the clock, no need to be around!” is wildly different from “we want you out of sight.” It seems like you want to say the former, but communicate the latter. Especially during times when her finding activities to do outside of the house is difficult, I don’t think there is a way to make her stay in her own space without it feeling at least a little bit like she is being grounded, no matter how large that space is.

    I don’t think that it would naturally occur to someone who has been invited to live in the home of someone else that they couldn’t be in typical common areas after a certain time. If that is the expectation, definitely communicate it gently but directly, acknowledge the awkwardness of it, and maybe ask her if there is anything you can do to her space to make it feel more welcoming and comfortable. Does she have a kitchenette? Fridge? Comfortable sitting area? Space where she could invite a friend? (And if she is not allowed to have any friends over, which is understandable given the circumstances, you are literally asking her to sit alone in a room for 12 hours every day so that you can hang with friends and family, so really think about what you are asking of her.)

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Especially during times when her finding activities to do outside of the house is difficult, I don’t think there is a way to make her stay in her own space without it feeling at least a little bit like she is being grounded, no matter how large that space is.

      Actually I disagree. She an employee who works XX hours in the family home. When nanny is off the clock, she has her own 15oo sq ft floor. You can ask her to go to her personal floor and give the family privacy. It’s not she’s limited to a single room. She must have a bedroom, bathroom, and some sort of living room area in 1500 sq ft. Hopefully she has some sort of kitchen, fridge, microwave, and if that’s not the case that would be nice to set up.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        In normal times, you would be correct. In a pandemic, when this nanny was specifically hired to be the person that has no human interaction with anyone outside the family, it would be pretty inhumane tbh, to then forbid her the contact with the family too, lest she forget her station or something. I assume that was an oversight on OP’s part, but I admit I don’t like it how you are making a rule out of it. Last but not least, Jane is not an indentured servant, and if she finds the requirement of “no human interaction other than our kid” impossible to follow, she will leave and OP will start at square one with their search. I assume no one wants that.

      2. Clisby*

        In normal times, I would agree – but if I had a live-in nanny during normal times, she’d be able to socialize with other people during her off-the-clock time. If I were asking her to refrain from doing that because of Covid-19, I’d think it was reasonable to include her in at least some family activities.

  30. Alia*

    Two months ago we hired a live-in helper due to covid19. Our house isn’t huge like yours but the “apartment” is accessed via the back garden gate and the garage door so she can come and go with freedom without disrupting the rest of the household and using the main door. Internally her “apartment” is accessed via a side door to the kitchen, which we installed a lock for “her side” so she feels secure that no one will invade her space in her private time, but also we put a latch lock on “our” side of the kitchen door and when we did a walk thru of the house on her first day we told her that we flip the latch at 8.30pm because the kids would be excited to having her and would bug her all night, which was an indirect way of saying have your dinner etc before then. Every night we call out thru the kitchen door “have a good night, do you need anything?” and flip the latch. Also she has a mini fridge in her apartment so she can have her personal snacks and drinks any time. She has her own TV with cable and internet. For privacy we use the study room for any serious financial chats, because any where else the kids would intrude, and we have our own TV room. The only other adjustment I’ve made has been to lock my walk-in closet to avoid any temptations.

    1. Alia*

      Oh, I should add she isnt on lock down, her sister visits every wednesday evening and rest of the week one of her adult kids usually stop by after work…we dont even see them because like I said she has her private entrance and living space.

      1. Alex*

        I think honestly this is the only way that “live-in” can actually work. Either you have someone you feel comfortable to be with around like if they are family – or you have to have 100% separate “you” and “me” spaces. Compare it to Homeoffice where a lot of people struggle when they can’t separate their “office” from their “living space” – same concept, but with people.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I would bet that Jane doesn’t have access to her own mini fridge, and she certainly doesn’t have access to her own laundry facilities, so blocking her access to the house wouldn’t work for this OP. I also find the idea of “flipping the latch, bye bye” kind of off-putting, but I don’t have a nanny (or a house or kids, for that matter). The one thing in your comment I would recommend the LW taking to heart is having very private conversations in a different room than the kitchen.

      Do you really think your live-in would be that tempted by your closet?

      1. Alia*

        Yeah, I can see how on paper “flipping the latch” sounds off, but my kids are 3 and 6 and they crawl all over her because she is very loving and an absolute darling, so in real life its like us saving her from our little sticky gremlins, they usually protest “but I wanna stay with her” lol….And I dont have any designer clothes or bags, sighs I wish but no, my closet is where we keep our prescription drugs, passports etc and some cash and foreign currency, clearly not a suitcase of money but its a temptation nonetheless.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          If you think your nanny would be tempted by your prescription drugs or your passports, then she shouldn’t be your nanny. I mean, that’s pretty strange to me. When people come into my home for whatever reason– friends, maintenance, pest control– I expect them to leave my passport (!) and my drugs alone. And if they don’t, then they’re not coming back.

          1. UKDancer*

            I think it’s possible to trust people but better not to put temptation in their way.

            I trust my cleaner to clean my flat but I don’t leave my jewelry or money out because I don’t think it’s fair to tempt someone by leaving valuables in plain sight.

          2. MicroManagered*

            I have a friend stay overnight as a pet-sitter a couple times a year (closest I can get to this conversation) and though I trust her, there are still a few private things I lock up whens she’s coming.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          If you don’t trust her not to be tempted by theft and drugs, she’s not the right person to be watching your kids. Unless you’re equally suspicious of your friends when they come over, it might be worth examining whether this is some kind of class bias.

        3. blackcat*

          You should lock up prescriptions with a 3 and 6yo anyways. Buy a small fireproof safe–they’re not that pricey!–and lock stuff up in there. That’s what I do. Lock is mostly to keep the kid out of meds. I bought it before he was born, though, after a neighbors house burned down and all their vital docs were in such a box and were totally fine.

      2. Former Retail Manager*

        Yes, I’m dying to know if the live-in would be tempted as well. Really, unless you are the same dress size/shoe size, what would she take? Handbags maybe? But that seems like an odd thing to be concerned about. I trust you to be my child’s caretaker on a full time basis, but don’t touch my clothes/shoes/handbags?

        If your nanny has an interest in fashion, and has been with you for a period of time and you value her, perhaps you could buy her a really nice handbag/outfit/pair of shoes for the next big holiday? Just a thought.

      3. boo bot*

        Yeah, I found that off-putting as well. I think it’s partly the framing of, “oh, it’s just cause the kids love you so much!” when it’s clearly because they don’t want her in their house past 8:30 – it’s kind of patronizing, and I’m sure she’s fully aware of the real reason.

        That said, I do think Jane should have a mini fridge, microwave, TV, and whatever else the OP can reasonably get for her (if she doesn’t already). It’s not an excuse to block her from the common areas, but it will probably just make her feel more settled to have some basics in her own space.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          It doesn’t even make any sense! How is locking her out of the house protecting her from their children? Isn’t that what the lock on *her* side of the door would do???

      4. Emilia Bedelia*

        It’s not just about temptation, it’s about removing any potential doubts as well, which is good from the nanny’s perspective too. Any thoughts like “Hmm, I really thought I had $200 in cash, not $150…” or “Where did that nice cashmere sweater get to, anyway?” or “Did I forget my Vyvanse somewhere?” are never followed up with “… what about the nanny?” If I were a nanny, I’d probably be more comfortable knowing that all valuables are locked up, because if something happens when I am there, I’m automatically under suspicion.
        Especially if you have only known someone for 2 months, it is okay to have boundaries in your own home as long as you are respectful about them.

        1. thatoneoverthere*

          I get this as well. My friend had a lot of cash go missing. They weren’t sure if they misplaced it or if the cleaning people stole it (they were the only ones in and out of the house). So they fired the cleaning company. A few weeks later they found the cash behind something. Had they put in in a safe they wouldn’t have been in that situation.

    3. XYZ*

      This is, wow.

      It is completely unreasonable to lock someone out of part of a house during certain hours of the day. I can’t imagine any scenario where that would pass any sort of fire code inspection, and if I was your live-in that alone would have made me run not walk away from this situation. You put a lock on her side of the door, which, if the concern actually is the kids disturbing her (which it most certainly is not), she can lock them out if she feels the need. She has a refrigerator, but not any way to cook food. What if she has cause to have something hot to eat in the middle of the night. What if there is a plumbing issue in her bathroom and she needs to use the guest bath until it is fixed. I assume she has a key to the front door of your house, so nothing is really stopping her from exiting her private entrance and coming in through the main entrance if it was absolutely necessary. And that’s all without addressing the most pertinent issue, which is that if there was a fire in her portion of the house that cut off her only exit, the rest of your family would be able to safely exit the building while she was doomed to die in the fire. I cannot believe anyone is actually okay with this arrangement.

      **Last, but not least, you trust this person with your children but not the contents of your walk-in closet? Seriously?

        1. XYZ*

          I’m just saying that this has the potential to run afoul of a plethora of local laws and ordinances. It would be prudent for you to have the situation inspected by the fire marshal and make sure it is up to code, and familiarize yourself with any landlord-tenant laws about what is considered a common area in your jurisdiction and what, if any, areas of the house can be locked from either side for privacy. If you and/or she really feels the need to have a locked door between the main part of the house and her space, it should work like any landlord/tenant situation does and lock either only from her side, or from both sides with both parties having the ability to unlock it as needed, and you following the typical landlord process of needing to gain permission to enter unless there is an emergency. I.E., have one of those locks that is keyed on both sides and put your key up for use in emergency only so that your kids can’t disturb her when she’s in her off hours.

          The OP would do well to familiarize herself with her local laws also. If that 1500 square foot floor does not have a kitchen, there is a good chance she cannot bar her nanny/tenant from access to it at any time of the day.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          “What if this person needs to eat food or use the bathroom” are not exactly wild “what if ” speculations…

      1. Colette*

        I have a door at the top of my basement stairs. I could lock it and there would still be access to outside from the basement (windows and the back door). Most people don’t cook in the middle of the night. And presumably if there was a plumbing issue in the bathroom they would make other arrangements. (They’re her landlords; she’d have to tell them anyway.) This doesn’t seem outrageous to me.

      2. New guy here*

        The way I read this is that she has two doors: door from apartment to outside and door from apartment to main house. So she would not be locked in in case of fire and she can have guests over without going through main house.
        Only problem is cooking food but if she needed to cook something would she just say it? Or are you talking about sudden middle of the night food cooking?

        1. Monty*

          The argument is that if there were a fire between her sleeping area and the front door of her suite, she’d have no way of escaping– unless she jumped out of a window I guess. Most legal apartments require two doors so tenants can’t be cut off from escape in an emergency.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            I’ve never lived in an apartment with two exit doors, including in large apartment complexes, so this is probably a regional thing. (These apartments certainly had openable windows in the bedrooms and such, so there were additional ways out in case of a fire, but only one door for non-emergency use.)

            1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

              It’s a thing in two-floor apartments/maisonettes that are in mid-rises or high-rises – an upstairs bedroom will often have a door that opens into a hallway the same way the front door downstairs does. Even if you’re somewhere where legal apartments don’t normally require two doors the two-floor units will often have them.

              1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                Makes sense. The only two floor apartments that I’ve ever rented or visited have been “townhouse style” with a front door on the exterior and the apartment running the full depth of the building with other units attached on the sides rather than as part of a larger building with interior halls, so I can see why if the upper floor had a hallway to connect to (rather than just being windows to the outside on the front and back) you’d want an egress there.

    4. Jaybeetee*

      You may want to look into fire codes here. I understand she has another exit and isn’t literally “locked in” at night, but if there was some emergency and she couldn’t get out the other door, that could get dire fast.

      1. juliebulie*

        There is a lock on the nanny’s side too; so if the family’s usual egress were blocked/on fire, they would have to count on the nanny unlatching her side of the door before running out (assuming she locks it).

      2. Arielle*

        Yes, I don’t know if this is universal but here you have to have two paths of egress from a dwelling. My last apartment was a mother-in-law apartment on top of a larger house, and our second egress was actually a door that led into the landlord’s house so we could go out their front door in case of fire. Because it was a fire exit, they couldn’t lock it, so they put an alarm on it that would go off if the door was opened.

      3. Alia*

        She has two exit doors and her bathroom window is large enough to climb out. She has a fire extinguisher by her front door. The apartment was viewed in advance and vetted by the agency that recruited her. They were impressed with the living arrangements and the three candidates we interviewed were very excited with their prospective apartment.
        May I ask everyone to redirect their attention to the OP’s concerns, my nanny and I are Absolutely Happy with our arrangement and Have Zero Concerns. This post is not about my nanny. Thank you.

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          Just do remember that domestic workers are not in a position to speak truth to power, and the agency was trying to sell you something. Your nanny apartment might be amazing – a place you would gladly live yourself, I’m sure – but job-seekers, your servant, and an agency are not good evidence for this.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          You brought your nanny up, so let’s not start getting all salty when people want to continue to discuss your arrangements with her. Also LMFAO @ the assumption she’s happy because we all know nanny’s are going to really blather on about their employers where their employers would ever know about it. Yay you have better living quarters than others, you still lock someone out of the house like putting a dog in a crate “but he has a doggy door in case he needs to potty or get a snack!” nonsense.

          1. IrishMN*

            Agreed. The whole locking the nanny out of their portion of the home “for her own convenience” is disingenuous and frankly offensive; the nanny knows full well what is going on here. If it bothers her she sure as heck isn’t going to tell her employer. Domestic help has almost no legal protections and are often exploited and poorly paid. These are not people who are going to rock the boat.

        3. nom de plume*

          You really can’t speak for your nanny here, Alia. There are really bothersome aspects to what you describe – shooing her out by 8:30pm, viewing her as a potential thief – that, honestly, come across as very high-handed and imperious.

          Maybe take this as an opportunity to re-evaluate how you approach your employing situation.

  31. Not A Manager*

    I didn’t have time to read all the comments, so maybe this has been said. I think you need to have an explicit conversation with her about her own needs. Express to her that you know it’s difficult to be social distancing in someone else’s house, and ask what would help make that easier for her.

    If she doesn’t have good internet and a screen in her own space, I think that’s essential. People have mentioned kitchen facilities as well.

    But I also think you need to carve out some time for her to interact with your family as a member of the household – if she wants that. Why don’t you offer twice a week “family meals” with your toddler and the nanny, where you all eat at the table, and all clean up? That gives you a good transition to “thank you and goodnight” when cleanup is over. During those meals, be sure to talk to her as a person about her life and interests.

    Also be sure to make some time for “adult conversation” between you and the nanny, or between you and your husband and the nanny. It doesn’t need to be formalized, but be sure that you are interacting with her specifically as an adult individual at times.

    I think if you do these things, you will find it easier to enforce private time/private space for you and your husband.

  32. IL JimP*

    I know it’s not the most important thing here but wow how much water is she using to wash dishes every night? I assume you have a dishwasher why isn’t she using that?

    1. juliebulie*

      There are a great many things that are too large or too delicate to put in the dishwasher.

      A 90-min dishwashing session doesn’t have to use any more water than a 10-min dishwashing session. You fill the both sides of the sink with water. Wash fast or wash slow in the soapy water on the left side. Put them in the clean water on the right side.

      What really takes a while, if you want to stall, is drying the dishes.

  33. Kate*

    Honestly, you may just find that while a live-in nanny arrangement is convenient, it also might not be for you. That’s okay!

    I hired a live in nanny to take care of my daughter a couple years ago. It only lasted a couple of months— not because the baby wasn’t great (she was!) but because the level of personal interaction required of me after a long day at work just wasn’t for me (let’s be honest: I wanted to be able to sit on my couch in my pjs and eat ice cream without feeling like someone was judging me!)

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      We’re interviewing now for a part-time nanny/babysitter so that we can continue to both work full time when distance learning starts up again, and I’m dreading it for this reason. I just don’t want someone else in my space that much! And I’ll be upstairs working most of the time the person is here! But I know I’ll end up feeling like I have to keep a certainly level of tidiness in the house, keep the fridge more organized, etc. Ugh.

      Sadly, we don’t have any other good options (we have bad options, like paying to send the kids to a distance learning pod that will inevitably have long quarantine closures periodically, trying to shift our work hours drastically and burn the candle at both ends, or one of us quitting).

      1. Emily Elizabeth*

        Some thoughts as a former nanny and babysitter – I have never cared at all how tidy a house or fridge was, as long as (a) I could easily access/find the kids’ stuff (clothes, lunch, craft materials, etc) and (b) it was explicitly communicated what was and was not my job to tidy. As long as I knew the parents weren’t passive-aggressively leaving all the cleaning to me in the morning, and that they genuinely expected me to play with the kids and leave the non-kid mess alone, there was no house judgement whatsoever! I know it’s a strange dynamic to not play host like you usually would with someone in your home, but a regular nanny understands this is your house and normal life. Also, just a quick two cents from my experience as you transition into this new, strange arrangement: if you’re working from home, as much as your job/situation allows, try to clearly delineate “work” time from “home” time and sequester yourself in the house accordingly. I swore off nannying for work-from-home parents for a while because it’s extremely difficult to do a babysitting job well if the kids think their parent is accessible. Especially if the kids are reinforced that their parent can become accessible if they throw a fit big enough to rouse their parent out of the office to comfort them… Do thorough screening of your hire and then trust them to do their job independently, and make that expectation clear to your kids as well. Best of luck and sending you good thoughts for this crazy, terrible school year!

    2. HR- Downton Abbey*

      Never had need to consider the benefit hiring a live-in. Now seeing the burden?
      Aw hell no!

  34. AnonEngineer*

    Frankly, your lucky she is doing any cleaning at all. In the UK the best recognised nanny training institution is Norland College. Their training is clear that their job is childcare and any domestic work not directly connected is not their job. Theer are stories of Norland Nannies washing up their tea mug and putting it away, but ignoring all the other pending washing-up. The Norland Newly Qualified Nanny emplyment guide ( is explicit.

    In any case, putting the expectations of youselves and your employee in an agreement would be sensible.

    1. YoungTen*

      If you can afford a nanny, then you can afford a housekeeper. If you can’t, then chose one but its not an all in one. “No maid of all work” here, Love it!

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        The typical phrase I see in ads for nannies is “light housework.” I think it’s often reasonable to ask that if the nanny is feeding the kids lunch, that the nanny makes sure the lunch dishes end up in the dishwasher, and that a nanny ensures that the kid’s toys don’t totally take over, etc.

        Folding the kids’ laundry is questionable – might depend on whether you’re talking about an infant who takes long naps. Heavy-duty cleaning is definitely over the line and not appropriate.

    2. Amy*

      This is domestic work directly connected to the their childcare job. It’s the child’s dishes and those used to cook the child’s meal. It’s not the dishes from the parents’ meal.

      This arrangement is pretty standard.

      1. LITJess*

        Yeah, but I’m beginning to wonder how long Jane’s days are. Like is she starting at 8am or earlier and “on the clock” until 6pm? And if so, is OP paying her overtime?

        I think it’s reasonable to ask her to clean up after the child/help the child clean up after herself during the day, but maybe just tell her to leave the dinner dishes to the family.

    3. LizM*

      The arrangement I’m most familiar with is that the nanny is responsible for light housework related to care of the child. So tidying after the child, cooking meals for the child and cleaning up after those, sometimes doing a load of the child’s laundry. A nanny should not be doing general household chores or cleaning. And if the nanny must choose, they should choose caregiving for the child over any housework at all.

  35. Person from the Resume*

    I feel for this LW. I live alone during the pandemic, and I’m doing okay. I fully understand wanting family time, and the nanny is not family. It’s pretty weird to have your employee hanging out with you off the clock when you want private time. It’s possible that the nanny is expecting a different relationship to her employers than the LW so that’s why having the explicit conversation that AAM outlined is important.

    I hear EVERYONE saying maybe the nanny wants adult conversation, but it’s not something she should look to her employer for. They should not be her friends that hang out together after work. The nanny needs to look to her own friends for adult conversation; they should be available by phone, text, video call, zoom for her adult conversations after work even if location or quarantining does not allow physical meetings.

    * I am assuming the 1500 sq ft apartment has a kitchen; although, no washer/dryer. Honestly you don’t have to sit next to your clothes and watch the washer/dryer in a private home so the description of that scene really reads as the nanny wanting company when the LW wanted privacy.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      But the nanny presumably doesn’t have direct access to friends and relatives of her own. The LW has her spouse and kids, the nanny has . . . Skype. It’s not really the same thing. And that’s from me, who is a natural hermit and probably handling all this far better than most people. If you can feel for the LW on these grounds you should be able to feel for the nanny two or three times over.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      While normally this is all true, I agree with comments above that given the pandemic, “usual” rules might be bent a little.

      I also live alone, and during the high point of the lockdown (we’re well into reopening in my country now) I kept in touch with family and friends via various online means (I also have an extremely independent job that I’ve been doing from home, so little to no social interaction there either). I’m personally introverted enough that I could deal, but even then it was tough at times, especially on weekends when I had more downtime. If Jane is more extroverted and is limited to online socializing, it might be a great temptation for her to see these people everyday that she’s presumably friendly with – but not speak to them beyond a minute or two. Not necessarily that she’s deliberately seeking them out for conversation or companionship, but it might be akin to… someone on a diet having to sit next to chocolate cake everyday without touching.

      All this doesn’t mean that LW needs to invite Jane to pull up a chair every night, but if they are the only people she’s seeing IRL, it might be a kindness to invite her to join some activity once or twice a week.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Eh, I disagree about the washer/dryer thing. If the washer/dryer is on a different level and the nanny doesn’t feel like schlepping back and forth between cycles, especially after schlepping kids all day, then she should be allowed to hang out in the kitchen while she’s waiting for the laundry to be done. Note that she’s in the kitchen, not the living room or family area. Even if it’s an open floor plan, that’s a clear sign that the nanny does feel a sense of boundary between herself and the family, it’s just not what the LW wants.

      I think the LW has to make some adjustments to her expectations in addition to being clear about what she wants.

    4. Koala dreams*

      The washing machine isn’t in the nanny’s private home, though. It’s quite normal to stay close by with a shared washing machine, in a way you wouldn’t do if it were your private washing machine.

      As for the weirdness, well, the whole situation is weird. That’s part of the package. Negotiating those boundaries is necessary. You can’t rely on norms for other types of work.

    5. D3*

      Under normal conditions, absolutely. But remember, they wanted a live in nanny so that they had someone who was NOT going anywhere or doing anything else. If you expect your nanny to isolate themselves for your family’s protection, you are going to have to expect that when you draw an unusual boundary, the relationship is going to be unusual.
      These are unusual times, and expecting a nanny to forgo her social life for your family is an unusual ask. So yeah, that’s going to make for unusual situations.
      IMO, the nanny hanging around is not the boundary crossing. It’s the consequence/result of the overreach ask.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        “You need to stay away from your friends and family so there’s no risk of infecting our child. But we’re going to have our friends stay over!”

        Quite frankly I’m not surprised the nanny is confused. I am.

      2. Perpal*

        IDK there’s a lot of assumptions; like that nanny has to isolate vs nanny was hired because schools are closed due to COVID; this later was my first read on the letter. We really don’t know the full scope of the situation and there are a lot of very charitable guesses and a lot of very non-charitable guesses.
        — agree it doesn’t make sense to ask nanny to hard isolate and not socialize with them, if that’s even what is happening.
        — but agree that it is USUALLY not an employers responsibility to provide socialization to employees outside of work (and this goes hand in hand with employer shouldn’t control what employee does outside of work except in a few specific cases where it impacts work somehow more directly). With COVID, employers are usually asking employees to take precautions, wear masks, but never to “be at work and only at work, see no one else ever”

    6. Beth*

      I think this really depends on why they’re hiring a live-in nanny. If they’re just looking for reliable childcare while schools are closed, and are okay with her seeing friends and family in her off time as an employee would usually be able to, then yes, as a rule she shouldn’t be looking to her employer to meet her social needs. But if they’re asking her to live-in to minimize covid exposure, and are asking her to isolate from friends and family even in her off time as part of that… in that case I think they really should be providing a social outlet for her, since they’re asking her to give up other in-person options. Asking her to stay isolated from out-of-home social life AND not join in any adult socializing in-home would be both kind of cruel and likely unsustainable for her.

    7. Batgirl*

      Maybe she should not…..but I think if you want to retain someone who your kid likes, you’ve gotta consider their happiness.
      Particularly since this nanny isn’t a socially chatty succubus whom it would be a drain to accommodate (I’m an introvert; don’t talk to me when I’m tired). She’s just someone who ventures into a public area occasionally to be around other people. She’d be likely to time that better if she knew it was wanted. It’s a totally easy, laidback need for OP to accommodate.

  36. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    Jane is lovely and good employee and generally good person. She also knows what she is doing. She is ignoring your hints because she wants to be with your family. Maybe she’s lonely, maybe she’s nosey, maybe she finds you like her own reality TV or thinks she is a suburban Jane Goodall. For whatever reason, she is choosing to be around when you don’t want her to be.
    So your question of “how do I make her do something that she doesn’t want to do,” is to tell her.
    The rest of the question, “and have her be happy about it,” just won’t happen.
    But her being a little unhappy and you being a little uncomfortable is better than you being miserable and blowing up the situation.
    Think about the suggestions others made about shared time. Maybe one meal a week. Maybe one evening a week you can include her. Like Alison writes, the cost of doing business. If she were allergic to milk, you’d buy soy milk, because she lives there. She needs adult interaction sometimes. You can treat that like a responsibility, too.

    1. wittyrepartee*

      She may not actually know what she’s doing. Particularly if she’s from a different culture than the letter writer. Signals about other people wanting you to leave a room, or particular conversations being in appropriate for the nanny to hear are super super family and culturally contextual.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        I replied to this, but I don’t see it. If it’s somewhere else, apologies for the double post. Anyway, very good point. It will depend on your own cultural experiences. Growing up in a house with 8 people v my best friend who was an only child, there were definitely times that we each found the other’s sense of “normal interaction” to be very, very different!

  37. Laura H.*

    It’s your house, but the kitchen is often a semi-public space in any home. Is that your best space for a private conversation? I’d honestly reevaluate that location. Also maybe developing a “quitting time”signal which you and Jane are both agreeable to. Make time to give Jane some time with you and spouse if you’re the only other adults she has contact with, and please ensure she knows that she can ask for that sometimes, and that there’s no guarantee of a yes.

    Be courteous to Jane and to yourself- direct doesn’t equal mean. Sometimes we get the hints. Other times, a firm, courteous, direct reminder helps.

    Best of luck OP. :)

    1. juliebulie*

      When I was a kid, we never had Serious Private Talks in the kitchen/dining rooms. It might be in a bedroom, a living room, or family room, sometimes even the bathroom, but never there. The reasoning being that no one feels like eating in a room where they’ve recently had a miserable conversation.

      1. Laura H.*

        That’s also a fair point. I recall the same thing- unless it was something that ABSOLUTELY had to be addressed in that moment- like don’t touch the oven/ stove/ stuff on or in them.

        But that’s more parent to child rather than spouse to spouse- so that also affects the dynamic.

        I’ll admit to being kinda nosy, but I like to think I’ve gotten better about it, and just cause I hear something doesn’t mean I put it to memory. Knowing when to brain dump stuff is crucial in any sort of scenario where you’re dealing with other people.

  38. raincoaster*

    Having been a live-in nanny, I have to say she sounds like someone who just likes to hang out where people are. Being specific about alone time will help. If she starts to develop local friends or hobbies that can help too. But with lockdown we are all somewhat starved for human companionship.

  39. Erin*

    First, get a dishwasher. They use less water and are more efficient for the person doing the dishes.

    Second, be direct. Even if Jane is in the room before 7 and you need to have a private conversation or simply want to be alone, tell her. A simple “Jane, will you excuse us” or “Jane, can we have the room”. If you have friends over, tell Jane before the friends arrive that you would like her to be out by X time.

    Jane can’t read minds. And it sounds like she is really trying to do a good job, but the boundaries are blurry. You will have to take the lead on implementing some, and then you can all settle into a predictable rhythm.

  40. Beth*

    I think Alison is a little off on this one. The way I see it, having someone live with you means sharing common spaces. Yes, she’s your employee and your house is her workplace, but she also does live there for the moment. Unless Jane’s space in your house is functionally a full apartment, your kitchen probably is her kitchen! She may want a drink, a snack, a good table surface to do her own thing at, etc.

    If privacy is really crucial for you, either go to private spaces (such as your bedroom), or make sure her space is actually equipped as a full separate apartment (at which point it’s fair to ask her to ‘go home’ after work hours). If it already is a full apartment with kitchen, table, TV, etc., then disregard all this…but if you’re expecting her to e.g. go hang out in a finished basement that has a pool table and a bed and a bathroom but not much else, maybe consider some upgrades.

    1. Beth*

      Oh and also…if there is an expectation that she not go out to see friends and family or have anyone over, (which I get the sense might be the case, since you hired her because of the pandemic?), then you’re putting her in a position where you’re her only adult contact she has. If that is the case, please do plan to include her in adult time at least some days. Not saying you can’t have any private time, but the pandemic makes for unusual circumstances; “stay here all the time and don’t see anyone else” isn’t usually part of even a live-in nannying gig, and you may need to offer an unusual degree of inclusion in your household to make that sustainable for her.

  41. Erin*

    Jane’s lonely. She spends all her day with children, and she can’t go out and see friends or do anything at night because of the pandemic. She’s lingering in the kitchen because at least she feels like she’s near other adults, even if she’s not directly involved in the conversation, and she can’t bear going back to her floor to be alone for 12 hours. Even people who are naturally solitary are struggling with depression caused by isolation right now, and most childcare providers are pretty extroverted, social people because that’s the personality that’s required to keep up with small children for 40-50 hours a week. Try to have some compassion for her; invite her to have dinner with you most nights, and have your private talks in the bedroom or another private area afterwards.

    1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Yeah – I just feel so sad for this lady. Long days with small kids doing pretty hard, menial work, and then when they are done with you, you go back in your closet like a broom and wait to be used again.

      1. Sabine the Very Mean*

        But, this is exactly what I would want (without the added editorial, obviously) if I had a live in nanny. After her day is done, I’d like her to be out of sight. Fair or not but OP would really need to be clear about this ideally at time of hire.

        1. Erin*

          I mean I think this is what most people would want and in normal times I doubt the nanny would want to spend evenings with her employer – it’d be normal for her to go do her own thing. I definitely wouldn’t want to sign off a stressful day working in my home office to go make small talk in my own kitchen. But these aren’t normal times and people need to adjust. I’m sure it’s a struggle for the nanny too. Can you imagine if the only adults you ever interacted with were your two bosses?

        2. Helen J*

          If she could go out and socialize with her friends or family, or perhaps go on a date with her SO, that would be fine. But it seems this family wants her to live-in because of COVID, so after she’s done she just supposed to go to her room? They are having friends over for dinner parties, yet she doesn’t get to do this. If she had not kitchen or laundry facilities in her space, when she is supposed to prepare her meals and eat and do her laundry?

        3. jenkins*

          I think this is what a lot of people would want but it doesn’t mean it’s what they can reasonably have! Live in means live in. You can’t expect your entire house to still be private space if you invite someone else to come and live there – they will sometimes appear in common spaces, because your kitchen is also now their kitchen. This is why I can’t imagine ever hiring a live in nanny, because my personal space is waaaay too important for me.

  42. Roeslein*

    So I have a toddler too and I am confused. Why does OP need the nanny to prepare a separate dinner for the child in the first place? Presumably the OP or her husband are cooking for themselves anyway? Is that a US thing? Can’t the toddler eat whatever dinner they are eating with them, and then the nanny won’t need to be in the kitchen around dinner time at all? My child has been eating with us since he was under a year old – he’s handled the spices etc. just fine (my husband comes from a culture where food is spicy), so it’s not like they’d have to eat “boring” food either. Just don’t use too much salt, which is probably healthy for everyone anyway. It would be different if the OP was talking about a baby who needs pureed food, but a toddler?

    1. MayLou*

      All the families I’ve nannied for have had the kids eat separately, earlier than the parents. It’s not how I’d do it with my own kids and not what my friends do with their kids, but I don’t think it’s especially unusual (at least, not amongst families who hire nannies at any rate).

    2. Georgina Fredrika*

      I think it’s just preference maybe. I au paired in Germany and there were a lot of families there who did separate meals for children, prepared by nanny.

      1. Jasper*

        There were a lot families *with nannies* that did that. It’s traditional for nannies. It worked that way in the Von Trapp and Poppins households, too. In England, it’s even common among regular middle class families — the kids have tea in the late afternoon, the adults have supper later. That’s probably where the nannying industry gets the idea. In Germany, it’s not common among working and middle class folks.

        1. Jennifleurs*

          Can confirm that in my extremely middle class British family we ate earlier than my parents until … god, until I was in my teens? (oldest child) It makes perfect sense to me because we went to bed so much earlier than them, and my dad wouldn’t get home from work until gone 7pm.

    3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      In the before times, we did this because we just got home too late. The kids ate dinner at daycare, and we ate after they were in bed.

    4. blackcat*

      My toddler’s bedtime starts at 7, which is when I’d prefer to eat. As someone else said, in the before times, there was no way to work a full day, get him from daycare, cook, and feed him, all before we needed to get him ready for bed.
      What we’d often do is cook after he went to sleep and just perpetually eat leftovers.

    5. LITJess*

      All my friends with nannies seem to do this, but we had our daughter in daycare and wouldn’t get home until nearly 6pm. There was no way I was making two dinners, so we eat a little earlier than we would normally and she eats a little later than some of her friends no doubt do. But we eat together and we all eat the same thing.

    6. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      Toddlers have different taste palettes to adults – they literally have more bitter-detecting tastebuds than we do –and at the very least their food needs to be served separately (cut into small pieces, not have any bits they can choke on, etc.). This is not even including things like food allergies or intolerances that the parents may not share. My parents had us all eat the same meal, but had to deal with the fact that often that meal was a box of mac & cheese or chicken nuggets, not the kind of food they’d like to eat as adults.

    7. MCMonkeyBean*

      I don’t have kids but I think it’s not at all uncommon to feed the kids earlier because they go to bed earlier. And just because a toddler might be physically able to eat the same meals as them doesn’t necessarily mean they would want to.

      Also it’s possible they don’t have big full cooked meals every night. Plenty of people don’t. My husband and I aren’t big on cooking so there’s a lot of ramen and lean cuisine in my house. We’ve been trying to cook more meals during the pandemic since working from home cuts out the commute and leaves us more time to prepare a meal, but while we often eat at the same time it’s not uncommon for us to eat different things as we each just throw something together quickly ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  43. This is She*

    My bro and his wife had a live in nanny for 4 years, and they were quite up front that after 4:30 the nanny (Zari) was off shift and free to do whatever she liked, and they would have just-family time after that. They even taught they children that Zari was enjoying her own time now and not to pester her, let her have her peace.

    Zari’s space was on a separate floor with a mini-kitchen (kettle, toaster, microwave, bar fridge, bar sink, cupboard – just no stove) so she could make dinner there, or go out (it was easy walking distance to lots of shops and restaurants), but most nights my bro and his wife would just cook enough for everyone and my brother made a big production out of making Zari’s tray for her — they bought this nice wooden tray with legs, and my bro would plate Zari’s meal restaurant-style — garnishing the meal, adding a cloth napkin and a bud vase — and deliver it to her personally, like a butler. It was cute.
    Zari usually ate her dinner while Facetiming with her family (in a different time zone) so everyone was happy.

    Anyway, this story has not much to do with the subject except that I always thought it was sweet. :)

    1. Jasper*

      To be exact, Zari could not cook her own meals, ever. She could only warm things up (shittily, because microwaves don’t work for lots of things). It’s great that it worked well for them, but you could not shut someone up in that apartment and expect them to only eat microwaved reddi-meals or go out to restaurants (Or take out/delivery, although you don’t mention it as an option) unless you pay them enough to compensate for the extra restaurant bills.

      1. Ads*

        This. It was a sweet way to share a home cooked meal while maintaining some personal time, but I wouldn’t say Zari was able to make dinners on her floor. Even a simple fried egg takes a stove.

  44. DanniellaBee*

    I am really shocked that the general tone of this letter was not addressed at all. The letter writer is treating this woman as a servant who should magically disappear despite the fact that she also lives there and we are in the middle of a pandemic so its not easy or safe to socialize outside your own household. I agree that being a bit more direct is fine about expectations but the letter writer really needs to calm down and respect this woman more as a person. My sister was a live in nanny for years and this is exactly the type of treatment that is so typical with certain parents. They want all the benefits of live in help without any of the humanity they should afford others.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My biggest annoyance here is that the person wants to have privacy and intimacy with her husband in the shared space. We talk about private stuff in our bedroom, not while dining. Dining is not for that kind of hush hush talk where I come from. I never knew my parents to have a private conversation at the dinner table. But I also always ate with my parents, so there’s that too.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Right?! Right? Who discusses finances in the kitchen when there are bedrooms and offices and dens and who knows what other rooms with doors to do that in? Up until a few months ago, I had several young adults living in my house. First my both sons, and then my younger son and during the lockdown his girlfriend more or less lived here as well. I had a partner occasionally visit me as well. None of us had the expectation that we could, at any old time, start discussing personal matters in a common area with other people there, and expect the other people to just know to clear out *without even being asked to*. If my partner and I had personal matters to discuss, we went to my room and shut the door. My son and his gf, same thing, went to his room and shut the door. When my older son, who worked from home and was a cofounder of a startup company, had a work meeting, he wouldn’t chase us out of the kitchen and have it there. He’d go to his room and shut the door. It’s what people do when there’s mutual respect between everyone.

      2. LizM*

        I think this points to a cultural difference for some families that is creating conflict due to simple misunderstandings. My husband and I sometimes use meals in lieu of family meetings, especially if our kid has wandered off. It’s time that we can sit together and talk, and sometimes sensitive topics come up without us realizing until we’re several minutes into the conversation.

        If Jane comes from a family where family meals and the dining room and the kitchen are all fair game, she may have no idea she’s intruding.

        That said, I don’t think it’s entirely on Jane to change, LW needs to adjust her routine as well to reflect that another adult is living in their home.

      3. Clisby*

        I tend to agree. Now, my husband and I likely talk about plenty of things that might be utterly boring to many people, but there wouldn’t be any privacy issue. We also talk about personal things, like family happenings, but we wouldn’t talk about anything we’d object to someone mentioning to someone else. (Probably not pertinent to a nanny, but very pertinent to curious children.)

        I’m trying to imagine myself with a live-in nanny, and I’d think we’d include her in most dinners – especially if we weren’t encouraging her to go out and socialize with other people. I like family meals, but I guess I don’t think of them as sacred private time.

    2. hmmm*

      I’m envisioning Rosie the robot who disappears to “recharge” every night and has no need of human interaction. Like it or not this is a human being in your household. Dismissing them as the servant who should be out of sight out of mind is cruel when there is nowhere else she can go for interaction.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yep, I did get that vibe. Didn’t say much because I didn’t want to be too hard on OP.

      I’ve heard this tone before, from family friends who had moved up very quickly income-wise and found themselves in a position to have hired help around the house, without any knowledge of how to handle that from a social and human standpoint. I was particularly reminded of one family my then-husband was friends with, where the wife described her toddler’s nanny to us as someone who “used to be a teacher in (Old Country), you can actually show her to guests”. She said about a woman old enough to be her mother. Needless to say, she and I did not develop a friendship, even though we crossed paths many times over the following 10-15 years. I do not have a lot of patience for this type of attitude.

    4. IrishMN*

      I so agree. I picture Kitty Montgomery from Dharma and Greg, “Your services are no longer needed, ta-ta!”

      This person lives in your home and cares for your child. She is isolated due to the pandemic. I have a lot of sympathy for her. LW does not seem to have much, if any.

    5. Arctic*


      And this blog is usually, if anything, extra cautious about Covid stuff. But this poor nanny is being subjected to strangers and likely not allowed much socialization outside the home but also expected to disappear before 7 and it goes unaddressed?

    6. Luna*

      It’s something that I noticed myself, and wondered if I was just misinterpreting the text, since few comments point this out and more focus on what the reason behind Jane’s behavior could be. Seeing your comment, I wonder if it’s appropriate to tell the LW that they clearly don’t want a live-in nanny, they want childcare and nothing else. In which case, why get a live-in nanny? It might be nice to know the child is cared for and put to bed while you are eating dinner, so you can focus on your adult conversation with your partner without keeping the child’s well-being and caring-for in the back of your head at all times. But… I don’t want to sound rude, but that’s just something you have to balance when you have a partner and child. LW really needs to think what they want from Jane.

      1. Clisby*

        Actually, I would think the parents would want the toddler with them at dinner – how else do they ever see their child? But maybe that’s just me.

  45. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    10 Minutes vs 90 minutes, just remember that it’s 10 minutes to clean YOUR kitchen. You know your standards and how you want things done.

    When you’re working for someone, you often get people who don’t want you to do a quick 10 minute scrub down. Yes, you tell her otherwise but lots of employers will say the same, only to get upset that you “rushed” through a job when you see her 10 minute cleaning job.

    This is the same in every walk of business as well. I can reconcile our checking account in about 2 hours. I had someone I was training take 2 days to do it because they weren’t familiar. Of course it went down to a day after a lot of work and getting into the groove…but this person never got it down to 2 hours like I have. I have muscle memory and know where things are instantaneously. She probably has to keep remembering where you put the scrubbers and where you like the pans to go, she probably doesn’t put away things as hastily because again, it’s not her kitchen, it’s yours!

    1. Quill*

      Even when you have the same standards: it takes me twice as long to empty the dishwasher at my mom’s house than at mine, because remembering where everything goes is different! I keep opening the wrong drawers.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        *grumbles* I have this issue in the work kitchen. I tried labeling all the damn drawers too because it made it easier for me as well as others but lbr it was for me. Someone got all mad and I didn’t want to fight about it, so I just took the damn things down, LOL. So yeah, lots of fumbling with that crap.

        1. Quill*

          Best lab I ever worked in cut the labels off the boxes of our supplies and stuck them to where the supplies went. We always knew where things were and EXACTLY what their part number was, which made experiment prep and cleanup far easier.

    2. Batgirl*

      That’s an insightful point. Nanny might be using the time to learn the layout of the kitchen and where everything goes too.

  46. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    I’m reminded of the first chapter of The Nanny Diaries, where she says that the Old Money moms are used to having hired help in the house and treat them like employees, but the New Money moms feel so awkward about it that they blur the line between friend and boss and end up making a big mess of the whole thing because they’re afraid to be the boss when they need to be.

    1. wittyrepartee*

      Oh, I always remembered that passage as being about how working parents treated nannies as employees, whereas a lot of the stay at home moms kind of used the nannies as maids of all work but also as sort of friends, but ones that could be fired.

  47. Formerly Ella Vader*

    I wonder about making new customs that include certain evenings where the OP and spouse have “date night” dining room privacy, but also designating some evenings as inviting the nanny to eat or socialize with employers and child if she chooses.

    If there is only one kitchen, I think the OP/employer might find it worthwhile to revise the household schedule to be like,
    To 6 pm – nanny on duty with kid and also cooking kid supper.
    6-7:30 – nanny off duty and out of family space. Parents feed kid, bathe kid, put kid to bed, start catching up with each other.
    7:30-9 – Nanny welcome in kitchen. (possibly washing up kid dishes, definitely cooking own food). Parents may also be cooking their own supper, sharing appetizer with nanny and chatting about the day.
    9 pm – Nanny out of family space for the night, parents have private supper.

    I don’t know anything about where in the world you are located, and about whether the nanny has local social contacts – but it might also be worth looking at whether it is time to change any of the household’s isolation practices to make things more pleasant for the nanny. For example, if you’d be okay with her visiting a friend some evenings or going to a movie, offer to do the driving so she doesn’t have to take transit, or work out whether the friend can spend time in the nanny’s suite. Presumably the OP’s already provided her with adequate high-speed internet for video calling and entertainment subscriptions and is paying her more than the going rate in non-pandemic times to make up for the isolation … and if not, they should.

    I’ve never been a nanny. I have rented space from a family who lived upstairs, where I had the deal that I could use their kitchen starting at 7 pm – they would eat early and then put their kid to bed and spend the rest of the evening elsewhere in the house. It was a little awkward but much easier because they were clear about what was appropriate.

  48. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    Just as one reader’s preference, I read this for advice about workplace issues. I get that for people who have live-in help, they are bosses, in a sense, and have employees they pay – but the master/servant relationship, with all of its complications, is one that predates the modern workplace by several centuries. It has its own dynamics and its own fraught issues. There are tons of eighteenth-century novels and household management guides for ladies and, I’m sure, blogs devoted to it, so I get that people want advice there, but… It just feels really off brand, for AAM.

    And no, this blog doesn’t always have to be about an industry I’ve worked in or the 9-5 office grind – in fact, I usually love it when it’s a bit off kilter. Still, I always find letters from unfamiliar industries or weird workplaces relatable. It doesn’t matter if they are asking for advice on work-from-home teapot design or llama hospitality or Joaquin in payables or Jane who approves overtime – the post-industrial world of work has a familiar dynamic. Issues of how to get the help to retire to their quarters when they are done with their tasks just seem like a home-life issue, not a workplace issue.

    Although I suppose that very division between the public sphere of work and the private sphere of the home – plus the fact that in the US maids and nannies have historically been women of color – is precisely why domestic workers are notoriously vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and often exempted from labor organizing and legal protections….

    So I guess: If AAM is going to branch out to domestic service, please at least keep the problems of that industry in mind and include a variety of perspectives.

    1. D3*

      Household work IS an industry, and that’s kind of the WHOLE POINT.
      When you have a nanny, housekeeper, landscaper, etc you have to recognize and act like the employer/employee relationship it is.
      I’m sorry you can’t see this as anything but Downton Abbey.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Yeah – honestly, it’s not Downton Abbey. I was trying too hard to be cute and nice. I wanted to make a point that more people here could accept, since surprisingly many seem to have servants, including Allison’s family, and they see it as normal.

        I’m not, actually, unfamiliar with what the domestic service “industry” really is. Just from the other side.

        I’ve learned the hard way, over the years, that you can’t make people on top of a power relationship like that see it from the other side. It’s not possible for them, and if you try to make that visible, they will hurt you. You have to give them a slice of the truth – which is what every servant does. They love your kids. The room is so nice – so nice. They love it here. They are grateful for the work. Here is a story about my family back home. No no, it’s no worry. I’ll get it. I enjoy doing it. This is absolutely the truth. I miss my kids, sometimes, but I can do so much more for them with the money. Would you like to see a picture? You are so kind to take an interest. I love it here. I love you.

        And they probably do. Love you and the kids, I mean. It’s necessary to love you, to survive.

        Honestly, this probably will have to be the last post I make here. People will hate me for it. Just watch.

    2. Important Moi*

      Interesting perspective. I did not mind the question, but like you say the term “off brand” seems to capture what I was feeling because quite frankly, I am more likely to be a nanny as opposed to paying for the services for one. Admittedly, my own bias. Not to say that this isn’t a real issue for LW.

      I would also say I have be considered rude here on this site and IRL by people who prefer obfuscating language as opposed to being direct. Because obfuscating is nice, direct is rude. Many days I limit my comments – monitoring of tone can be tiresome, especially if it’s wrong.

      There have been some things that have surprised me as topics of questions because they are so different than my life. Arguably, those could be considered “off brand” too.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        With kids grown and out of the house, my odds of needing or having a nanny are zero. And there was no way we could afford one when they were young. With that said, I can see myself hiring people to do other kinds of work around my house, and as such, it’s helpful to read about this type of employer/employee relationships. Based on what my future brings, I may one day find myself on either side of it.

        1. Clisby*

          We hire people do do work around our house, but it’s not nearly as complicated as I think a live-in nanny situation would be. If I hire a contractor to renovate a bathroom, we have specs, a contract, a price, a timeline, etc. They don’t live with me. We don’t have a close relationship. Same for hiring a cleaning service, a guy to keep the yard looking nice, a plumber or electrician if there’s a problem there.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I was thinking something like long-term care/home health aide.

            I’m at a life stage where old age is lurking around the corner.

            Or, something may change so drastically in my life that I’d need to find that type of job for myself (like the two live-in nannies I’ve mentioned in my other comments on this thread – both were in their 60s or so). You never know. Either way, I find these posts and discussions informative.

    3. Laura H.*

      With all due respect, regarding this:
      “So I guess: If AAM is going to branch out to domestic service, please at least keep the problems of that industry in mind and include a variety of perspectives.”

      Allison can’t do that- she only has her experience and general knowledge to go by. And honestly while the trappings of the question are very different from what is usually on here, it’s still an employer-employee relationship question that’s workable with a number of different methods.

      It IS a work issue with personal aspects, and the OP deserves as much of an opportunity to get advice as they navigate this issue.

      1. Arctic*

        I think if Alison’s experience and general knowledge are so limited that she doesn’t even pause when someone is suggesting they want a human being living with them during the time of a pandemic (and Lord KNOWS Alison would flip if Nanny was going out during this period) to just disappear with no adult socialization then she should maybe call in some people with more diverse experience.

    4. Analyst Editor*

      It’s interesting that you frame it as a “master-servant” dynamic, and maybe it is in some countries, or in some social classes. But in general, at least in the US, it’s not actually a rigid caste system where the nobility hire help, and there’s no escape from the class you were born into for you or your kids.

      In fact, one of the reasons you approach it as an employer/employee, and not “master-servant”, and build that whole conceptual and actual superstructure over it, is to do away with that dynamic and empower the person doing the cleaning or the cooking or the child-care job.

      But you’ll see multiple commenters on here, who currently have other careers, who are or were child-care professionals for years, by choice, moving between teaching, day care, and nannying/governess, who move on to other careers and might find themselves in a position to hire other people to do the same job, later in their lives.

      1. Nanny is a childcare professional IMO*

        Well put, I agree and believe the employer/employee approach actually can serve as a protection in this power dynamic. When job duties, expectations and communication become clearer, this definitely should not be master/servant relationship, and employer should be clear on their end of responsibilities, whether following legal requirements or providing good management to their employee.

        And ideally, even the piece about how much interaction with the family after work day – or access to common areas of the house after work day – would be part of interview process and contract, so the nanny can decide if they are okay taking the job knowing they will be on their own for dinners & evenings or that they have only specific hours when it’s okay to do their laundry.

        Yes to kindness and to supporting the nanny’s needs esp during this time. However, if this was a live-out nanny or other type of employee trying to stay for dinner, we would be reading comments about not being responsible for emotional needs of the employee and about them needing to behave professionally.

      2. Olive Hornby*

        Yes, the issues HarvestKaleSlaw points out are very real—though I’d argue they’re not so different than those faced by other categories of workers, who also perform emotional labor, may lack the power to speak up about their treatment due to immigration status or a simple need for the job, may lack access to a union or other forms of workplace protection, may be unable to care for their own children due to the demands of their workplace, etc. Domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation because they typically work alone and because of the carveouts in the laws you mentioned (which are explicitly racist in origin), but abuse and exploitation are endemic to capitalism. Until the day we’re able to move past that system, I agree that treating domestic workers *as* workers is the first step toward reining in some of these abuses.

        OP might consider looking at resources from the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which also publishes best practices for employers.

      3. ShockedPikachu.gif*

        It’s interesting that you don’t see a caste system at work in the demographics of US domestic workers. Over half of them are women of color, and the average domestic worker earns very low wages with few, if any, benefits. Labor protections in the US specifically two industries that were overwhelming Black and Latinx dominated – domestic workers and farm workers (which were also, by the way, the major roles of slaves). The lack of labor protections (like humane minimum wage laws) for these workers continues to this day, and to this day the work is low paid, with a disproportionate number of people of color. Sure, there will always be some lucky or extraordinary people who “rise out of poverty” in these circumstances, but the demographics of these jobs are a result of history, the social forces of caste you might say, not an accident.

    5. Batgirl*

      I honestly find it refreshing when work in the home is acknowledged as, you know, work and not something that should be done out of the goodness of (women’s) hearts but for money and benefits. It can be a job where people are exploited, as with all jobs populated by working class /women/ non white people but the answer to that is not to do away with the jobs themselves! Its yet another incarnation of how working parents problems must not be seen or heard. So long as nanny employers are seeking advice about being respectful to these employees it’s a good way to add value to a useful and much-needed type of work.

  49. Woah*

    Comment re: 1500 square foot living space- in my state, unless it is a separate entity (like with its own two points of ingress and egress and such), it can’t have a kitchen! There are lots of homes/apartments here that advertise amazing amenities…and then in little print, mention they only provide a counter top two burner stove, microwave, and water access is thru an awkward “utility” pipe. So it is conceivable to me that Jane does not have kitchen access, or sufficient kitchen access and that it could be impossible (as many residential areas don’t allow you to convert single family residences into multifamily residences).

    that weird little city planning digression aside, i hated being a live in nanny and an au pair and never feeling comfortable. i can’t imagine how it is during a pandemic.

    1. Jasper*

      So why would you not be allowed to have a second kitchen in the house? If I don’t want to have to go all the way downstairs to cry an egg in the morning, why would that have to be illegal? When they can just make renting it out as two separate units illegal?

      Land of the free…

      1. doreen*

        Because of all the people who will rent it out separately anyway, even if it’s illegal. The only people I know with second kitchens who are not illegally renting that space are those where the second kitchen was put in 50 or more years ago so that large family dinners could be held in the basement. Anything more recent, and it’s an illegal rental.

        1. D3*

          (Raises hand) I have a second kitchen. A full second kitchen. Full size fridge, full stove/oven with a microwave mounted over it, proper sink, dishwasher. There are also a couple bedrooms, a family room and a bathroom down there.
          I do not rent out the space legally or otherwise. I didn’t plan to have a second kitchen, we don’t use it much at all, but the house was 100% perfect in every other way and just happened to have two kitchens. It’s a 25 year old house. It’s come in handy when the college kids come home, or when I need to do some canning and it’s too damn hot upstairs, but mostly it’s just another area to clean.
          So there. Now you know of someone who has a less than 50 year old second kitchen and it’s not an illegal rental.

          1. blink14*

            My family also used to have a second kitchen with a living space, bedroom, and bathroom in our basement. The space had an indoor access and a much less used outdoor access. My sibling and I used it when we had friends over and relatives used the space when visiting. It was never rented out, and was built out in the mid 90s. Unfortunately due to flooding the entire floor was gutted, but it did serve as a great space for hanging out and giving guests privacy.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            The house I live in used to have a second kitchen in the basement. When I first came to see the house ten years ago, there was a full-size fridge, a gas line, and I believe a kitchen sink down there. The owners removed that stuff and capped the gas line after I bought the house, though there is still a counter that has a built-in cutting board. They used it the same way you did – for canning and making their own wine, which was their hobby (there was also a wine press in the basement when I first saw the house), and to convert the basement to a suite when their adult son lived with them. I would assume they’d gone through all the legal steps to get that kitchen installed. But agree that it is extremely rare. D3 is the second person I’ve ever met with this second kitchen situation – my house’s previous owners were the first. The house is 63 years old, but this family bought it in the 70s and I believe they were the ones that put the second kitchen in; probably in the 80s at the earliest.

        2. Woah*

          Yup. This. Also its a lot easier to prevent the building of illegal units via building codes. The other option is an official investigating, which is Money and Invasive.

          I had a friend of a friend who did a multigen household- she and her husband and three kids lived upstairs and had a stovetop, microwave, and toaster, and the grandparents lived downstairs and had a full kitchen. It worked for them since they all lived more or less together.

          1. doreen*

            Actually, my understanding is that this is the only exception in NYC- you can get a permit for a second kitchen in a single unit is if it’s for religious reasons although I have no idea what sort of proof is required.

          2. Woah*

            I do keep a kosher kitchen, but I just have a stove burner and toaster oven for milchig. I am always in awe of people who have two separate kitchens or have a separate kitchen nook for passover, it just wouldn’t be easily done here, especially if you want a full functional kitchen and not just a kitchen-esque area.

            I also live in a state where I am sometimes the only Jew people have met, so there’s that.

      2. Nephron*

        You do not have the freedom to die in a fire so someone else can make extra money. We use to allow this and then the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire happened, and the fires in tenements in every major city, and no time did not make people better about this look at the Station Nightclub.

        The United States creates government agencies and new areas of laws usually because a lot of people died horribly.

  50. hmmm*

    I think she’s probably lonely. She’s stuck inside with Covid. In a house with people but doesn’t really have the standing as part of the family. She probably craves adult human interaction. I don’t know what the answer is but definitely have some compassion. Maybe establish one or two meals a week where she joins you for conversation.

  51. Simone*

    I think all of these issues go with the territory of having a live-in nanny. If the OP wants privacy, she needs to get a live out nanny or go with a daycare center. The poor nanny is probably lonely.

    1. Clisby*

      Ordinarily, a live-in nanny should be perfectly free to go out and socialize however she wants when she’s not on the clock. If that’s the case with LW, then I’m somewhat more sympathetic to the desire for privacy. If part of the deal is that the nanny is pretty much quarantining herself, then the LW needs to provide some adult interaction. Or pay such a high salary that I doubt they could afford it.

  52. YetAgainEvenAnotherAlison*

    Maybe this was suggested prior …don’t have her cook dinner for your child. This way she has no reason to be in your kitchen at dinner time. And, put a kitchen in her 1500 square feet space (if possible). Also, establish a time when she is off the job – and make it before you sit down to dinner (if she has her own kitchen) If she has to eat in your kitchen because there is no other place for her to eat, then this is the price you pay for the convenience of her living with you. This is her home now.

  53. Elizabeth Wilson*

    Based on the people I’ve spoken to, it is very likely that the nanny is being influenced by the rules that she had at her last job, and by what other nannies have told her are the “real” expectations. If she worked in HK, for example (a typical first stop for nannies from the Philippines), then she would be expected to work every minute that the employers were awake. Your protestations to the contrary would be interpreted as polite fiction.
    If you do not already have a clear contract then you should draw one up (and keep in mind the rules in your country, which may be very specific). Your nanny is in a very precarious position and so she is going to be scared to tell you her preferences. Meanwhile, she is trying to guess at what you want her to do, so that she can keep her job.

    1. Batgirl*

      Even without the cultural training she’s subordinate- it’s on OP to cheerfully lead the way and make the set up clear. You can’t hint like she’s a friend. If she miss-guesses then she annoys her boss/landlord. It must feel way safer to just carry on: “Look I’m working!”

  54. Teapot Fairy*

    Maybe there is another family with a live in nanny that your nanny could have regular playdates with?

    1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      I appreciate the sensitivity to Jane’s needs here, but I think it’s a little odd to expect two people who don’t know each other and may have nothing in common other than their professions to become friends (and indeed each other’s only in-person social contact).

  55. Teapot Fairy*

    Right now a lot of libraries, gyms, churches, museums, have free interactive digital programs. Your nanny can participate in livestream yoga on mondays,book club on tuesdays, bible study on Wednesday, beginner Spanish on Thursday, and so on, all with a laptop or even a smart phone and a good wifi. Help her find adult fun programs.
    Simply Going outside gets boring fast.
    Ps I’m a stay at home mom. I do virtual playdate 1x a week, accountability group 1x a week, bible study 1x a week, and call my childhood friends overseas 1x a week.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      While those things are true, it’s patronizing and intrusive of an employer to sit an employee down with a list of adult fun activities she can do in her off hours.

      1. Batgirl*

        It probably would be if you went about it like that. If I were to take Teapot Fairy’s suggestion I would probably invite her to join me for yoga, possibly on her laundry nights so shes not lurking with nothing to do, around the same time I communicated the need for date nights with hubby; some time with her while doing something I enjoy would communicate that I like her and don’t expect her to vanish into a cupboard in her off hours. Another way could be to talk to her about her hobbies and if there was anything she was missing. Being new to an area can suck.

  56. Manana*

    Maybe this has already been said but: why did you hire a live-in nanny if you are having people outside of your home come over for dinner? Is she given weekends off to see her own family or no? I don’t think your expectations/frustrations around your desire to have quiet family dinners are wrong, but I do think there is a lot of expectation being placed on this woman and not a lot of sympathy to go along with it. If she is being socially isolated in your house and spends the vast majority of the day with children who are not her own, you owe her not only clear and respectful expectations, but also some kindness and company. She is not a Roomba thoughtlessly roaming around, she’s a person who is stuck, alone, in 1500 square feet of someone else’s house who resent having meals with her.

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes it’s worth examining whether you’re more concerned about catching Covid from a nanny than you are from your family friends… which, unless those friends all isolated for two weeks beforehand (or were tested before they came over), is a little magical-thinking.

      This year of isolation is awful for everyone, but the choices we make about social-distancing we’re making on behalf of everyone multiple steps removed from us, including those most vulnerable.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      At the very least there should be clear rules regarding lessening Covid risks applied to all. Also contingency plans drawn up for what if a member of the family gets Covid? Or the nanny does? Or one of the friends who stayed over tells you later that she’s got it and might have spread it?

      Best to have everything out clear.

  57. NotMonkeyNotMyCircus*

    There’s something off with the time. The child eats at 6, then the couple eats at 7. Feeding a toddler can take anywhere from 15 to 30 min depending on the child. Then who cleans the baby, bathes, and reads story and puts her down? And how does all this go down inside an hour when the adults sit down promptly at 7 for their dinner? Who makes the adult’s dinner? I have the feeling that writer doesn’t realize that Jane is actually contributing quite a bit more to this one hour from 6 to 7, than simply taking 90 min to wash a pan? But then, after all this, Jane still has to make her own food for her own dinner. 7 o’clock rolls around and they are ready to for couple time and to enjoy their dinner, (which I have a strong feeling Jane has helped make, because the writer is silent on this). And yes of course, Jane is still there, and the employer is wondering what’s taking her so long, but doesn’t actually see that she’s actually working from 6 to 7, and only has time to make her own food and eat it after 7.

  58. Heffalump*

    The other issues aside, I can’t get my head around how she’s taking 90 minutes to do dishes that her employer can do in 10 minutes.

  59. Perpal*

    OP – I have a part time nanny (not live in) currently, and in the past I have owned a (fairly small) house and rented a room to a friend. It sounds like you are running into a cross of roomate issues, but as an employer.
    There are some details which are understandable to leave out but could change the picture a lot. Is she hanging out in the kitchen as a roomie, using common utilities, or doing her nanny tasks? She has a large space to herself but does that have a kitchenette? Does she have to be in kitchen to do laundry? Etc.
    Our nanny is also in many ways a friend and of course it takes a lot of trust to have someone take care of your kids and be in your home! That being said, since my nanny’s livelyhood partly depends on me, I think it’s my duty to be a good employer first, and a friend second. That means spelling out what I want and when I want it. There is of course room to change things around (my biggest goal with a nanny was really to get someone to teach them Spanish at a young age “naturally” since we moved away from the Spanish immersion daycare, and I really don’t speak it well at all, so it’s more about overall hours per week than any specific time). But I try to explicitly state hours, wage, tax information, maternity leave, and anything that’s important to me to have done. That would feel really weird to do with a friend but as an employer I know I need to be explicit.
    So OP, as a nanny, figure out what your goals are for a nanny. Take care of your child 8 hrs a day? Cook meals? Clean? What’s the priority? Make sure when you sum all your goals they are ultimately reasonable (ie, are you looking at a 40 hr work week? What happens on weekends? What happens for vacations, sick days, etc?)
    Let’s pretend that you want them to primarily entertain and teach your child 9am-5pm M-F, clean up after themselves (ie, don’t leave the place messed up after the fact), but extra cleaning (ie, vacuming, scrubbing, etc) only if there is time (ie, if you guys are home a half day then that can be cleaning time). That’s one schedule. If you’re really wanting a 60 hour schedule (ie, be primarily focused on child 8am-6pm M-F, plus a bunch of cooking/cleaning that probably can’t be done while actively entertaining/teaching a child, and reasonably adds to another 10 hours if you were doing it) then you better take that into account with payment and vacations! Or consider scaling back on the parts you don’t need as much!
    Then that leaves just the roomate situation. The work day you’ve established is done. You want privacy. Is it reasonable to expect privacy in the kitchen after 6pm, or does your nanny need to be there to do their own activities of daily living? If your nanny needs to use it, then modify your setup so you can have privacy when you need it (ie, start having private conversations in your bedroom, or make sure your nanny has their own kitchenette, or heck, consider your nanny their own washer/dryer, etc)
    Honestly don’t have an easy answer if your house does not allow your nanny to basically have their own apartment without having to go into areas you want privacy in for part of the day, regularly. Ie, if they have to go through the kitchen to get food and do washing and get outside, you either have to accept that you will see them a lot if you are in the kitchen. If you really don’t want that, consider hiring a nanny who has their own place / isn’t live in.

  60. Saluki*

    I think something is unsaid here that is an easy solution. Start dinner earlier. Many kids like to eat earlier than 6:00 PM. Start dinner earlier(4:30 to 5:00 PM),and get a sink of hot water going so dishes are washed as you go along? That way it is all cleaned up by 6:30.

  61. Gertrude*

    I’m having trouble getting past the idea that your live-in nanny isn’t invited to have dinner with you as the norm. They are absolutely part of the family; why would you expect them to eat dinner by themselves?
    I’ve had 4 different live-in nannies over the course of twelve years. They’ve all been great. And I would never in a million years have excluded them from any meal we were eating. Three of the four ate with us nearly every night. The only possible exception was when I hosted a work event. Whether they have their own kitchen space is irrelevant.
    I have several friends who also have live-in nannies or Au pairs. One even works at a placement agency. This is also true for all of them. And especially now!
    I would suggest you rethink whether you really want a live-in nanny. It sounds like you want on-call childcare without everything that goes with it.

    1. Perpal*

      Maybe it would be helpful for you to describe what schedule/duties you did with your live in nannies? (I agree, maybe OP would be better with a nanny that isn’t live in if they want more privacy than living with another person readily allows)

  62. Nannied in College*

    Is it possible that time is because she is cooking for herself? If she has to cook for the child, monitor/feed dinner, then go and do a bedtime routine, it is actually very reasonable to take that amount of time if she is coming back down to clean up after Child then cook and eat her own dinner. If that is the case, OP should let her know she has the freedom to start her own cooking or whatever earlier even if Child is awake. I know especially when I have just started a nannying or babysitting job you feel like you can’t do anything except take care of the child while the child is awake. If OP is expecting nothing personal to be done while caring for child, the additional time makes sense. If it is fine for her to start her own personal cooking or whatever earlier, that should be explicitly stated.

  63. christina*

    Tell her to be out of the kitchen by 6. Then she can have a life too. And you can do the dishes &clean the kitchen.

  64. Delta Delta*

    The timing on this has been confusing for me. Here’s why: LW says that the nanny prepare the child’s dinner so they can feed the kid at 6. Then she has to do the cleanup for that (really, how many pots and pans does it take to cook a singular toddler dinner?) It’s not stated who puts the child to bed, but if the parents are then eating dinner at 7, that means someone is putting the child to bed (and maybe a bath) and someone is cooking the parent dinner. The nanny is very likely doing one of those tasks. The parents say they want their private dinner at 7, that means the kid isn’t there for that, either – that means likely the nanny is doing bedtime. They need to be clear on what the end of the work day is for the nanny. Perhaps she eats her own dinner while they feed the kid, they turn the kid over to her, she does bath and bed and the parents eat their own dinner at the same time. That may be a way to solve the problem. Or she has a hard out as soon as the parents start feeding the child – nanny goes to her own quarters and doesn’t come back til morning.

    The other thing that isn’t clear is where the laundry machines are. LW doesn’t get to say that the nanny can use the laundry, but then make it inconvenient for her to do so. If the closest place to wait is the kitchen, don’t blame her for it; she probably wants to get her stuff and get out of there as soon as it’s done. If LW has a laundry room, put a comfy chair in there so she can wait in there with a book or whatever. Or, better yet, allow her to do her laundry during the work day so that she can completely vacate your living space at 6:00.

    Last, if it’s offensive that she eats in your kitchen while you are present, make sure she understands she may eat there but not while you are there. If that means she cooks her dinner during the toddler cooking time and takes it to her quarters, then that’s how she does it. Or she may eat between kid dinner and parent dinner but never during parent dinner.

  65. theletter*

    I would say if you can afford, set up the live-in suite with a kitchenette and W/D units. Stick a TV in there two if she doesn’t have one.

    Since it does sound like she maybe be craving adult contact in the midst of a pandemic, a weekly grown-up dinner and game night might help alleviate that.

  66. Persephone Underground*

    Haven’t read all the comments, so just chiming in with a quick observation. Alison kinda said this, but what I noticed the most about how the LW addressed this with the nanny was that she kept saying things to the effect of “your work is done after 7, take your own free time then”. But “free time” means doing whatever you want with your time, not necessarily leaving the kitchen or returning to her part of the house. She might like hanging around people while off-duty and is just being leisurely about wrapping up dishes/her own dinner once she’s done with the official work day because that’s how she winds down. It’s even more obvious when she’s just hanging out waiting for laundry.

    “Do what you want after 7” is not the same as “please give us a couple hours of privacy after 7”, and I think that’s the key disconnect happening in your communication here.

    It’s ok to directly ask someone to give you space, as long as it’s part of a general approach of open communication, not “Gosh, do you ever leave???” I also second the above thoughts some comments mentioned about finding a way to give her some adult social time if she’s feeling lonely, especially if you are requiring strict distancing from her that means you’re the only adults she ever sees in person.

  67. Shannan*

    Whoa! Seems no one has picked up that this poor gal is isolated and seems lonely. Maybe she’s depressed. Does she have friends and if so are they allowed over? If this lady decided to change the routine having someone live in their home. We treated our AuPair as a family member but yes we wanted some privacy. Sometimes having extra people around means having to plan private time. Maybe her home was open around the dinner table and private conversations were done in a more private setting.

  68. SaffyTaffy*

    Is there any possible chance that she is washing dishes slowly because of criticism about how WELL they were washed previously? I may be projecting my own trauma. But dishes can be an especially finnicky area of domestic dispute! Have you ever told her that the 10-minute washing sessions she did weren’t thorough enough?

  69. Anonymouse*

    If this was addressed earlier TLDR. One area related to her wanting social interaction is if she has the means to contact her own friends and family. Either to her not having the resources (say a computer) or her family not having the resources (like a computer, or internet). Especially if we’re talking about international communication. So if she can’t talk to anyone outside the home during her free time and you won’t talk to her when she’s in the kitchen, what is the poor lady supposed to do.

  70. boop the first*

    Hmm I think it’s at least fair to check in at the end of the day and actually SEE what is taking so long. Maybe she is slow, maybe she is doing deep cleaning that you would normally overlook for yourself, maybe she is meal prepping for the next day, there’s no reason why this needs to be secret and if she really is just craving adult connection, this is a welcome opportunity for you to (gracefully) investigate. Unless I’m wrong….?

    I just know that what you DON’T know, becomes frustrating. If you did know, you would have a better idea of how to handle this and solve problems.

    But if you come in at 7 and say “take off, eh, we’ll handle this,” for the love of crackers, handle it! I’ve definitely brushed off my boss’ urgings to take a lunch break or leave on time because I know that if I walk away from a time-sensitive and expensive task and leave him to it, he will either call me to come back or just completely bungle it. If I left undone tasks or dirty dishes at the end of the day to someone who said they’d “handle it”, I’d walk in the next day to find those same tasks waiting for me, thus pushing the schedule back and causing a snowball effect. And the work becomes harder after it sits. Hopefully, it’s not that.

  71. Anonymous for this*

    I feel like some of this is a “house sharing” issue. The worst tenant situation I’ve ever been in was when I moved from tenant- friendly California to Eff-the-Tenant state, where I leaned (after signing a 6 month lease to rent a room) that my landlady didn’t want me using her kitchen or laundry. I only had a mini fridge and microwave in my room, which meant I couldn’t even store a week of TV dinners. I mostly ate out and gained 40lbs in those 6 months. I also didn’t get to hang out in common areas- It wasn’t explicitly said, but I picked up the vibe. My room was small, and it was such a scandalous ask to have my long distance partner visit me overnight that I mostly drove (200 miles) to him every weekend, for romantic time, socialization, to do my laundry, and to cook! I love to cook.
    When does this human get to attend to her human needs of cooking for herself? Not until after 7? Is she allowed to do laundry while watching the kid, or does she need to be “off the clock?” Does she have a partner she’s allowed to have over, or family, or is she supposed to physically isolate herself from everyone but LW’s family? Are her friends and family on the same time zone, and if not, can she sometimes call them during the day while watching the kid?
    And, as a single parent, I can attest to how isolating it can be spending all day with a kid, moreso with no family or friends in the area. it’s really hard on the mental health.
    I just feel so, so bad for the nanny.

    And finally- if it’s awkward to discuss private matters in front of others, don’t carry on like they aren’t there. I don’t boot my kid, his friends, or visitors from the living room if I need to talk to my partner privately. We just go to another room. LW’s kid will eventually start overhearing things, too, so the lack of privacy in common areas will definitely be A THING.

  72. Don't Be Rude*

    Please just be nice and treat her like a real human being. Yes, she’s an employee, but she likely also considers herself part of the family, caring for you kid all day and likely with minimal adult interactions. It’s fine to set some boundaries, but this is also her home and her entire existence at this time. Be kind, offer her adult socialization, make her feel welcomed, and I guarantee you will see benefits in the way she cares for your kid and takes care of your home.

  73. HelloHi*

    People are making such good points! If the kid is being fed at 6 and parents eat at 7, when does Jane eat? Also, someone mentioned meal prepping. If Jane spends the whole day with the child, she may not have time to cook lunch during the day. Also, what if she doesn’t want to wait till 8 or 9 to make her dinner? I am one of those people who eat dinner early. I like my dinner at 5 so I would go crazy if I had to wait till 8 to start making it. Plus, it just blows my mind to just kick someone out of the kitchen after specific time. What if she turns out to be super hungry one day and wants second dinner at 10pm? If someone lives in your house but doesn’t have a separate kitchen (not kitchenette) and laundry room, you can’t ban them from those space.

  74. Luna*

    Perhaps you should have set direct guidelines from the beginning, and realized what ‘live-in nanny’ means. She is *living* with you now, and, yes, that means access to places like the kitchen, and at any odd hour.

    If she has her own living space, which includes practically everything required as its own little apartment (bedroom, items for entertainment like a TV, an en suite, and a decent kitchen), I can understand wanting her to focus on taking care of her own cooking and such in that space. If it isn’t, and it’s mostly just a bedroom/’her’ room, she will be using the kitchen.

    Please, be aware what this live-in nanny position means; it’s similar to living with roommates, but adds the employee aspect, like Allison says. And if it’s a shared kitchen, don’t be too harsh on ‘kicking her out’ of it from 7 PM onward.
    Different situation entirely, but when I visited my dad on weekends, I felt so uncomfortable at the place sometimes (especially with my stepmother and stepsiblings around; I rarely had contact with them, so we never got past the awkward stage of acquaintances) that I felt like I was not allowed in the kitchen or eat/drink anything there.
    That wasn’t the case, it was my own awkwardness and discomfort making me *feel* that way, but it does have an effect on liking to be in a place.

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