Comfort, Joy, and Cash this Christmas
We all know it’s not the elves that keep kids safe and the house running when both parents are working. For many U.S. families, that work falls to nannies.
While I still appreciate the magic of the holidays, somewhere along the way the whole gift-giving thing hasbecome quite stressful. Perhaps the most challenging is what to do about babysitters and nannies. Due to some fairly comedic memes (like the one in the sidebar), many parents have stopped giving teachers tote bags with apples on them, favoring gift cards to Amazon or Starbucks instead. (Local shops often offer gift cards and can seem more personal while also supporting a small business.) However, nannies and other childcare providers can be even trickier as the relationship can be more personal.
For good reason, most mother-employers want to offer a personal gift that shows thought and genuine appreciation. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but I present the top five list of other options.
- Cash: In Chicago, the median salary for a nanny is $15/hr, which meets the standard set by the Fight for Fifteen campaign, but still leaves most families struggling to meet basic needs, particularly in areas with a high standard of living. Moreover, the thing about medians is that for every nanny earning more than $15/hr there’s another earning less, sometimes significantly less. Even if you pay well for your area, childcare is seldom a lucrative job and nearly every caregiver could use some more of the green stuff.
- Citizenship: One of the best gifts you could offer is to help with citizenship, and while many mother-employers wouldn’t think twice about sponsoring the woman who has helped raise her children, U.S. laws make it almost impossible to do so. There is always the possibility of wiggle room due to specific circumstances, so helping pay for legal advice might still be worthwhile, but keep in mind that the chances are slim that there will be a good resolution. However, you can call your local and state politicians to help revamp out-of-date and harsh immigration policies.
- Education: Most kids don’t love school, but many adults wish they could go back for enjoyment or so they can earn more money. Offer your childcare provider a class of her choosing at a local college or private institution for a skill she would like to learn. (Make sure you are ready to commit to the extra time she may need to make the class happen, too.) Whether the class is language-based, child-care oriented, or something else entirely, she will likely appreciate your support. Like #4, if you simply can’t afford to do more than you are, offer to teach her something that you know how to do well, but keep in mind that she may feel awkward taking you up on your offer particularly if she would rather just clock out at the end of the day.
- Time off: Second only to cash, most nannies (like the rest of us) would love to have a break from her daily responsibilities, including your kids – even if she loves them as much as you do! We all love having a bit of extra time to hang out with friends and family, travel a bit, or just sit and relax. While a childcare provider’s time off can often be difficult for parents, consider how refreshed you feel when you’ve had some time to catch up on life.
- Cash: Really. I know nannies can feel like family and you rarely give adult family members cash as a gift, but remember that nannies are also employees. Just as you probably don’t want your boss picking out the “perfect” gift for you, your nanny may not want you to either. There is a long history of paternalism (and maternalism) in domestic work, which is when an employer does what s/he THINKS is best for a caregiver or cleaner rather than doing what the caregiver or cleaner WANTS him/her to do.
If you truly feel odd offering just money, consider adding something small that you think would be appreciated, can be easily returned, and won’t have to be worn in front of you (thus creating the awkward “I have to wear this in front of the person so she knows that I really use it” situation). Something homemade from your kids is a nice added touch or a framed photo of her with your kids or your whole family. Better yet, think of something that you can special you can do for her. Offering to make her a favorite a meal that she can take home or use on the weekend is one idea. Creative vouchers can be drawn up for just about anything that makes her life a little bit better.
No one wants to be Scrooge in The Christmas Carol, and I doubt you are. Sometimes, though, a quick check-in to make sure we are being the best employer we can is useful. Use this checklist to see how you can improve: http://domesticemployers.org/the-checklist. Being a good boss throughout the year is certainly just as important as giving a nice bonus once a year.