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Ex-etiquette: Develop an exit plan for Nanny

Jann Blackstone

Q: My fiancé has a very high-powered job with a work schedule that requires a lot of overtime. His children have had the same nanny since they were babies. She currently works in my fiancé’s home when he has the kids — a week with dad and a week with mom. I also have two children, and have always been a stay-at-home mom. I would like to continue to stay home with the kids after I move in, but that means there will be no need for a nanny — and that presents a problem. I get along well with my fiancé’s ex and his children and the last thing I want to do is upset everyone. Are we making the right decision to let the nanny go? What’s good ex-etiquette?

A: The decision to have help in the house was because your fiancé wasn’t home to take care of the kids and now that you’ll be home it seems a logical choice for nanny to move on — but I suggest you do that slowly — not announce that now that you are there, Nanny’s gone. Reason being, kids often acquaint change to the person enlisting the change. That means if the kids love Nanny and she leaves when you show up, the kids might acquaint that change with you and you may be sabotaging your own relationship with them.

So what to do? This will need to be a finely timed coordinated effort. Start by making sure you’re on the same page with their dad before you move in. Decide upon your responsibilities toward each other’s children, establish house rules and chores for each family member and then stick to them. You mentioned that you are already cultivating a good relationship with the children’s mother. This is crucial if you want the “week with you/week with dad” custody arrangement to work.

Next, coordinate an exit plan with Nanny — and remember, if she’s been the children’s caregiver for years, this could be very difficult for her. Consider Ex-etiquette for Parents rule No. 7, “Use empathy when problem solving” to help you with your approach.

Here’s an exit plan idea: Before you officially move in, start by helping Nanny with some of her responsibilities while she’s at your fiancé’s home. Pick the kids up from school one day a week and help with their homework while Nanny is present. Over time, hike it to two days and then slowly let her leave early for the day. If done correctly, the sting of her leaving will be lessened and your moving in will appear to be the natural order of things.

Finally, Dad and Nanny are not the only ones to consider when coordinating this exit plan — don’t forget to include their mother, as well. (Ex-etiquette for Parents rule No. 2, “Ask for help if you need it.”) Even though you think you get along with her, that was before you were performing some of the same duties she performs for her children. Nanny was nonthreatening. Make sure she knows you want to support her, not take over, or Nanny leaving will be the least of your worries. That’s good ex-etiquette.

Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families.