Few relationships are as complex as the mother-nanny relationship. When you bring a nanny into your home, not only are you someone’s employer, but you are also co-parenting with that person. This creates a very strange blend of professionalism and intimacy. To complicate things even further, sometimes there is a natural guilt or resentment towards another woman stepping into your motherly role. Allowing your relationship with your nanny to develop on auto-pilot could end up in a crash landing down the road. But if you become aware of the common circumstances in which mothers and nannies clash, you can steer your relationship on the right track from day one.

Make expectations clear- Your nanny will not be able to read your mind, and the way you want things done may be different from what she is used to. It’s important to address all of your expectations directly and upfront. If there is a special way you want laundry done or a certain method for preparing the kid’s meals, let her know up front. If you wait until she is in the middle of these tasks to instruct her, she may feel as though you are stepping on her toes and criticizing her.

Don’t add unexpected duties- Your nanny is an employee and she is only required to do the job your hired her to do. Due to the intimate nature of your relationship you may not even realize when you’re abusing the relationship by adding on extra miscellaneous work. Examples of this might be asking your nanny to cook you a quick dinner before she leaves, iron your clothes for work, or help you write thank you cards, if these sorts of things were not part of her job description. They may seem like harmless little requests, but too many of them over time can make your nanny feel used and under-compensated.

Don’t micro-manage everything- Although you deserve to have your expectations met, you are hiring a nanny, not a clone of yourself. You should really try to choose your battles when it comes to nit-picking the way your nanny does certain things, and limit your criticism only to things that are going to have an adverse effect on your home or children. While you should definitely put your foot down in important situations, you don’t have to correct her every time she puts the toilet paper roll facing up or down. Your nanny is your helper, not a target for your OCD. The bigger picture is that she is running your home and caring for your children while you’re away, and that’s much more important than trivial preferences.

Know your boundaries- It’s a personal choice as to how personable you want to be with your nanny, but it’s both of your choice, and not every nanny will be on the same page as you. Some nannies want to chat and gossip with you about everything under the sun, and some would prefer a more formal relationship. You have the right to choose whatever type of relationship suits you, but you should figure out your nannies preference before you hire her so you don’t end up clashing. You don’t want to wind up in a situation where you’re venting about your marriage problems to a woman who thinks you’re crossing the line with her. And likewise, you don’t want to end up trying to peacefully co-exist with a nanny who won’t stop yapping about her family drama. If either of you is uncomfortable with the relationship dynamic, it won’t work.

Be prompt and professional with pay- Nothing will create more resentment from your nanny than messing with her money or forgetting about paying her. Your nanny should never have to remind you that her pay is due, how many hours she worked, etc. As an employer, you are required to keep track of everything, be organized, and compensate fairly. It’s the least you can do to maintain a good nanny relationship.

Don’t talk down to your nanny- Even if you choose to maintain a formal and impersonal relationship with your nanny, you should be very careful to always treat her respectfully and not in a way that makes her feel subservient to you. You are not beneath your employer, and nor is your nanny to you. A respectful demeanor towards your nanny will encourage the children to be respectful to her as well, and this can eliminate many of the behavioral problems that nannies sometimes experience with children.

Address problems immediately- Possibly the worst pitfall of nanny-parent relationships is when small problems go unaddressed over a long period of time and stew and fester. Resentment can be conveyed in nonverbal cues and your nanny is likely to sense the negative energy that you’re holding in. Problems that aren’t addressed cannot be fixed, so get everything on the table right away.

You and your nanny are a parenting team, and just like a marriage, it is vital that your relationship be harmonious for the sake of the children and yourselves.