The nanny-parent relationship is unique in that it’s a business relationship that takes place in a very personal setting. You’re in a person’s home, caring for their children and immersing yourself in their daily schedules and lives. It can be all too easy to forget that this family you’re growing so close to is also your employer and to commit one of the cardinal sins of nannying: the dreaded overshare.
What is oversharing?
Oversharing is talking about your personal life in a way that is inappropriate for the work environment. Next to cell phone use, oversharing is one of the most common complaints parents have about their nannies, and that’s because it erodes the sense professionalism that should exist between you and your nanny family. But how do you know when you’re doing it?
Oversharing can happen at any stage of the employment and hiring process. It might look like a nanny learning how to care for a family’s pet during her trial day and taking it as an opportunity to talk at length about her own five dogs. It may be the nanny who uses her interview to explain how she’s only nannying temporarily until she realizes her dream of becoming a famous actress. Or maybe it’s the nanny who has been with a family for a while but suddenly starts detailing a recent break-up or her parent’s divorce. Things happen, and we all have things that interest us and life events that we need to talk about, but it’s important to remember that the workplace is not typically the best place to do this.
Why is oversharing a problem?
The topic of oversharing is confusing to some nannies because you may very well work for a family that tends to overshare with you. Maybe a mom has no qualms with detailing her latest argument with her spouse or dishing out dirt about her mother-in-law or the other nanny who works for the family down the street. It is common for some parents to develop a closeness with the nanny, and they may even converse with the nanny in a friendly and personal way.
Still, nannies must remember that this is not a two-way street. As an employee, the nanny’s job is to make life easier for the family and offer support to the family. Sometimes that may mean listening as a parent talks about family drama, but it also means refraining from sharing your own. Parents are hiring you because they need help and support, and they should always have the impression that you are 100 percent focused on their children and your job duties. They don’t need to be privy to intimate details about your personal relationships, finances, and aspirations (other than continued success in your role as a nanny, of course!).
How to set boundaries at work
At this point, you might be wondering how to converse with your bosses in a friendly and casual way without stepping into overshare territory. The answer is: by setting boundaries. You should always feel like you can be yourself, but there must be a line between every day authenticity and work authenticity. What that means is that you must make choices about what kinds of topics are off limits, how much to share, and whether or not what you’re sharing is helpful to your relationship with your employer and your work environment.
Generally, you should avoid discussing topics like your political or religious beliefs, intimate details about your romantic relationships or family matters, your finances, and stressful situations or problems that don’t have to do with your workplace.
For other topics, you should limit the information you share to what is truly helpful or pertinent. While it’s normal to share things that show people your personality, like the fact that you’re an enthusiastic dog lover or that you’re crazy about Crossfit, it’s oversharing when you launch into the gritty details of those topics. Few people want to listen to the specifics of your workout schedule, particularly at work.
Additionally, it’s oversharing if the topic of conversation would be better left for after hours. Your employer does not need to hear your latest Tinder horror story or that you were super hungover last Saturday. If it’s something you’d share with your bestie at a bar, it’s probably not a good idea to bring it to the workplace.Finally, in all situations, ask yourself: will this make my employer question my abilities? Ultimately, parents want to know that you are capable, organized, engaged, and there for their children 100 percent. If you are constantly talking about being exhausted, overwhelmed, strapped for cash, how stressful your home life is, or detailing other complicated life issues, it doesn’t give your employer that impression that you have your head in the game or that you know how to compartmentalize your work life separately from your personal life.
Sharing is a normal and healthy way of bonding with the people for whom you work, and they certainly will want to know more about the wonderful person they’re hiring to care for their children. But remember that you are in charge of curating those conversations and be thoughtful about what you share. You have a lot to offer, so prove it by always being your best self when you’re at work.