Care and Feeding

How Do I Ask Our Nanny to Follow Our Strict Social Distancing Rules?

It’s the new reality of pandemic life.

Twentysomething woman taking a selfie with friends.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Kritchanut/iStock/Getty Images Plus and monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

We have a full-time nanny that has returned to work after a nearly six-week paid hiatus during the lockdown. We never had a direct conversation with her about social distancing expectations, but it’s clear now that we have to. My mom is 79 and has other COVID complications; she doesn’t live with us, but she’s on her own about 15 minutes away, and we want her to be able to see us on occasion (safely, outside, and with masks), so our family has been very isolated since mid-March. We live in Houston, the new hot spot, and yesterday our nanny texted us a photo of her out with a couple of friends. It was meant as a cute “Look, I’m having fun!” photo, but obviously, the implications are so much bigger. My husband and I don’t go out, and we haven’t seen friends except at a distance and outside. We’re both working from home. My husband would rather get a new nanny who is more aligned with our needs on social distancing than go back to paying her to stay home and safe. She’s an adult and has a life, so it feels terribly awkward to impose these private-life requests and restrictions on her. But her actions directly impact our health.

It’s the new reality of pandemic life. Do you have any advice for words and reasonable requests I can use so that we all feel as safe as possible right now?

—Nanny Trouble

Dear NT,

To be fair, the problem started when you and your husband failed to make the new terms of employment clear. While one would hope that your nanny would practice social distancing for her own safety and out of concern for the family she works for, the mixed messages in the media and from government officials have left a lot of folks simply unclear on how important it is that they refrain from nonessential contact with other people.

Let your nanny know why you require a caregiver who is practicing social distancing and what you’d need that to look like in order for her to remain with your family. If she is unable to abide by these rules, let her know that you have no choice but to part ways with her. Even if she agrees to stay on, you may want to ask for a two-week self-quarantine period between her social hang and her first day back at work.

Letting go of someone who plays such an important role in your family is likely to be difficult, but you have a responsibility to keep your household safe, and that means having a nanny who is willing to shoulder her part of the bargain. Best of luck to you with this. I hope you find a peaceful resolution ASAP!

—Jamilah