The Jealous Parent

The Nanny or Au Pair and Parent Relationship

The relationship between a parent and nanny (or au pair) is just as important as the relationship between the caregiver and the child. Although caring for children is a nanny’s top priority, if the caregiver cannot communicate effectively with the parents, or help raise the children as the parents wish, the nanny won’t have a job.

One of the most complicated aspect of the nanny and parent relationship is jealousy.

In the book Touchpoints the Essential Reference, T. Berry Brazelton, M. D. discusses the common jealousy parents feel when they go to work leaving their child in the care of another person.

The author says, “Of course, parents will feel jealous. They will mourn the loss. This mourning is accompanied by three defenses: denial, projections of their feelings onto others, and detachment from the baby’s care. These defenses can interfere with the parents’ relationship to the other caregivers, as well as to the baby.”

“If they are understood as normal defenses — necessary for protecting vulnerability — parents can have some perspective and avoid becoming hostile with the very person upon whom they will depend,” explains Brazelton.

He suggests to parents, “If you find a warm, caring person, you need to be aware of your competitive feelings and to talk them out from time to time.”

To keep jealousy from ruining the parent and nanny (or au pair) relationship the author suggests parents, “Give her your backing. If she does things slightly differently from you, don’t worry. A child can adjust to several different styles and can learn to be flexible in the process. If you respect her ways of caregiving, the child will too, as she gets older.”

“I’d want to know whether the caregiver can also respect and nurture you as involved parents,” says Brazelton.

“Can she allow you time to tell her why your baby has been like at home the evening before? Will she sit down to tell you about your baby’s day when you come home? This is hard to tell ahead of time. But if a caregiver seems judgmental about your leaving your baby all day, I would look for a person who can understand your anguish and can accept your reasons for going back to work,” writes the author.

Brazelton describes, “The sort of person you want would say, ‘you know, I think he’s about to start to walk,’ instead of, ‘He just walked for me today.”

“A person who can remain nurturing is likely to be one who is well trained in child development and who is not overloaded by too many other responsibilities and too many children to care for.He states,”To expect this of her, she needs to be adequately paid. Quality childcare is not cheap, more should it be.”

He concludes, “Early experiences shape your child’s future. Giving him the best care and environment becomes an investment.”

Parental jealousy is a natural feeling when sharing the care of a child. Both nannies and parents should remember this rather than becoming resentful or hostile towards one another.

How do you ease a jealous parent at your nanny or au pair job?


  1. I know a lot of nannies resent coming early and staying late but by coming a little early in the morning and staying a tiny bit late some evenings I can talk to the parents and show how I think that communicating about their kids is more important than getting home on time. Most jobs require their employees to stay late sometimes. By doing that and making the extra effort to communicate even if it means staying late I think helps ease the parents minds that the care of their kids is my top priority. The more you communicate with them and the more comfortable you feel talking to them the better they will feel leaving their kids in your care and less jealously they will feel.

  2. I have worked for some families and the mom is jealous of the relationship with me and their child! I had one lady tell me she was letting me go because she believed that I was becoming to close with her nine year old daughter! I was like "WHAT" are you kidding me! I did have a good relationship with the lil girl and the boy because they were homeschooled and we were able to do a lot of things and have fun! So the mom fired me and told me she was sorry but she was looking for someone who would not steal her childrens affection away from their mother! I was like okay, but thank you anyway I am sorry I wasnt more of a help for you!

  3. I love that you mentioned that you work for the parents. Nannies are working to make the parents' life easier. If you can't take direction from the parents and service their needs than you are not a great nanny. Of course you care for the children. But you must must must nurture and encourage the parent and child relationship. If the nanny keeps talking about what she is doing good the parent will resent her. Instead say what the child accomplished. Let the parents know how much the children missed them. Encourage their love for their parents. Let the parents know you are caring for the children in the way they want you to.Mariam from Livingston New Jersey

  4. Thank you for this article. I always hated one mom I worked with because she micro managed everything I did and I felt she was critical over little things. Meanwhile, after 10 yrs experience I was used to running the household and caring for children on my own. I bent over background trying to accomodate her (the mom). I did everything with them in mind, never thought I was trying to do anything differenly than her.I would confide in my own parents and they would say the mother was jealous.I thought that was wrong because she is tall and pretty, rich, handsome husband, and a mother (all of which I have none of), what could she be jealous of? Now I see what Brazelton is saying. She feels jealous of the fun I get to have with the children. Jealous of the milestones I was seeing and she missed.But, even though that makes sense it does not make it ok to criticize the employee. She would say things to me like "Use common sense!" Well, my common sense is differnth then hers. I saw many situations differntly than she saw them.We are different people and do things differently. Parents need to weigh the pros and cons of not being a stay at home parent and not take frustration out on the nanny.Janice P. Nanny 12 years experienceMelrose MA

  5. What about the nannies that let kids call them "mommy"? I think there is plenty of jealousy to go around and it is dangerous for parents and nannies. Both parents and nannies have to respect the other and understand they do things differntly but both care for the children and are doing their best.

  6. Don't be arrogant and think you know better than the parents. If you brag too much about what you have done it won't only lead to jealous parents but competitive ones. Parents want to hire caring and humble caregivers. One of my friends even told me that she very innocently suggested ideas to parents in the past and the parents asked her to stop.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: