Could You Work for a Non-Traditional Family?

Working for a Non-Traditional Family for Nannies and Au Pairs

Since we asked if nannies could work for families of a different faith yesterday and had a healthy response on Facebook I want to continue with a similar discussion and see if nannies would be willing to work for non-traditional families.

According to Jan Hare, Ph. D., Associate Professor, Oregon State University There is nothing typical about the typical modern American family. The blended family is becoming increasingly common. One of three Americans is now a stepparent, a stepchild, a step sibling, or some other member of a step family.

Because society tends to promote the traditional family as the norm through literature, schools, and television, children who live in non-traditional families may feel that theirs is not a real family and may be embarrassed by their different family structure.

It is important to let children know that currently in the United States non-traditional families are more common than traditional families. It is also important to help children understand that what the family provides for its members is more important than the way it is structured.

Children living in nontraditional families often face social challenges. Although loyal to their family, they may sometimes feel self-conscious about being part of a family that is “different.”

Children can be secure and well-adjusted in all kinds of family structures. However, even in the best of circumstances, being from a non-traditional family is sometimes difficult because of misunderstandings outside the family. As a nanny for a nontraditional family, you can help the children cope with these sometimes complicated situations by regularly encouraging open discussion. Here are some suggestions for creating an environment conducive to open communication.

1. Have the parents tell you how they want you to define their family to their children. Speak to the children as the parents direct you to. One of the best definitions of family is: A family is a group of people who love and take care of each other.

2. Consider your own attitudes. Sometimes caregivers unknowingly convey a negative sense of the family to children.

3. Talk about the many different ways people can be a family.

4. Encourage children to ask questions. In order for children to understand what might be a complicated family situation, they need to feel comfortable asking whatever questions may be on their minds.

5. Recognize potential societal barriers. A complicated situation may develop when adults of the same sex join together. Gay men and lesbians often experience prejudice. As a result, children can be fearful about disclosing information about their family.

6. Patience and understanding often go a long way toward creating acceptance. Many children who are allowed to control what their peers know about the family eventually gain the confidence to acknowledge the adults’ relationship and cope well with responses from others.

7. Help children to creatively describe their family. Picture drawing: Ask children to draw a picture of the whole family. When they are finished drawing, simply ask them to tell you about it. This drawing may give you a good idea about each child’s view of the family.

Family maps: Drawing a map of family relationships can help children to understand connections among immediate and extended family members. It can be fun, too! Young children live in a very literal world. They need simple explanations. Giving a simple description of what may be a very complicated family situation is not an easy task.

Would you be willing to work for a non-traditional family? If you have what tips do you have for other nannies and au pairs?


  1. Like yesterdays topic this can be tricky. I personally have no problem working for any family structure but I live in NY which is very diverse. I am certain there are hundreds that read your magazine that would not work for same sex parents. It's illegal for parents to not hire us due to sexual preference, religion, and such but nannies make these judgements all the time. For me it's moe important to have a clean house and parents that discipline like me, not their color, religion, or gender.

  2. I haven't had a problem working for families that follow different relgions, but I would be uncomfortable working for a same sex couple. I wish I could but it's just something that I don't approve of. I'm sure they could find another nanny that could work in such an environment.

  3. I personaly could do it. I have done it. I've worked for divorced parents, single mom, and same sex couple. But when it comes to some nontraditional families I understand why it would be hard for some nannies. To be honest they may have their own deep-seated issues with the situation, and better to know before accepting a job because the kids will pick up on the nanny's feelings. How hard it must be to make a conscious effort not to allow this to contaminate the relationship with the children. Children can be very perceptive, even more than we tend to give them credit for.

  4. I personally don't have a problem working for nontradtional families. But, I can see why many nannies might. Just like religion (although not politically correct) if a nanny has a deep routed belief against something it would be hard to hide the negative feelings from the kids. I feel bad that gay parents (for example) might have a harder time finding a nanny or au pair to work for them then a tradtional woman and man family. But wouldn't it be better to hire someone who doesn't have a bias or problem with their family unit? It's better for the au pair or nanny to be honest with themselves before accepting a job that would make them uncomfortable. I don't have an issue, but for those who do it's best they be honest with themselves and not take a job that goes against thier core belief system.Also, au pairs and nannies don't agree with a lot of the decisions make but learn to respect the parents decision. You can support them and not agree 100% with every decision.

  5. I always hear in the media that 50% of marriages fail so half the nanny employers may be divorced, single parent due to divorce, and so on. In a tough job market you will have more job opportunities if you are willing to work for non-traditional families too.Reyna H NY NY

  6. Absolutely! I have many gay / lesbian friends and I am aware of the difficulties they encounter daily. I would love to help a family raise their children in a non-traditional family and feel that I could offer an open mind and support.

  7. Personally I'm interested in learning more and would have no problem. I don't feel it deminishes my beliefs in any way. It's part of the mutual respect and cultural understanding that we want to instill in children. I do understand families that prefer someone they have more in common with. It's interesting isn't it? Becky

  8. Many nannies have been offered jobs with gay clients and turned them down for religious reasons. While I understand, it is still a shame when religion separates us and closes our hearts.

  9. I have worked for a gay parent, single parent, divorced parents, widowers, etc. Those of different political beliefs, those with different religious beliefs, different ethnic background, etc.I actually have never worked for people who remotely resemble ones I grew up with, and well my parents taught we at a young age to accept it all. (Thank God or I would have been very limited in employment options.)Having said all of this, I do think a nanny needs to make sure she has a comfort level with it all and not just take a job to be employed because ultimately it is their homes and life choices. You have to support the children the best you can without letting your own ideas and opinions be evident.

  10. I would not want to work for a divorced or divorcing family in which both parents were not behaving honorably and in the children's best interests. That would be too painful for me and too great an emotional strain.

  11. Considering I am from a non traditional family I should say so! Half of families are non traditional so nannies should learn to grow with the statistics.

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