The Three Biggest Challenges I Faced as an International Nanny

By Chelsea Novakowski

As a nanny with over 10+ years of childcare experience across five continents, I have experienced my fair share of challenges. Being prepared and proactive is the best way to successfully navigate through any challenge. Below I will share three of the biggest challenges I faced as an international nanny and what techniques I used to successfully overcome them.

  1. Dealing with Differing Childcare Philosophies

Some families are more strict than others, specifically with regards to screen time, food, or safety precautions. Some families may be more relaxed about certain things than you as a care provider feel comfortable with. Making sure you ask questions, communicate your concerns, do your best to try to understand the perspective of the family and you keep an open mind about their needs and wants is imperative to ensuring you can find alignment between the family’s philosophy while adhering to your own principles. Making sure you are able to suspend your own assumptions while you open yourself to communicate with the family will allow you to come to an agreement about the best way to nurture and care for their child. I would suggest when an issue arises to communicate as frequently and as soon as possible, and to be as clear and direct about your concerns while also acknowledging and doing your upmost to meet their needs.

  1. Miscommunication

Sometimes it can be difficult to express your needs or wants, or to understand what the family needs or wants from you. Sometimes, it may be appropriate to give your opinion on the care of the child and other times, it’s inappropriate. First, when communicating in a tense situation it’s important to examine your reason for communicating. Is it a reaction? Make sure that you do your best to address the situation in a way that will resolve any potential conflicts, rather than exacerbate them. If you need to take time to organize your thoughts before you deal with the situation, it’s good to take advantage of this if possible as you don’t want to say something that might not reflect reality. If the issue is of immediate safety of the children, of course you need to express what is in the best interest of the kids. Again, being proactive is imperative and I would suggest communicating as much and as clearly as possible from the outset. Being as clear and direct is the best way to make sure you are on the same page. Discussing potential issues as they arise and before they become too challenging will help prevent uncertainty or awkwardness in the future.

  1. Setting Appropriate Boundaries

Every family has different levels of comfort. Some families will respect your personal time more than others. Usually, in the beginning, things can be more awkward, uncomfortable or you can feel unsure about how to orient yourself with this new family. As you progress and gain experience as a nanny, this will become easier. You may have a tough day with the kids and need your space. Consistency and clarity can help ensure children understand your time off and parents learn to respect your boundaries. Being a team player and part of a family may be a bigger part of some roles, and ensuring you are available when you say you will be is important. Putting your expectations down in a contract is the most formal way of ensuring boundaries can be met, but also discussing them at the outset is an important part of any nanny agreement.

Overall, being prepared and proactive is the best way to set yourself up to be a successful nanny.


Chelsea Novakowski is a passionate, caring, curious nanny with 10+ years of experience and an adventurous streak! She is based in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Global Development Studies, a certificate in Child and Youth Mental Health, and is a certified early childhood educational assistant. She has been fortunate enough to care for children around the world, including the ski slopes of Montreal, sailboats in the Aegean Sea, summer camps in Ontario, the oceanside in Spain, and the suburbs of Australia, among other places. Most recently, she spent six months as a consultant at the United Nations in Laos, taught ice skating in Afghanistan, and is currently working as a researcher while completing her Master’s degree.

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