SHARED by: Leigh Goldman, Gymtime Mom

When Lindsay Bell worked for the Rockettes, she became quite adept at managing the schedules of 200 women. Turns out, it was good training for running American Bell Family Company, her on-demand babysitting service and nanny agency.

Bell founded predecessor company Lucky Lil’ Darlings in 2009, and her company has since grown to include more than 500 extensively vetted caregivers and hundreds of happy families. As the company website explains, “Bell Family is a tight-knit, loyal network; members must be referred and pass through our screening process before joining.” It’s no wonder her company has become the go-to agency for so many NYC families and quality caregivers.

An Ohio native, Bell was the oldest of five girls and honed her own babysitting skills early on. She also babysat regularly after moving to New York following college graduation, even as she was arranging media appearances for various Rockettes (she knew the height and dance specialties of every single woman!).

We asked Bell to chat with us about managing what’s arguably the most important work relationship you’ll ever have – the one between you and your caregiver.

Outline Expectations: Bell is adamant about this, stating, “Expectations need to be communicated up front and be very clear to both parties. We advise families hiring part- or full-time consistent caregivers to have a nanny contract.” Her company’s nanny contract includes items about meal prep, light housekeeping, answering the house phone, petty cash, shoe removal in the house and, of course, medical allergies. When something isn’t outlined and confusion ensues, “That could really start things off on the wrong foot,” warns Bell.

Clarify Policy on Days Off: This can be included in the abovementioned nanny contract. Bell adds that you should decide what happens if your nanny gets sick for a long time. Having this in writing minimizes the risk of ambiguity leading to issues down the road.

Spread Good Karma: Bell notes, “In terms of favors and good karma, you want to put yourself forward and help your nanny, but she should in turn want to help you. If you feel the good karma balance is off because your nanny is asking for too much, you need to manage that.”

Talk the Talk: Most issues can be talked through. Bell advises families to discuss issues before a problem arises.” She suggests sitting down to chat over a cup of tea or coffee. “That makes the caregiver feel important.” The in-person element is key, as information can sometimes get lost in translation via texts or emails. Schedule weekly or bi-weekly meetings to catch up, and keep the lines of communication open. If there is a (non-emergency) conflict, wait until the next day – when you’re less emotional – to discuss it.

Avoid Being Over-Friendly: Yes, you want to like your sitter/nanny and have a good working relationship with her. But there are boundaries you shouldn’t cross. Bell has observed that some women get very close to their nannies and overshare (about private topics such as marital stress). She explains how to strike a balance: “A caregiver is there to do a job. You want to maintain a working relationship but still have the nanny feel that she’s part of the family.”

Exercise Common Courtesy:  The Golden Rule is always de rigueur. If you’re running late on your way home, give your caregiver a heads-up so she can reorganize her day/night. Likewise, your sitter/nanny should contact you if she’s running behind.

Bell emphasizes that one of the great advantages of working with an agency is that you have a buffer when things go wrong. The agency can serve as a go-between because it has cultivated relationships with both the families and its caregivers.

To learn more about American Bell Family Company, visit their website. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.