What should I do on my helper’s first day?
In this edition of Ask Mel, our expert from Helpwise walks us through how to make those first day jitters and transition for both your helper and your family go smoothly.
Question: My new helper is arriving soon and I’m not sure what to do with her on the first day. Am I supposed to ease into the transition, or will she expect to start working right away?
Having a helper arrive at your home after weeks of anticipation can give anyone the jitters. I remember my first helper walking through our door, setting her suitcase down, and then asking me what she should make me for lunch! I didn’t know whether I should give her time to unpack or show her where the pans were stored.
To make that introductory day less awkward for you and your helper, it’s good to plan out how you’d like those first hours of transition to look like. The suggestions below are common steps that tend to work well for most households, but they can be tailored to your personality, management style, and how much time you have to train her.
Personal Introductions and House Tour
If your helper hasn’t met all the members of your household yet, Day 1 is a perfect time to make introductions. You may even want to show her a photo of any family members who aren’t home at the time, so she will recognise them once they arrive. If you have a small welcome gift or greeting cards made by the kids, this may be an opportune time to present them.
You’ll also want to give her a tour of your home. Allow for this initial walk-through to be a relaxed introduction to your home, so resist diving into the training just yet. It may be too overwhelming to start showing her how you sort your laundry if she hasn’t even become acquainted with the layout of your place yet. As you walk through the rooms, use it as a chance to share about your family’s lifestyle, “You can see that my son loves trains and that his favorite color is red right now” or “We love to keep the blinds open during the day to let the light in.”
And don’t forget to show her where she can store her belongings such as clothing, luggage, shoes, toiletries, etc, so that she can get settled in quickly.
I know you’re probably eager to jump right into training your helper on the practical tasks, but don’t miss this important opportunity to talk to her about your values and preferences. Too often these vital components are accidentally forgotten during the house tour or practical training. I recommend having a “welcome meeting,” where you can sit down with your helper and share about your household’s priorities and family lifestyle.
This first-day talk is also a great time to go over any household guidelines you may have prepared, explaining her schedule, and how you’d like her to organise her time. For instance, let her know if you’re more concerned about everything being tidy when you arrive home, or if you’d like to see her sitting on the floor playing with the kids. It’s also useful to verify her pay day, rest day, and the what/when/where’s of meal time, to avoid any misunderstandings that could get you off to a bad start.
I’m a big advocate for having regular meetings with your helper, so I encourage you to keep them going beyond the first day. Meeting consistently provides a natural way to keep communication open, and offers a context to provide healthy feedback. I recommend meeting weekly for the first month, and then monthly thereafter. I’ve been meeting regularly with my helper for years, and still find each discussion beneficial.
After you’ve given your helper a tour of your house and helped her to understand your priorities, it’s time to start the training! Consider which one of her roles is most important for her to learn and implement first.
If you want her to care for your newborn, you may want to focus on having her shadow you with all the baby care that whole first day, and then you can switch and shadow her. If cooking is going to be one of her main duties, your first stop might be a visit to your local grocery stores. Walk the aisles with her or have her do the grocery shopping with you, pausing to explain any family allergies and encouraging her to take photos of certain brands or products that you like.
Focus your first training day on the thing that is most important to you, and then start training her on the second and third priorities. This tends to be more effective and memorable than showing her a little bit of everything at once.
Advice for the Journey
Employers who view the adjustment period as 3 – 6 months and understand training to be an ongoing process, as opposed to something you only do the first week, tend to create a stronger working foundation from the beginning.
Take a breath! This is just Day 1 of you and your helper learning to work together. Don’t get overwhelmed with trying to cram everything into one or two training days, and don’t get discouraged if you have to work through some hiccups before you start feeling like a good fit for each other. It’s a journey, and each employer/helper relationship will look different. Aim for growth over perfection. Especially in the beginning.
Good luck, mamas!