My first babysitting job was watching the little girl down the street for a half-hour, once a week, when I was ten years old. As word of a new babysitter on the block spread, my summers were booked from then on.
I took a babysitter training course. I read all the American Girl books about babysitting. I even logged onto Yahoo Answers under a fake mom-sounding name to research the best childcare tips. Eventually, I transitioned from part-time babysitter to full-time nanny.
After all the families I’ve been with and all the children I’ve cared for over the past 18 years, I’ve compiled a list of the most important things I think parents should keep in mind when ready to hire a nanny.
Your nanny is more than just an employee.
When I moved to Chicago for graduate school, I had the pleasure of taking care of the world’s sweetest 3-month-old. I gave his parents advice on feeding & sleep training. His mom and I talked every morning while she got ready for work. Sometimes the conversations were casual, and sometimes they were personal. No matter what we talked about, it always felt like I was hanging with my older sister.
Always remember that the people who care for your children can be more than just someone you pay to play with your kids.
I haven’t worked for her in over three years, and we still text or talk on the phone almost every single day. Always remember that the people who care for your children can be more than just someone you pay to play with your kids.
As far as your children are concerned, the nanny can be as important to them as a third parent. This does not make you any less of an awesome mom. It just means you’re lucky to have someone who loves your family like her own!
Respect is a two-way street.
A different mom I worked for in Chicago saved my phone number in her phone as “Nanny (Catherine),” for the vast majority of the three years I was with her family. First of all, that’s not how you spell my name. We emailed back and forth about the kids daily, and my email is just my first and last name. She knew how to spell my name.
This mistake may seem like a non-issue initially, but it represents something bigger. If you can’t even remember the nanny’s name, it suggests you don’t have the desire to think of her as anything more than the hired help.
If you can’t even remember the nanny’s name, it suggests you don’t have the desire to think of her as anything more than the hired help.
I would have no desire to spend most of my waking hours working for someone who thinks I’m not even worth knowing. A mutual respect is vital for the nanny-employer relationship to stay healthy, and it starts with simply knowing your nanny’s name.
Your nanny loves your children in their own way.
I’ve read so many mommy-blog posts about how it’s important to remember that nannies are employees, not family members, and they would leave the second they stop getting paid, so take their love for your children with a grain of salt. Reality: If your nanny doesn’t love your children, you have the wrong nanny. Period.
It’s true, childcare is a career, but keep in mind that people tend to seek out careers in fields they’re passionate about. Nannying doesn’t pay a ton (more on this later), therefore NO one goes into childcare for the money.
Nannying doesn’t pay a ton (more on this later), therefore NO one goes into childcare for the money.
People choose to care for children because they love children, and your nanny chose to take your job offer because they loved yours specifically. If you didn’t pay them, they would leave because they would financially NEED to (heard of bills?), not because they don’t love your children.
Be honest about hours.
Unlike most jobs, nannies cannot just clock out and leave when the scheduled work day is over. You know that the nanny cannot just abandon your children just so she can leave work on time. If you say you will be home at 5:30, be home at 5:30. If you are running late, let her know ahead of time. If you know during the hiring process that you have no idea what time you’ll be home each night, tell them you need flexibility. The right candidate will be okay with that.
Things happen. We understand that. But when you’re late night after night, it’s time to acknowledge that you were incorrect about the hours you need childcare and ask your nanny if she would be willing to renegotiate hours.
A good nanny comes with a cost for a reason.
As much as I’ve explained that the right nanny will love your child, nannying is also a job. You expect to bring home a livable wage from your place of employment, and we deserve to count on the same. Nannies often spend more waking hours with the children than parents do.
We laugh with them, we hug away their tears, and we worry about them when they’re sick. Despite how much we care about them, we won’t get to see them grow into the adults we helped raise them to be the way you will.
We laugh with them, we hug away their tears, and we worry about them when they’re sick.
Research what a fair salary in your area is. Keep experience, number of children, expected duties, etc. in mind while calculating what you’re willing to pay. Care.com has a great nanny salary calculator to start with.
Be honest with yourself about what you’re willing and able to pay. If it’s not enough, you might consider alternative forms of childcare, like daycare or a nanny share. You are the one who sets the tone for a fair & respectful relationship. If you start the relationship by showing her she’s worth a lot to you, things can only get better from there.
If nothing else, keep in mind you’re the one with the power to set the tone for a fair & respectful parent-nanny dynamic. If you keep these basic tips in mind during your nanny search, you’ll find the perfect nanny for your family & it’ll be smooth sailing from that point forward!★
Kathryn Brostowitz is on a hiatus from nannying to work as a writer, the thing she actually went to school to do. She misses every one of the kids she’s ever cared for a crazy amount & still talks about them to everyone who will listen. You can read her work in The Tavern Lantern.