Find a Nanny that’s right for You and Your Family

Thinking about a Nanny

by Kathleen Webb

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Locating safe, stimulating, affordable childcare is a primary concern of working moms. Factor in increasingly long commutes, work travel schedules, and the shortage of flexible, quality childcare centers, and moms can truly be pulling their hair out! Increasingly, families are turning to nanny-care as a solution to their childcare needs.

The term ‘nanny’ conjures up many different images to families – from Mary Poppins to Mrs. Doubtfire to Fran Drescher. The reality is generally anything but the Hollywood images we have seen. Today’s American nanny is hard to stereotype. She may be young and enthusiastic, starting on her childcare care career. Or she may be a twenty or thirty something who has worked as a nanny for a variety of families. Today’s nanny may also be a more mature woman who has raised her own family and truly enjoys working with and being around young children.

In all of her many forms, today’s nanny considers herself a childcare professional. Nannies provide childcare in your private home, and may live in or live out. Occasionally a nanny will bring her own young child with her to work. A nanny views her primary responsibility as the care and safety of the children in her charge. She is not a housekeeper. Some limited household tasks directly related to childcare can be within the realm of a nanny’s job description, however – depending upon the circumstances of your family. These may include:

· Children’s laundry
· Prepare children’s meals
· Clean dishes/wipe down kitchen after children’s meals
· Load/unload the dishwasher
· Keep children’s bedrooms and play areas straightened up

Families recruiting a nanny are often unsure of how to start and where to go to find that special person. It is recommended that the parents sit down and assess their particular needs. Consider the hours you work, whether you could accommodate another adult living in the household or require ‘come and go’ staff, the level of experience required, and your family childcare budget. Depending on where you live and the educational and work experience of the nanny, a family could spend between $250 and $1000 per week. Today’s average wage is $400 to $450 per week.

Once you have defined what you are looking for, its time to begin the recruiting. Traditionally families have advertised their jobs in newspapers, networked with their friends, and sometimes engaged a nanny referral service to recruit their nanny. More and more families are turning to online nanny services such as 4nannies.com as an economical and efficient alternative. 4nannies.com allows you to prescreen candidates and do all initial contact via email, and you only need talk to those applicants who substantially meet your criteria.

Careful interviewing is an absolute must for hiring a nanny. You need to be prepared with a list of questions, and you need to confirm your non-negotiable requirements (location, hours, wages, drivers license and experience if appropriate). Be prepared and take good notes – the candidates start to run together after talking to a few. Schedule a personal interview only with candidates who pass the first muster; this is an exhaustive process and you have to be selective. Your first face to face should be in a public location that is child friendly – a McDonald’s with a play land for example. This allows you to observe the candidate’s interaction with your child, and yet preserves the anonymity of your residence. Ask for formal references and make sure you check them all. A recruiter’s tip is to solicit a third party reference – ask her references for the names of any other people they know who are familiar with the candidate. You will often find personal references this way that the candidate hasn’t chosen herself.

Once you have passed the requirements, interview, and reference phases, it is time to discuss specific terms of employment. Be very specific, including the rate and frequency of pay, the hours, any benefits such as sick time, vacation time, etc. 4nannies.com has sample work agreements available free of charge and these make excellent starting points. Assuming that this works out, it is time to order a background investigation.

Never hire and leave your children with a stranger without ordering a background investigation. This at a minimum should include a SSN trace to discover addresses and aliases associated with that SSN for the last 7 years, and then a criminal records search. Criminal records should be searched in all known jurisdictions and under all know aliases. Many families also order a psychological evaluation of the nanny. 4nannytraining.com has an online psychological assessment tool which allows the nanny candidate to take the approximately 15 minute online assessment, and the family can order the scored report. These reports assess ‘job fit’ and help you evaluate how a particular candidate might perform in the nanny environment.

Congratulations! You have now hired a nanny. Make sure you get off to a good start. You must properly orient the nanny to your family, the house, the neighborhood, and the routine. You should consider spending 1 – 3 days at home with the nanny before leaving her alone. Make sure she has a current emergency contacts list, and authorization to seek emergency medical treatment of your child in the unlikely event this is required. Request that the nanny keep a ‘nanny log’ – a daily summary of the day’s activities. All of these can be downloaded from the 4nannies.com website. And finally, pay attention, make sure your ‘absolutely must do’ issues are being professionally addressed, but please resist the urge to micromanage the nanny. Individuals have different styles. Assuming your child’s safety and emotional health are not at issue, embrace these differences. They help your child become emotionally adaptive and prepare him for the world outside the home.

About the Author: Mrs. Webb is the mother of three and the managing partner of 4Nannies.com, the online alternative to expensive nanny agencies. She has 14 years of experience with her family’s nannies, as well as almost 10 years experience in the nanny industry. She helped launch 4nannies.com in 1998, offering families an economical and efficient alternative for finding that truly great nanny.

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