My kids have been in daycare since they were a couple months old. I never had the luxury of having a nanny for them, so I jumped at the opportunity for a guest post from my friend, Shylie Bannon, when she offered to write one.
This is the first installment in a four part series about finding a nanny. I’m so grateful for Shylie and her insight, as well as her friendship.
When I grew up, both of my parents worked outside of the home. My mother had her own OB/GYN practice which often required her to keep “odd” hours (babies love to be born on the weekends and in the middle of the night), and so I grew up raised by my parents, with the help of some very loving, reliable caregivers. We developed close relationships with these caregivers, and to this day, we exchange holiday cards, birthday cards, and even invited them to our wedding. When I became pregnant, it seemed like a no-brainer to me that I would choose the same kind of arrangement for my son.
I thought to myself, “This will be easy! How hard can it be to find the right, qualified caregiver for my three-month-old?”
Famous. Last. Words.
Finding a nanny is a very weird combination of interviewing prospective employees and going on blind internet dates.
You have to come across as appealing to the prospective nannies, but you also have to ensure that the prospective nannies understand your “non-negotiables.” You have to figure out if you and your candidate have the right “chemistry.” You are interviewing someone who is going to spend more time in your home during waking hours than you do. Unlike internet dating, the consequences of a bad nanny matchup are more than just a potential “ghosting” and funny story to later relate at cocktail parties. You may end up in the lurch without childcare at a moment’s notice.
When you decide you are going to search for a nanny for your kid(s), the very first step you should take is to sit down with your partner and make a list of job duties, requirements, and character traits you are looking for in a nanny. You should consider:
–How much can you afford to spend on care? Apart from paying a nanny her wages, being an employer comes with so many hidden costs. Nannies are considered “household employees” and should be paid as W-2 employees. Employers are responsible for paying employer contributions to social security taxes, Medicare taxes, and both Federal and State unemployment taxes. Are you willing to offer paid vacation? If your nanny is transporting your child, are you going to compensate her for gas/wear and tear on her vehicle?
–Hours you need care: Be realistic about this and if you are using your nanny to care for your child while you are at work, build in a bit of a cushion for unanticipated last minute tasks, late-running meetings, or bad traffic. Likewise, don’t expect your nanny to show up and you to run out the door in the morning. You should expect to have an overlap of approximately 10-15 minutes each morning and evening with your caregiver to “debrief” and exchange important information. Your caregiver must be available for these talks, and it’s best for neither party to feel harried or rushed. Keep in mind that nannies are entitled to overtime pay for all hours worked over 40. Those extra hours can add up quickly.
–Location: Is it non-negotiable for you to have the nanny provide care in your home, or are you willing to drop your child off at the nanny’s home? If you are comfortable having your child watched in another location, make sure you consider what materials/equipment you will be expected to supply, and the condition of the equipment the nanny has in her home. You should also consider safety hazards and who else might be in the home while your child is being watched. Is the nanny willing to let you do a complete walkthrough of her home with little to no advanced notice?
–Household tasks you want your caregiver to complete: Some families expect caregivers to perform household chores for the entire family, others expect their caregivers to perform tasks related only to the child in their charge. Considering what role you expect your caregiver to take will affect the type of candidate you are looking for, as well as how much you may have to pay.
–Tasks associated with caregiving: For an infant or toddler, your caregiver must be comfortable handling all tasks for a completely dependent little person. If you are looking for a nanny for an elementary or middle school aged child, will you expect the caregiver to provide homework assistance? Supervise other children during play dates? Transport to after-school lessons?
-Other specifics you should contemplate:
Are you comfortable with a smoker or someone who lives with a smoker?
Are you comfortable letting the caregiver bring their own child with them to work? For that matter, are you open to a caregiver who has children of her own, and if so, do you have preferences regarding the age of the caregiver’s children?
How much experience do you expect your caregiver to have, and are you looking for a specific type of prior experience? Daycare, teacher, in-home provider?
Is the caregiver fluent in a language in which you are fluent? Is the caregiver comfortable communicating with others in English?
Does the caregiver’s age matter to you? Some people prefer a mature, grandmotherly type, and others are looking for a younger, more contemporary caregiver. The physical tasks associated with your job may play a role in determining whether you have an age preference. Keep in mind that with infants and young children, caregivers will be sitting and/or laying on the floor with your child and carrying them often.
Do you require a caregiver to have her own transportation? (Even if you do not expect the caregiver to transport your child, this may be important to ensure reliability.)
If you have pets, ensure potential applicants are aware of what type of pet you have so if they are afraid of animals or allergic to animals, you don’t waste anyone’s time.
After making this list, you should categorize these preferences as “Non-Negotiables,” “Preferred,” and “Desired/Fantasy” items. As we interviewed candidates, we quickly found that a number of our preferences shifted amongst these categories. We knew how much money we could afford to pay, and that was a non-negotiable for us. In order to get a qualified candidate with whom we felt comfortable, we ended up having to reduce the number of hours of care. Fortunately, our employers were willing to work with us on alternative office schedules—for example, my husband is in his office at 7 AM so he can leave earlier in the day, and I go to work a little later than I previously did, but stay later. We initially were flexible about hiring a caregiver who had her own young child (whom she did not bring to work), but after a bad experience, decided that it was “non-negotiable” that our nanny have no children younger than school-age children so that there would be no concerns she would be exclusively focused on our son when she was on the job.
When creating your job posting, make sure you include some information about yourself and your family. After all, you have to make sure that your family is a good fit for your nanny as well. I tried to convey a sense of who we were and what was important to us as a family in our ad (our love for the Florida Gators featured front and center). Make sure you put all of your non-negotiables in the job listing, other than your rate of pay. This will save you a lot of time and energy making your way through an interview with someone who seems like the perfect candidate until you find out that she is, in fact, incredibly allergic to cats when you have two fluffy feline members of the household (this actually happened to me). I recommend putting a few of your “preferred” traits in the posting as well, but ultimately, I found that a number of applicants would just parrot my listing back to me when describing themselves because they knew that was what I wanted to hear.
Once you’ve figured out what you’re looking for, and how to advertise it, you next have to navigate the interview process—aka, the Courtship. Will you swipe left or right?
Shylie Bannon is a graduate of the University of Florida and lives her son and husband in Jacksonville, where she is employed as an attorney.