It sometimes makes me wince to admit we have a nanny. It feels so pretentious, like we’re rich celebrities who can’t be bothered to parent our own children. It’s funny that I still have those feelings even though I know it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Our nanny is amazing and is absolutely the right choice for our family. We see her not as a babysitter but as someone who is helping to raise our sons. We looked at a few daycares when we were expecting our first son and while my mister and I don’t have anything against these (or other) types of care arrangements, they just weren’t for us. We also don’t have family nearby, so we knew we would have to hire someone.
This post is not intended to provide legal or financial advice about hiring a nanny. It’s also not meant to judge any other types of childcare arrangements that you may choose. I just want to share our experiences and give you some tips because it can be a stressful and emotional task.
Nanny vs. mother’s helper
Until I began my research, I had never heard of a mother’s helper. According to nannies4hire.com, a mother’s helper is someone who helps with childcare duties while at least one parent is typically at home. The mother’s helper may have little experience or several years experience. Since I work full-time from home, we ended up advertising for a mother’s helper.
I found sample contracts online and modified them to suit our needs. Our contract ended up being four pages long and it really made my mister and I think through and talk about our expectations. I think that’s important to determine and agree on up front, plus it puts everything out there in writing for the nanny ahead of time. Here’s a sample outline:
- Job Conditions
- scheduled work days and hours
- pay rate and schedule
- taxes and insurance
- training (ex. infant CPR)
- Job Responsibilities
- learning activities
- recreation and funding for activities
- general household maintenance (ex. kitchen, play area, child’s bedroom, sweeping/mopping, laundry)
- Medicine and emergency protocols
- General house rules
- use of phone, TV, computer, etc.
- signing for packages/answering the door
- Personal time off guidelines
- Performance reviews
We happened to place our ad with sittercity.com but there are lots of nanny hiring sites out there. I honestly don’t think the site you use makes a difference as long as they provide some of the basic services such as background checks. In our ad, we were very clear that I would be in the home every day; this may not be ideal for some nannies so I wanted them to know up front. We also advertised the hourly wage. Based on our posted starting wage I expected college students to apply, but we actually had one RN who was interested!
The phone interview
Have some basic questions prepared in order to weed out the applicants who won’t fit in with your family. Go over some of the specifics from your draft contract to make sure you and the applicant are on the same page about job responsibilities. If you like what you hear during the phone interview, schedule the in-person interview.
The in-person interview
I personally recommend that you conduct this interview in your own home. Because I work from home, it was important not only to make sure she would be a good fit with my child, but also with me. If you feel comfortable with her by the end of the interview, invite her to interact with your child while you observe. How does she engage with your child right off the bat? I think by the end of our interview, my son was snuggled up against her chest, fast asleep. I felt a pang at seeing that, but I knew she would fit in.
Similar to the contract, you can find sample job applications online and modify them. Just like when you submit your own resume to a potential employer, you are looking for gaps in employment, education, and experience level. Make sure to ask for references! I didn’t bother giving anyone an application until they had already gotten through the phone and in-person interviews; there was no need for me to know information such as their work history and Social Security Numbers if I knew it wasn’t going to go any farther.
References are KEY! Make up some sample reference questions ahead of time and ask the same questions of all of the references. Here are some questions that we used:
- If she provided child care for you, what were her responsibilities? Can you describe any difficulties she had in carrying out any of these responsibilities?
- Please describe her child care style. What was she like as a person? Was she warm, strict, upbeat or energetic? Did she get along well with all of the members of your family?
- Can you comment on her communication skills, level of maturity and common sense? How was her receptivity to directions or suggestions you gave her?
- Was she reliable and dependable?
- What advice can you give us as her future employer to help ensure that our relationship goes smoothly?
The background check
As I mentioned earlier, it’s easiest if you use a hiring site which includes the price of the background check. Some nannies go ahead and get the check ahead of time while others wait for a prospective employer to request it. Just as a precaution, we had our nanny sign a separate form authorizing us to perform a background check. At the time, we weren’t really sure what we’d get from SitterCity and wanted to be covered just in case, but we didn’t end up needing anything additional.
- Keep a calendar or list of holidays and vacation days taken so that you can both plan your schedules accordingly.
- Have a performance review at 30 days and 6 months and yearly thereafter.
- Don’t wait until the review to discuss issues! Just like in any other relationship, open communication is crucial. If you see something you don’t like or aren’t sure about, talk to her about it. Don’t let it build up and become larger than it needs to be. This is especially important if you work from home like I do. She is your co-worker and co-parent rolled into one, so do your best to preserve a good relationship with her; your kids will benefit from it.
Great resources are here!