In our area, there is a major shortage of childcare options so waitlists are extremely long, and prices are extremely high. Like many twin parents, started looking at the options and discovered that a nanny cost about the amount as two in daycare. Plus, having a nanny gives the additional benefits of allowing your brand new babies to stay at home where they will get more one on one time, and be exposed to fewer illnesses. And, of course, you won’t have to rush out the door every morning with two babies and the mountain of supplies they need for the day.
Hiring Our First Nanny for our Twins
Unfortunately, I had to go back to work when my babies were only 12 weeks old. So my husband and I went on the hunt for a nanny to care for our children. After watching the horrible video the hospital made us watch about purple crying and shaken baby syndrome and seeing one too many horrible news stories, we were extremely nervous about making a hire. However, we were definitely not experts on childcare or hiring someone for childcare. We had NO idea what we were doing!
However, despite our inexperience, we managed to hit the jackpot with our first nanny, Sara. Don’t get me wrong, we had our battles. I know she felt frustrated at us for not always being clear on expectations, and we didn’t agree with the way she handled every single thing. But our kids adored her, and she adored them. She sent me tons of pictures at work, and always told us everything about their days. She brought up anything they, or she was struggling with and we worked through everything together as a team. She spent the time to get to know us, and gave us a chance to get to know her. She was our family’s nanny for 18 months and really became a part of the family in that time, and she still is today!
Sara eventually had a baby of her own and decided not to stay with us as our nanny after giving birth. As we started thinking about how to replace her, we felt much more qualified to hire a nanny than we were the first time. We thought about what type of parenting style we’d want a future nanny to embody, and what other qualities we like to have in a nanny. We felt confident.
The first nanny we hired no-showed us before she even started. Our next three nannies lasted only a couple of months each, and the final straw – our last nanny was downright bad and we had to let her go because we were worried about our kids’ safety. We were completely stressed out, unable to focus on our work, and we could see that our boys were not thriving because of the lack of consistency in their lives. We knew that something had to change. Even though we were ‘improving’ our process every time, we just couldn’t find what we were looking for.
I asked everyone I knew for advice. I did some major soul searching- and then some more soul searching. Making hiring decisions is always tough. And for a nanny, it’s even tougher. The person you chose will play a huge role in shaping the lives of your children, and so, of course, you will want this person to be PERFECT in every way, but NO ONE is perfect. But, after all my disappointments, frustrations, and just endless troubleshooting, I think I’ve finally figured it out- the trick to hiring a nanny that is not perfect but is perfect for your family.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Define your Job
Not all nannies and not all nanny jobs are the same, and it’s SUPER important to keep that in mind when defining your job and talking to applicants. Some parents will not allow their nanny to take children outside of the home, while others prefer that the nanny take kids out every day. Some parents are ok with unlimited screen time, others are completely screen-free. Some expect a nanny to simply supervise play, and some expect her/him to be actively playing with children all day. So, you’ll need to carefully and thoughtfully define exactly what you are looking for, for yourself and your future nanny. Some other questions to consider as you go through this process might be:
- Do you want to get frequent text messages and know everything about your children’s day? Or do you prefer not to be distracted while you are at work?
- Do you want your nanny to bring suggestions and advice on how to handle parenting struggles that come up? Or do you prefer to give directives and make decisions without your nanny’s help?
- Will you have meals, weekly schedule, and activities planned for your nanny and your children, or would you prefer to have your nanny handle finding and creating fun activities on her own?
- Are you expecting your nanny to take on any additional tasks, beyond watching your children, during their work hours? It is responsible to ask a nanny to help with cleaning up play areas, washing dishes created during the day, and helping with the kids’ laundry- but you’ll want to make this clear from the beginning.
I think most of us will agree that the top priority is finding someone who genuinely enjoys spending time with your children. You’ll want to think through any other qualities you’d want for your ideal nanny. Do you want someone fun and silly? Someone calming? Creative? Strict? Gentle? When you are parenting an infant, it’s hard to imagine all these parts of parenting, but before you know it your tiny infant will be running around the house FULL of personality, so you’ll want to at least attempt to anticipate what you’ll want for your child is they become a toddler and even a preschooler.
2. Set Expectations
I’ve had a hard tell telling my nanny my expectations, and an even harder time correcting something when I haven’t made my expectations clear. I feel like I’m being too demanding, and I always want to give my nanny the flexibility to relax a little bit on the rules if the day is particularly hard- I know that some days are just plain hard and I don’t want her getting frustrated and potentially losing her temper with my kids. However, if you are not able to set expectations, both you and your nanny will wind up frustrated.
For me, the best way to set expectations is to write them down. I created a bullet point list of expectations that I give to potential nannies before hiring so that we are all on the same page. I include Everything–parenting style with books we like, screen-time rules for nanny and children, communication expectations, what to do about any specific behaviors and what to do as new behavioral concerns come up, vacation and holiday policy and pay, etc. Having everything spelled out was great because it sets the nanny up for success.
3. Interview Carefully
Choosing the right nanny for your family is a huge undertaking that can feel so overwhelming. But after TOO many rounds of interviews, we’ve found a system that works well.
- Post your job anywhere and everywhere you can, and let friends and family know you are looking. You never know where you’ll find your perfect nanny.
- Start with a quick phone call. We had TONS of applicants who weren’t actually available the hours we needed or weren’t willing to come to my house to watch the kids or something. With a quick phone call, I was able to work these things out without wasting too much time.
- Come up with great questions to ask during interviews. I felt situational questions like “What would you do if both kids had a toddler tantrum in a park” were very telling. Also, questions that give the applicant an opportunity to show their passion (or lack of) for the work, such as “what do you love most about being a nanny”. While you are interviewing, make sure you let your applicants open up so you can get to know them.
- Once you think you’ve found your nanny, run a quick background check. Probably nothing will come up, but it’s nice to have that peace of mind.
- BONUS STEP if this is something you are able to do: Have a previous, trusted nanny, or a friend or family member come do a test or training day/extra interview. In my experience, applicants were more willing to be honest with my previous nanny during this training day, than they were with me. For example, one applicant was afraid of my dogs, and although caring for the dogs was to be part of the job, she didn’t mention the fear and general dislike for dogs to me, but she did tell my previous nanny.
4. Bond with your Nanny
I think my biggest AHA moment has been realizing that people are motivated by relationships. This is true for all jobs, but when it comes to being a nanny, this job is SO much more emotional and requires so much more heart and care than most jobs, so a great nanny family and nanny will become like family. And think about it, if you are lucky enough to have a grandparent or a good friend that is able to watch your kids, there is a pretty good chance that person is highly invested in the long term wellbeing of your child, right? Why not create that relationship with your nanny as well? You’ve chosen your nanny because s/he has some great qualities or values that match your own, so likely you’ll be able to form a friendship with this person. Why not take the time to really get to know this person?
Being close with your nanny is a huge benefit for so many reasons. First, both you and your nanny will likely be so much happier working together as friends and able to enjoy each others company since you’ll likely be spending some time together. Second, it’s so much easier to talk to someone when you are friends. And there is SOOO much to discuss when it comes to raising young children. It’s nice to know what each other will do in a given situation, know each other’s philosophy on childcare, even if you don’t 100% agree, and to be able to have open, honest conversations about everything, but especially about your children. And honestly, over time, if you find a nanny that loves and cares for your children, you will likely wind up loving your nanny as a person.
So take your nanny out for coffee one day, or just take some time to chat in the morning before you leave for work, or in the evening. You won’t regret this the time you spend really getting to know this person that is SO important to your children.
5. Having a Great Nanny takes work!
Kids and their parents are constantly changing and growing, so ensuring that your nanny continues to be a great match for your family means you need to keep talking. As brand new parents, we really didn’t know who we were yet. We didn’t identify as any particular parenting style, and we didn’t have a lot of confidence in our abilities as parents. As time passes, we’ve learned a LOT. We’ve found our style and a bit of confidence that we might have some clue what we’re doing sometimes. And with a nanny, that means a lot of shifting roles, and a lot of discussions about decisions we’ve made, or new opinions we have. These discussions can be difficult but in the end, both the parent and the nanny are happier.
Another important thing we’ve learned is that we needed to let go of the reins a bit! Our instinct has always been to take the lead on anything related to the kids- come up with project ideas, meal ideas, sign up for activities and classes (if our nanny is open to taking the kids), etc. However, I recently realized that not only am I doing more work than I need to, I’m also taking away an opportunity for my nanny to feel valued and have a bit more job satisfaction. So I’ve learned its important to give your nanny projects. Give her/him responsibility for something, like potty training, or setting up a craft station for your kiddos. In the case of potty training, you can approval for methodology, or work together on it, but let her/him take the lead. For the craft station, let her think through which types of crafts your kids are capable of, and come up with a list of necessary supplies, within your budget. Nannies are often professionals who want to learn and grow, and these extra projects will give a great nanny a sense of accomplishment and show her/him that you trust her/him.
Having a nanny has many unexpected benefits, and hardships. We’ve learned a TON after having 6 nannies in just over 3 years, and I sincerely hope some of our tips can help you find the perfect person for your family, and put in the work together to keep that person perfect for the long run.