When I got pregnant with my first son there was no question in my mind as to who would care for him when I went back to work—abuela. It was hard thinking of the day I would be separated from my baby for long stretches of time, but I also felt an incredible comfort knowing that my mother would be caring for my child, protecting him, and loving him better than anyone. There was also the fact that abuela is a lot cheaper than hiring a nanny.
Then I got pregnant with my second child, and I knew two would be too much to handle for my mother. The other thing I was running into: Because I was exhausting my mother during the week, I felt guilty having to ask her if she could stay a little later on a Friday or help out on the weekends so that my husband and I could go out to dinner, see friends, or just run some errands.
So, we decided to hire a nanny. We had it all planned out: We would find someone amazing who would care for our kids during the week, and then my mother would come over Friday nights so that my husband and I could have our date night. And when we needed my mother on the weekends, we would ask for her help without feeling guilty about it. Sweet deal, right? I quickly learned that hiring a nanny is not as easy as I thought it would be.
In the process of interviewing potential candidates and finally hiring a nanny, I learned a lot about the practice of looking for a great caregiver; see, it’s hard, but certainly not impossible. My biggest lesson has been learning to trust my instincts, but these tips helped me navigate the complexities of hiring a nanny, and hopefully they will help you, too.
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Talk about everything, from the salary to your expectations as parents. You want the person who nurtures your kid(s) to care for them the way you want. Having a candid conversation every day at the end of the day is a good way to keep lines of communication open.
2. Outline job responsibilities clearly. Do you want the caretaker to cook meals, keep the refrigerator stocked with your child’s essentials, wash your kid’s laundry, take them to play dates and activities, and get them ready for bed prior to you getting home? These duties should be talked about at the time of the interview. It wouldn’t be fair to the nanny if you add on duties after you’ve made the hire. On that note…
3. Draft a contract. Have EVERYTHING is writing. This will help clarify expectations on both ends. In addition to jotting down the things you want, you should also consider what you don’t want. For example: Would you be comfortable with a nanny bringing her own child along on days she doesn’t have childcare set up?
4. Do your research. Determine the salary range and benefits that you intend to offer by researching what other moms in your neighborhood pay their nannies (hourly, weekly, overtime) and benefits (days off, bonus, vacation, and sick time). This will help you come up with a fair number that works for both you and your potential caretaker.
5. Use your network. Where do you start looking for candidates? Find out if there’s a mommy group in your neighborhood (you can often find them online). Check with your pediatrician; sometimes nannies will post on their office bulletin boards. Also, ask your local school administrators for leads. Often, substitute teachers are looking for additional work to fill their days.
6. Do a thorough reference check. Before you schedule an interview, let the candidate know upfront that you’ll only meet if she’s comfortable with you conducting a background check. No point in wasting anyone’s time if the potential nanny isn’t comfortable with it. You should also request three references and have a list of questions ready for each reference.
7. Involve your partner. This is a family decision and both parties should feel good about the potential hire. There may also be some concerns and questions your husband may have that you hadn’t thought of.
8. Have your top choice meet abuela. Ahh, if abuela doesn’t approve there’s probably a good reason, but make sure she’s clear as to why she doesn’t think the nanny is a good fit—and the reason should be good! For example, not knowing how to cook traditional Latin dishes, like sancocho, is probably not a good reason to prevent you from moving forward with hiring your nanny. But your potential nanny should certainly want to try, especially if you kid loves sancocho.