Jana’s Guide to Finding a Nanny

January 27, 2017 / Modern Family Blog / 0 Comments /

Your nanny is arguably the most important member of your tribe. Parenting expert and Entrepreneur Jana Dias tells us how to get it right—the first time

From Jana: Finding a nanny is a big deal! Whether you want to say it out loud or not, this lady (or gentleman) will be helping to raise your child or children, and, unlike family, you get to choose them yourself! The idea of picking the best person for the job makes the thought a little sweeter but the fact they are not family can also make it more complicated. You are, after all, wanting them to care for your children as if they were family. It’s a lot to ask for and you have to find all of this in a person that you can afford to pay without making going to work a total wash!

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Before you embark upon the search, it’s important to get a few things straight:

1. Don’t feel guilty

You are going to work for good reasons—whether it’s to help support your family, because it makes you happy or a combination of the two, it’s something to be proud of. The nanny will never replace you, but you have to accept they will play a very important role when you are at work and they are a part of your family care team. Your children should grow to really bond with them; this is not something to be upset about, rather it likely means you’ve done it right.

2. You need to respect the nanny, their choices and who they are

If even one tiny bit of you looks down upon your nanny, or does not see them as an equal, then it makes absolutely no sense that you would choose this person to help raise your children and to keep them safe. Be tough with yourself when you address this issue.

3. Determine in advance the qualities in a nanny that are important to you

You need someone with like-minded principles and beliefs. If they differ, you need to ensure they can at least respect and uphold yours. The reality is this person is going to be influential in your children’s lives, and hopefully, a role model.

4. Find a starting point

Do you want to find your nanny through an agency, word of mouth or an online service? Evaluate the pros and cons of each—they will largely rest upon the cost, guarantees, level of qualification and uniqueness of your requirements. There’s no one perfect place to find a nanny.

5. Figure out how much you’re going to pay

Rates are very different from one region to the next so make sure what you’re offering is in line with what others are paying for the same number of children and hours as you need. When it comes to childcare, nothing is standard. Rates vary dramatically even between parts of the same city. Ask your friends about their situation. Are you going to pay a salary, hourly, hourly with overtime? Will you build in babysitting for monthly date nights? Don’t forget to consider the tax implications. Go through every scenario. Money is hard to talk about. As the employer, you need to bring these things up and ensure you’re both crystal clear on the set up.

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The interview process

Just like dating, meeting this person for a quick coffee before bath time is not going to do the trick. You are basically marrying this person into your family so you need to invest the time to ensure it’s the right fit.

This is my recommended interview process:

1. Phone first!

Start with a phone interview to weed out the crazies or those who are completely unqualified.

2. Meet outside the home sans kids

Conduct a 45-minute interview one-on-one without distractions at a local coffee shop or restaurant. Ask about their previous experience; get them to talk about the children at their last job. You can tell a lot about how much the nanny bonded with the children, and truly cared for them, by how she talks about them. Ask about what they see themselves doing long-term. This will give you a sense for whether they’re in it for the long-haul, or simply looking for a job for the next 1-2 years.

3. Articulate your expectations clearly from the start

Much of the contention I hear and see with nannies and their employers is around “expected” duties: “I don’t clean,” “I don’t cook,” and so on. Don’t get into a situation where you’re scared to ask your nanny to do something for you. It’s important you are a team and just as you will do things for them, they will do things for the team. This could mean running to the grocery store, cooking and light cleaning. There is much more that goes into looking after children and giving them a good home than organizing play dates, being there for pick-up and sticking to a schedule. Anyone who starts with “what I don’t do,” is not staying on my list. These conversations must all happen before they meet your children.

4. Do a background check and call references for your short list

An agency will do a background check for you. There are also websites you can use, if the nanny is comfortable giving you her social security number. A third option is to use a forensic accountant or private detective, which can seem a bit extreme, but is an added layer of information. This person will be able to tell you about the nanny’s family, who their brothers and sisters are and what kind of world you’ll be exposing your children to by proxy.

5. Go out to lunch or dinner with this person and your partner

This can be awkward, but it’s important. You will learn things socially that you wouldn’t be able to get in an interview setting. Do they have children? If not, why not? What are their religious and political beliefs? This person will play an important role in your children’s lives and like it or not, they’ll pass on their feelings about topics they’re passionate about, to your kids. You don’t have to be the same person, but your values should align. A shared meal will also help you determine whether you and your partner are comfortable in their company. Are there more commonalities or less?

6. Get your children’s input

If you are lucky, you may be down to one or two candidates at this point and it’s time to introduce them to the kids! Have them over to play while you’re in the background and, if you feel comfortable, let them be alone with your kids for a little while. Talk to your children afterwards and give them the option to tell you if something doesn’t feel right. Let them know they can speak up, and you’ll happily keep looking for someone else.

7. Arrange for a trial period

Pick a candidate and have a test run. If everyone is happy in 2-4 weeks, make a long-term arrangement.

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Stressful, but true:

1. Sometimes it takes trial and error

You may not find the right nanny the first time, so be flexible and willing to make a change if it’s not a good fit, until you find the perfect person. This is why a trial period is so important.

2. Honest communication is the key to success

Being honest with your nanny can be tough but you MUST! If you are a bad communicator, use the love for your children as motivation to speak up and ensure you’ve been properly understood. The only way this relationship will work is with an open dialogue.

3. They’re not you, get over it

They won’t do everything the way you would do it, all the time. Sometimes they’ll do it better and other times not. But overall, this has to be more than a job to them; it has to be a passion.

Once You find Your Nanny, Don’t Forget:

1. Be appreciative

Taking care of children is not easy, so give your nanny the props he or she deserves.

2. Be in constant communication

Make sure you are available or in touch with your nanny daily via text (don’t be obsessive!). Fully communicate what you would like to be done—and what you would not like to be done, so you remain an active part of your children’s day even when you are at work.

3. Certifications matter

Qualifications like CPR and First Aid training are important, but if the best candidate doesn’t have it, it’s easier to get it done after the fact than dismiss an ideal person who doesn’t have the right certificates. Other factors to consider depend upon your needs. Will your nanny be helping an older child with homework? If so, is a college degree important to you? What about language skills?

You are going to trust your precious little ones with this person—their safety, their well being. Experience and references have to count, you can’t make this decision on first impressions.
Hope you enjoyed it :)!



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