When you are hiring a nanny……

February 17, 2011

We’ve had part-time nannies ever since our son Birch was born 4.5  years ago. The hours have varied from 11 hours a week up to 24 now (hello Brooklyn Baby Expo that is slowly killing me!) Along the way, I have learned some valuable lessons that I thought I might share. I’m sure some of you have some suggestions and advice too that you can tell us- feel free to add in the comments.

1. How do I find a nanny?
I found all three of our nannies from our neighborhood yahoo list serves. I also suggest visiting a playground and checking out other nannies there. No, most definitely don’t poach a good nanny you see out there, but ask her if she has friends who are looking for work. Good nannies are friends with other good nannies. What’s that saying, “birds of a feather flock together”? It’s okay to interview as many nannies as it takes to find the right one. Yes, really. We interviewed 12 (yes, 12!) this last time and I promise I am not neurotic.

2. How do I check out her background?
Do you ever wonder why no one did a financial background check on Bernie Madoff at some point? It seems like someone should have. If the job had gone to Brooklyn moms/ financial private investigators Leah Clarkson and Casey Drucker who also own NannyTrack- I’m sure these women would have swiftly brought Madoff down! These 2 moms have been doing financial due diligence (digging into the backgrounds of financial executives for their investors) for the last 20 years.  After becoming mothers themselves, they learned that their same investigative methods (with some tweaking) could be applied to vetting nannies.  Brilliant! They not only have access to the most up-to-date databases and investigative technologies, they have on-the-ground researchers that can search documents that are not in a digital format. That’s an essential element when you are talking to nannies that don’t have documentation in general database systems.  They also investigate a nanny’s work history, verify employment dates, interview  former employers, and based on that, make suggestions about which questions to ask the nanny about her former employment. When I looked at one of their sample reports, I was impressed by the narrative quality of it.  They aren’t just performing investigative services, they are pulling together a full profile of your potential nanny.  Think of it as high-tech and street smarts “nanny profiling”.  They not only get the information you need, they help you consider a nanny’s entire history. It’s a full work-up that can help you make an informed and intelligent decision for your family.   Though the cost $555 of a NannyTrack Report seems steep at first glance, when you are considering that this potential nanny will be in your home, caring for your children, taking care of potential emergencies, and become your “go-to” for everything- it seems fair.

3. How do I know if a nanny is right for our child/home?
Try them out. Ask them to do a “trial run” for a few days or even week. You should be there for part of the time. Don’t hover of course, just pop in and out to observe. I learned so much doing this. We tried out 2 nannies this way- each one for a few days and I paid their hourly rate. I learned pretty quickly who was a good mesh with us. It was worth the cost even if I was just a room away.

4. Get a copy of their photo ID
I know this seems intimidating to ask for- but just bite the bullet and do it.  It took me a few false starts to ask for it but by our third nanny, it felt normal. Trust me, you’ll be happy you have a copy of their ID. It’s valuable to have on hand for numerous reasons. What if she has to go to the hospital and you need her contact information or ID? What if…? It’s just best to have on hand.

5. Get a contract that is suitable for both of you
Again, this isn’t something I did with our first 2 nannies. I was nervous to ask them and just trusted we would work it all out. Luckily, it did but I say “luckily,” because for some people it doesn’t. A contract gives you a chance to discuss expectations on both of your parts. Do you expect light housekeeping or just baby’s housekeeping? Telephone or not? TV or not? Vacation days, sick days, overtime, advance notice, snow days…and it goes on and on.  If there’s a misunderstanding, you can always go back together and check the contract and resolve a question easily. This is a very good contract that you can fill out.

And, if you want to have a good resource on hand about average pay for nannies and what to do for vacation and sick days, Park Slope Parents did a survey here with some illuminating and helpful benchmarks.

Disclaimer: My Nanny Track is a new Directory Listing (Directory is debuting March 1st!) I was compensated for a Directory Listing and a post that mentioned what they do.

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