Picture this. You are three weeks from returning to work and you have a preschooler, toddler and infant that you will need full-time childcare. You have a family friend all lined up and suddenly they can no longer help you out. This is exactly where we were just 9 months ago. And for the 3 months prior to that point, I had always known we needed to hire someone, but I was terrified at the idea Here are some tips and tricks to finding your Mary Poppins.
Where do you look?
There are a number of websites out there that have nannies looking for jobs. The two we used and found helpful were Care.com and SitterCity.com. Both feature the ability to search for free and then charge a nominal monthly fee to be able to get further details and contact the candidates directly. Another good place is referrals from friends and family or a local mom's group you belong to. In our case, my sister-in-law randomly recommended SitterCity.com and upon first looking at it we found our nanny. She had just become available and had credentials and experience that we were really interested in!
What do I need to decide beforehand? Before you jump in, do the potential nannies a favor and make sure you know exactly what your needs and expectations are. The list below is a good start:
- Expected Start Date
- Days & Hours
- Hourly/Salaried Pay Rate
- Nanny Experience/Education Requirements
- Paid Time Off/Holiday Pay
- Overtime Pay
- Household Chores
- Will the Nanny drive them places and using who's car
- Tax deduction/payroll method
- Desired Educational Methods of Children (i.e. weekly themes, lesson plans, baby sign language, etc.)
What is the process for selecting someone? Once you narrow down the candidates based on your needs and their resumes, you will want to schedule an interview outside the home without the children present if possible. Now, admittedly, we were stretched thin on time and the ability to leave the house (cue Chicago Winter), so we did conduct our first interviews at our home with my parents there to take care of the children. Before, the initial interview, if you would like certain things from the candidate, be sure to ask ahead of time. For example, if you want to gather references, ask them if they can bring them with them. During this initial interview, it's good to discuss all the of the things on the above list as well as the nanny's experience and education. Make sure you are completely honest about your expectations. If you expect the nanny to clean the bathrooms weekly, make sure you say that. There is nothing worse than starting a job and finding out that your expectations are much more than they understood and they are not a good fit for that reason.
When do they meet the kids? After you have conducted your initial interviews, narrow down the candidates to a few that you really feel fit your needs and expectations. Then, invite each one to your home to spend time with you and your family. Don't stress over picking the perfect time of the day, as a nanny that is the right fit for you will be able to handle any time of day in your home. Of course, bedtime and wake-up is likely not ideal for the you or kids to have a stranger around, so probably avoid those. But, anytime in normal daytime hours is a great time! Since we conducted our initial interviews in our home, if we felt someone was a good fit, we would allow the children to start interacting with them after our interview. I do not recommend meeting somewhere public with the kids and the potential candidate. This person will be working inside your home and going to a public place won't give them the chance to check out their potential work environment and meet your children in their natural environment. If you can't imagine inviting someone into your home at this point, then they aren't the right candidate or maybe having a nanny isn't the right choice for your family.
During this second interview, it's not about you interviewing the potential candidate. This is all about your kids "interviewing" them. Let them be themselves and interact as they feel comfortable. See how the nanny reacts to different situations (no, don't set up difficult situations) inside your home. If the kids want to paint, let them paint. If it's lunch time, feed them (any the potential candidate). It's all about real-life day-to-day interactions. If your child is being shy or clingy, that's okay too. Just do your best to play with them in the general vicinity of the nanny and they will warm up eventually. Don't push them to play with this person. Remember, they are a stranger to them and being afraid is perfectly normal. Pushing will only make things harder should you hire this person. In our situation, this is one area where our nanny really gained points. Without being prompted, she asked if she could play with our middle child on the floor of our playroom and we could see how much she enjoyed playing with her.
What do I do when I pick someone? First thing you need to do is write up an offer letter. If they accept the offer, you need to collect their social security number and some other basic information so that you can run a background check. Also, if you haven't already, start checking their references. Be very clear that the offer is pending a clean background and reference verification. If all of it checks out, you can proceed with completing a nanny contract and sending it to them. The contract covers all of the stuff in the list above. Make sure you check your state laws for rules regarding overtime pay.
How do I transition them into our home? To be honest, I was a little naive when it came to this step, but our nanny actually requested an in-home orientation prior to starting. This orientation was really helpful. It gave us the chance to show them the "ropes" as well as talk more about the rules for the kids and daily schedules. I recommend, prior to this orientation, typing up a guide all about your children and e-mailing it to your nanny so they can review ahead of time. Also, go around your home and see if there are areas that could be a bit more organized for someone not living there. For example, keep all of your children's medicine and first-aid supplies organized in a safe and easy to locate place. My nanny, will tell you that we aren't the most organized people but if there is something that will make her day to day easier and we do our best to improve the organization of it.
How do I pay them? When we were looking for someone, we knew that since this was a full-time job and a large amount of money would be paid out, we wanted to be sure we followed the laws. The first step was researching with our state and federal governments what forms we needed to complete to get any employer tax IDs for employment taxes. We also hired a payroll company and they helped us set up a direct deposit to our nanny as well as calculate and collect quarterly taxes. Every week, I just log-on, process payroll and everything is calculated for us and our nanny gets paid via direct deposit. Also, she is able to access her pay stubs electronically and at the end of the year, they will process all the necessary forms for us and her to file taxes. It only costs $40/month and is totally worth it!
What's the most important thing to maintaining a healthy relationship with my nanny? I can't even say it enough: COMMUNICATION. Our nanny is really good about letting us know the things that are working well and things that aren't on a daily basis. Every single day we come home to a written log of what the kids did and ate, along with naps and any concerns or needs from our nanny. She has lesson plans for the kids with weekly and monthly themes planned out. Additionally, we invested in a magnetic whiteboard that sits on the front of our fridge where our nanny can write down grocery items that ran out as well as any little notes that we need to see more urgently. We also have this Family Calendar that we have a column just for our nanny to record any overtime, days off or planned excursions with the kids for us to be aware of.
So, if you are in need of your Mary Poppins, I hope you are ready to dive in and feel a little bit more prepared after reading this! It can be a stressful yet rewarding experience with you find the right fit for your family. Good Luck!
Leave your comments below about your nanny hunting plans, experiences or tips & tricks!