Childcare is a common topic of conversation among parents with young children. Whether you are a stay at home parent or have a career, there will be times that you need someone to care for your child. I've had a variety of different childcare arrangements over the years, including having my own nanny, nanny sharing and sending my kids to daycare and day home.
This post is focused on the things you should know if you are hiring a nanny. There are links to a sample nanny contract, interview questions, ground rules and the ins and outs of employing a nanny. If you are exploring other childcare options such as a daycare or day home also check out this post.
Here are the things I wish I would have known before I hired a nanny for the first time.
- Plan to meet with a number of different candidates before making a selection.
Finding the right nanny can be a very time consuming and energy intensive process. It can be really stressful if you need to hire someone on short notice or if there is a shortage of childcare in your area. Taking the time to meet with at least a handful of different candidates should give you some peace of mind knowing you’ve made the right choice for your family.
- Use more than one resource to find suitable candidates if you can.
It’s great if you can start your search by asking your friends’ nannies to spread the word that you are interested in hiring a nanny. Another option is to inquire with nannies that care for children in your neighbourhood to see if they know any nannies that are looking for a new opportunity. Nanny agencies like this and this can be helpful if you live in Canada. You could start here if you're looking for a nanny in the U.S. To save time, try to limit your search and interviews to nannies that are interested in the type of nanny arrangement you need.
- Be prepared for interviews but trust your intuition.
Make sure to review resumes and interview candidates yourself, even if you have hired an agency to assist with the hiring process (be mindful that English may not be the nanny’s first language). Don't feel bad for being discerning, asking a lot of questions, requesting a second or third interview, or requesting a trial visit – what matters is that you select a candidate based on an informed decision. When in doubt, trust your instincts. The last thing you want to do is make an offer to the wrong nanny!
- Ask the right questions and take detailed notes during interviews.
Try framing interview questions around your family’s unique needs and preferences (this list of questions is a good starting point). To make it easier to compare and rank candidates, start by asking each candidate the same general questions then engage them in a less formal conversation to try to get to know them a bit better. Take the time to write down concerns you have about a particular candidate in addition to any positive attributes that set them apart from the others. Introducing your child to the nannies on your shortlist may also be helpful if you are having a difficult time making up your mind.
- Agree to the important terms of the contract and the nanny’s roles and responsibilities in writing before they start.
One of the benefits to hiring your own nanny is that you tend to have control over things like your child’s daily schedule and support for household tasks. Making sure you are on the same page as your nanny when it comes to chores can be just as important as sorting out details like start date, hours of work, rate of pay and vacation time. In my experience, it is much easier to take away responsibilities after a nanny starts working for you than it is to add to the list of things to do later on, especially if your nanny has already become accustomed to a particular schedule. Check out this free sample nanny agreement for some helpful ideas.
- Set ground rules for your nanny to follow from day one.
I really cannot stress this enough! Ground rules are particularly important when it comes to things like who has access to your child and where they are allowed to go each day. Other examples include whether your nanny is permitted to take pictures of your child or smoke cigarettes around them. A more complete list of ground rules can be found here. Your nanny will appreciate knowing your preferences because it will help them do their job better. Also, it is much easier to relax rules after you have built a trusting relationship with your nanny than it is to try to enforce strict rules later on – and avoiding an awkward conversation with your nanny is always a good thing!
- Know your legal obligations and keep your paperwork organized and up to date.
Keeping track of your nanny’s monthly earnings and other documentation can take hours but there could be negative implications for you and your nanny if don’t account correctly. Refer to this resource to learn more about the ins and outs of hiring a nanny, including your responsibilities generally.
- Continue to be engaged.
You have a vested interest in making sure your nanny is content with their job for a number of reasons. Not only is your child's wellbeing a priority, the peace of mind you have from knowing your child is being well taken care of is important for your own health and wellbeing. Let your nanny know that you appreciate their mutual honesty and respect. Consider checking in with your nanny periodically to make sure everything is going alright and try to address any concerns they have right away.
- Always have a backup plan just in case.
Having at least one childcare arrangement to fall back on is a good idea for a variety of reasons. To name a few: you could you change your mind or plans could fall through (due to an emergency or just because), or your nanny may request a large amount of vacation time resulting in you needing a temporary childcare provider. These things have happened with nannies I've hired. One nanny we employed even took a maternity leave and I had to find temporary childcare for a number of months. All of these experiences have taught me the importance of keeping my child's name on one or more childcare wait lists and to maintain an online membership with a nanny agency just in case I need to use it on short notice.
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