How do you hire a nanny? It can feel like a tricky – even scary – process, and it’s such an important relationship! Our friend Nicole Kuklok-Waldman – a badass working mom if ever there was one – has had a string of excellent nannies in her household, and we asked her to chime in on how to do things right. Here’s her smart, and very doable advice.
I often get asked how our family has such fabulous nannies; we currently work with two and we’ve had many amazing women help us in the past. I’ve talked to many parents about this, and there are some things that have really served our family well when we’ve had to find and hire a nanny. On Erin and Heather’s request, I’m here to share them with you! Of course, every family is different, but this is what worked for us.
1. Create a job description.
This may sound a bit odd, since nannies all do the same thing, right? Nope! In our experience, every nanny is different, just like every family is different. Just because a nanny is a good fit for one family doesn’t make he or she a good fit for another. The job description is your opportunity to give the potential nanny a window into your family; it allows her (or him!) to self-evaluate whether she might be a good fit for you.
The job description is also a tool to help you focus on what you are looking for. Our job description was kind of silly, but got down to our important points – we wanted someone who supported play-based education, someone whose first priority was his or her job, and someone who was fun but was clear about things like safety and manners.
2. Define expectations.
When we hire a nanny, we use a contract to define expectations. [Editor’s Note: We are hugely in favor of written contracts for nannies; look for our follow-up post on why they’re so important.] Our contract includes everything – from who is in charge of the kids’ dirty dishes, to what non-kid related tasks we expect to be done by the nanny, to our policies on television and phone usage during work time. We also include scheduling expectations, like how to handle sick days and vacation days.
This is really important, because it sets out – clearly and in plain language – what we expect and what the nanny should be doing.
Do you care if your nanny is on her phone during a playdate? Do you want pictures of your kids posted on Facebook? Do you expect the nanny to do your dishes in addition to your kids’ dishes? How about laundry? What should the nanny be doing during naptime or when the kids are in a class? How will the nanny be paid? Confusion around expectations can create resentment between the nanny and your family, and your kid is the loser in this situation.
Here’s a list of questions to ask during the interview process to start setting those expectations.
3. Don’t start early.
Don’t start looking for a nanny until about a month before you are ready to hire a nanny! I know this sounds super counter-intuitive, but once a nanny is available, if he or she is good, he or she will get snatched up quickly! If you look too early and fall in love with a nanny, you are going to end up paying him or her way before you actually need him or her!
Instead, start looking a couple of weeks before you are ready to pay, so if you find someone and have to hire him or her right away, at least you can pay to transition him or her into your household. [Editor’s Note: this is the exact opposite of searching for a daycare. When looking for either a center- or home-based daycare, you want to start that search ASAP, and ask lots of questions. Read more here.]
4. Check references, but trust your gut.
I always check references, calling the families that have used the nanny in the past. I also use a service to run a background check before I hire a nanny. That being said, most people say they love their nannies, and sometimes people aren’t honest or truthful in references for a number of reasons. I would try to get both sides of the story if something seems strange or doesn’t add up for sure, but I recommend taking references with a grain of salt.
Communication with your nanny is so important! Every family is different, and your nanny grew up in and has worked for different families before yours. Everyone does things differently. Establish an efficient method of communication for your family and make sure everyone is on board, whether you use SitterNote, texts, email, or telephone calls.
Be sure to let your nanny know if he or she does something you would like done differently, as soon as possible. Always try to frame feedback respectfully. Establish a regular review process to make sure that expectations are being met and to create a time for feedback; this gives everyone an opportunity to get on the same page.
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Working with a nanny is different than any other employment relationship you will ever have; he or she is virtually part of your family, in your home on a day-to-day basis, and cares for the most important thing in your life. Finding–and keeping–the right person in your family can make your life easier, your worries lighter, and your kids’ lives filled with more love than you could even imagine. We so grateful for our wonderful nannies and how they have changed our family for the better. I hope this advice helps you find the best fit for your family!