How to find a good nanny

Kristina Kennedy is the mother of one-year old, Ladon, who joined the world on Mother’s Day, 2013. In attempting to balance work, school, and family, Kristina says, “when work life balance fails, I go for work-life integration and have my son come to the office for lunch or join me on a business trip (nanny required).” She enjoys cooking, jogging, and traveling with little Ladon, who has been on 21 flights!

Finding a nanny is just one of many big decisions that many new parents make, and it can be tough. How can you know that the person you’re leaving your child with is trustworthy (or even nice)?

Kristina Kennedy is a mother of a one year-old who found an awesome caretaker for him. Here, she offers the 9 tips she used to get a good nanny.

1. Look online

I used care.com and had a great experience (care.com connects caregivers like babysitters and nannies to people searching for them). If you use it, be prepared to get a ton of responses right away and sift through them.

2. Interview by phone first

You get a better overall picture of a person when you hear their voice. I interviewed about seven people by phone and immediately knew that five of them wouldn’t be fits, so I didn’t have to waste any more time.

3. Know the one or two things you have to hire for

Have clear requirements that you absolutely need. For us, the main thing was flexibility: I needed someone who could stay late and have hours added or canceled. Some friends of mine really cared about safety, while others really wanted infant experience. Everyone is different. However, I will say that hours is a common complaint for most people: some have nannies who have to have 50 hours a week, while others can only work limited hours.

4. Find someone you truly like

Your nanny becomes part of your family, so make sure you really really like him or her. If you get a “this person might annoy me” vibe or anything else, don’t hire them. Don’t justify it by saying to yourself, “oh, but I’m sure they’ll be great with the baby.” You have to work with this person all the time; they’re both your employee and a part of your household, so make sure you really want to have them in your life every day.

5. Infant experience may not be necessary

Assuming your baby is healthy and not colicky, I didn’t find that prior infant experience was needed. If you have your nanny come shadow you for a few days, they can learn how to change diapers, do bottles, etc. As they watch your baby grow, they will figure it out. Everyone has to start somewhere, so you may not want to eliminate great candidates because their experience doesn’t specifically include infants.

6. Think about the age you’ll be most comfortable working with

Determine if you prefer someone who’s younger or older. It’s a quick but important choice you have to make. We decided to go with a younger person because I didn’t want someone always telling me how they had done it; I preferred someone to be as clueless as me!

7. Check references

There’s no such thing as checking too many references. Call every one you can. And if the potential nanny ever babysat for their own family members, I found those people to be particularly good references because they know the person beyond employment. I specifically recommend asking candidates about their  own relationship with their family. For example, “How often do you see your parents,” “Tell me about your childhood,” or “What are your siblings like?”

Everyone is going to tell you they love kids, but their answers to these questions will give you a better sense of how they really feel about family and might fit into yours. If someone doesn’t speak to her family or hates her mother, what does that mean to you in terms of her being a part of raising your kid?

8. Set rules early and understand your nanny’s last experience

I always say that we’ve done a bad job training our nanny because we don’t really have any rules. That’s just us: we’re way over on the “whatever happens, happens” scale of parenting.

But if you don’t want your nanny doing something, tell them. Don’t assume they know what you’re comfortable with. For example, we don’t mind that our nanny watches TV because A), we live in a super small apartment and there’s not much else to do; and B), our son isn’t interested in the TV, so he doesn’t watch it anyway. In contrast, my friend’s daughter is obsessed with the TV and will stare at it if it’s on, so my friend doesn’t like their nanny watching TV.

If you want your nanny to follow some sort of schedule, write it down. It’s better for both parents and nannies when expectations and rules are clear up front.

9. Keep your expectations realistic

Remember that watching a baby all day is hard work. No matter how great your nanny is, some days will be better than others. Your kid is going to fall down, bang his head, scrape his face…and it doesn’t mean that you have a bad nanny. Try to give them a break and encourage them to be honest with you always.

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