I was a nanny. In fact, I left a teaching position in a small private school to accept the job. I wanted to try living in a totally different city and taking the nanny position gave me an income, a place to live and a car to drive.
Honestly, I was tired of spending 10 hours a day trying to teach kids who weren't really interested. I was ready for a change, but I knew I could still have an impact on a child's life. When I saw an ad in our local paper that a family was hiring a nanny, I realized this job would let me do all of that, plus cook in a gourmet kitchen to boot!
I left my family to move in with someone else's family. Little did I know that these people would become as dear to me as the brothers and sisters I left behind. You see, a nanny gets to share in the life of the family she works for, all the while sharing her life and experiences with them. I was able to try latkes and brisket (dishes I now make as part of my holiday celebrations) for the first time, while my family had their first taste of French meat pie. I met people I would never have met, I went places I never could have gone, and I tried things I would never have thought of. My young charge shared in all of this while being cared for in her own home. She knew who would be there if she was ill, who would take her to dance class and who would tuck her in when Mom and Dad had to work late hours.
Now, finding and hiring a nanny is not an easy task. Whether you go through an agency, place an ad or hire a friend, some of the key issues are listed here.
Before Hiring a Nanny, Know the Maximum Number of Work Hours Needed Per Week
Before hiring a nanny, you should have a general idea of how many hours a week, maximum, you'll need her to work. If you have a schedule that changes frequently, be sure to mention that up front and be sure your nanny can accommodate that. When your schedule does change or emergencies come up, let the nanny know as soon as you can. This can be especially important with a live in nanny; she may end up feeling trapped or taken for granted in you don't extend this simple courtesy.
This issue should be decided up front. You should know what you can afford to pay before you start looking. Do your homework. See what type of fees and salaries agencies are getting for their placements. If a friend has a nanny, ask what she pays. A live in nanny generally gets a weekly salary, including room and board. Some families include the use of a car and it's expenses as a perk. If your nanny must use her own vehicle during her care of your child, be sure to compensate her accordingly. Nannies who live out are generally paid on an hourly scale. Au pairs tend to get lower weekly salaries, but you often pay their travel expenses to and from their country of origin. Be sure to check on all federal and local tax regulations concerning withholding and social security. You and your nanny will have to pay these in order for you to claim her salary as a childcare deduction on your income tax return.
Discipline/Child Rearing Issues
You'll need to discuss in clear terms what is and is not acceptable when disciplining your child. The same should be done for key issues like TV time, naps, snacks, etc. Be sure they are understood from the beginning and check to make sure they are being followed.
Time Off for Your Nanny
A nanny, like any other employee, needs time off. This is especially key with a live in nanny. Unless otherwise agreed upon, your nanny is not there as a babysitter for your child when you go out to dinner or away for a weekend. If you do ask her to do these things for you, in addition to any regular work hours, she will need to be compensated, either with extra pay or with time off during the week.
Taking Your Nanny on Family Vacations
If you ask your nanny to travel with you and your family, you should pay all her costs for the trip (transportation, lodging, food, entrance fees, etc.) as well as her regular salary.
When Hiring a Nanny, Remember that Communication is Key
I cannot stress how important this. Set aside time every week to talk with your nanny about what has been happening and how she's feeling. Let her know you want to know if she feels unhappy or overwhelmed. Listen to ideas she may have about how to make the house run smoother or on issues concerning your child. Let her know what is expected and, if she is falling short, try to find out why. Talk to her, get to know her and include her in your life. She is a partner in raising your child, not just a babysitter.
Family/Nanny Trial Period
Be sure to give yourself a trial period during which either of you may end your association with no questions asked or obligations. After that, decide on terms of notice that must be given by either party if one decides to terminate the association. Spell out clearly what is and is not allowed in your home and around your child (especially important for a live in nanny) and what the consequences could be. Lay out who will pay any costs not already discussed like long distance phone calls, extra phone or PC connections, weekend use of a family car, etc. The more in depth you are, the better.
Hiring a Nanny Can Turn into Something So Much More
In the end, I chose to leave my nanny job. I met a wonderful man and we were married in the family room of the house I had lived in. The young girl I had cared for was one of our flower girls. A year later, I was back (along with a daughter of my own) to help when the current nanny had to leave on very short notice. I was there to help my young friend when her father passed away unexpectedly. Her mother, a therapist, was there to help me when a serious depression hit, leaving me just steps from suicide. Both of these women, for my little girl is now grown, are an important part of my life. In fact, after seven years away, I'm back again! This time I'm not a nanny per se. Instead I help run the practice, working side by side with the woman who hired me 13 years ago to help raise her daughter. You see, without one another our lives would have been, but they would not have been nearly as rich as they are now. I had a boss and a young charge. Now I have a family.
Articles in this series
- Part Two in this Series gives one mom's perspective on the extra benefits provided by a good nanny, beyond the typical nanny jobs.