Whether parents use an agency, an online site or word of mouth, hiring a nanny can be a stressful experience.
For many, this is the first time we’re an employer. We’re considering pay rates and conducting searches and interviews. We also have to hand the care of our children to someone else, and likely someone we’ve never met.
8 things to avoid when hiring a nanny
To help you transition, avoid these eight mistakes when hiring a nanny.
#1: Starting your search too early or too late
I thought I was prudent for starting my search in April even though I wasn’t returning to work until August. I wanted to cover my bases and didn’t want to leave the search to the last minute. We found a nanny we were happy with. She was even willing to hold off working for another three months.
Then, one week before I had to go back to work—she called saying she couldn’t do it because she got pregnant. Yikes.
Granted, she could’ve been pregnant regardless of when we hired her. But starting the search too early gave us the false impression that all was fine. Not to mention we wasted our time and money (we had to sign up for the nanny site again).
Hiring a nanny too early also increases the chances she’ll go with another family who could use her help sooner.
At the same time, don’t leave the search to the last minute. Leaving your search to the last minute can be stressful. After the first nanny turned down her job, we had one week to find child care. Instead of enjoying my last days of maternity leave, I was interviewing nannies.
The happy balance? Aim for six weeks before your planned return to work. You’ll have enough time to hire a nanny, but not too much time for her to change her mind.
#2: Interviewing only one person
Even with a week to hiring our nanny, we made sure to reach out to many people before making a decision. Phone interviews count too! Had we stopped short of interviewing people, we never would’ve met our wonderful nanny.
Even if you already love one nanny, meeting with more will only confirm your decision. And make sure you ask the right nanny interview questions.
#3: Being vague about your preferences and parenting methods
During the interviews is not the time to be shy about your preferences and protocol around the house. The nanny should understand your needs and preferences. You should feel comfortable she’ll do a good job in your absence. Consider the following topics to discuss during the interview:
- Housework: What specific duties do you expect her to do? Will she wash bottles, do laundry, cook, prepare snacks, vacuum? And when should the nanny be doing housework? If you only want her to do tasks while the baby is asleep, say so.
- Visitors and play dates: Is the nanny allowed to bring visitors to your home, whether it’s her own children or play dates? Can she take your kids to other people’s homes for play dates, or should they meet at a public place like the park or mall?
- Television and phone use: Can the nanny watch television and use the phone (whether hers or yours)? When?
- Putting the baby to sleep: Do you want her to let the baby put himself to sleep, or should she carry and rock him? Should the baby co-sleep, or sleep in his crib?
- Things to do: Can the nanny drive your children to activities like story time or parks? Where can she take the stroller?
- The nanny’s lunch: Can the nanny eat your food or should she pack her own lunch?
#4: Hiring inexperienced nannies
I needed a nanny experienced with twins since taking care of one baby is different from taking care of two. One of the nannies we interviewed explained that she’d taken care of many babies, so “…what’s another one added to the mix?” I mentally crossed her off from that moment on.
Your nanny needs to have taken care of the same-aged children for a full day. Casual babysitting is fine for date nights. But you’ll need someone with more experience if she’s caring for your child full time.
#5: Ignoring red flags
Pay attention to red flags since they’ll steer you away from poor decisions. When something bothers you, don’t feel silly for thinking it over, no matter how silly. Use them to address or clarify issues. They may not be deal-breakers, but use them as talking points so you’re both on the same page. Go in with the expectation that no nanny is ever perfect, but don’t disregard your gut either.
#6: Not calling their references
I interviewed a nanny who seemed fine and whom we were ready to hire… until we called her references. Some responses include, “…she was great… overall.” Or “…set your expectations right from the start.”
They weren’t blatant displeasure and I’m sure they’re fine with their choice. But aim for someone with glowing reviews their references can’t recommend highly enough.
And when calling their references, don’t just ask general questions, ask telling questions, such as:
- “What issues—even small or minor ones—came up with the nanny?” Some mentioned that the nanny used her phone too much. Or that she didn’t warm the bottles like how they asked her to.
- “If you had another child, would you hire this nanny again?”
- “What are some examples of when she went above and beyond for you?”
- “How many days per year did she call out sick? How many times was she late?”
- “How did you find this nanny?” You’d want the references’ relationship to be professional and not a cousin or friend.
#7: Being vague about pay, vacation and all that nitty gritty stuff
Be upfront about how many days off the nanny will get. Is it just days off, or are there sick days, holidays or vacations? List any holidays you don’t need the nanny to come in, and whether those will are paid. Will she get paid hourly? Will you be paying her every Friday, every 15th and end of the month, or monthly?
Print out a list of the paid holidays. Decide when you’ll pay, whether weekly, bi-weekly, or on the 15th and end of the month. Print a yearly calendar and circle her pay dates (I made one with timeanddate.com).
#8: Not allotting a few days for the nanny to shadow you
Ask her to come for a few days before you go back to work so she can see how you take care of the baby. Aim for at least two days, a couple of hours each.
On the first day, walk her through a typical cycle. Show her how you feed the baby, change her diaper, play with her and put her to sleep.
Then, give her a chance to try as well. Have her feed the baby a bottle or change the diaper. On the second day, she can care for the baby on her own. Should she have any questions, you’re right there to refresh her memory.
Finding a nanny can feel overwhelming. You’re antsy about work, and you’re not sure how to find a reliable nanny. Use the tips I outlined above for a smooth hiring process.
Want a convenient way for your future nanny to track feedings and diaper changes? Download this FREE printable below:
- Would You Use a Nanny Cam?
- How to Wean from Breastfeeding
- “What Would You Do?”: Questions You Need to Ask Your Child to Keep Her Safe
- What You Need to Consider when Hiring an Au Pair
- Can You Actually Work from Home with a Baby?
What crucial steps did you take to find the right nanny? How was your nanny-hiring experience? Let us know in the comments below!
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