It’s already difficult to think about leaving your (finally!) smiling baby as you head out the door each morning, but you are probably also feeling very overwhelmed by the prospect of finding a caregiver whom you can trust 100% with your new baby.
The process for finding a good nanny is anything but straightforward, especially when you're looking for one who has great references, relevant child care experience, and will fit your family’s needs and budget. So, where and when do you even start?
1. While You’re Pregnant, Prepare for Your Search
Nigel Thomas, the owner of South Bay Nannies based in Los Angeles, says that the biggest mistake he sees from expecting and new parents is that they haven’t taken the time to really think about their needs as a family. Having run South Bay Nannies for over 10 years, he now has a robust process when he meets with families so that he can help customize their care and pair them with the right caregiver for their situation.
Some of the critical questions for your family to answer before starting your search include:
• What are our typical work, family, and travel hours each week?
• How many hours of child care will we need?
• Are we able to commit to a strict schedule each week? Or do we need to hire a nanny with more flexibility?
• Do we travel for work, and will that increase our child care needs from time to time?
• What is our budget for child care?
• Do we want someone who is able to drive? Do we need someone who is willing to do housekeeping (such as laundry and ironing)?
• Do we have any special needs for our children?
• Are there are particular skills we want our nanny to have? (e.g. Speak a particular language or play music.)
• What is our parenting philosophy?
If you are working with a nanny agency, you should keep a few factors in mind. First, your budget will likely need to be higher, since you are paying a premium for the nanny agency to conduct your initial search, streamline the interview process, minimize paperwork, and provide choices of candidates who meet background check requirements and CPR certifications. According to Thomas, in Los Angeles, the going rate for a well-qualified, professional nanny is about $20/hr. But for that price tag, you are going to get a lot for your money. In addition to the the nannies with whom they work with have a great deal of experience working with infants, have ample references, and have been fully vetted. If you don't know your city's going rate, check out Care.com’s rate calculator.
Thomas mentioned that you should be sure that you are looking for nannies that have financial stability and come from well-functioning homes. While this may be hard to determine up front, it's an important consideration to keep in mind, so that you feel confident that your nanny will be focused on your baby.
While you're still in the planning phase, you should also secure a backup plan. Mike Gannon, owner of College Nannies, Sitters and Tutors on Long Island, NY, says that relying too heavily on one caregiver can be a challenge if the nanny gets sick or has a personal emergency. Talk to your partner about how you will decide which of your will stay home in these situation. If it will be a challenge for either of you to miss work, look into backup care. Many nanny agencies and other companies offer backup programs and services. CNST, for instance, will provide you with a professional nanny or babysitters who have been fully vetted with just the click of an app.
2. Once Your Baby Arrives, Activate Your Search
The timing for finding a nanny can be a bit tricky. In big cities, parents often complain about having to start touring daycares the moment you conceive and constantly check the waitlist to secure a spot in the daycare of your choice.
However, when finding a nanny, the timelines are much tighter, since applicants often want to start within a couple weeks of interviewing. Thomas recommends that if you are working with agencies, you begin your search about 45 days before you need someone to start. That will give you ample time to review applicants, interview, check references, perform background checks if need be, and have your nanny start a least a week or two before you head back to work. Building in a transition period will help you and your nanny feel comfortable about your baby’s routine and your expectations for the job, and will enable you to answer any questions that arise.
Even if you are not going the agency route, many moms recommended using a similar same timeline of about six weeks to find a great nanny. Many moms indicated that while working with an agency would have been easier, the price tag was a barrier. For many of these moms (myself included), activating a search meant tapping into your network. Start with moms you know and ask around for referrals. Ask your mom friends to ask their nannies; if you've met them personally, ask the nannies themselves! Some moms mentioned they asked nannies at the park if they had anyone they could recommend and were often successful in obtaining some names of candidates to interview.
If you are the first of your friends to have a baby, don’t worry. Social media is your friend! Join local moms Facebook groups (a simple search under groups with the word “mom” will likely yield a few), or look for groups dedicated to matching parents and nannies, such as Los Angeles Nannies & Babysitters Exchange.
Every mom stressed the importance of spending some time interviewing candidates. In order to maximize your time, you can start with phone interviews or even an email questionnaire to ensure your basic requirements are met (remember: you established those when preparing for your search). Narrowing down your pool based on those requirements and your budget, most moms interviewed between three to five nannies in person.
In addition to ensuring that your nanny meets your basic requirements, when you actually interview them, ask questions like:
Why do you enjoy being a nanny?
How many years of experience do you have?
Can you walk me through a typical day with the families and children you’ve cared for previously?
Have you ever had to deal with an emergency, and how did you handle it?
How do you discipline children in your care?
How do you partner with parents? Have you had any situations where you disagreed with the parents, and if so how did you handle it?
Once you’ve narrowed down your top choices, take the time to contact at least two references and learn about the experience of the previous family. One of the most telling questions to ask is: Why did you stop working with this nanny? Ideally, the answer is that the nanny was with the family for a decent amount of time, and the reason for separating had more to do with schedules than due to any red flags.
3. Make Your Decision.
Thomas recommends having your top two or three choices do a trial run. Pay each one for at least a few hours of their time, so you can truly get a sense of how they interact with your children. Walk them through your routine, and also use this as a time to learn more about them. Most of the moms I spoke with also recommended these trial runs as a great way to run through the current routine in your house, ask more questions, and just generally get a feel of whether or not it’s a good fit. At the end of these in-person trial runs, moms all felt like they had a stronger connection with one; if neither feels like a good fit, it means you probably need to keep looking.
At the end of the day, every single mom said to trust your gut. You will know what feels best and most comfortable for your family.
Mary Beth Ferrante is the owner and founder of Live.Work.Lead., an organization dedicated to working with companies to retain top female talent by supporting women navigate their first critical year of becoming a new parent. Live.Work.Lead. works with new and expecting moms through 1:1 and through group programs. They also provide training to managers on the maternal wall and how to better support their employees planning for and returning from parental leave. Prior to founding Live.Work.Lead., Mary Beth was an SVP of Business Strategy for a Fortune 100 company. In addition, Live.Work.Lead.offers Virtual "Mommy and Me" Classes designed for Working Professionals.