As my maternity leave with my firstborn drew to an end, I was mostly — and surprisingly — looking forward to going back to work. The part I anguished over though was handing this little human I created — and spent every waking (mostly waking) hour with — to a total stranger.
A friend told me that finding a caregiver is just part of expanding your mom squad (or as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler call it, the Dope Squad). Welcoming a nanny to your world adds one more person to your child’s life who will (hopefully!) love and enrich them. I have found this to be so true.
Of course though, there are the horror stories. I had mixed emotions going into interviews to find our nanny. I learned to ask specific and prepared questions, and to call all of the references, and only consider nannies with years of references to back them up.
Our nanny’s references are what ultimately sealed the deal for me, my husband and our fellow nanny-share family. You could tell each of her previous families loved her and still stay connected, and many still used her as a babysitter. All green lights for us.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The most important lesson I learned? That so much of this is gut instincts. At your most tired, you’re tasked with conducting your most important interview, so you need to listen to all parts of your body when something seems too good to be true.
I found that was the case with a nanny who had a stellar resume with (seemingly) years of experience, but had just two references, with only email addresses for contact info. After some internet searching, I found that whole and specific parts of her resume were lifted from others’ resumes and websites. I also couldn’t find the names of the two references on LinkedIn or other social networks, which made me think the names were made up. Alternatively, when I looked up the references of other nannies, I found full profiles, with some being friends of friends in some cases. If something seems off, keep searching.
Or as one mom put it,
“If you’re uncomfortable with your nanny, don’t try to just push ahead because you need it to work. Listen to your spidey sense. We hired a nanny we had to fire barely a week into it — I was seeing red flags and excusing them, so was my husband, and it wasn’t until we sat down together to talk about it that the picture emerging was quite alarming and we had to fire her the next day.”
On the flip side, if you have a connection with a nanny, don’t dismiss it. After interviewing a range of extremely qualified and perfectly lovely nannies, we found the world’s best nanny for us. She had all the qualifications, but was also the first and only one to ask to hold the baby. A light bulb went off for me. This was our nanny. It was the first time I had handed my baby to a stranger. She was so warm with my daughter, and they connected right away. I knew she was the one for us, and it’s been a love connection between the two of them ever since.
As another mom found, babies have great instincts too,
“Pay attention to whom your kids like or dislike, as well as how they talk to the kids. Look for genuine affection — this person is going to be parenting your kids too, you want them to love each other.”
Here’s a compilation of questions I asked for our nanny share, as well as great ones I’ve heard since, but it’s by no means an exhaustive list.
Why are you a nanny?
How long have you been caring for children, and how old were they?
What is your favorite age to care for and why?
Do you have other work or life experience that you can bring that will help you do this job well?
What type of family/employer are you looking for?
Can you legally work in the U.S.?
How do you prefer to be paid?
What is your requested amount of time off/sick leave/pay rate?
Can you describe the most recent family you worked with? Why did that job end?
What would your past families say about you?
Why did those jobs end?
How would you take care of two kids at once? What if both are crying?
How have you dealt with a sick child?
Have you ever dealt with an emergency?
Have you babysat after-hours for the children you work with?
Do you still babysit for any of those kids? / Do you stay in touch with past families?
Are you CPR certified and up to date?
Have you taken classes in childcare? Would you be willing to take classes if necessary?
Are you up to date on your vaccinations?
Have you taken any other childcare-related classes?
How do you keep kids safe in public? At home?
Day to day
How do you spend your days with kids?
How would you spend your day with babies this age? How does it change as they get older?
What’s your view on nutrition for kids?
How comfortable are you with cooking? What types of foods do you prepare for kids?
Do you prepare bottles? When do you dip into frozen breast milk stashes?
Are you comfortable doing housework as it pertains to the kids? (Picking up messes created during the day, dishes & laundry)
Are there any activities or responsibilities that you won’t do?
How flexible is your schedule, if we occasionally need you to arrive early or stay late?
What’s your discipline philosophy?
Do you prefer more or less structure in your day? What do you think works best for children?
What have you found worked the best when working with the parents to help raise the child?
How do you handle crying? Getting babies to sleep?
What do you do to keep calm when you are having a hard day?
What kind of communication style do you have with parents? Do you text updates? Track diapers/feedings/etc?
How do you voice concerns and unexpected issues that may come up? Can you give some examples from previous employers?
Are you comfortable with one of us working from home periodically?
Are you familiar with this neighborhood?
Do you typically socialize with other nannies in the area, get the kids together, etc.?
What are you most proud of when it comes to your job?
Do you drive/how will you get to work? (*be sure to get a good feel here for how punctual the nanny is, especially if your commute requires you to leave the house right away in the morning)
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Have you shared photos of the kids you work with on social media? Are you active on social media during work hours?
Why are you interested in this job?
Would you be willing to do a trial period?
We’re looking to hire someone for a long-term position. Is there any reason that you know of now that may preclude you from working for us full-time over the next few years?
Can you provide (at least) 3 references?
Questions for us?
Getting to know one another
In addition to asking all the standard questions, it’s also important to get a feel for how the nanny matches your lifestyle and the choices, from things like discipline to sleep training to breastfeeding or formula, etc. And then doing your extra homework to check on things like driving record and public record of things like court cases.
Once you’ve found your nanny and are pulling together the contract, make expectations clear, from routine to driving rules. From fellow moms:
“Be crystal clear on expectations — what are they to do during the days (do you want them to stay at home or always go out, what about play dates, library time, classes, etc.), what household work is expected (that directly related to baby — cooking, clearing up, laundry, tidying — is expected, but still spell it out, and sometimes more is agreed upon).”
“It was really important to me that my nanny not put pictures of my child on social media — I don’t and I didn’t want her to either (though she still took tons of pics during the day and texted them to me.) We even wrote this into our contract.”
“I’ve found that if we are SUPER clear up front we can be as lax as we like but you cannot be made that someone didn’t do X the way you like it if you never asked them or set the expectation in the first place.”
You’ve got this!
My goal was to find a caretaker who embraces and loves both the responsibility before them as well as my child. Now that I have that person watching over my child, I can leave each morning with no doubts about how things are going back home. Our nanny is one of the most appreciated, influential and important people in our lives.
Do your homework, talk to friends who’ve interviewed nannies, and trust the guts — yours and your baby’s. If you’re new to the nanny-share world (as I was), I found Park Slope Parents to be a great resource, as well as local parents groups through Nextdoor and Facebook.
If you’re a mom in tech, join us in the Moms in Tech Facebook Group!
Good luck as you build out your squad.