After having my second baby, it quickly became apparent something had to give. I could not continue to work full time, raise two children and run a household. At the end of a few arguments, my spouse and I decided hiring a nanny was the best solution for our family.
I wish I had known several things before embarking on this journey, so in hopes of sparing other readers trouble, I decided to write about my experience. Here are 8 things I wish I had known before hiring a nanny. I hope you find them as helpful as I would have back in the day.
1. Don’t Search When You’re Desperate
When we found our nanny, we posted a desperate request on social media. This is not a recommended method for finding help. Posting online is a good way to identify prospects, but not make a final hiring decision.
My hubby was on his way to a business trip, and I knew there was no way I could manage work and childcare obligations. We ended up going with the first person who responded to our ad. This was a mistake.
2. Take Time to Review Resumes
After our first nanny disaster—long story short, she didn’t have the greatest work ethic—we took more time finding the second. We looked over resumes, and we took the time to contact references, something we didn’t bother with the first time.
Many people request references from employees, but few take the time to contact these people. This is a mistake. Always contact at least one or two of the references listed by a potential nanny. Sometimes, one call is all it takes to ease your mind, but if something seems off, you can ask more probing questions to be sure.
3. Use a Quality Referral Service
If you’re not keen on running a background check on your own, going through a referral site like Care.com can help you find higher quality child care. The most important tip for using such a site is specifically stating your needs—if you have three children, one of whom has a disability, advertising for a baby-sitter may not get you the type of applicant capable of providing the level of services you desire.
Do you want a nanny who also will help clean and prep meals? State this in the advertisement. The same goes if you need a nanny capable of tutoring your child in advanced algebra—not all have this qualification.
4. Remember You Are an Employer
You might not think of yourself as one of the fabled job-creators, but guess what? You are. This means you are responsible for issuing year-end tax documents as well as withholding if you choose to hire a nanny as an employee—a status automatically granted to those you pay $2,100 per year or more to.
If this is the case, you will need to withhold Social Security, Medicare and unemployment taxes from your nanny’s paycheck. I highly recommend using personal accounting software for this—the initial expense costs far less than owing the IRS.
5. Get Scheduling in Writing
The primary reason we had to let our first nanny go was an incompatibility in scheduling. I say this euphemistically—the real problem was not showing up when scheduled.
If all you need is a baby-sitter after school for an hour, scheduling can prove a breeze. However, if you need a nanny who occasionally can pull overtime or work weekends, get it in writing upfront. Everyone gets sick now and then and needs a day off, but missing a flight for an important business trip due to a nanny who forgot to set the alarm—again!—can prove nightmarish if it happens too often.
6. Decide in Advance on Contingencies
Do you expect your nanny to wash and chop lettuce for your evening salad? Get this in writing in advance of making a final hiring decision. Not only does doing so ensure you get the services you desire, but it also makes things fairer on your hapless sitter who may not know meal prep fell under the job description.
Most nannies expect to watch the children and even help with homework. If you’d also like them to wipe down and reorganize the contents of your refrigerator, prepare to pay extra or at least admit honestly cleaning is part of the gig.
7. Start with a Trial Run
Have you ever taken a new job on a contingency basis, meaning you only stayed on if you performed? While most household employees behave the same as they would toward any other employer, assuming they will do so automatically can result in conflict.
Let your nanny know you will operate on a trial basis for the first two weeks. I wouldn’t extend the time further out—feeling insecure about your job can make you perform worse, after all—but it gives you ample time to evaluate if you and your nanny’s work ethics and personality are a good fit.
8. Have Monthly Talks about What’s Working
Like any employee-employer relationship, touching base periodically is key to a continued successful working arrangement. Make time every month to praise your nanny for what she does well and discuss areas that could use improvement.
Hiring a good nanny is life-changing. With our second nanny, my hubby and I achieved the work-life balance we craved. I wish I had known more the first time, but at least I learned how to find a quality nanny quickly through trial and error. Avoid my mistake by following the tips above to locate the household help you need.