Nanny Know-How: Choosing the Right Person to Care for Your Child by Estelle Sobel Erasmus

Q: I am thinking of hiring a nanny but want to make sure I’m choosing the right person to take care of my two-year-old when I go back to work. Can you help?

A: When hiring a nanny, it is best to go through a reputable agency. Ultimately, select someone you feel will interact with your child (and hopefully not just chat away on their cell phone, while keeping your child prisoner in her stroller or crib). Here is additional advice from the experts.

Suzanne Royer McCone, president of Annie’s Nannies Household Staffing.

Your Childcare Styles Should Be a Match: During the interview process, you should ask the candidate about her family background and how she was raised. Articulate your philosophy of child rearing and discipline and ask her for feedback. Offer up scenarios and ask her to explain how she would handle various situations. If she has a very different style than yours you will not be happy with the relationship long term.

You’ll Regret if You Don’t Do a Check: Make sure you do a thorough reference and background check before you hire a nanny. For the background check verify the candidate’s employment history and search for criminal records.

Compensation Should Be Competitive: Offering below-market compensation not only makes it harder to find a great nanny, but it also leads to frequent turnover, because if she is paid below the market rate, eventually the nanny will leave for a better paying position.

Have Reasonable Expectations for Help with the House: It IS realistic to expect that a nanny will leave your house in the condition you left it in; It is NOT realistic to expect the nanny to do heavy cleaning during the hour or two that your child is napping. A nanny needs some time in her day to sit down and take a break before resuming full childcare responsibilities.

Provide a Period of Training and Orientation: The new nanny does not know exactly how your family operates. A family needs to spend adequate time getting her acclimated and sharing the rules and routines of the house.

Avoid Micromanaging: This is a common mistake made by families with new babies and families hiring their first nanny. It is perfectly legitimate to articulate your expectations to the nanny and to request that she keep a nanny log. Tell her what you need done and how you like it done. Then give her the latitude to organize her day to accomplish what you expect.

A Nanny Who Drives Has Membership in Your “Mile” Club: If the nanny is required to use her car for work purposes, you need to reimburse her for mileage at the IRS stipulated amount, which is adjusted year to year.

Brooke Barousse, owner of Lexington Nannies.

Phone First: To save yourself time, interview the nanny on the phone before setting up a meeting. Pay attention to whether you feel you like this person on the phone? Do you feel their communication skills are up to par? You should look for nannies with a solid command of the language spoken in the house.

Contract to Avoid Conflict: Consider writing up a nanny/family contract. This document will detail all duties and expectations. It outlines a pay rate, vacation schedule, and all aspects of the job. The contract will clearly establish a greater understanding of what each party expects from this new relationship.

Pay Properly: Many families make the mistake of paying their nannies as if they were an independent contractor. Instead, you must pay your nanny as a household employee, since the IRS considers it tax evasion not to do so.

Conduct a Weekly Meet and Greet: Have mini weekly meetings with your nanny. It gives you the opportunity to see what’s going in the house, and it reinforces how important good communication is to you.


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