Once upon a time nannies were only for the uber-rich, but, for some, times have changed. For many working parents forced to put in long hours at the office, nannies have become an essential and irreplaceable part of the family; someone entrusted with the well being of their child.
If you have a nanny – or you’re thinking of hiring one, there are three things you need to keep in mind – new legal considerations, administrative and style questions, and that the nanny is going to be a vital part of your child’s development. Here are our tips on approaching all three.
New Legal Considerations
Nannies recently received a boost in early June when the state of New York passed a bill that would require paid holidays, sick days and vacation days for domestic workers, along with overtime wages. Also, it would require 14 days’ notice, or termination pay, before being able to fire a domestic worker. The bill has left some up in arms however, claiming it doesn’t give domestic workers equal rights, but rather special rights and it will unfairly impose higher costs on parents who are already struggling to afford child care as it is. As a result, many working parents wondering how they will cover all of their bases- maintaining their career, caring for their children, and tending to domestic duties – alone, now that they may no longer be able to afford their nanny.
According to Priscilla Gonzalez, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the hoopla surrounding the bill is unfounded and unnecessary. “First of all, people need to understand that ‘working parents’ are actually employers and when individuals choose to become employers, they are morally and legally obligated to follow basic standards of an employment relationship,” Gonzales said. “Secondly, many employers in the domestic work industry are already providing benefits such as paid sick days and holidays. The bill set to be signed by Governor Paterson in the state of New York only contains baseline standards. We’re merely seeking to standardize employment practices and ensure that abusive employers are held accountable.”
In other words, unless you were planning on exploiting your incredibly hard-working nanny, this bill will have little to no effect on your current arrangement with your child’s caretaker. According to Annie Davis, CEO of the award-winning 25-year-old Seattle-based nanny and household staffing agency Annie’s Nannies, what the bill has done – even outside the State of New York – is start a dialogue about the services nannies are “supposed” to provide and what responsible parents should look for when hiring a nanny.
“Nannies provide everything that has to do with the child: They prepare the child’s food; they keep their bedroom clean; they do laundry; they teach the child things; they take the child to play dates – the list is endless.” Davis said. “It isn’t unusual for many nannies to also do housekeeping, cooking, and run errands for the whole family. Technically, a professional nanny’s job is to only provide for the child’s needs. Unfortunately, agencies in large cities like New York often employ undocumented immigrants and they become not only the caregiver, but the ‘chief cook and bottle washer’ as well. In these situations, hiring a nanny is like hiring a housewife.”
Before Hiring a Nanny
Before beginning the hiring process, Davis recommends parents discuss how much they can pay the nanny, keeping in mind that they are going to pay about 10 percent for payroll taxes over the gross pay. Parents should also spend some time thinking about the hours they are going to need the nanny to work, the duties the nanny will perform, and most importantly, what kind of person they want to hire.
It’s important that your parenting style falls in line with the type of nanny you choose. For example, if you’re a hands-on parent who dislikes the idea of your child sitting in front of a television all afternoon, it’s important that the nanny you choose is active and up for taking your child to the park, museums, or participating in other enriching activities.
On the other hand, make sure the nanny is up to the challenge. On many occasions, Jessica Melero, a 31-year-old nanny based in New York City, says she has witnessed nannies chatting away on their cell phones as the child they are supposed to be engaging with sits locked in their stroller.
To make sure the nanny and the family are a good fit, Melero suggests parents ask four essential questions when speaking to prospective nannies:
1. How will you fill the day?
2. What is your discipline style?
3. What do you think are the most important attributes to possess when working with children?
4. What is it that draws you to work with children?
A Vital Role
“It’s important to remember that your nanny’s happiness is directly tied to your child’s happiness,” Melero said. ‘Personally, I know I’m a good fit with a family when the family is nice and doesn’t treat me like hired help. I’m interested in working with parents who see me as a vital role in their children’s growth and happiness – while also paying me accordingly.”
Hiring a nanny requires that parents perform an odd balancing act. You’re inviting another person into your family and your home, but as Gonzalez said, you’re an employer and should act accordingly. Essentially, you’re creating a quasi-family that goes beyond the typical employer/employee relationship.
Though it’s complicated, the most important thing to remember is that parents/employers must treat their nannies with respect and dignity because as Martina Simmons, a 25-year-old nanny and au pair from Manhattan pointed out, nannies act as your child’s parent for a majority of the week and in many cases, this relationship exists for years. “Nannies just don’t ‘watch’ kids,” Simmons said. “They raise them the best they can and put effort into their actions every single day.”