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7 Things That Mattered To Me About The Nanny I Chose

Hiring a nanny is a reclamation of self that allows the resumption of what makes you, You, and more than just the title, Mother. Delegating child-care responsibilities frees you up to relate to your child from a point of identity, as opposed to from a point of responsibility.

By giving yourself the opportunity to live in the broader world and to reconnect with yourself as a unique individual, you consequently give your child the most valuable gift you have to share with anyone: your real self.

When someone else takes the baby and you can go do whatever it is people do when they're not nursing—brush their hair, have lunch with friends, perform open-heart surgery—you create space for yourself.

When you have time and space to be Cynthia, and not just, A Breast, or, A Hand That Wipes Surfaces, you can build a sustainable relationship with your child that's based on who you are, not on the title you think you're supposed to assume.

There are wonderful people out there who are prepared and qualified to look after your little one. There are plenty of online services that can help you find a nanny who works with your needs. There are in so many good nanny options out there, that the real questions to ask when hiring a nanny are not for the nanny at all. They're for yourself.

Choosing a caregiver for your child is an introspective opportunity to learn more about yourself, reconnect with your own needs, and practice reaffirming your belief in the validity of your own choices. There is no right nanny; there’s the nanny that works with your individual needs. And there is no right thing to look for in them; there are the things that matter to you, whatever those things are.

Society loves to make women live for other people, and loves to tell them how to do it, and motherhood really loves to make women live for other people, and society loves to tell mothers how to do it. Choosing a nanny is a time to come back to yourself, to live for yourself, and to ignore everyone's voice but your own.

It doesn't matter what I want in a nanny, or in anything or anyone else. What matters is what you want. This is your life. How do you want to live it?

That said, and provided you promise to consult your own needs and preferences when hiring caregivers, here are some of my personal nanny priorities. If you ask someone else, you will get a totally different story—so please, ask someone else! Listen to everyone on the outside, then shut out all those outside voices, set them aside, and listen to yourself.

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7 Do They Want To Be There

When times have been tough, I've thought about becoming a nanny myself. But every time, I stop myself from seeking that kind of work. Because I don't want to do it. I feel I have a social and ethical obligation that I must uphold.

Nannying should only be done by people who actually want to be with other people's children. This is your child we're talking about, whom you love. Do you want them to spend their time with someone who doesn't want to be with them?

I live in a world of child billionaires and homeless heroin addicts and not much in between. There is no more middle class in my city. We have the filthy rich and the just plain filthy and no-one else can afford to live here. What this means is there's plenty of nannies who don't want to be with children but who need money. I get that.

But I only have one child and I value his well-being more than I value theirs. Choosing a nanny is a chance to invest in a wonderful additional adult who can bring more love and support into a child's life. It can be awesome. So...let it be awesome.

6 There Are Practical Considerations

Pragmatic questions play as much of a role in choosing a nanny as more intangible qualities do. When are they available? Can they get to your house within thirty minutes in case of emergency? What transportation do they use? What's their backup transportation? Do you share a common language?

One of my personal prerequisites was that nannies either already be First Aid and CPR certified or that theyget the training promptly. How do you both feel about your child spending time at their house, and if this is something you both want, is the house child-proofed? Are they physically capable of caring for children?

This last one has been an issue surprisingly often. There was the neighbor who could only lift ten pounds, the Russian lady who couldn't cross the street, the grandmother with brittle bones, etc. Also, what kind of clothes do they wear?

We had a nanny who always showed up in pencil skirts and stiletto heels on her way to her other job at a bank. She couldn't chase after an active toddler (fortunately the bank took her full-time after a couple weeks).

Another game-definer is cost. Nannies are like sushi: you don't want them to be too cheap. This is someone you're entrusting with the life of your progeny. Pay them like the valuable guardian, peek-a-boo player, boo-boo kisser, tantrum mitigator, factotum, role model, and hero in case of emergency that they are.

Pay them more for extra children, for extra time, and for extra kinds of work. (I also gave my nannies a slush fund so they would be inspired to do fun things with my kid even if those fun things cost money.) Pay them a wage that you would pay someone who was proud of and cared about their job, and that's what you'll get. …

On the other hand, I hear about nanny agencies that charge $10,000 for referral fees alone, and whose nannies charge rates that harmonize with that, and that seems like a luxury option one should be able to do without. I feel confident that I had some wonderful nannies who felt good about the pay they got and cared about my kid, for much less than that.

5 How Do They Think

When I interviewed my nannies, I always threw a soft object at them, while talking, out of the blue. It was (as I explained afterward) a thin-slicing way of checking their aptness for the job. The nannies who caught the object were invariably better qualified for taking care of a kid.

Taking care of a kid is about handling the unexpected, quickly responding to situations, and moving fast when you weren't planning on moving fast. It's about, “well I was planning on continuing this conversation, but what happened is suddenly there was a stuffed lion coming at me, so I caught the lion.”

I was keenly interested in how my nannies solved problems. How did they handle problems to which they did not know the answer? If they didn't know information I wanted them to know, like what to do in an earthquake or how to put out a grease fire, it was easy to tell them and then to suddenly ask them the answer a month later to keep the information fresh.

But what made the real gems was how they handled novel situations. Life happens. Children are not paper dolls who come with binary instructions. Every day you take care of them you face a new challenge.

The question is, how do you deal with it? When they had to think on their own, would the nannies come to a solid solution that worked with my values, even though I wasn't there? Would they use their own minds to come up with an idea instead of waiting to be spoon-fed an idea? And when they did invent solutions, would they do so while bearing in mind my own preferred code of conduct?

4 You Both Need To Understand They Are Working For You

Your nanny is your employee and you are their boss. For me, this was a delicate issue because I had a great urge to be friends with my nannies. But, even though they're working with your child, they're working for you. They are here to make your life, as you want it, possible. They are here to meet your needs.

Yes, they are also here to meet your child's needs. But you could probably do that yourself. The reason you're hiring a nanny is because you need a supported space for your nonchild life. So, understand your needs clearly inside yourself and then make them clearly understood to the nanny and leave the drama out.Build healthy boundaries so your relationship can thrive.

I had one nanny who wanted me to leave so she could be in the house with the boy, and she decided a fun activity for them would be making dinner, so she would make dinner with him, and I would come home after my exile and face a kitchen that looked like a bomb hit it and a sink full of dishes.

When what I had hired a nanny for was to take my kid out of the house so I could have it to myself for a couple hours. I remember the nanny saying, “this is what would be nice for me.” And this is why, although you can have friendly relations, you can't be friends.

cause you're giving them money so that life can be nice for you. You have to prioritize your own needs. This can be challenging for women. But there doesn't have to be drama about you being in charge. First come to peace with this fact inside yourself, and then you'll be fine with it on the outside too.

3 How Good Are They At Hearing What You Need Them To Hear

I fired one of my nannies for taking my son in her boyfriend's pickup truck with no car seat—but what I was really firing her for was her untrustworthy thought processes, not for the action itself. I fired her because I could not trust someone who would come to the conclusion that this was an ok thing to do. But, Gentle Reader, the situation was even graver than that.

Because she had been specifically told, clearly, a plurality of times, this thing that no child-caregiver should have to be told even once: she had been told that it is illegal to take children under the age of eight (in California; checkyour country's requirements) in cars with no car-seat.

And yet more than once, she had taken taxis with my three-year-old. She said in her defense that she didn't think taxis counted as cars because you had to pay for them. And at another time, that it was ok because they were running late—even though we'd had the “what to do if you're running late” talk right up front at the beginning.

Anyway, when she showed up at my door glowing with pride and handed over my cub saying, “we didn't take a taxi! I had my boyfriend pick us up! Your son was fine; I held him in my arms the whole way,” I realized I could no longer allow her to keep looking after my kid. She didn't listen to me and I didn't trust her to make safe choices. Or maybe she listened but she wasn't hearing what I needed her to hear.

How many times should you have to ask for something that you've put forth as a job prerequisite? One time should be more than enough. One of my prerequisites was that all my nannies had to be CPR and First Aid certified and if they weren't already, that they became so upon engagement.

The nanny who had a miscarriage did not have the certification when we hired her, which was fine provided she went and got it right away, which she agreed to do. A few weeks later she started work. The best thing would have been if she had brought the certification up herself and said when she planned to get it done, but she didn't bring it up, so I asked. She said she was going to get it soon.

Except, months went by, and I kept asking and asking her about it, and she kept not doing it. I should have fired her. It was only partly about not knowing when to resuscitate. Mostly it was about this: I wanted her to assume responsibility for her end of the bargain, and she wasn't doing it. She wasn't hearing what I needed her to hear.

2  Do Their Childcare Values Harmonize With Yours

If there are two people in a room, there will be at least three strongly held opinions about any given child care question. Now, I don't care what your values are. They're your business. I believe that it's the adult's job to be the picture frame and the child's job to be the picture—the adult provides solid boundaries within which the child lives freely.

I also believe that I want an affectionate, smart, literate, healthy, responsible, practical nanny who wants to play with my kid and have fun with him, and to take him places and expose him to healthy new experiences.

I tell my nannies that when they're in charge, they have authority and I expect them to make on-the-spot choices and I back them up; I don't micromanage them. But these are my personal choices. What matters is not what I think is nice for nannies to do. What matters is that I found nannies whose beliefs harmonized with my own.

Whatever kind of household you want yours to be, discuss that desired situation with your nanny. Ask them what they would enjoy doing with your kid. Ask them what they would do if your child were naughty. Ask them what they would do if your child were being an incredible, tear-your-hair-out, jungle-monster-creating pain in the ---.

Ask them how they would reward positive behavior. Ask them about their own childhoods and their own parents and how they were raised. What did they learn from their parents through positive example? What did they learn from their parents through negative example? How did influential nonparental caregivers interact with them? What do they choose to take with them and share with your child?

1  How Does Your Kid Feel About Them, How Do They Feel About Your Kid

Clearly this is important, but the reason it comes last is, it's likely that if you like someone, your child will probably like them too, especially if your child is very young.

Babies are not terribly particular; just give them someone warm and soft and snuggly with a soothing voice and a comforting yet capable way with them,who will love them and cuddle them and play with them and pay attention to them, and they're usually happy.

As children get older they get somewhat more opinionated, but it depends on the child. My son was pretty chill with everybody, but I, as a small child, was apparently quite picky about who was worthy of my company. Chemistry matters in all human relationships, and this is someone with whom your child is going to be spending regular time, so get someone they like.

And while we all know that your child has a certain special something that makes him that little bit more wonderful than other children, and therefore all nannies will love him, it's good to hear them say it. I always had potential nannies spend time with my son after the interview.

I'd have them do their thing in one part of the apartment and I'd go into another part, and eventually come out after they'd had a chance to be alone together. Then they'd spend time with him with me present but passive.

If that went well, they would go on a sample run; I would send them to the park with a current nanny or babysitter, with whom I urged them to discuss whatever they wanted to discuss about the job that they might not have discussed with me. This would give them a freer opportunity for getting to know my offspring.

Then I'd have the current nanny or babysitter report their opinions back to me. And I'd ask the potential nanny about the experience. Of course, they'd all say the experience was delightful, but I was looking for flavor, for how they expressed themselves, for what stood out in their minds.

How was this candidate's experience different from other candidates' experiences? Of course, they like your child, but what characterizes their liking? Let them count the ways. And as the relationship unfolds over time, watch them blossom. You want someone who has a real, growing relationship with your kid.

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