First time nanny
August 10, 2011 4:38 PM   Subscribe

My sister is interviewing for a job as a nanny. She has never worked as a nanny before. What questions should she ask during the interview? Also, any advice for first time nannies would be appreciated!
posted by skjønn to Work & Money (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'd imagine asking about the family's discipline philosophy would be extremely informative.
posted by litnerd at 4:56 PM on August 10, 2011

Ask about typical day -- tabout the activities with kids, responsibilities, chores, etc. Listen whether emphasis is dealing with kids vs. household chores. If the latter the expectations might be for domestic servant.

Just something I've picked out when listening our nannies stories from their peers.
posted by zeikka at 5:25 PM on August 10, 2011

Yeah seconding zeikka.

I'm amazed some stories I hear of families that employ 'nannies' and get all sorts of (what I would consider) non-nanny tasks bundled in. That's OK if it's up front but I sometimes wonder to what degree it is.
posted by southof40 at 5:50 PM on August 10, 2011

I employ a nanny. I say these things as a veteran. The people that she is interviewing with may not have thought of these things, but they should.


- The #1 thing that she should know is if they want to do it legally or illegally. This will have major ramifications for how she is paid.

* Legal nannies often get their taxes covered and the family is on the hook for paying employment tax.
* Legal nannies have a right to time and a half for any time over 40 hours each week.

- What's the vacation package? Around DC, 2 weeks vacation is normal for legal nannies.

- What's the sick policy?

- What sort of liability insurance do the families expect to get? We did an umbrella policy (hat tip Ask Metafilter) that protects us and the nanny.

- What hours are they expecting to keep -- very explicitly. Being loosey goosey is not good.

- What do they want to pay per child? In my area, 1 child = $12-16/hr for a legal nanny, 2 children = $16-22/hr for a legal nanny.

- How do they intend to keep the paperwork? Some people use services like Breedlove. We did it with a snazzy google spreadsheet.


- Are there any expectations for cleaning?

- What do THEY do with the kids all day?

- What are the limitations in terms of how far away she can take the kids?

If you want, memail me and I can email you our nanny contract.
posted by k8t at 5:58 PM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

And as I said in this comment, nannies are not babysitters.

This may help too.
posted by k8t at 6:00 PM on August 10, 2011

Response by poster: K8t, could you clarify this:

In my area, 1 child = $12-16/hr for a legal nanny, 2 children = $16-22/hr for a legal nanny.

THanks!! Also, I would definitely love to see a copy of your nanny contract, thanks!
posted by skjønn at 6:06 PM on August 10, 2011

The #1 thing that she should know is if they want to do it legally or illegally

The possibly less controversial terminology for broaching this topic is "on the books" vs. "off the books."
posted by staggernation at 6:11 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Errr... one kid all the time alone would be more in the $20/hr range, in my area.
posted by k8t at 6:25 PM on August 10, 2011

Oh, I see that k8t has dealt with it very nicely from the employer's side. Here's what I know from down in the trenches....

I got an au pair job, through an agency, quite a while back. The main benefit of going through an agency was that it gave me access to lists and lists of names of people who needed au pairs, how much they were paying, and how many kids they had, as well as a little bit more personal information. This allowed me to pick and choose, and it gave me power that I think is incredibly unusual in the au pair/nanny world. The people I ended up working for were exceptionally nice, and there was rarely a child around, so I had a lot of free time, very few responsibilities, and it was a lovely experience.

My experience was an enormous exception, however. I've heard endless stories and known several people who've had bad experiences. Nanny/au pairdom is largely an unregulated under-the-table enterprise. (The agency I went through was very fancy, but I don't think they ever checked my references!) As a result, it's not treated as a regular job, even though it should be. And even fair-minded employers tend to take advantage. I think this is less intentional than it is "hidden" sexism. A nanny is doing "woman's work," something that usually goes uncompensated and underappreciated at the best of times, and nannydom is just an extension of that.

For all that, it can be a decent, reasonably peaceful way for a young woman to earn money over the summer, or during school, especially if childcare suits her temperament a whole lot better than office work or retail.

If I were her, I'd ask the family several questions, partly to seem professional and mature, and partly to genuinely get a sense of who they are and what their most obvious expectations are, such as:

1) What should/shouldn't the kids eat?
2) What about clothes/hair/specific toys: any no-nos?
3) What about naps/bedtimes/snacks? What's the schedule?
4) What about schooling/homework? What's the expectation? Will there be any schoolwork they need help with?
5) What about "screens"? This is usually a big deal: How much TV/computer/phone time are they allowed?
3) How they tend to schedule the child's days: Do they believe the child should have some free time to entertain himself or is everything scheduled for him?
4) Any special interests of the kid's, caveats, skills, health issues, etc.?
5) What are the hours the family expects to need her?
6) What is the length of the overall commitment they want to make?

As for herself, she should think about:

1) Will she be expected to prepare meals for the child?
2) What about other chores? Are those her job, too? (Beware: One of the key complaints I've heard about nannying is the endless uncompensated add-ons.)
3) What about late nights? Weekends? Vacations? Will she be expected to work during those times? (I've heard a lot of complaints about this, too.) And, if both parents work, what about delays at work? Will she be expected to work during those periods, too? (If so, she may want to consider overtime charges after, say, 40 hours a week.)
4) Does she get paid time off for holidays? Vacation? Sick days?
5) What about playdates: Will she be expected to care for other kids in addition to her usual charges? (If so, she *should* definitely ask for additional compensation at these times.)
6) Are they going to be paying her social security? (Most should, and most don't. Frankly, I see why they should and I see why they don't. Personally, I'm not sure I'd press this issue, but that's her call.)

Just from my questions here you can see where my bias lies. But the fact is, there's what's fair, and there's what's within the norm. There's also the question of how old your sister is, how shy, how used to negotiating, how much she needs the job, how informal the arrangement is, how many hours are expected, whether she'll be living there (which in my book makes it *much* more critical to take a tougher negotiating line)....

If I were her, I'd keep it simple. A lot of things I wouldn't negotiate; instead, I'd simply state them with a smile, and an even confident--even if faked--tone of voice. She should keep in mind that many of the points I'm about to bring up the family probably has not thought of especially if they're middle or upper middle class first-time nanny users. (All bets are off if they've had many nannies before, or if they're very, very wealthy.)

So, if I were her, I'd simply state:

"I charge $X/hour for [the number of kids you have]. I charge $Y/hour for [any number] of additional kids, overtime hours (say past 40), or extra chores."

Then I'd explain more precisely:

"$X/hour will pay for all care of your children, escorting them to lessons and appointments, the preparation of any meals for the children and herself. $Y/hour will pay for overtime, extra kids, doing laundry (but *only* for the kids!), and preparing meals in advance (say, school lunches), but, again, *just* for the kids."

She should probably make clear that in *neither* case does she do cleaning! (I can't tell you how common it seemed to be to turn the au pair into the housecleaner. She should avoid that utterly, and say she wants to "keep focused on the children at all times." Then she should come to an agreement with them about term of expected commitment, with at least two weeks notice on either side for cancellation of their agreement. If she's going to be live-in, now's the time to negotiate sick and vacation pay, as well as regular time off. She should give a little on this if she has to because frankly it's less important than the day-to-day.

Once she's come to an agreement, she should say, "I'll type this up, date it, and send you a copy as an email, just so there's no misunderstanding." Note that doing this may bring up more niggling points they she and they may haggle over a bit, but once both parties have signed the thing, it *will* stand as a legal contract....

Wish her luck!
posted by Violet Blue at 6:25 PM on August 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

My oh my that didn't seem quite so long when I was first typing it.
posted by Violet Blue at 6:30 PM on August 10, 2011

I should add that I live in Washington, DC -- and since federal employees of various stripes are required to be above board in their household help payments, it creates a two tiered system for nannies.

Further, your sister should always keep in mind that it is harder for families to find a new nanny than for her to find a new family. People will go to great lengths to keep their nanny happy.
posted by k8t at 6:43 PM on August 10, 2011

I realized, belatedly, no one's mentioned healthcare at all. In the best case scenario, your sister has health insurance through your parents or a school, so the issue is irrelevant.

If it's not, yikes. My suspicion is, unless you're dealing with really wealthy or savvy business types they may well be overwhelmed by the additional cost and bureaucracy of putting her on a health plan. (This is a partial explanation of why so many don't pay taxes/social security, I think.) If your sister isn't covered elsewhere, it's her call whether to bring it up or not. There are more arguments for bringing it up, again, if she's live-in and, well, depending on what state she lives in, too, as individual healthcare is far cheaper some places than others. Still, I'd bet the vast majority of au pair/nanny types don't carry insurance, unless they're highly experienced or work for, say, an agency that provides it for them. So no easy answers there.
posted by Violet Blue at 7:12 PM on August 10, 2011

@Violet Blue, I wouldn't assume wealth. Here in DC, the daycare situation is so bad that most normal-middle-class people do nannyshares.

Before I moved here I had assumptions about people with nannies too. But it appears in some metro areas it is more normal than in other places.

FWIW, we throw our nanny $100/month for healthcare. It is up to her to spend it on private health insurance.
posted by k8t at 7:40 PM on August 10, 2011

First time nanny advice: take a class on baby and child CPR.
posted by bq at 8:37 PM on August 10, 2011

A friend of a classmate at my summer session in London signed up with an au pair agency and told me that some of the women who had worked for a family who had interviewed her had mentioned issues with the male head of the household (this was in the files of the agency). This was in the early 90's; I don't know if she wound up taking a job with them.
posted by brujita at 9:23 PM on August 10, 2011

"May I hold the baby?"
posted by CruiseSavvy at 1:35 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Make sure she meets the kids first and watch how the parents interact with the children.
posted by wwax at 10:23 AM on August 15, 2011

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