How did you find your nanny?
June 22, 2006 6:31 AM   Subscribe

How do we find a nanny?

Our nine-month-old son will be in need of child care in a few months. Day care centers, I understand -- there are listings, accreditations, lists of violations on file with the city, you can go visit them yourself, meet the teachers, and see how they look. We might also consider hiring a nanny -- but here, we don't know where to start. The families we know who have nannies seem to have inherited them from friends whose kids started preschool. Someone recommended a referral service to me --$1500 for a referral, with $500 non-refundable even if you don't like their candidates, sounds steep to me, but is this in fact reasonable?

So: how did you find your nanny? Bonus if you have any suggestions relevant to Madison, WI. Answers to related questions "How did you choose between the nannies you found?" and "How did you assess whether your nanny was doing a good job?" also very welcome.
posted by escabeche to Human Relations (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Advertise and interview. Get LOTS of references and always check them. Have a standard list of questions (many available on the web). And trust your gut feelings -- we met a few nannys whose references were impeccable but who we felt would be a disaster.

A good nanny will become part of your family, so they need to be someone who *feels* like someone you would want to be part of the family.

I wouldn't touch a referral service with a barge pole.

Your kids will tell you whether your nanny is doing a good job by their behavior.
posted by unSane at 7:06 AM on June 22, 2006

Finding quality child care is a constant challenge for my family. We wanted to keep our child out of daycare for the first year, to help her avoid any common sickness she might get while very young.

Finding a nanny where we lived was a pain the butt. You should search for regional nanny services. For us, there was a Portland-based company that managed nannies and had a big list of those looking for work. Each nanny was an employee of the service and the service was expensive because they provided health care to the nanny. We never did find a nanny that would come out to where we lived though.

So the next thing we did was to advertise in the local newspaper and on craigslist. We got at least 50 people call us about it, and we considered a pool of about 10 people. We ended up actually interviewing only four people that had the strongest resumes. We picked someone that was a retired nurse and seemed very confident her in abilities. You should search babycenter or other helpful parenting sites for a list of questions and things you should look for when interviewing childcare people. In addition to a bunch of questions, a lot of it is your gut reaction and how they interact with your child.

For me, it was easy to assess how she was doing because I was work from home so I could help her get acquainted with my child's schedule and activities for the first few weeks. It was a slow process that I wished went a little faster and after about six months our daughter hit 12 months old and we decided to transition to a trusted daycare place.

I would stress that communication is the most important thing when hiring a nanny. Be open about everything at the start, make sure your nanny is on the same page with regards to your parenting style and how to deal with your child if/when he/she is difficult. For us, by the end, the confident, knowledgeable person we interviewed was constantly doing things we found inappropriate, would never ask for help and actually broke a few things in our house, and was suffering from health problems she never disclosed during the hiring process.
posted by mathowie at 7:18 AM on June 22, 2006

Just e-mailed you. :)
posted by picopebbles at 7:37 AM on June 22, 2006

my bigtime nanny girlfriend suggestions poking around messageboards and college job listings - referral services overcharge like the dickens. it all comes down to the interview!
posted by soma lkzx at 8:06 AM on June 22, 2006

Ditto what was written above. We advertised in the local newspaper and received about 50 responses. Many of the responders had children they wished to simultaneously have with our children -- because we didn't want that for various reasons, it was easy to narrow the list down to about 10. A second issue for us was that we wanted someone who had done this for a living for an extended amount of time - not someone who was being a nanny because they couldn't get a job doing X. This was important to us because we wanted stability for the longterm. The woman we ultimately hired was in her 60's, worked for a previous family for 5 years (I spoke with her previous employer) and was very gentle and loving. Odd to say, but I had a very strong intuition about being 'the one' when I first spoke with her on the phone. It turned out to be a wonderful relationship and she took care of our children for 5 years. For very young children, I think that at-home daycare is the best compromise when both parents work (if you can afford it). Good luck with your search!
posted by bluesky43 at 8:16 AM on June 22, 2006

Just a few pieces of advice:

A. Consider using a "nanny-cam" in the begining

B. Write a contract and have her sign it. Trust me, this can save heartache, later.

C. Remember that each babysitter/nanny has his/her negatives. Pick the one whose negatives you can live with.

D. Decide on how much TV your kid can watch, if any, if your babysitter/nanny is to clean and cook for you and what your policy is for "off" days.
posted by whitebird at 8:31 AM on June 22, 2006

We have hired two non-live-in nannys. Both of them were the result of newspaper ads. We advertised for specific requirements and were pleasantly surprised by the responses. We ended up with a ton of responses, even after weeding out the chaff. We spoke to as many as we could, interviewed a handful, then hired on the contingency of a clean driving record and a clean CORI report.

We also shored up their existing auto insurance, subsidizing it.
posted by plinth at 10:34 AM on June 22, 2006

My wife and I have hired 3 nannies. The last two have been done through the site We know tons of people in the Boston area who have worked with agencies, and they can't believe the quality of our nannies.

Some more tips:
- Be VERY clear about vacations, sick days, notice when leaving, etc.
- I second the contract
posted by jshelus at 4:54 AM on June 23, 2006

I second There are lots of great nannies on there and I say that as a former nanny who used that service. I found two great families of which I stayed with each for over 2 years.

A great nanny will not only submit to background and driving checks, but will also think weirdly if you don't ask for them. She will expect a contract for your benefit as well as hers and you can find sample nanny contracts all over the web. My contract also included a written performance review form that they filled out for me every 3 months to let me know how I was doing. CHECK REFERENCES. I wouldn't hire anyone without at least 3 glowing babysitting/nanny references.

Don't expect them to clean your entire house. Light housekeeping like taking care of the baby's room, running the vacume, loading the dishwasher is okay, but people don't get into nannying to scrub toilets and do your laundry (I did baby's laundry only). They should be focusing on your child, not on polishing your floors. You should expect them to leave your house as they found it and clean whatever has to do with baby only.

Also, get a nanny cam, or if you can't afford it, tell them you have a cam in the house anyway. If they object, do NOT hire them! My employers had 3 cameras in the house and it didn't bother me at all because I had nothing to hide. Drop in unexpectedly to see what's going on when you're not there. Do not be afraid to tell them if they are doing something wrong.

Before you tell them what you expect them to do with the baby all day, ASK them what they would do. I volunteered to create lesson plans for my little one every day. You should be able to find nanny planners online and it gave me an outline on which days to work on language skills, which day to plan a special outing, etc. The baby I cared for (3 weeks old when I started) was not allowed to watch television at all, and if you have a good nanny, she won't mind that. If I could find 8 hours of activities 5 days a week for a 9 month old, your nanny should be able to also.

You'll know if the nanny is not a good one. Your child's behavior will start to change almost immediately and regardless of how attached you have become, it's time to let her go. Good luck.
posted by Ugh at 1:05 PM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

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