It’s easy to spend lots of time interviewing a bunch of people and places to find the right caregiver for your child. Similar to wedding planning and giant cars we’re told bigger and more is better. Like for some reason you need to see every possibility that has ever existed before you can make a decision. We’re told interview, interview and interview some more and when you’re done you need to do even more leg work to vet that person. There’s so much you’re supposed to dig up – background checks, credit checks, get at least 5 references, contact every one of them and if they can’t provide that then forget the person – I’m not sure I know what that stuff will actually tell you.
I’m not saying that you don’t need references, you do. I’m not telling you not to check out different options and if you’re not wowed choose one anyway. You should choose the caregiver that is right for your child, family and situation. But how do you actually know who is good and who isn’t? What should you look for to know this is the one and stop your search?
1: Yes, you should have questions, and yes you should ask them. There are plenty of places that will give you an idea of what to ask a potential nanny. Those questions are good, I suppose (I love how some seem to imply that a functioning car is required to be a nanny) but honestly, it felt very TSA or Post Office to me. You know, those questions they have to ask for our “safety” Did you pack your bag yourself? Are there any perishables? Weapons? etc. Seriously what person out to do something bad is going to tell you I hate kids or I text my friends non-stop, especially when walking across the street pushing a stroller. It seemed to me that most of the questions that sites told me to ask were ones that any sensible person would know the answer to.
Case in point? The question, “How do you spend your day with the kids?” Anyone knows you don’t tell the parents “sit in front of the tv while I check Facebook on your computer.” They’re going to tell you “I like to get out of the house as much as possible.” Instead, the truth is one part in how they say the right answer. And follow up with what are your favorite places to go? The first nanny told us she likes to go to the park. Mainly she likes to get out of the house. It was a good enough answer, but vague. I was looking for specifics – What’s a normal day, give me some real ideas… in part so I have an idea of things to do with the Bot myself! But this is Chicago, and a good half the year, there is no I like to go to the park, there’s figure out what to do in the cold and a foot of snow.
In contrast, Nanny M broke into a list of places she knows that have book readings, museums with free days, and a lot more.
2: Listen between the conversation. I think for us, it was more important to talk with our candidates. I wanted to see how they answered almost as much as what. I think we’re pretty good at reading people. Call it strange but acting training teaches you what people do when they’re nervous, lying, or trying to impress, versus just being themselves. I watched for eye contact, eyes that showed recall as opposed to making things up.
3: Getting around. We wanted someone comfortable taking the Bot on Public Transit, walking and such. Frankly, I’m not really interested in someone chauffeuring my child around. I want her to be physically active and we all know monkey see, monkey do. The best way to instill in her an active lifestyle is to be active. The fact that our nanny is a bike rider, we decided that once we have a chance to go on a group ride we’ll set her bike up with the pieces necessary to let her take the bot out in the trailer. This might seem crazy but it’s what we do and if we can’t trust our nanny to do what we would do, then we hired the wrong person. In contrast, the other nanny we interviewed, being from the suburbs, drove and thus knew little at all about public transit. If we had gone with her, the Bot would have been in a car seat anytime she went anywhere and then we’d be a short hop away from a child who needed a TV in a car to go anywhere.
4: Know the neighborhood. Maybe it’s not as big a deal in smaller cities, but here, it’s especially helpful for the nanny to know the neighborhood(s) surrounding our home. We live in a very interesting area of the city and there are times that being at a certain intersection is less than ideal. It was incredibly reassuring when hiring Nanny M that she knew our hood and what those times/places to avoid are. The other nanny, as I think I mentioned, is from the burbs and she didn’t even know which side of the street our place was on, which in this city, everyone should know odds are south and east, evens are north and west. And well, I could go on about a few other Chicago-centric street planning she didn’t know, but I’ll spare you.
5: Introduce the pets. Some people are cat people, some dog people, some are pet people and some aren’t. If you have pets in your home and you are hiring a nanny, it’s essential s/he get along with your pets. S/he’s going to be there with them a lot of the time after all. These are the child’s pets too, and kiddo is being raised to care about them. Let’s not ignore… you might need the nanny to feed them or help care for them when they’re sick. And when your child is napping and the nanny is sitting on the couch, honestly, it’s nice to think fido or fluffy would curl up with her. The last thing you want is a nanny who doesn’t care about your pets. If the potential nanny isn’t willing to be there for your pets too, she’s probably not the right nanny for you.
The other thing I didn’t really find on the ask lists… Cyberstalk your potential nannies. Seriously. You cyberstalk the people you meet at clubs, at work, at networking events. So Google your candidates, facebook them too, hit LinkedIn and yes, even go back as far as Myspace to find out what they’re really like. Saying that, if you see tattoos, piercings, drinking partying… that’s not a bad thing. Keep in mind, the Nanny has a life too. use the above to help you determine if a candidate is right for you.
Watch for my next Nanny Post about things to have your nanny do when taking care of your bot.