Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Nanny Olympics – a.k.a. So You Want to Be a Nanny

         Since Sage was born, I’ve realized that it’s difficult for me to get anything house-related (or work-related) done at home while both boys are awake, even if my husband is home. I decided that we would try to find someone to bring into the house once a week on Saturdays to help with wrangling the boys so Mike and I could get some things (such as cleaning) done. Once Mike starts teaching again in September, it will be super helpful to have someone here with me so that I don’t lose my sanity. We also wanted to find someone to watch the boys so that we could go out with our friends – previous to this, the only people who have watched the kids were our friends. And you can’t exactly hang out with them if they’re, you know, watching your kids.
Watch that baby. It's sleeeeping. Upside down.
         I posted an ad on Care.com (and am in no way endorsing that site through this post, but that’s the site I used) and received over twenty emails from potential caregivers in two days. I have to say I was a little overwhelmed by that, but I figured out pretty quickly who to email “No thank you” and who to set up an interview with, and I thought I did a pretty good job (giving myself a pat on the back). After viewing their application emails and profiles, I emailed five women to set up interviews.
         If you follow the blog on Facebook, you’ll know that we had our first interview two Saturdays ago and I joked with the folks in the online community that we were having the Nanny Olympics at our house and the first interview was the prequalifying stage. The first woman I asked for an interview was actually the first person to respond to our ad, and she did so within five minutes of me posting it. In my ad I had purposefully put in some jokes (OK, what I thought was funny) and in her email she responded to the jokes with jokes. She had a professional photo and her descriptions of her experience seemed accurate (as opposed to blown out of proportion). She seemed down to earth so I was excited to meet her.
I sometimes wake up cranky. No I'm serious.
She showed up for her hour-long interview wearing a long-sleeve cardigan, which, since we live in Texas is kind of odd. I answered the door in a tank top and she could see my tattoos. She came in and saw Mike had a lot of tattoos as well, and you could see her visibly relax. “My Mom told me I needed to wear a sweater or I wouldn’t get the job,” she tells us as she’s taking off her cardigan and revealing two full arms of tattoos. Right off I had good feelings about her. But then I left her and Silas to hang out and puttered around (a.k.a. eavesdropping). Mind you, Silas had just woken up from a nap “hard” (meaning he was a crank ASS) so I figured this was a great challenge to assess her. She matched him toy for toy, game for game, talked to him, sat with him, played with him (not around him) – it was awesome. I was super pleased. After her Silas time she and I talked about her experiences and how often she wanted to work. She told us she was 14 weeks pregnant which made me sad (because she’ll probably leave sooner rather than later and not nanny anymore) but also excited because I knew that her experience at our house could help her feel more comfortable as a first time mother when her child arrived. So Candidate #1 was in and hired. Now I needed to find two or so “backup” babysitters in case she wasn’t available (and hopefully to take over once she had her kidget).
My response to some of these candidates.
         I looked through all of the other potential folks and developed some criteria – they had to have checked that they’d do light housework, have their own vehicle, have references available, and they had to have experience with little littles like Sage (9 weeks). Infant CPR and first aid certs and Spanish speaking made a candidate that much more attractive but weren’t deal breakers. Now I’m not a mean House Manager, I don’t want someone to come in and clean my house AND maintain my children’s safety. I want someone who’s going to clean up after themselves, put dishes from lunch in the dishwasher, and wipe down the kitchen table. I’m not asking for them to clean my carpets, you know? So any candidate who emailed me whose profile didn’t say they’d do light housework got the boot. No transportation means you can’t possibly pick the boys up from school in a pinch. Das boot. I can’t ask others about your previous work? No thank you. And you don’t know that an infant needs their neck supported until they can hold it up on their own? I’m not teaching you that.
         I set up four interviews over the next two weeks with potential childcare providers via email. I gave them my cell number and a date/time, and asked them to call or text me to let me know if that time worked for them (assessing conscientiousness I was). One called, two texted (I have no preference for either call or text honestly), and one didn’t respond at all. The one who called left a voicemail, so I called her back and left her a voicemail, and then she butt dialed me twice and never called to apologize (or to talk to me). So we were down to two prequalifier candidates, and they both were scheduled for Sunday (August 19). The first one (11 a.m.) showed up at 11:15 because she got lost because there’s construction on my street (which I had told her about previously and suggested she arrive early because of). The second one (4 p.m.) nsnc’d (no show no call). Wow. Really folks?
         Having been a nanny in graduate school, I would like to share some secrets (hopefully they’re not so secret honestly) about how to get hired as a nanny. The first question people may have is “what’s the difference between a babysitter and a nanny?” Well, here’s how I think of it – a babysitter makes sure your kids are safe for the time that you are out of the house, while a nanny may be asked to serve “in the place of the parent” by, say, dropping off/picking up from school, assisting with homework, preparing meals, cleaning, doing laundry, and of course entertaining children and making sure they’re safe. Usually there’s a pay difference too – if I hire a babysitter for the night who’s going to sit and watch TV after Silas goes to bed (and Sage sleeps through their entire visit), I’m less inclined to pay them a higher rate. We pay $8/hour for mother’s helper (I’m here, you’re just playing with Silas) and $10/hour for “you’re in charge” childcare by the way (and I put that in my ad). If the woman we hired is asked to do nanny-type tasks (grocery shop, pick up the boys from school) then I will pay her a higher rate per hour for the time it takes to do that, especially if she’s grocery shopping with two kids in tow (that will be $45 per hour please…).
I expect you to like our dogs. No, for serious.
         Many House Managers (i.e., the person who’s hiring you to do the childcare, usually Mom) will tell you what they want you to do (and if you’re a babysitter or a nanny), but if they don’t, it’s important to ask about expectations when you go to an interview. If you’re responding to an ad online, be sure to read the ad fully and see if you feel like you fit with what the House Manager wants. Don’t just respond to every ad asking for childcare. When you respond to the ad, write professionally – use proper capitalization, spelling, and grammar. If I see one more email with textspeak I swear to someone I’m going to hit a nanny. If the writer of the ad uses jokes, then joke back, but if they don’t then simply highlight the skills you have that they stated they were looking for. If you’re responding via phone, again, be professional. Make sure your voicemail sounds…professional. “You know what to do heeheehee” is not professional.
         In all of your interactions with families make sure to represent yourself accurately. Don’t tell Mom you have experience with infant care when in reality you held a baby at a party once. If someone says they have experience, then I expect them to know their shit and feel comfortable handling, diapering, and feeding an infant. Parents will have their own little quirky “ways of doing things” and they’ll know their kids best, but make sure you don’t lie about your experiences. Get to know what the parents want/like by observing them and asking questions (but more so by observing them – I think a lot of times if potential nannies ask too many small specific questions that they’re not confident in their own abilities and that’s a big no thank you – babies and parents are like dogs, they can smell fear).
         Make sure you have your listening ears on (sorry, I’m a toddler parent) when interacting with parents – if I say “No TV,” I’m not kidding, I’m not joking, and this is MY kid. Now of course, I don’t say this because Silas loves him some Thomas and Friends, but parents are asking you to act as them for a time (and paying you to do so). The least you could do is follow their rules. Now I’ve seen the Beverly Hills Nannies show (OK I’ve watched a few previews) and some people are, like, whoa crazy parents. If you see that at an interview, run and hide (unless you’re just in it for the money – then stay there because I don’t want you at my house). Crazy families will find someone crazy to take care of their kids – crazy attracts crazy, no worries. But I’ve seen some of those parents and you don’t want to work with them.
Silas say, "If you can't have fun, don't come to my house."
         And that’s the thing – that’s what you’re doing – you’re WORKING. Be professional. Be punctual. Focus on your work (i.e., the children), not your phone and Facebook. Have fun with kids. Sit on the floor and play. Sing. Dance. Make up silly stories. If you feel uncomfortable doing these things with kids, I’m pretty sure that childcare is not for you. Little people are amazingly creative and fun – if you can’t enjoy that and let your adult guard down to do some HotWheels cars in the dirt play, then being a nanny is not in the cards for you my friend.

Have you looked for a childcare provider/nanny? What did you find? I want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly.