Why Parents Should Do Their Research Before Hiring a Nanny

Hiring a childcare provider isn't a decision to be made lightly

mother handing baby over to nanny
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Employing a nanny, au pair or long-term babysitter is an increasingly popular choice for families, but parents should conduct research before bringing a stranger into their home.

While the rich and famous can put childcare providers through rigorous screening processes, many middle-class families are now choosing nannies and shouldn't make this decision lightly. This type of care option allows parents to have greater convenience and job flexibility. After all, if a child is safely at home with a responsible adult care provider, getting stuck in traffic or working late may lessen a family's stress.

Parents should screen potential caregivers carefully, ask lots of questions and check resources. These tips help parents pinpoint concerns to consider when making this important family decision.

Determine What Type of Caregiver You Want

There are differences between a nanny, au pair, mother's helper, babysitter or a private caregiver, so the first thing you should do is research which type of care you prefer. Pay, training, living arrangements, hours and transportation requirements may greatly influence what type of professional care provider you seek.

Prioritize Your Requirements Over Your Preferences

What exactly do you want in a childcare provider? While it's easy to imagine you'll hire the perfect Mary Poppins, capable of doing it all, keep in mind that if you can't be Wonder Woman, then neither will your nanny!

Write a list of "must have" requirements and then create a second column of "like-to-have" duties. A person who can fulfill all your requirements and be able to do the bonus duties like tutoring or driving a child to soccer practice might be the fit that's right for you, your child and your family.

Determine Appropriate Pay

Once you fine tune your list of requirements, determine what you are able to pay. Depending on how realistic you are, you may have to temper your list of requirements slightly. Nannies who have childcare training and experience will typically command the most pay, and their terms may be very stringent. Do you want a live-in or live-out person? Would you consider an au pair, who is often less experienced and from another country and requires room and board, but can be a wonderful fit for certain families? Do you prefer a babysitter, who might require an hourly fee of $10-$15 an hour?

Ask Your Family, Friends for Names and Resources

The best way to find your dream childcare provider is to ask around and find out who has had the best experiences. If you know someone who has had good luck using an au pair, ask to talk about the pros and cons to see if a similar situation might work for your family. By that same token, ask about bad experiences as well and do your best to avoid any similar incidents!

Screen Applicants Carefully

There is no such thing as being too careful when screening a potential childcare provider. After all, this is a stranger with whom you're entrusting your children. It's a scary thought in some ways, but when the relationship works, it provides for a safe and nurturing environment for kids and more flexibility for parents. In the end, it's often your instinct that will guide you to a provider who is not only qualified, but is the right fit for your family.

Don't Expect the Impossible

While movies have glamorized the nanny profession, coupled with the popular reality shows that show nannies transforming dysfunctional families and monstrous kids into well-behaved and loving children, your life isn't a movie. If you can't juggle three kids, their school and after-school schedules, laundry and a well-maintained house, then don't expect the same of a nanny. Yes, you pay them, but the first priority is always the kids. Be sure to keep your expectations realistic to avoid the "perpetually disappointed" routine.

Don't Feel Guilty and Be Sure the Relationship Works

Guilt about leaving kids while at work is an emotion that working parents simply need to get over. If you let it get to you, then most likely you'll transfer that misery over to your kids and your childcare provider as well. Then, everyone will be unhappy. Keep the perspective that a childcare provider is not there to replace a parent; accept that you work and your kids will be in good hands while you're away. By the same token, you are in charge and make sure that you are happy and comfortable with any childcare arrangement.

Use Caution With Playgroups, Babysitter Co-ops, Occasional Care

Even if you're active in a playgroup or share babysitting duties among neighbors and family members, you should be as careful about safety with occasional childcare as you are with a professional provider. Kids need constant and quality supervision, whether it is with a teenager, next door neighbor or friend. It's always best to have a conversation upfront about your parenting styles and supervision expectations before something bad happens, or you're unhappy with a situation. The key is to communicate!