Finding childcare is challenging. It’s hard to hand over your precious bundle of joy to another person, but once you find someone that you love and trust, it makes the entire process easier.
I mentioned that our summer nanny started a few weeks ago and I recieved a lot of questions about how to navigate working from home with an in-home nanny. I hope this post helps those of you in that position, or perhaps preps you in case you need to hire childcare in the future!
First of all, I’ve heard from a few people that there is a stark difference between a nanny and a babysitter. A few nannies have let me know that they do not like being called a babysitter. Since I’ve not been either, I don’t have much of an opinion to add here, but it’s my understanding that a nanny is a long-term (or specific/set length of time) childcare provider who may do additional tasks, and a babysitter is a smaller scale position that is more focused on the kids for, perhaps, a shorter amount of time overall.
Correct me if I’m wrong, of course!
Since having David, Justin and I have juggled childcare between ourselves and also hired a handful of babysitters and nannies throughout the years. We’ve had overwhelmingly positive experiences, and just a few isolated incidents that didn’t go very well, but nothing even close to a safety risk.
Our first regular childcare hire was Jordan, my dear friend, and photographer. She took newborn photos of David and we hit it off right away. She was starting her photography business and doing a little bit of childcare on the side, so I hired her to come once a week to watch David. It was not easy to hand my baby over to *anyone* at only a few months old, but Jordan kept him safe, loved him, and did a perfect job caring for him. She has a catalog of stories about how uptight and anxious I was as a new mom, and I’m glad that she’s been able to also see me relax as I feel more comfortable and confident in motherhood.
Since Jordan, we’ve hired around 10 different childcare providers through the past six years. From date night babysitters to summer nannies, to regular Tuesday night babysitters that allow Justin and I to meet with a group from our church.
Question and Answer:
How do you find candidates? I’ve had the most success finding childcare providers through word of mouth, or through my church. I’ve also used Care.com and had a good experience with the majority of the babysitters I’ve met through that service. Lastly, I used a local babysitting service that made finding childcare easy as they placed sitters based on my needs and preferences (think of it as a head-hunter for childcare providers). I also had a good experience with that service save a few less than ideal fits personality-wise for my kids.
How do you interview? I usually start with a phone interview which helps me gauge confidence, maturity, and level of interest. Next, I set up an in-person interview with myself and the sitter/nanny. From there, the next step would be to set up an abbreviated time for the sitter/nanny to come spend a little bit of time with the kids while I was near to essentially do a “test” run.
What questions do you ask? I like to know their childcare history, and specifically if they’ve cared for multiple kids at different ages. I ask if they are CPR trained, and any other important safety or medical questions. To be honest, I do a lot of talking during the interview in order to give as accurate a picture as possible of what I am looking for for my kids. Usually, the interview is conversational and it allows me to get to know the provider a bit!
How much to do you pay, or how do you figure out how much to pay? This varies from season to season but in general, I pay high teens/low twenties for 3 kids.
Have you used a babysitter placement service? I have! That takes all the legwork out of finding a sitter, but I did miss the opportunity to meet/interview a childcare provider before the time of the service. I could have done that on my own, of course, but the point was for the placement service to do the legwork!
How do you gain trust? It takes time and practice. Like I mentioned earlier, I spend a lot of time describing my kids, explaining what they like to do, and really trying to give a full picture of what our days look like at the house. That way I can feel that the sitter knows what to expect and if she says she’s interested in the job, I feel confident that she knows what she has signed up for!
What are your rules? This is a huge question, but in general, I require the sitter/nanny to follow the same rules that Justin and I have for the kids. Discipline looks different, but we expect the kids to be respectful, kind, and act in the same way we encourage them to act when Justin or I am in charge.
How do you get your kids to not come to you since you work from home? I set pretty clear boundaries from the start. If I’m working, I’m working and cannot be “on duty” (unless there is an emergency of course!). So I tell the sitter to act as if I am not here. Since I work from home, I do my best to stay out of the common areas and kitchen, which isn’t a struggle. Not only does it make it easier for the kids to have physical separation from me, but it also allows me to stay in my “creative work-mode” mindset.
How do you motivate them to do activities instead of watch TV? This goes back to the interview process when I explain that I’m looking for a childcare provider that likes to be active. TV and media time is extremely limited when I’m paying someone to watch my kids. On rainy days I flex on this, but in general, I make it very clear that my active/outdoorsy kids would do best with someone who wants to be active too!
How do you release control when you are home and can hear? This takes practice and time. It’s very, very hard to hear one of my babies upset and not go swoop in to help. But if I were to do that all the time, it would undermine the sitter and that’s really unfair. Not to mention, I need my kids to learn how to be helped by someone other than Justin or myself. I’m thankful that it is extremely rare that I can hear an issue from my office so that means I can really relinquish responsibility to my sitter.
What other tasks, if any, do you ask of your summer nanny or babysitter? Generally, I ask that they, as well as the kids (of course), clean up anything they get out and play with during their time together. If the sitter/nanny makes a meal for my kids, I ask that they tidy up afterward as well (also, I always decide what they eat and write it on a little notepad in the kitchen for them). I’ve had childcare providers in the past do kid-related chores like laundry but generally nothing much more than that.
Overall, I’m so thankful that I’ve met really wonderful women to take care of my children through the years. We still are in touch with so many of them, and I’m truly aware that it is a gift to have a loving, caring person doing such an important job.