Q&A: How to find a great nanny

Written by: Ingrid Kellaghan

Having a Nanny is wonderful — but it can also be confusing, overwhelming, and downright scary at times. Here are some straightforward tips for for parents looking for a great nanny.

Q: What advice do you give parents looking to hire a nanny?

A: The first piece of advice I have is to first time Moms who’ve chosen to return to their careers. You must own your choices and tune into your emotions during this transition. If you are deeply conflicted about leaving your children with someone else it can create enormous emotional strain. You may get passive-aggressive with a nanny or be resentful of her for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the work she’s doing but instead result from the fact that you haven’t yet come to terms with the choices you’ve made. Work to get past the guilt, anguish and fear. Everyone involved will benefit.

Q: I’ve interviewed several good nannies and am having trouble choosing the right one.

A: Be brutally honest with yourself. What qualities are your truly seeking in your nanny? Are you seeking someone who’ll be your proxy or someone who has qualities you don’t have? It’s a hard thing to admit to yourself. Evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses and choose someone who will enrich and enhance the lives of your children. Get out a pen and pad of paper and write down your list of “must have” traits. Know what kind of person you are looking for so you’ll recognize her when you meet her.

Q: When should I hire a nanny?

A: If you are a new mom returning to work plan to launch your search at least 6-8 weeks before your return to work date. Another great tip - consider hiring a postpartum doula. When you leave the hospital after giving birth you are going to be tired. Around the clock feedings and sleep deprivation doesn’t have to eclipse the joy of new parenthood. Many couples will confess some of their biggest arguments came during the stressful first months after bringing home baby. An experienced Postpartum doula or caregiver is trained to care for mothers and their families in this time of need. They provide household help, advice in newborn care and feeding, emotional support, sibling care, meal preparation, and errand running. A lot of us who are working women may not have been steeped in the motherly arts the way we would have been thirty years ago — with sisters, aunts, and extended family holding our hands as we begin this journey. We don’t live up the street from our mothers anymore. You and your partner do not have to go at it alone.

Q: One of the biggest worries parents have is “How do I know I can trust this person”?

A: You must do your due diligence — check references, employment history, and conduct a thorough background check. Spend a few days at home going through the daily routine with the nanny and making the rounds with her. If your budget allows go through a good agency, it can be very helpful in screening out people. For example, my agency Cambridge Nanny Group rejects 95% of our applicants during the screening process for one reason or another. Most importantly trust your gut. Every major mistake I’ve made in my life is because I’ve ignored my intuition or blew past red flags. You should feel good, even excited , about your decision. If you are a spiritual person pray or meditate over the decision. If you have an unsettled feelings stop and reevaluate. Remember that doubt means don’t. If you are returning to work and still haven’t found “the one” consider hiring a temp while you continue your search for a permanent nanny.

Q: Why isn’t it a good idea to treat my nanny as a member of the family?

A: There is a tremendous amount of love being shared between families and nannies. That’s beautiful and it's real. I’m all for that. I would never suggest that we should all be incredibly business like in our dealings with one another. However, I do think we have to be business like in the fundamentals of the job. You have to be clearly communicate your expectations and precisely outline duties and responsibilities. With that said, you also have to respect your nannies work and boundaries. The minute you disregard that or think that her love of your children is motivating her to do the job, you are making a mistake. It’s just the same in an office environment. We will go to extra lengths for a boss we respect and like. The bottom-line is that we’ve hired her to do a job, her time is precious, and it’s a tough job. Of course the best nannies are gifted caregivers, but I don’t ever make the mistake of thinking my nanny is with us just for the fun of it.

Ingrid Kellaghan is the founder and president of Cambridge Nanny Group. She is married with two smoochalicious daughters, ages 4 and 2. In her free time, which is rare, she enjoys a good nap.

Posted on August 29, 2011 at 9:49 PM