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  1. Why is it that when most of us hear the word “contract” we cringe? A contract is simply an agreement, pact, or understanding. It's used in many areas of life and business, and simply put, it can be a useful playbook to help guide us toward success. Full disclosure: I am not a lawyer, and I don’t know all of the ins and outs of contracts. Yet, I am a firm believer that when we set up proper expectations with those whom we choose to intermingle, we are sharing love. Many of our fumbles or disagreements could be prevented if we would have simply looked ahead and examined, “What do I want?” and actually shared this with the other person or party ahead of time. Contracts do just this. And when it comes to our children, we all know what we want. We simply need to put some thought into this so that everyone — us parents, our children, and our caregivers — are set up for a favorable outcome. [Related: What to ask in a nanny interview] Now, on the flip side, contracts are a step to support and protect our nannies as well. Imagine accepting a job without knowing when you are supposed to show up for work, how long you are supposed to work, how or what you are even supposed to do for work, when you get paid, how you get paid, how much you get paid…this list goes on and on. This isn’t a firm foundation for a trusting relationship. There is no indication of safety and security, which are core feelings that we all need to live happy and healthy lives. The City of Chicago recently announced that a written contract is needed to protect all nannies (and other domestic workers). I think this is a step in the right direction to help us all sharpen our communication skills and to come to a mutual agreement on how we want to create this transaction between us parents and our nannies for caring for our children. A good nanny contract may consist of the following: Your Family Philosophy: Share your values, activities, styles of learning, and the ways you want to interact and respond to the child(ren). Job Responsibilities: This may include feeding and dressing standards, schedules and routines, activities and recreation, and any other household maintenance that you expect from your nanny (like cleaning up after the children). You may also want to include what this job does not include so your nanny can feel comfort in knowing what she doesn’t have to do while on this job. Terms and Conditions: Be sure to include the start date, days, and hours along with total time expected each week, any outside of normal hours conditions, and location(s). Pay and Earnings: Include how much will they earn, how and when they will get paid, formalities on how to communicate if/when the nanny will be late or absent, and any penalties associated in these instances. Finally, include whether your nanny is responsible for filing her own taxes. [Related: 5 tax breaks every parent should know about] Time Off: Define sick and vacation time and how much of each is included, how and when to notify for PTO, and list any other holidays or additional days that are considered PTO or non-PTO. Termination or Exit: One of the most powerful pieces in any contract is articulating how it would look like to end the relationship. Put some time into this part and list out how each party may terminate the agreement and those conditions. Signatures: When everyone reads and agrees to this agreement, memorialize this with your stamp of approval, aka your signature. (Pro tip: Google “nanny contract” and get free or cheap templates to guide you along.) Ultimately and hopefully, you can use your agreement as a document to help facilitate healthy communication and avoid unhealthy conflict. When I’m advising my clients on their businesses, I always remind them that we need to plan to plan. And if our goal is to build a happy and healthy relationship between us, our children and their nanny, we need to plan this out. Do yourself a favor and take this time to create a contract and thoughtfully share this with your nanny. Talk about it. Have them ask questions and give them the option to add or edit. Not only that, but this agreement can be leveraged to help serve as a mission statement for your family that you will come back to over time, and serve as a reminder for how you envision your family to thrive.
  2. There is a lot to consider when hiring a nanny. Interviewing, screening and selecting potential nanny candidates can be a daunting task, but it is an important part of finding a nanny that is a good fit with your family. Try to use open-ended questions that will prompt for informative answers, such as questions starting with: What? When? Why? How? Where? Or tell me about… This will avoid getting yes and no answers. Experience and background: Look for a nanny who has experience working in a position similar to what you are hiring them for. Finding someone who has experience working with multiple families will ensure they are familiar with adjusting to the needs of your family. Ask for a resume and have them include at least three family references. Sample questions should include: Tell me about your educational background. Do you have any formal early childhood development or childcare training? How long have you been a nanny? 2. Nanny and philosophy/approach: Make sure a nanny’s philosophy about childcare is in line with yours. Discipline is an area that needs to be discussed up front to avoid any differences of opinion on how children should be disciplined. You need to know your candidate is in the field for all the right reasons, and enjoys children. Important questions to ask are: Why did you choose a nanny career? Why do you like being a nanny? What do you think are the qualities needed to be a good nanny? 3. Your requirements: Make sure the nanny’s approach to work lines up with your own requirements. Your ideal candidate should be someone who has similar values, goals and work ethic to your own. Key questions should include: Are you familiar with the neighborhood? What is your philosophy on food and snacks? What is your flexibility with scheduling? 4. Additional considerations: Give the candidates some time to spend with your child in home. We also suggest families schedule a working interview with finalist candidates. Are they attentive? Do they keep your children engaged? Your observations matter a great deal when you finally make decision. A few good questions are: Are they comfortable holding and/or speaking to your child? Was the nanny pleasant and have a positive and upbeat personality? Are you able to communicate easily and effectively with each other? Doing your homework and asking questions that are important to you and your family will make selecting the nanny that much easier. If you allow these questions to guide your interview process, you will find a great match in no time at all.
  3. I must admit: I never thought I would travel with childcare. That was a luxury that never entered my mind until we hosted our first au pair over four years ago. One of the premises of the au pair program is the cultural exchange between the family and au pair so it was a natural fit to let her explore the USA with us. Now, having taken more trips with our au pairs over the years than I can count, I must say it is a huge relief to have an extra set of hands around while navigating the stress of travel with young children. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are sipping margaritas at the beach solo, and it does take preparation to be executed well. We found having our au pair with us allowed us to do special activities with each of our children, while not being confined to nap schedules as our au pair could stay with the nappers. Squeezing in a few date nights is a perk, too! Here are my best practices for travel with caregivers: Set a schedule Explain your plan for the trip as well as the daily schedule while on vacation. Be specific about your caregiver’s schedule and hours expected to work. Let her know of any days off or downtime, and when that will be (and stick to it!). Sort out sleeping arrangements Will your caregiver be sharing a room or bathroom with your children? If so, are they expected to wake up with the children in the middle of the night or morning? Will they have their own space where they can go at the end of the day? Whichever you choose, make sure they understand the rooming situation and responsibilities. Define responsibilities Discuss your expectations for childcare as well as other chores that will need to be done on vacation. Will they only be responsible for playing with and watching the children? Are they also responsible for laundry, meal preparation, clean up, driving? If they will be in charge of the children near water, find out their water safety knowledge and comfort level with children in water. Clarify payment Define what compensation they will receive for their time. It is expected that the family pay for the travel and accommodation costs for the sitter. In addition to those expenses, what rate will the sitter receive? Is it an hourly rate while she is “on duty” or will it be a flat rate for the entire vacation? Communicate In addition to communicating all of the above expectations before departing, it is important to continue to have open communication while on the trip. Have daily check-ins to go over the schedule for the day and rest of the week. Communicate how they can be most helpful during their hours and what you would like them to prioritize in terms of responsibilities. Most important, tell them how much you appreciate them and point out what they are doing well! Following these guidelines will alleviate much of the stress of traveling with children and allow you to enjoy your vacation time together. Happy travels!

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