What is a Nanny (and How Do I Know if I’m Hiring the Right One)?

If there’s one lasting truth when it comes to parenthood, guardianship, and childcare it’s that we cannot do it alone. Sooner or later you will need someone other than you or your partner to care for your child. It’s a good idea to be prepared for that day ahead of time, and nannies are here to help.

Just like families, nannies come in all shapes and sizes with a variety of skills. Their responsibilities can vary depending on the age of your child, the length of their shifts, and your own personal preference. For example, if you have an infant, some basic responsibilities include changing, feeding, engaging in play, and transitioning into naptime. You can also check your nanny’s comfortability with additional tasks such as bath time or car ride drop-offs. Making sure to discuss your needs candidly will serve your relationship in the long term. 

Knowing what your family’s expectations are is the easy part, but how do you go about finding a nanny that can meet them with integrity?

The Good

Everyone knows to hire a nanny with experience. You get to decide for yourself the amount of experience you’re looking for, but typically a year’s worth of childcare demonstrates knowledge of the profession and guarantees the nanny has had to navigate a wide enough array of situations with their child. When discussing experience in the interview with your potential nanny, it’s a good time to ask about any additional training they may have.

What matters just as much as the amount of experience is the type of experience. I wouldn’t hire a grill master to bake me a cake, even though I know she or he is a master of their craft and can make a delicious meal. Instead, I would look for an experienced baker who has lots of experience baking cakes, and, more specifically, the kind of cake I’m trying to eat. 

For example, if the nanny you’re interviewing to care for your infant loves kids but only has experience with children ages five and up, that’s definitely worth noting. You can always take a chance on a less-experienced nanny you feel will fit into your family’s dynamic, but make sure you ask thorough questions during the interview process about how they would go about certain situations or how they would handle an emergency. 

Speaking of emergencies, nowadays it’s difficult to find a nanny who isn’t CPR/First Aid certified. Most nanny agencies and websites require this right off the bat and it’s one of the easiest ways to sift through applications. If a nanny doesn’t have these basic certifications, it’s likely they haven’t been around the block enough times to have the experience you’re looking for.

Background checks are another big one. They aren’t as common a requirement as CPR/First Aid, but asking your nanny to undergo a check is a simple way to put your mind at ease.

One of the most common mistakes when searching for the right nanny is overlooking their personality. It can be tempting to choose the first nanny who comes along who seems like they will play well with your kids and can perform their tasks with integrity, but it’s important to keep in mind how your nanny will mesh with your family overall. If they’re great with your kids but standoffish toward you, I would consider looking elsewhere. If they can change a diaper in under a minute but have an attitude that won’t take constructive criticism in other areas, this could be a bigger problem down the line. 

The Bad

It’s important to be aware of what can go wrong during this process. One of the worst case scenarios that may come as a surprise to many families can occur after a nanny is already hired. 

You’ve gone through the long journey of finding your perfect match, but what if their work ethic isn’t what you’d hoped? It’s important to have realistic and reasonable expectations in a nanny-parent relationship, but what happens when you notice your nanny is spending far too much time on her phone or misses a feed? You can’t blame yourself for hiring a negligent nanny. A nanny who interviews well isn’t the same as a nanny who performs well. What happens next?

If you witnessed an uncomfortable or dangerous behavior with your nanny, let your agency know immediately and describe in detail the situation for them so they can handle it accordingly.  

If there is a conflict of personality or values, let the agency know so they’re aware it’s not a good fit and they can make other arrangements. This is not only helpful for you, but for the nanny, so they can find a family they connect with. 

The Saving Grace

Good nannies come in all shapes and sizes. What ultimately makes a good nanny is if they are right for your family and can get down to business with your needs. 

If finding a safe and reliable nanny who fits in with your family feels like a daunting task, that’s because it can be, but know that it certainly doesn’t have to be. 

West Coast Baby Care’s model takes the grunt work out of this process and ensures that every one of your potential nannies is already experienced, certified, and safe through our interview process and background checks. If there’s one area that’s worth investing in, it’s the assurance that your children are in capable hands.

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We support families in their search for qualified, professional in-home nanny and newborn care. We believe the families we serve and the nannies who work with us are of equal importance.

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