Jenessa is a marketing director on our Brand Team, and as
someone who had two working parents – and numerous nannies – growing up, she
has great insight on the love she felt from all of them.
I grew up with nannies. My mother went back to work when I was a few months old. And until I was 16, we had nannies who helped raise my brother and me.
And now my husband and I have an incredible nanny who helps us raise our three kids.
Recently, I wrote a blog about a decision I made to continue paying our nanny even while our kids were at school. She was such a part of our lives that I wanted to do whatever I could to keep her with us. So I asked her to run a few errands and do a load or two of laundry during the hours she didn’t have the kids.
And the comments came pouring in. I had inadvertently stepped into the Mommy Wars. And my decisions (to work, to have a nanny, to have her do extra work) were being challenged. Honestly, it was tough to take in.
But then I remembered the concept that “it takes a village” to raise a child which has been embraced for thousands of years. And my village happens to include a paid caregiver. Is that so unacceptable?
Here’s the thing. ALL Moms experience enough guilt at one point or another without having other moms piling on. And for nannies who have picked an incredibly challenging and rewarding profession, it seems unfair that they should ever be made to feel like they’re doing “someone else’s job” as opposed to contributing to the successful upbringing of the children in their care. So as a child raised by nannies (as well as two loving parents), I feel lucky. And I hope my story can help other moms feel better about using nannies to help support their families.
I can tell you this: I am not disappointed in my parents or my childhood. I’ve always felt incredibly loved by them. I grew up thinking that they had busy and fascinating lives. And that I was a part of it. I never yearned for my parents during a school performance they couldn’t attend. I wasn’t devastated because my mom’s cupcakes weren’t part of the school bake sale. I never cared that my nanny sometimes prepared my dinner or drove me to activities, or watched me on a Saturday night so my parents could go on a date. These things were just a fact of life. Some kids had parents in the crowd, and some didn’t.
What I did experience was that when my parents were with me, I felt like they were really with me. They were genuinely interested in my life, and had a lot of ideas and insights to offer. They expressed their love openly and continuously. It was the quality of our interactions and the knowledge that they were ALWAYS there for me emotionally that mattered. They taught me to treat people with kindness and acceptance. They taught me that I had choices as to what to do with my life and how to lead my life. And they hand-selected wonderful, nurturing, interesting and responsible nannies to care for me during the day.
And I grew up wanting to be a Mom who also worked outside the home.
So, thank you to the "village" that helped raise me. Thank you to my parents, grandparents, teachers, neighbors, relatives, dance instructors, clergy and camp counselors. And thank you to the nannies, many of whom I still keep in touch with. These women have helped shape who I am today.
I feel privileged to have had such an incredible upbringing filled with joy, laughter, love, challenge, meaningful life lessons and most importantly different perspectives -- all of which I’ve embraced, valued and sought to understand whether I agreed with them or not.
P.S. What better time to thank these nannies than Nanny Recognition Week (which is this week!)? Here are 52 ways to thank your nanny and the 15 best cities to be a nanny.
September 23, 2013
Jenessa is a marketing director on our Brand Team, and as
someone who had two working parents – and numerous nannies – growing up, she
has great insight on the love she felt from all of them.
September 16, 2013
This topic came up last
year and it is such a hot issue among parents. How much is too much screen
time? Gopal develops our international websites and has an interesting
perspective. Please, weigh in.
My kids consider their time on their iPad as "playing."
Sadly, playing outside of the house is a forced activity – and a struggle. Their friends come over with their iPod Touches or their Wii games. They sit and they "play." And while my girls might try sports or go for walks with our family, they love their "devices."
I’m afraid that this is life with a 13- and 9-year old girl during the digital revolution. And as a technology director, I struggle between pushing them offline – and encouraging their expertise in the next best thing.
See, I grew up in India in the 70s and 80s and didn’t even have a TV until 1989. An LED calculator and a radio were my only two electronic assets. I spent my childhood playing cricket outside with friends. All we needed was an empty space, a bat and ball.
I came to the U.S in 1990, which is when I first used a computer. I had no idea what email was. Fast forward to today, I feel addicted to my iPhone and iPad. My wife calls them my "additional wives.” And the trend and love for technology is spreading to my daughters.
We see this everywhere. I go to restaurants and toddlers are on iPads. I go to the supermarket and parents hand their phone to their baby to keep him or her occupied. My coworker’s baby knows one sign language sign – it’s a finger swipe to indicate that she wants to play with her iPhone. She’s not even a year old!
Evolution. Revolution. Obsession. Addiction. What we have are technological babysitters. No, we’re not leaving our kids in the hands of an iPad while we leave them alone, but we are teaching them to be entertained by an object, letting this object take care of them – rather than kids learning to entertain and care for themselves.
I get that. And yet I still think kids using technology this way has its advantages.
Technology is developing at a warp speed. Kids being early adopters of these ground-breaking inventions, learning how to use them before they can talk and walk, is building the next generation of tech-developers and inventors. Watch a 5-year old work a computer game and your mind will be blown by the speed and dexterity of his fingers. The understanding he has for the program he is seeing for the first time. The technology they can teach themselves at a young age is just like a language being taught to them. But there’s the thing: It can’t be in lieu of the language – or the exercise – or the school work. It has to be in addition.
I read lots of articles about parents needing to unplug when they get home from work or go on vacation. Well, our kids need to as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents have "screen free" time at home. Turn things off. Make your kids read, play outside, cook with you, or just sit and talk. I also feel it should be off limits during family time, especially while eating dinner.
But soon schools will be providing iPads to kids. Their textbooks will be uploaded to their personal devices. Their classes will assume they know basic computer skills we learned in college – or during our careers. Imagine what they will build. What they will develop. What they will invent. This digital revolution still has a long way to go and I want my daughters to be right in the midst of it. I just worry what it might cost them if their mother and I aren’t vigilant.
Tell me, how do you balance technology and play?
September 09, 2013
Jenessa is a Marketing Director on our Brand Team. Basically, when we have a brilliant idea, she makes it
happen. Here’s a dilemma she faced about paying her nanny – which I know many
of you are going through as well. I hope it helps!
I had a problem. Both my 6-year old daughter and 4-year old
son were going to school five days a week – and we still had a full-time nanny.
I needed our nanny in the morning, and at noon to pick up my son from preschool. But from 9-12 she wouldn’t have any kids to care for. Should I still pay her?
Based on our nanny-contract, I owed her 40-hours worth of payment. And logistically, I couldn’t expect her to arrive at 7, leave at 9 and come back at 12. That wouldn’t be fair. I feared she’d get fed up and quit.
Panic began to set in. She’d been with us for 3 years, she was a huge part of my children’s lives and she made our life work. She was part of our family – and even loved my dogs as much as my kids!
Above all else I couldn’t imagine finding someone new. What would that do to my kids? What would that do to my stress level? Isn’t continuity of care critical? Would this be (another) reason my kids would end up in the therapist’s chair talking about how their childhood was troubled because their mom was away at work all the time?
I had two choices: do anything possible to keep my nanny for as long as possible, (provided it made financial sense for both of us) or look for someone else.
I turned to my husband for support. Not surprisingly, he overlooked the emotional aspect of the decision and simply could not get his head around why we would ever pay someone for time they aren’t technically working.
So I turned to my mom. Her response to finding someone new? "Are you nuts?" she asked. "Do you understand how often your kids get sick and have to miss school? You should do whatever you need to do to keep her!" Then she listed all sorts of chores she could do while the kids were in school.
That was a total "a-ha!" moment. I realized that my nanny had spent 3 years making our life as a family work—purely by taking care of the kids. But now, she could do even more. She could do laundry (I had to get over her seeing my underwear!), go grocery shopping, buy all the birthday party presents, and even take the dogs to the vet every once in a while. And on sick days and random holidays, I didn’t have to miss work. I also flexed her hours one day a week so my husband and I could have a much needed date night.
I learned two great lessons from all of this: trying to do everything means everything gets done half as well as you would like (so get some help!) -- and, Moms are always right!
Oh, and by the way, a year and a half later, we had a third child, and needed our full-time nanny full-time again. And who better than the person who helped us raise the other two?
September 02, 2013
Here is Katie Bugbee, our resident parenting expert to
dish out some back-to-school meal ideas and a grocery list. I know I could still use
this! I hope it helps you too.
I’m not much of a cook, but I can make kid food. That doesn’t just mean chicken nuggets. I can have fun with things like tacos, banana "sushi" wraps, and yogurt parfaits. And my kids eat it all without whining. Usually.
But now that it’s back-to-school season, the days and nights get a little more hectic for me as a working mom – and especially for my nanny who ends up making all the lunches, snacks and dinners for my kids. They’re only in preschool, but after a fun summer of free play all day, order has to be put back into our chaotic house. Mainly this means healthy food needs to be in the fridge, lunches need to be easy to make, clothes need to be clean and laid out, and all of those art projects need to be organized (in the trash?!).
Here’s a great back-to-school guide of a bunch of helpful ideas >>
I’ve made a list of the refrigerator/pantry staples I must have for back-to-school season (and yes, snack food is included!). This list is what gets me through the week or month to feed my kids… (while my husband and I scrounge on weekend leftovers or just eat salad/cereal/cheese and crackers -- and call it dinner!):
- Whole wheat wraps and bread
- Bagels and/or English muffins
- Whole grain waffles
- All-natural jelly (no corn syrup)
- Sunflower butter
- Berries like blueberries and strawberries
- Bananas and seasonal fruit
- Frozen fruit for smoothie making
- Pretzels, goldfish and raisins (makes a great “trail mix”)
- Cheese and crackers
- Veggies like carrots, peppers, cucumbers and broccoli
- Spreads and dips like hummus, cream cheese, guacamole and salsa
- Non-fat Greek yogurt
- All natural deli meat
- Black beans and baked beans
- Whole grain chips
- Ground turkey meat, chicken breasts, pork chops or pork loin
- Chicken nuggets, fish sticks and mac n’ cheese (always a great backup plan)
- Fresh dough, pizza sauce and fun/healthy pizza toppings
- Honey (great for dipping chicken in and drizzling on yogurt)
- Rice, couscous, orzo and pasta
- Ice cream and cones
Anything else? Please add your favorite kid-food staples in the comments below. Make sure to keep an ongoing shopping list on your counter so you or your nanny know to replace items before you run out.
And be sure to watch these videos I made with the Care.com team for breakfast, lunch and after-school snack ideas.
August 26, 2013
I want you to meet Laureen. A former nanny, 15 years ago
Laureen started working for a backup care service that works with nanny agencies and is
now part of the Care.com family. Her flexibility and enthusiasm for helping
families is perfect for handling the early morning phone calls she receives
when parents need last-minute care.
I’ve heard it said that finding a nanny is almost like finding a third spouse. You want someone you’d be comfortable seeing in your home on a daily basis – no matter what you look like – or what your mood is. You often want them to read your mind, and feel good about leaving them with your children. Clearly, compatibility is key. But so are boundaries.
I spent over ten years being a nanny, employed by several families, but only a few parents made me feel "part of the family" while still enforcing rules and guidelines. Sounds tricky, right? It wasn’t! But I can tell you that the families in which we had the best working relationship (and I felt part of the family) were the families where I had a deeper, better bond with their children.
In an office setting, boundaries are clear (or they should be), and rules are in place. However, it makes a big difference when your employee works in your home and cares for your children. I get that. I actually think rules and boundaries should be similar to what they would be in an office. And this can help make your relationship even better.
Here are some ways you can enhance your nanny-family relationship:
hire until you are comfortable with me. I’m talking comfort and trust. This involves extensive
reference checking, a phone interview, and a criminal background
check, as well as two face-to-face interviews: one with just the parents,
and one to see me interacting with your kids.
- Provide a
written contract. Include all your expectations spelled out for me.
Therefore, we never have to disagree over what my job entails, which benefits
you’ve promised, paid time off, or what hours I was committed to. (Learn how
to write a nanny contract >>)
daily or weekly suggestions for activities. I’d love your ideas for
activities to do with the kids – but please don’t micromanage. If we miss a
music class because I feel the baby is too tired, trust my judgment. Sometimes it’s nice to acknowledge that my
years as a nanny give me lots of hands-on experience with children (often more
than new parents have!).
- Give me
positive feedback as often as you can. As you know, it’s a wonderful – but
demanding – job. And I’d love to hear that you think I’m the best person
(besides yourselves) to take care of your child.
- Tell me
what needs improvement. I am not perfect and I want to learn. So please,
whatever I can be doing better – please let me know. If the children are old
enough to understand our discussion, let’s figure out a good way to do this
productively. (Get tips
for setting new goals with your nanny >>)
- Have a sense of humor. The home environment can create some interesting scenarios and both parties need to be flexible and laugh them off. Here’s a funny story for you: One day when I was with a family I love, the baby’s diaper exploded over my clothes. So during his nap, I did a load of laundry and wore a towel around the house. Well, the dad came home early – and I can’t imagine what he thought when he first saw me! However, he kept his composure, listened to my explanation, and then made some benign joke that allowed us to chuckle together, albeit a bit awkwardly. I’m still grateful that we could diffuse our mutual discomfort with that bit of good-natured laughter.
Over the years, I have known dozens of nannies, and every
one of them has truly loved her charges. Any job dissatisfaction stemmed from
the way parents treated them. The best
and most reliable nannies are the ones who "fall in love" with the whole
family, like I did. But what goes the furthest is sincere appreciation,
expressed frequently. If you want your
nanny to love you and to therefore be the best nanny she can be, tell her she’s
already the best nanny you could hope for, and mean it.
But if for some reason you have mistakenly hired someone you don’t like and fully trust, find another childcare solution, and let her go. The right nanny for your family is out there somewhere. Believe me, I help families find nannies every day here at Care.com.
August 19, 2013
Christina is part of
our Data team and has a back to school task similar to many of you: she needs a
new part-time nanny. Or two of them. Here are her tips for finding – and
coordinating – help for the school year.
I am a self-proclaimed expert in hiring after-school sitters. Only because I have 12 years of experience.
My daughters are 8 and 12. Legally, they don’t need care, but I like the idea of someone being in the house with them, keeping them occupied and entertained. And someone who can take them to activities and the kazillion orthodontist appointments they have. Someone who can be there if there’s an emergency.
My daughters have a say in this too. They want someone they like. Someone with a ton of energy who has similar interests. Someone who will show them their college dorm room.
But finding part-time care can be a challenge. Most nannies want a full week of hours, whereas I only have 18 to offer. This means I tend to hire two regular babysitters, one for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The other for Tuesdays and Thursdays. If I’m lucky, they last for more than 2 years in a row (we had two for five years!), but since these sitters are often from local colleges, I’ve also learned how temporary they can be.
So if you are looking for part-time nanny or sitter, here are the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Hopefully they help make your search easier.
- Talk to
your kids about what they want. Or don’t. My daughters wanted college
students, who are awesome role models and super fun for the kids. But if I had
just gone with an older person, I might not be finding care so frequently.
- Make sure
you’re a priority. If you hire college kids, learn what their other
priorities are. I once hired an ice hockey player who said her season would
soon be over. But then she got into the Playoffs. OMG! We were left finding
someone else. Because your job can’t wait for playoffs, their own sick kids or
school projects, make sure your applicant plans her workload and personal
concerns before or after the hours you need her (as much as possible, of
backups in place. Part-time nannies and sitters have other lives besides
taking care of mine, I get that. If you’re hiring a college sitter, have plans
in place for their breaks (get them upfront). Or if hiring someone who has her
own family, learn what weeks and holidays they might need to be off. Then
create a list of sitters
you can use at the last-minute. Possibly someone from the neighborhood. I
hired a college student who lived locally, so she could still babysit during
- Have a
snow day plan in place. Speaking of winter break, have a plan in place for
snow days. Maybe it’s a local high school student or a stay at home mom who is
more than willing to let the kids entertain each other. But if you can’t work
from home, you’ll need a plan in place if your sitter doesn’t want to drive in
the snow (and who can blame her?!).
- Go over a
list of wants and needs. To be
honest, I need to be better at this. My next job post is going to ask for
someone who can teach helpful studying tips and homework organization
strategies. But also someone who will be fun and entertaining (which my kids
love). And I could use some help preparing dinner. So I’ll add that too!
with them. I always need my sitters to do school pick-up and shuttle the
kids to a few activities or appointments during the week. This means I need a
safe driver, so I have them drive me around. I also get a Preferred Plus Background
Check that reviews their driving record. I feel better this way.
August 12, 2013
It seems the world is abuzz with
royal-fever. And who can blame us? A prince was born, and his parents seem so
normal. Sigrid Daniel is the Director of Care.com in the UK and feels Kate could
blaze a new trail for new mums around the world.
I am totally confident with baring my breasts in public – to feed a baby. Actually, I like to think that my "boobs" were at their best when full of milk. A double E cup with super cleavage when placed correctly in the nursing bra. Quite lovely. And as all savvy breastfeeding mums know, an artfully placed shawl or baby carrier means that you are not baring anything at all.
Or so I’d like to think. The truth is that the topic of feeding babies arouses strong opinions in just about everyone, and as most new mums can attest, people are not shy about sharing those opinions.
With World Breastfeeding Week just behind us and all the talk about the Royal Baby, I recently read something that made me realize these two events should have more in common.
Like many women, I feel our countries could be doing more to support new mums who want to breastfeed. There is a lack of midwives or lactation consultants to support mums, no free counselors for women struggling with attachment issues. There’s isolation, post-partum depression, workplaces without proper pumping facilities, and mums feeling like it’s just not for them. And then there are the criticizing looks from passers-by. Mums are even getting kicked out of stores and restaurants for feeding their babies in public. This happened recently at a pool in Cambridge, England and to a mum in Texas who was asked to cover up while nursing her 16-day old baby during her daughter’s dance class. Clearly, this is an issue that affects us in the US and the UK.
I for one, would love Kate Middleton to feel comfortable nursing in public. Imagine if on their next date night as new parents, Kate discreetly feeds George? Shawl or no shawl, who cares? Women all over the world would feel inspired.
It seems alien to me that women should not feel confident to breastfeed, and I struggle to accept that rates in the UK show almost 50% of mums have given up breastfeeding by the 6 or 8-week check. I’m left remembering how a dear friend looked at me, horror-struck as I calmly fed our first born over lunch at our house, and then eventually managed to splutter, "You’re not going to do that in public are you?" I guess this feeling is more of the norm than I’d hoped.
Now, Mums who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed should not be made to feel worse by any of these efforts to increase awareness. But what needs to happen is a culture change that allows those of us who want to breastfeed to start feeding the way they want, and to continue – whether at the park, in a restaurant, or at work. It should be totally unacceptable for any Mum to be told "You can’t do that here" when breastfeeding. And Kate can be a part of that.
While most of us would probably draw the line at breastfeeding in sight of the Duke of Edinburgh, I’d like to challenge Duchess Kate to a little bit of modest feeding at times when she might just get photographed or seen. Whilst she may not want to have been snapped topless in France last summer, the official portrait or pap shot of her feeding would show only a bare collarbone and a little cleavage, while a muslin square or shawl sits comfortably, protecting the royal bosom.
Will and Kate have blazed a new trail in their relationship – with Wills marrying out of the aristocracy and even sharing a flat with his beloved before marriage. Why shouldn’t Kate, with an artfully wrapped feeding shawl and expertly placed baby carrier, be able to take her newborn out with her, and feed the baby when and where she likes – if that is her choice?
August 05, 2013
This is such an inspirational story from a new
employee, Rama. It’s a story of perseverance and determination to help her two
young boys have the best trip to Disney ever.
One of the greatest pleasures for a parent is to go on vacation with kids. It helps you become a kid again. But it can also be one of the hardest things for parents. There are no breaks on vacation when you have small children. I’ve learned this the hard way.
A few years back, I took my two boys, ages 4 and 2 to Disney World. I was celebrating and embracing a new life as a single mom. And I thought "what better place to bring magic back into their lives?"
Day 1 left me feeling completely defeated. It started with pushing the stroller up the ramp to ride the Disney train (you can imagine how much two boys wanted to ride the train!) and learning my double stroller was not allowed. Onto Plan B: walking. Then I realized my two-year old was not allowed on most of the rides -- and my four-year old could only go with an adult. I had to ask strangers to sit with him, so I could be with his little brother. After a few hours of harsh realizations we went back to the hotel. I was exhausted and almost ready to pack up.
I woke up the next day with a whole new attitude. I couldn’t quit. I jumped into "crisis management mode" and started working on a solution. If I could manage a company and household emergencies, why couldn’t I tackle this?
I know a vacation babysitter is more what you think of when you need a date night at the beach, or someone to give parents a break from the go-go-go activities during the day. But, the only solution I could think of was hiring a sitter to be my support – in order to have happy vacation. I needed someone who would love going on rides with my four-year old, but would also entertain the little one while I had Mom-son rollercoaster time. I needed someone who would help push the stroller, carry bags, and take turns waiting in lines with impatient tykes.
And I needed him or her to start ASAP.
It didn’t take nearly as long as I thought to find right sitter. And soon Disney became the happiest place in the world again.
While this wasn’t cheap (paying the sitter, paying her entry fees and her food), it was worth every penny to me and my little ones. The trip created such a lasting positive impression on the kids -- my son still says he wants to move to Florida! Since then, we’ve gone on many happy vacations, but hiring a local sitter has become part of our vacation budget. I even line up three back-up sitters before we leave. I might be your most pre-planned vacationer, ever! But this way, I make sure my kids will enjoy everything a two-parent family household would.
Some ways you can get a vacation sitter:
- Ask friends, family or hotels in the area for recommendations.
- Plan ahead and post a babysitter job for exactly what you need.
- Use back-up care to plan a last-minute sitter.
- See if your favorite hometown sitter would come with you to work as a Mother’s Helper.
Just make sure you always
call references and do a Skype interview ahead. I’d also recommend running a babysitter background check –
to feel more secure.
July 29, 2013
For many working parents, the
start of school year means more work – for them. Here our principal software
engineer, Robin, reveals one trick that’s already helped ease the anxiety and
tension -- so she can spend more happy time at home.
I started dreading the start of the new school year in June.
Sure, I’m enjoying the lazier days of summer. My girls are at camp which means no lunches to make, no homework to check. And no drama (well, less drama – I still have two teen girls under one roof!).
I can have the after-school activities booked, the care-schedule in place. That’s nothing. It’s more that my 15-year old daughter stresses me out from September to June. Like clockwork.
My daughter is beyond driven. The pressure she puts on herself take over our house. She wants to get the best grades, be the best athlete, log community service hours and work to earn money for a car. Last year she struggled in a few honors-level classes, and would be up late into the night trying to get her assignments completed – after swim practice and dinner. Her quest to get all A’s (an A minus just won’t do) and build the perfect resume, meant too little sleep, regular stomach aches, and frequent arguments borne of frustration. By the end of the school year, her confidence was weakened. Especially when it came to math.
But math has always been my strength. I was a computer science major after all. Admittedly, I’m a little rusty when it comes to high school algebra. And my daughter has no patience while I get up to speed. Fights start and our relationship tenses. I think back on the days when I was the smartest person in her life. But now, like many mother-daughter relationships, I no longer seem to know anything!
So this summer, I finally convinced her to get a tutor. She was reluctant because she’d always thought that tutors were for kids who were "behind" or not as smart. I finally convinced her that having a tutor to prepare her in advance for next year’s math class would help her feel on top of the material -- and that would build her confidence (as well as lessen her stress-level).
Once she agreed, the funniest thing happened – her younger sister said she could use a tutor too!
So I created a math tutor job post and heard from a ton of tutoring agencies. One franchise owner came over, met with all of us, talked to the girls’ teachers about their strengths and weaknesses, and hand-selected the tutor who would be best for their needs. Even better: the tutor would come to our house!
I have to tell you -- this is the best thing I’ve ever done. We started the sessions this month and our house is already calmer. I’m calmer. My older daughter is going over next year’s Algebra II curriculum, while the younger daughter is refreshing her grasp on last year’s pre-algebra. And the level of confidence I see in both of them is refreshing.
I feel so much better about the roller-coaster ride this fall will bring. I’m sure we’ll still have our tense moments. But hopefully now we’ll only argue about who does the dishes!
Tell me, what stresses you out about the start of the school year? How are you handling it?
July 22, 2013
Danielle M. has been with the Care.com technology team for about three years. But on the weekends she babysits. Why? Because she loves it – and loves helping parents get a break. Here are the seven things she recommends parents ask or look for when they interview sitters.
I knew I wanted to babysit when I was 12. My neighbor’s 2-year-old granddaughter came to visit and I spent the whole week teaching her games and taking her to a neighborhood farm. When she left, I started begging my mom to become a real neighborhood babysitter.
13 years later, I’m still taking care of kids. Only now, I have a full-time job too. I’ve probably been on over 20 family interviews and I can usually tell if parents just don’t know what to ask. Sometimes they just don’t know what they’re looking for -- or how to determine if I’m really a good fit for their family. So if you’ve ever felt a little unsure of how to tell a good sitter from a not-so-good sitter, here is my quick cheat sheet on what to look for:1. Comfort with certain challenges. If you’re hiring a sitter who you know will have to do specific (and difficult) things, make sure she has experience with them. And ask those questions. If it’s a summer sitter who might be taking kids to a pool ask her: "What is your experience swimming with kids who can’t swim? How do you handle two kids in the pool at once?" Or, if your sitter will be driving the kids in snowy weather ask "If you’re sliding on ice, what do you do?" These might seem crazy, but you want to see if your candidate squirms under pressure.
2. G-rated hobbies. Yes, you should ask what she does in her free time and look for someone who loves to do what your kids love to do. And then you should Google her. If you find something that’s not "respectable" -- move on. Consider this a role model for your children.
3. On the spot creativity. Ask her for a rainy day itinerary (as in what she would do the whole day).
4. Good answers to tough questions. What would she do she locked herself out without a cell phone? What would she do if the baby fell and won’t stop crying? If she can’t give examples of emergencies she’s responded to before – pose new ones and see if you like the answers. Also see how she would handle difficult scenarios with other nannies or (even) you!
5. All references love her. Make sure you understand the type of work she did for them and the ages of children she’s worked with. Infants and ‘tweens require very different skills. And remember that any past employer, teacher, coach and even a neighbor can be a character reference. These are the types of people who can paint a full picture of your candidate’s responsibility, timeliness, kindness and hard work. Call them or meet them in person. Plan to talk to at least 3.
6. Asks the important stuff. Does your child have any allergies? Who should I contact in an emergency? How would you like me to handle discipline? These are the types of questions that shows she’s on top of things.
7. Kids connect with her. After proper screening and background checks, have her come to your house to hang out with your kids while you’re there. You can gauge their comfort with each other. Is she fun? Can she distract the kids if they are calling out for you? Make sure this is a good personality fit for all of you.
This is what I’ve learned from 13 years of babysitting. But here is a link to our hiring tips and resources. Please share any of the signs you’ve spotted in a great sitter below!