DON’T try to pay below market rate. If you can’t afford the market rate for a nanny in your area, don’t hunt for a bargain. You might find a nanny willing to take the salary you offer, only to have her quit when she discovers she’s underpaid or gains the experience to find a higher salary. Better to have your child in a great and affordable day care center than with an inexperienced or disgruntled nanny. You can also look into sharing a nanny with another family to lessen the cost.
DON’T take yes for an answer. Many nannies will say “yes” when inside their heads they are really screaming “no.” It’s often hard for nannies to be direct because they worry about offending their employers, are natural caretakers or just don’t like confrontation. If you’ve asked her to work a lot of overtime, pick up dry cleaning or make you dinner every night, and she has agreed, look for clues to see whether she means it. Did she make eye contact? Does she seem quieter than usual? This may be her way of saying she feels that you are taking advantage of her.
DO prepare for blow-ups. The everyday life of nannies is routine and uneventful, but there are dramatic moments, usually when something boils over with a parent. Blow-ups can end relationships, but they can also clear the air and set things back on track.
DO ask your nanny if she has children of her own. Some families won’t hire a nanny who has children. Others are open to the idea. If you are, make sure you discuss the subject from the beginning. Are you willing to let her bring her child to work sometimes? Does she have back-up child care when her child is sick so she can come to work? Would you feel comfortable employing a woman who left her own children behind in her home country to care for yours? If you do hire a nanny with children, ask her about them, remember their ages and think about getting them birthday or holiday gifts if your nanny buys them for your kids.
DO go with your gut. Some parents know something isn’t right about a recently hired nanny, but they take too long to act. They feel guilty about firing her or forcing their child to adjust to a new caregiver. Some have trouble admitting that they put their child in the wrong hands. The best thing is to acknowledge the mistake and move on.
DO think about the style of nanny your family needs. There are all kinds of nannies. College-educated and high school drop-outs, American-born and immigrants, documented and undocumented, women who view the work as a career and those who do it as a means to an end. If you need someone to run the house, look for a woman with experience who views the job as a career. If you want your presence felt on a daily basis, make sure you don’t hire someone who will resent your input on schedules and diet and discipline.
DON’T let the little things fester. A nanny relationship is like a marriage. If you don’t communicate, petty irritations can loom large. It’s often hard for parents to be direct, and even harder for nannies. Force yourself to talk, but remember to balance out the negatives if you’re happy with her in general. Tell her that you feel lucky to have her. Then bring up your issues.
DON’T hire someone like you – hire someone who complements you. You may love the nanny sitting on the couch across from you because you can almost read each other’s minds. But that doesn’t mean you are a good fit. If you’re a control freak and hire another control freak, you are asking for trouble. If you’re laid back and your nanny is laid back, you’re asking for chaos. Think about what kind of team you will make.