twincapades :: The Nanny Files

The biggest disillusionment of having family in town is the idea of help at the ready.  Don’t get me wrong. Yes, I do have plenty of help when a much needed date night or weekend get away is in order. But, there are a few things that I have to be realistic about:

  • I have four kids.  If you only have 1, even 2, and people are offering to help you out…take them up on it.  If you plan to expand, keep in mind, the offers are fewer and further between.
  • My parents and in-laws have a life, too.  They cannot always be at my beck and call when I need them to, or better yet, keep my kids as long as I need/want them to.
  • My own siblings have kids, and therefore, my parents are spread thin…rightfully so, they want to spend time with their other grandchildren as well, who also live in Las Vegas.
  • Did I mention I have 4 kids??

In order to keep my life sane and smooth, and our family running on a tight schedule (with variable hiccups), my husband and I agreed that we really do need to hire help.  Of all people, my husband really does understand the anecdote, “If mama’s not happy ain’t nobody happy.”  So in order to keep order, we have to look beyond our immediate family.

How to Hire a Nanny

This in itself, is not easy to do.  For starters, there are so many definitions these days about who these people are and what their actual job description is and for how much pay and how many hours, and so on.  When I was working full time, we had hired help for just  few hours a day because mine and my husband’s schedules overlapped.  We needed someone to just be at home with the kids for like 2-4 hours during that gap.  My son was in pre-school and kindergarten so there was no stress about getting homework done, or getting to bed on time, or getting dinner on the table, or doing laundry…all the things that make a home function beyond the dual incomes.  When we learned about the twins, we decided then and there, someone to just fill a gap would not do.  My son was entering 1st grade, and my daughter pre-K.  There would be loads of laundry, dishes, messy rooms, homework, lunches, projects, after school activities, not to mention whatever attention the babies required, or the time off mommy would need as I was now a SAHM…I still needed me time.  There was no way my mother-in-law or mother would be able to support us in the way we needed. I didn’t want to feel like I was spending all my time doing loads upon loads of laundry, or constantly unloading and loading the dishwasher. I had a different life in mind.  And, yes, it was going to require compromising on budget and reworking things to fit it in, but it was something my husband and I agreed was important to our family structure.

Where to Start

Here is how my husband and I decided we were going to need additional help, and how much help we would actually need:

  • What is your regular day/night time routine like?
  • What do you need the nanny to do? Light housekeeping, laundry, pick up the kids, cook?
  • What is your budget? How many hours a week will you need someone and what can you afford to pay?

We agreed on 3 days a week, 4 hours a day. With the older kids in school 5 times a week, and the twins in school 3 days a week, if I managed my time right, I was able to get all my errands, house chores, etc. done without having to pay a nanny. My husband does not have a regular work week schedule, which helps with getting kids ready and dropped off at school in the morning. But, he does work late. I needed someone during that “Witching Hour” to come in after school and help with baths, homework, dinner and bed time.

laundry

Where to Hire

There are various ways to go about doing this. Over the last 5 years, we have had at least 10 nannies and/or babysitters. I explored many options when trying to find the right person for my precious entourage. The main ones being:

  • Word of Mouth
  • Agency
  • On-line Service (like Care.com)

Personally, our best nannies came via word of mouth, but many of my friends have had great luck using an agency or on-line service.

How To Hire

No matter which path you choose to find a nanny, always exercise caution when going through the interview process. For me, it didn’t matter if the applicant was my BFF’s cousin I had known for years, I needed the security to know she was professional, present and engaged with my children, and knew what to do when I wasn’t around. Do not falter in your decision, and if you have a gut feeling about something, stick with it. Good or bad. You are putting your babies in someone else’s care, make sure you feel confident in your choice.

  • Have a Check List ready of interview questions. Some important ones for us:
    • What is your experience in working with children?
    • Have you ever worked with twins?
    • What is your philosophy on discipline?
    • How do you keep the kids busy and engaged?
    • Do you know CPR? First-Aid? What would you do in an emergency situation?
    • How do you manage stress?
  • Background Check or Reference Calls
  • Ask for a Resume
  • 15 or 30 Day Trial Period

If you are a parent of multiples, definitely consider what that is going to mean for you and the nanny. They demand attention. Even with two adults around, keeping an eye on 2 year old twins is very challenging, and we have two other children we need to look out for. If caregivers are not familiar with how much time, noise and attention multiples need, they may not be ready to take on the job. I also like a trial period. This gives me the opportunity to work closely with my potential new hire. They can shadow me, and I can observe them. I start with a few hours a week coming with me everywhere, seeing what I do, letting them take on some tasks. Then I will plan to be away for a few hours and a little more each time, until I feel like a trust there. If it doesn’t look like it’s going to work out, then you have the option to walk away, no strings attached.

How To Keep Your Nanny

Might sound funny now, but just you wait. Once you find an amazing nanny, you will pray everyday that she doesn’t leave. We have had our fair share of the good and the bad. If you have ever worked as a manager, it is good experience on how you run your family and treat your employees. Being a parent is a full time job beyond the parenting. There are many daily tasks that have to be completed as well. Our current nanny is fabulous. We have had her for almost two years and I have to start coming to the realization, that sometime next year she will probably leave. She is graduating from college and the twins will be 3. At some point, you have to let go. In the meantime, it is important to make sure you work together so your nanny wants to stay.

  • Communication is key.
  • Organization- have a family calendar that includes the nanny, chore charts so everyone knows their expectations
  • Weekly Meetings with the Nanny
  • Advanced notice on important dates or special events
  • Pay on time, as agreed
  • Allow room for vacation and sick days
  • Recognize special events in their lives

The secret to hiring a good nanny? Hire someone who has the passion and dedication to want to be with your kids all day.  Someone who is mature enough and experienced enough to know what you need before you do.  Someone who is proactive enough to see what needs to be done and does it. They are two steps ahead and yet, they walk easily behind without stepping on toes or forgetting they are not the parent. They are someone who fits easily into your family and your kids adore them, yet respect them because they know there are rules to follow. Though the nanny is there to make my life easier, I still function as mom first. That’s my job, and I would never give that up, to anyone.

 

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