Sunday, March 7, 2010

The brutal nanny hunt

Tomorrow morning my nanny starts and this is not something I take for granted.

I had a nanny for almost five years, she now wants to only work part-time so three months ago, I went about looking for a replacement. Yes, amazingly, it has taken me three months to find a nanny.

There are so many things about this search that were painful. Amazingly, despite the slump in the economy, experienced and affordable nannies are hard to come by.

In our area, the cost is crazy - most nannies value themselves on their hourly rate, feeling that they are entitled to at least $15/hour. Well, that's fine except that they also want all the benefits of being on salary - like vacation, sick leave, personal days, health benefits etc...for my husband who runs his own company, this drives him crazy because because we are paying more per hour than his (more formally educated) office manager and this 'hourly' rate that nannies use doesn't include the 'true' cost to us - the real baseline is $17/hour since we have to pay social security and unemployment on top....(painful since these are all AFTER tax dollars).

The second most painful thing was finding the right person. I hired one lady who I thought was perfect, and she didn't show up for work the first day because of something 'personal'.

Then I hired another lady who was cheaper, a little less experience but willing to work longer days and she just had no instincts about caring for a baby (mine is now 10 months). Plus, she was missing her own two kids while working long days so that didn't last but a week.

Third, I hired a 25year old student who was taking classes on the weekend. I was really excited about her because she was young, energetic and would live with us so we would have the flexibility of having her babysit in the evening. So we moved all 3 of our kids into one room to accommodate her (yes, I really thought I could manage with all 3 in one room...). The second day she was watching TV, on email while my baby was sitting under the table. The next day my Mom came to check in on them and she was barefoot in the garage, trying to adjust the stroller while she had the baby PROPPED UP on a box...ultimately she confessed that she had no time to babysit and we both agreed it was not a good fit.

The fourth lady seemed amazing on the phone but it turned out she had NO filter. When she came over for the first time, she expressed many opinions including inappropriate commentary about my kids in front of them. She also only provided references from five years prior and didn't show up to her second day on trial because she thought it would be ok....when I called her to tell her she didn't get the job she really let her words sneak out of her mind and I was reassured that I made the right decision.

Finally, we found our current nanny who has been with one family for the last 8 years- she's wonderful. We found her from a teacher at the preschool.

I must have interviewed over 30 ladies on the phone and brought 20 ladies home over the last few months. I bought subscriptions to all the nanny websites and as good as their services are, the nanny I loved came from a personal reference...which in the final analysis is really the best way to find a caregiver.

For anyone who's interested, Here are the sites I used:

enannysource.com - good listings, good sample documents to use

care.com - utlimately the best site I found, I got a lot of responses from this site and found the spectrum of young and mature

sittercity.com
- found most of them to be quite young and a lot of people who just want part time work

sulekha.com - the indian classified ads, people willing to work for good rates, good hours but most want cash

Others include: dcurbanmom.com; whitehousenannies.com

I would be happy to share many more pearls from the nanny hunt for anyone who's interested. For now, I'm just enjoying all the free time I have!

17 comments:

  1. love poem for a girlfriend

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  2. Just reading this is giving me hives.

    My neighbor found a nanny on craigslist. It sounded really sketchy to me, but apparently it worked out pretty well for her.

    Good luck.

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  3. Oh man. This post made me REALLY glad I don't have kiddos. Yikes.

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  4. I'm lucky to have found a great person - she has been our nanny for the last six years, and her family has become like a part of ours. Before that, my daughter had a nanny for 1.5 years who was trustworthy, but her energy level from health care issues was low and she tended to need a lot of time off - too stressful for me in residency and for her once my daughter became more mobile.

    I definitely agree with negotiating a weekly rate - especially in training. Hourlies can get a little ridiculous - I would agree with your husband. Learned that from the first experience. If you work out a lump sum, and make it legal - it is often enough and they can get some government benefits.

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  5. Didn't mean to imply, by that last statement, that you should consider not making it legal.

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  6. Glad you found a good nanny!
    As a professional career nanny of 10+ years, I too find the job hunt to be brutal!

    It's hard to find a family that you mesh with in all areas, and one that is offering a decent salary and the standard benefits- not to mention paying legally.

    I know it must be hard to have to pay $15 per hour after taxes and on the books. But there are tax credits you can take. Also if you offer less than that, you won't attract a qualified nanny, or a nanny that will stay.

    Also, of course, nannies would like vacation time and holiday pay-
    if you require a nanny year round-
    should she not be entitled to some benefits?

    It took me over a year to find my second nanny job and about 10 months to find the job I have now.
    I tried all the sites you suggested to- and as you, ended up finding my jobs thru word of mouth.

    Good luck!

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  7. It is hard to find a nanny. I am a nanny and with my first family, it took 2 months of looking. With my second family it took 7 months and with my current family it took 3 weeks. It is really hard to a family you mesh well with. A family who has similar parenting styles and a family who respects you and the position you have in their child's life. Salary doesn't play a part in that at all. Unfortunately in order to find a qualified educated nanny who has experience, you have no pay more. We work year round and we are employees and should recieve all standard employee rights that you would at any busy. You may see $17/hour as expensive and I don't dispute that, but a nanny needs to earn enough to support her self and her family. She needs to be able to pay her bills just as you work to pay yours. I personally still live at home and do not pay rent. I have wonderful parents. With my high tuition loans, and my average car payment, my salary of $15/hour (cdn) does not allow me to live on my own. I simply couldn't afford it at this point in my life. I live on a tight budget and don't spend extravagantly but I work to pay my bills and save until I am able to afford my own place. It's unfortunate but it is what it is. it may not be that a nanny feels they are worth this, though a qualified educated nanny is, but they have to work to make ends meet and this may result in a higher requested hourly rate.

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  8. I'm glad to hear that www.enannysource.com was helpful, even if we weren't your top site! We're always available at eNannySource to help out any moms that have questions regarding hiring a nanny. We have 16 years experience in the nanny business and 12 years experience as a nanny employer. We also have excellent nanny background checks that are available at: https://www.enannysource.com/Nanny-Background-Check.aspx. You can reach us at: Lorin@enannysource.com, please feel free to contact us anytime.

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  9. It shocks and amazes me how expensive it is to have a nanny. I am taking post-bac classes presently, but we only have a sitter for a few hours a week. However, I am so intimidated by the nanny-hunt (and retention!) that I may give up on the dream of going back to school. $35K is twice what I made my first year in my previous career (as an airline pilot.) As it stands, my husband and I have three children and I may have to wait until they're all school aged before I can head back to the workforce.

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  10. We've had three nannies since I've been in med school - the first and current we met through craigslist! It's really no different than using care.com (which is where we found our second nanny) as long as you do a good background check on your own.

    It really is quite a process. Some of the nannies we met were something else. No shows, constant rescheduled interviews, one who we loved and who accepted the job only to continue interviewing and take a different job right before she was supposed to start working for us. I was upset at first but in retrospect feel that we dodged a HUGE bullet with that one.

    I'm in med school so obviously finances are a little limited. We live off of my husband's salary and my student loans pretty much all go directly to our nanny. Our current nanny brings her 8 month old son with her. I was worried about it in the beginning but it has worked out quite well. My 13 month old son has a playmate close to his age, my two older girls each get "their own baby", and I feel less guilty about what we can afford to pay our nanny because she saves money on daycare and gets to spend all day with her little one. We mesh really well parenting-style wise so that helps too!

    Just something I wanted to throw out there for others who may be looking for a nanny. I didn't think I would ever hire someone who wanted to bring her child with her but it has been wonderful!

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  11. In many areas the cost of living can be crazy too. You haven’t stated if this is a live in position, what the hours actually are, and actual job duties. If your nanny is live out, have you factored in what they may have to pay for their own housing, and their means of transportation to your home, (perhaps having and maintaining a vehicle?),student loans if they went to college, then their own personal needs like food, clothing, etc. Have you thought about the quality of life your childcare giver may want to have?
    A nanny goes into a position knowing they often end in a few years as the child grows, and the needs of the family changes. So please don’t compare caregivers to another type of work sector. And you are making the choice to have a private in home caregiver vs a childcare center. Where ratios may be higher, you have to follow their open hours, and if your child is sick you can’t bring them into that environment.
    There are educated nannies all over the country who are not employed right now. In using all these online sites did you just search through local candidates, or did you consider hiring someone long distance?
    I am a nanny who interviewed via phone and email for my last several positions. I know there are many sites out there that provide advice on how to do this. I read them as did my busy employers as well. While a person may have bad luck in hiring people, one still wonders what was your screening process like in the first place that you had these issues with them?

    If a nanny is wise not only does she know how to take care of the children, she remembers what it means to take care of herself too.

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  12. I feel your pain, but from the opposite side of the fence. I am a professional nanny with 16 years experience who is currently job hunting. I can't even count the number of families I have encountered that want the best possible top quality childcare for their kid(s), all for $5 - $10 per hour with absolutely no benefits at all. My favorite NON-interview occurred with a set of 2 families wanting care for 50 hours a week for their 2 infants. They were offering the princely sum of $300 week TOTAL.

    The ultimate bottom line in the nanny dance is that both sides of the equation need to take a long hard look at their financial realities.

    The nanny needs to know what she has to earn to pay her bills, and she needs to not accept less. If she does accept less, she'll be stressed and unhappy, and will leave when she finds a better paying job.

    The family needs to know what they can afford to pay, and then they need to find out if that can be considered a living wage in their city. If it is, then they should go ahead with their search for a nanny who fits their family well, which can take a while. If they cannot pay a living wage, they need to look into other childcare options. A nanny is THE MOST EXPENSIVE choice. Period. You cannot pay daycare rates for nanny care.

    A nannhy is a terrific childcare option for those who can afford a nanny. For those who want to afford a nanny, can't, and hire one anyway for low pay, their journey through the nannyhood will probably end when they lose their 3rd or 4th nanny in a row and wind up using corporate daycare, family daycare, or an au pair, which are all more affordable for the majority of families out there.

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  13. Yes, expensive, but with the right fit nanny child care is priceless.

    You are also paying for someone to be in your home and maybe even do the child's laundry. The family gets to start their evening routines a little earlier because there is no pick up at a day care location and then travel back to home. The child can usually still be with the nanny even when sick.

    We are so fortunate to work with Mary Poppins who was recommended to us by a nosy neighbor after my first child was born.

    Mary Poppins is still with us 13 years into this parenting gig. Our roles have all changed as the children have gotten older. But we talk about it and do our best to respect one another as people first. That helps our relationships a lot.

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  14. I must agree with the comments from the Nannies. A good nanny is worth whatever you can afford, the job is more important than nearly anything else you will pay for from your income. I really can't think of anything else you'll spend your money on that is more important...

    I am a physician with 3 kids, my husband is a physician as well. We are both out of training, I work part-time. We also pay for private school for the oldest. We struggled to find the right person, and struggled with the cost. We wanted to pay taxes (many of the nannies did not). Now, almost 2 years with our first nanny, I can say that the $15.75/hr we pay her, with 2 weeks vacation/flex-time, and yearly bonuses and holiday presents...is more than worth it. We will give her a nice raise every year.

    She has no children of her own, has been a nanny her whole life and is in her late 40's. We spent the first year trying to convince her to get health insurance that we would subsidize initially and pay for fully in a year, ultimately she wanted the money instead. Her choice. Hard because when she gets a cold it is because of my kids.

    This job is more important than any other job or service I pay for and I want someone who understands how seriously we take her role. Cleaning companies make $25/hr. Yard services make pretty good pay. It is hard for me to keep a cool head all the time with 3 kids. I need someone who can be creative, patient, kind, chase around the kids, etc. This is not an easy job when it is not your own child.

    When the time comes for her to leave (because we won't be able to afford 3 private schools and a nanny) we will do everything we can to help her to her next job. She treats my children as her own, loving, firm. She is the type of person I would want my kids around (she said upfront that she wanted to pay taxes because it was the honest thing to do). She tells me if I overpaid her.

    We used a nanny agency and paid a lot, they knew her from many years and other jobs and basically told us she was the best. The other nannies we almost hired (did trial periods): one HAD to take the dog for a walk and used that as a guise to go smoke, one accepted then ducked out at the last minute because she could make a little more at another job (no taxes), another one accepted and then did not show up, a few said they would only play religious music for the kids and no secular music.

    When we can no longer afford her we'll need to look at some after school/daycare type options which I will be more comfortable with when the kids are older. If you can't afford a good nanny, I think you are better off with daycare because there are other people around making sure nothing odd happens.

    This is not the kind of job to low-ball. I did not want an 18 year old watching my kids because I remember what I was like when I was 18 (and 25...)

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  15. As someone who nannied through college and after I have some thoughts...Just remember that these people are responsible for the most important things in your life, your children. The reason most nannies want hourly pay is so that we don't get stuck staying til 10 when you get stuck at work, every week, without compensation. And yes, as human beings with our own lives, we would like vacation time and sick days (so we don't have to take care of your sick children the week after our cold is gone). I understand it is difficult to find good nannies but keep in mind that the interview is key. I recommend posting your job opportunity on college websites, many undergrad students and grad students have childcare experience and flexible hours. Also try GreatAupair.com. And please ask for things like drivers license # and last name and permanent address. I always found it creepy when people didn't want this information, I mean you're going to leave your kids with me.

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  16. Wow, the comments are very thoughtful and helpful - validating, comforting and enlightening. I do agree that it's well worth every penny we pay...as a Mom who goes to work and leaves behind my most precious assets, I'm comforted in knowing my child is in good hands.

    We have always offered a weekly salary, with benefits of vacation, personal days, etc but the irony was that the nanny-candidates would always take the whole package and try to figure out the hourly rate to determine if this was the right fit for the job....that was the tough part.

    Regardless, it' clear we're not the only ones in this position.

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  17. I agree with some of the above posts. Because I am in training and my husband is a writer we do not have the money to afford a good nanny. We send our son to daycare (which gets some looks from the other mommy docs), but I know there are always several caretakers in a room and he will be reading at a very early age. We may do the nanny thing someday, but only if I can provide health insurance, vacation, personal days. I do realize that day may never come.

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