It’s time. Your maternity leave is about to end and you need to prepare to hire a caregiver for your child. Or perhaps you’ve moved to a new town and need to find a new nanny. Whatever your situation, I know that hiring someone else to care for your child in your absence can be an emotionally difficult and confusing process.
As someone who has worked with parents and educators as a researcher and teacher, and who has a Ph.D. in Psychology and Doctorate of Education, here are some tips that I have found to be helpful in the search for a nanny for your child.
1. Hold preliminary interviews outside of your home.
It is important to interview potential nannies in a neutral space rather than a place of power, such as your home. You want to get a true picture of the nanny — if she is influenced by your environment, you may miss the subtleties that are important to a job interview and a clear evaluation of who this person is.
2. Create a checklist of certain “must-have” attributes and watch for them during the interview.
In general, your child’s nanny should be honest, committed, compassionate, intelligent, caring, empathetic and experienced. Your child’s nanny should have a put-together appearance during the interview: How we express ourselves on the outside is often how we feel about ourselves on the inside. When we meet someone that is disheveled or has poor hygiene, that person may be dealing with some internal issues, including self-esteem. Punctuality is also important, as it demonstrates a person’s work ethic, just like personal hygiene and appropriate dressing. We can only evaluate people in the beginning by their behavior, and mature, responsible behavior often reflects a good work ethic and commitment.
3. Know your parenting style and values, so that you can hire someone who has a similar parenting style and shares similar values.
Continuity and consistency is high on the parenting playbook. Children need structure and consistent rules to develop security and competency. Therefore, it is very important that nanny follows your parenting style. This is a point that needs to be established prior to hiring a nanny.
4. Run a security and background check, and carefully check references.
You want to be assured that this person is someone who can be trusted with your child.
5. Look for someone who comes with first aid and CPR training.
Your child’s nanny should have the full spectrum of emergency care knowledge: She/he should know what to do if a child is choking, spikes a fever or is involved in any athletic accidents, including water accidents. The nanny should always know who to call in case of emergencies and be familiar with how to get to the children’s doctor and hospital.
6. Make sure there is good chemistry between you and the nanny.
After all, this is the person that you are trusting with your children. There is no job more important. This person is representing you when you’re not present and therefore must hold your values. Children model what they see and they will model the nanny that is interacting with them for most of the day. You’d better like the person you hire as your child’s nanny, since she/he will transfer her/his own values to your children.
7. Know your budget for your nanny’s salary.
Be sure to go over your budget well ahead of time, and figure out what you are willing and able to pay as the nanny’s salary. This can alleviate any uncomfortable negotiations back and forth between you and the nanny, which can only lead to feelings of dissatisfaction.
Once you think you have found “the one,” I suggest giving the nanny a trial period of one week when you are able to be present. During this trial period, you can watch the interactions between the nanny and your child, and make sure that the values you uphold are also being passed along by the nanny to your child. You can watch for any personality or work ethic quirks that perhaps did not come out during the interview. You can also see how your child reacts to the nanny, whether positively or negatively. Then, at the end of the week, you and the nanny can meet and decide whether to continue further into an official signed contract, or whether it is best to part ways.