When I tell people that I am a Professional Career Nanny (meaning, this is my chosen profession, something that I have been doing as my primary source of income for 10+ years, and something that I take as seriously as any other 'career') I am usually met with a lot of curiosity and questions.
In no particular order, here are some of the most frequently asked questions that I encounter::
Sooo, your'e a babysitter?
I am most definitely NOT a "babysitter". A babysitter is a 16 year old who shows up on a Friday night, after the kids are in bed, to watch your TV, eat snacks, and text her boyfriend.
A nanny works with one family at a time. She (while there are a few male nannies out there-- colloquially known as 'mannies'-- nannies are by & large female) works 30-50+ hours a week with that family. A nanny is, by all definitions, an extension of the parents. She organizes and facilitates playdates, appointments, school pick up & drop off, & meals. She advises on things like discipline, potty training, and sleep training. She knows all your children's favourite books, she sings their favourite songs, she knows all their little quirks. In an ideal nanny-situation, a nanny can walk into a home and be left to run it totally smoothly for 48 hours without any additional direction. She KNOWS the kids, she KNOWS the family... She IS family. A nanny is like a really, really, really involved Aunt.
How much do you get paid?
Ok, so people don't actually ASK me this because it's kind of a rude question. But I can tell that most people want to ask, so I'll go ahead and answer it.
A nanny's wage varies based on experience, location, and job description (such as number & ages of the children, whether or not she needs to use her own vehicle, how much housekeeping or meal prep she is required to do, any benefits she may recieve etc). An experienced nanny in a large city like San Francisco, or New York City can easily make $20-$25+ an hour. An experienced nanny in a small town will earn $15-$20. Of course, there are always nannies making more than that.. and there are always nannies who are earning less than they deserve. However, in my experience, those figures are the standard.
An experienced nanny in a large city like San Francisco
What's the difference between a Nanny and an Au Pair?
An Au Pair is a young person (again-- usually a woman, but can also be young men) who come to a country to live with a 'host' family to experience a new culture and way of life. In return for their room & board, they provide 20-30 hours of childcare for their 'host' family. The regulations vary from country to country, but generally speaking this is viewed as a CULTURAL EXCHANGE and not as a 'job'. As such, Au Pairs are not entitled to the same hourly wages that a Nanny is. Au Pairs in the USA make about $200 a week. A nanny in the USA, working the same hours, would be paid triple that.
Au Pairing can be a wonderful arrangement for both Host Family, and Au Pair. I au paired myself in my early 20's for a wonderful Dutch family and had a great experience. However! The program is not without it's difficulties. Au Pairs are young people who are often away from home for the first time in their lives. Not to mention, they are living in a strange country with complete strangers, with strange customs, and a language that they likely do not speak fluently. This can be difficult, so say the least. If you are considering hosting an Au Pair, it's very important that you go into it understanding your responsibilities as a host family, are able to be compassionate and patient. It's not just cheap childcare!
Nannies do "basic", general housekeeping. Meaning, they tidy up after themselves and the children, and do what they can to keep the house in presentable, running order.
Do you do housework?
Every nanny has her own arrangements with her employers regarding housework. I've spoken with nannies who have never so much as laundered a single t-shirt, and others who do absolutely ever bit of cleaning in the home right down to cleaning the oven bi-weekly. Every family has their own needs & requirements, and every nanny has her own idea of what she is willing to do.
With that said, I'd say that the standard norm is that nannies do "basic", general housekeeping. Meaning, they tidy up after themselves and the children, and do what they can to keep the house in presentable, running order. Personally, I vacuum the main floor several times a week, I keep the main-floor bathroom clean, I wipe the counters and tables daily, I keep laundry & dishes cycling through the machines, I dust the main floor, I make the children's bed, and I keep the play room organized. Over all, about 1 hour of my day is spent tidying/cleaning. My rule of thumb is that I want my employers to return home from work every day to a tidy home, and happy children. I do what I can during the day to make that possible.
Has a Father ever flirted with you?!
Oddly enough, this is probably one of my most frequently asked questions. We've all heard the scandelous story of the disconnected father running off with the hot, young nanny... Well, I'm sorry (or maybe I'm happy!) to say that that situation is decidedly rare. Generally speaking, my relationship with my "Dad-Bosses" is usually one of slightly awkward small talk, mutual respect, and generally trying to avoid each other at all costs.
I've NEVER had a father openly flirt with me, and certainly never had one say or do anything inappropriate. Any discomfort I have ever felt around a male-employer has been due to them making a mistake on my pay-cheque, or one of the children asking about how babies are made while Dad-Boss and I both happen to be in the room. Awwwwkward!
Nope! And I never have been. I have found all (except for one) of my Nanny positions through Craigslist. The one exception was a word-of-mouth recommendation.
Do I have anything against Nanny Agencies? No, certainly not. A nanny agency can be a wonderful option for many folks. However, I just don't believe that they are entirely necessary. The best part of going through an agency is that they screen the candidates for you. Meaning, you don't necessarily need to worry about credentials so much, or criminal/driving records. The agency simply puts you in contact with the candidates that they feel are suitable for you. All of this convenience comes at a cost, however... and generally that cost is in the ballpark of several thousand dollars.
Personally, as a nanny, I've never been keen on how detached and impersonal an agency felt. I want to meet with a potential employer under more personable, warm pretexts. So, I've placed Craigslist ads, and I screen potential families from there before meeting with them. I only meet with a family once I feel fairly certain that we would be a good match. By the time we are meeting face to face, we have already sorted out the knitty-gritties like wage & job description. What I am looking for in that first meeting is chemistry. Which brings me to my next frequently asked question...
What should I look for in a potential Nanny?
Well, obviously you need to find someone that you can afford. And you need someone who has enough experience to make you feel reasonably convinced that she is capable of caring for your children. And obviously she should be willing to do the housekeeping that you'd like done. And you should probably make sure that she is warm & engaging with the children, and has a similar 'child care' philosophy as you (Attachment Parent? Cry it Out? Tiger Mom? What's your style!?) Aaaaand, it goes without saying that she should have a few references to back herself up. All of that is obvious.
Less obvious is how important it is to hire someone that you genuinely LIKE. The #1 mistake I think families make when hiring a nanny is that they get so caught up on things like years of experience, or courses they have taken, or certificates they hold, or languages they speak that they forget the #1 most crucial element-- do you LIKE this woman who is going to help raise your children? I mean, really, truly like her. Would you hang out with her? Does she make you laugh? Does she interest you?
The #1 mistake I think families make when hiring a nanny is that they get so caught up on things like years of experience, or courses they have taken, or certificates they hold, or languages they speak that they forget the #1 most crucial element-- Do you LIKE this woman who is going to help raise your children?
If the chemistry is not there, your nanny match will not work out. It just won't. Your nanny can have all the qualifications in the world, and come with the longest, most impressive resume that you have ever seen, but if you don't LIKE this woman-- she'll be gone within a year. I guarantee it. Because here's the thing-- If you don't like her, you will never be able to fully trust her. And if you don't fully trust her, you will never feel 100% comfortable. She will sense this tension & disconnect between you, and she will never be as fully committed to your family as you'd like. In the end, she will either leave you for a family that she *does* feel connected to, or you will fire her because you can't handle how emotionally draining it is to worry about your kids every damn day.
I've been fortunate to have AMAZING relationships with my 'Mom-bosses'. These are women who I respect, admire, and genuinely enjoy. It's not unusual for me to stick around for half an hour after work (...every day) to chat & laugh with her. My last employer was a bridesmaid in my wedding, and her girls were my flower girls! If you want a 'match made in nanny heaven' like that, the first step is hiring someone you like.