Debunking the "Nanny Wanted" Ad

Because nannying is my full-time job, I spend a lot of time on sites like Canadiannanny.com to find jobs for myself and for others. I’m now only looking for occasional babysitting to keep me busy, but when I was looking for a full-time nanny job, I had to learn pretty fast to be able to decipher what mothers and fathers really mean in their ads! Like all job descriptions, there are fancy ways of saying what you want, and a lot of word-masking to entice people in the door before you really lay down what you want from your new nanny. Here are a few instances of deciphering and debunking I have learned to do as a job-searching nanny:

- “Looking for an active nanny” – this normally means young and thin, preferably a woman. I’ve been to a few job interviews that had this description in the ad and I’m pretty sure I didn’t get hired because I’m fat. However, like all job descriptions, active can mean just that – active and willing to do things with the children.

- “Light housekeeping required” – from experience, light housekeeping is almost never light. I went to a job interview that stated this in the description and was presented with a three-page list of all the “light” housekeeping I would be required to do! It included grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, and heavy cleaning like windows, floors and washing out the fridge. For a mere $15 an hour when I also had to look after children? No, thank you.

- “Will engage the children in activities tailored towards their ages” – this normally means that the parents expect you to find classes and activities that you can take their kids to. Not a big deal, and relatively self-explanatory. But it also means that playing at the park and doing home crafts should be last-resort options for playing.

- “Prefers to keep media-related activities to a minimum” – no TV, computer, or playing on the  iPad. This isn’t a big deal for me, but on a rainy day, it helps sometimes to be able to let the kids watch a movie as a treat. However, I’ve gotten in big, big trouble for doing that – and minimum normally means “don’t use these things at all”. For some parents, this is to make them feel better about letting Junior watch as much TV and play with the iPad as much as he wants when he's in their care!

- “Believes in respect for and guiding children” – lets children do whatever they want, in my experience. The respect is rarely reciprocated towards the nanny, from parents or children! But again, this is not always the case. Sometimes, the parents really do advocate mutual respect, which is the way I roll, too.

- “Doesn’t mind high spirits” – generally refers to behavioural problems. I’ve looked after “high-spirited” children who were mostly children with an unnatural level of defiance, emotion, or other behavioural issue that made it hard for me to nanny them. This isn’t a big deal, except that their parents were often indulgent or uncaring about discipline or other ways to handle the children. People who do want you to look after their children with special needs will say so upfront. Some parents will admit that “high spirits” actually means that the children have aspects of their personalities that will be hard to work with, too.

- “Close to public transit” – this is hit and miss. I’ve been to houses that were “close to public transit” that were actually three blocks away from the nearest bus stop.

- “Doesn’t mind occasional requests outside of normal duties” – this can mean anything from an ad-hoc request to start dinner to a daily list of duties that the nanny is required to complete, without extra pay.

None of these descriptions are always going to mean what I’ve stated here. Some families really are upfront about what they want and what’s expected of you as a nanny. The only way to really know what’s going to be expected of you is to meet the family and get a sense of what they’re looking for in a childcare worker/housekeeper. Always get a contract made up and always have salary expectations stated upfront – especially if “other duties” might pop up now and then that are well and beyond what you agreed to do for your new family. Discuss discipline and parenting methods with your new clients to make sure you’re on the same page. Get allergy information, behavioural or other medical issues, and anything else that might affect your job in writing, as well as methods in which to deal with them and medicine instructions.

 

Remember that if the job isn’t right for you, another job is bound to be. I’ve worked for many families once or twice that I just didn’t fit in with. You’re not going to please everyone, and they’re not always going to please you. A trial period is always wise for both nanny and new family so that you can decide together if the new arrangement suits everyone.

Happy job-searching!

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