Don’t do these 8 things when hiring a nanny

Whether you use an agency, an online site or word of mouth, hiring a nanny can be a stressful experience. For many, it’s the first time you’re an employer considering pay rates and conducting searches and interviews. You’ll also be handing the care of your children to someone else, and likely someone you’ve never met. To help you transition smoothly and feel confident and at ease, avoid these following eight mistakes when hiring a nanny:

Don't do these 8 things when looking for a nanny#1: Starting your search too early or too late

I thought I was being smart by starting my search in April even though I wasn’t returning to work until August. I wanted to cover my bases and didn’t want to leave the search to the last minute. We found a nanny we were happy with and were surprised she was willing to hold off working for another three months when—one week before I had to go back to work—she called saying she couldn’t do it because she got pregnant. Yikes.

Granted, she could have gotten pregnant even if we hired her sooner, but starting the search too early gave us the false impression that all was taken care of, not to mention wasting our time and money (we had to sign up for the nanny site again). Hiring too early could also land you with a nanny who says she’s available in August but, come June, takes a job with another family who could use her help sooner than you.

Similarly, don’t leave the search to the last minute. We were lucky—the first nanny’s pregnancy was actually a blessing in disguise because within that week, we found another nanny whom we like much better. Still, leaving your search to the last minute can be very stressful; rather than enjoying my last few days of maternity leave, I was conducting interviews and blocking my days to meet nannies.

The happy balance? Aim for six weeks before your planned return to work. This should be ample time to find a nanny stress-free, yet close enough time for interested nannies to commit.

#2: Interviewing only one person

Even with a mere week to finalize our nanny, we made sure to reach out to multiple people before making a decision. Phone interviews count too! Had we stopped short of interviewing people, we never would have met our wonderful nanny (she was one of the last ones we met with). Even if you already love the first nanny you interviewed, meeting with more people will only help cement her qualifications above the others.

#3: Being vague about your preferences and parenting methods

During the interviews is not the time to be shy about your preferences and protocol around the house. You’ll want to make sure your nanny is on the same page and that you feel comfortable she’ll do a good job in your absence. Consider the following topics to discuss during the interview:

  • Housework: What specific duties, if any, do you expect the nanny to do (such as washing the bottles, doing the baby’s laundry, cooking, preparing snacks, vacuuming)? And when should the nanny be doing housework? If you only want her to do tasks while the baby is asleep, make sure to say so.
  • Visitors and play dates: Is the nanny allowed to bring visitors to your home, whether it’s her own children or play dates? Can she take your kids to other people’s homes for play dates, or should they meet at a public place like the park or mall?
  • Television and phone use: Can the nanny watch television and use the phone (whether hers or yours)? When?
  • Putting the baby to sleep: Do you want her to let the baby put himself to sleep, or should she carry and rock him? Should the baby co-sleep, or sleep in his crib?
  • Things to do: Can the nanny drive your children to activities like story time or parks? Where can she take the stroller?
  • The nanny’s lunch: Can the nanny eat your food or should she pack her own lunch?

#4: Hiring inexperienced nannies

I needed our nanny to have experience with twins considering that taking care of one baby is different from taking care of two. One of the nannies we interviewed casually explained that she had taken care of many (singleton) babies, so “…what’s another one added to the mix?” I mentally crossed her off from that moment on. I also interviewed another nanny who hadn’t taken care of twins but thought that her having gotten pregnant three times with twins (all of whom had miscarriaged) would suffice. First, it doesn’t, and second, TMI! (Yes, we had some interesting interviews).

If you expect to be at work for several hours every day of the week, your nanny needs to have taken care of the same-aged children for the equal amount of hours in her previous experience. Casual babysitting is fine for a date night, but you’ll need someone with more experience if she is to care for your child much longer than that.

#5: Ignoring red flags

Pay attention to red flags, as they’re there to steer you away from a decision you feel uncomfortable with. When something comes up, don’t feel silly for being bothered by something seemingly so simple. Use them to address or clarify issues. They may not always be deal-breakers, so consider them as talking points to make sure you’re both on the same page. Go in with the expectation that no nanny is ever perfect, but don’t disregard your gut either.

#6: Not calling their references

I interviewed a nanny who seemed great and whom we were ready to hire… until we called her references. Some responses include, “…she was great overall,” or “…just make sure you set your expectations right from the start.” They weren’t blatant displeasure, and I’m sure they were happy with their choice, but aim for someone with glowing reviews.

And when calling their references, don’t just ask general questions; ask telling questions, such as:

  • “What sort of issues—even small or minor ones—came up with the nanny?” (Some mentioned that the nanny used her phone too much, or that she didn’t warm the bottles like how they asked her to).
  • “If you had another child, would you hire this nanny again?”
  • “What are some examples of when she went above and beyond for you?”
  • “How many days per year did she call out sick? How many times was she late?”
  • “How did you find this nanny?” (Ideally, you’d want the references’ relationship to be professional and not personal, e.g. someone that isn’t their cousin or friend).

#7: Being vague about pay, vacation and all that nitty gritty stuff

Be upfront about how many days off the nanny will get, and what kinds (is it just days off, or are there sick days vs holidays vs vacations?). List any holidays you don’t need the nanny to come in, and whether or not those will be paid. Will she get paid hourly? Will you be paying her every Friday, every 15th and end of the month, or monthly?

Print out a list of the paid holidays. If you’re paying her bi-monthly or on your pay periods, print out a yearly calendar and circle her pay dates (I made one with

#8: Not allotting a few days for the nanny to shadow you

Ask her to come for a few days before you go back to work so that she can see how you take care of the baby. Aim for at least two days, a couple of hours each.

On the first day, walk her through a typical cycle: show her how you feed the baby, change her diaper, play with her and put her to sleep. Then, give her a chance to try as well; for instance, have her feed the baby a bottle or change the diaper. On the second day, have her take care of the baby on her own. This way, should she have any questions, you’re right there to refresh her memory.

What crucial steps did you take to find the right nanny? How was your nanny-hiring experience? Let us know in the comments below!


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