The Nanny Files: Finding the “Right Fit” for Your Family

Goofy dressed up boys Delusional Ideas

It seemed totally reasonable at the time, but it turns out there was no way in hell my system was going to work, even with a tiny infant. As a soon-to-be-1st-time-mom 5 years ago, I had some totally delusional and irrational ideas. I'm sure you veteran moms out there know what I'm talking about.

This makes me laugh now just thinking about it, but I seriously thought I would be able to do my contract work from my home office, as I had been doing for the 2 years prior to Darling 1 being born, while my sweet little baby happily lolled about and played on a soft blanket with lots of cuddly, squeaky, colorful toys and books. Ah, what a lovely scene with me busily working at my computer, giving my baby a loving glance and offering kind and encouraging words every so often while he earnestly worked at examining and figuring out his toys...Yeah, right.

Need for a Nanny

My Darlings have always had an extreme attachment to me and have always been extremely alert and aware, which aren't bad things. But this meant that I had to hold them while I worked at my computer. This isn't difficult for the first couple of months, but by the 3rd month, my boys, both very strong, active and curious from Day 1, would reach out to my computer, babbling away, grabbing my full, undivided attention. While I loved spending this time with my Darlings, I also needed to be able to do my work. By month 4 of Darling 1's life, it was clear to me: I needed a nanny.

I knew nothing about the process of getting a nanny, but I knew I had to learn fast. I turned to I quickly got up to speed on searching for and hiring a nanny. I had been a nanny in college; so, I went the college student route, although there are many types of people to choose from there.

Finding the Nanny

We have now had six nannies in the last 4.5 years and are looking for #7 right now. Some nannies have lasted only a few months and others for years; in fact, two of the nannies have been long term and we now consider them a part of our extended family. You'll hear more about one of them next week during my series on contacting elected officials and constituency services.

Over the years, I have learned what's important and what's not when searching profiles on Sitter City; chatting on the phone; interviewing; watching them interact with the Darlings and our pets. I have made poor choices and perfect choices; sometime by mere chance finding the ideal nanny for our household. And what I have learned is the most important thing above all else is finding a nanny that's the "right fit" for our family.

The Right Fit

Some nannies might look excellent in a profile, but then in person they just don't mesh with my personality or the Darlings' spirited outlook on life; don't love cats and dogs or are allergic to them, etc. The right person is someone whom you feel comfortable with right away and someone who clearly connects with your kids.

A good nanny should make sound decisions regarding health, safety, discipline, rules, etc., but should also be fun, engaging, creative, imaginative, assertive and loving. The right nanny for your family will also be clear on and in agreement with the family's style of parenting, playing, meals, morals, etc. Our favorite nannies have truly loved our kids and bonded with them. After all, it's all about the kids, right?

Yes and no. I have determined {the hard way} that it isn't enough for the child to like the nanny, the parent(s) must also like the nanny and understand her personality, background, goals, rules, etc. I have certainly clashed with a few or felt uncomfortable with them or their methods of dealing with the kiddos. Clearly, those situations didn't work out for either party.

My Method

I have used Sitter City to find each nanny, and I have found this method to be helpful and time-effective. Over the years, I have developed a system: I contact the girls through Sitter City; if they are interested and reply to my email, we chat on the phone. I can tell a lot from someone on the phone; if they are still interested in the position, and I think they sound like a potential match, we meet at a neutral location like a coffee shop or play area for an interview; if they pass the test of having met me and the boys {in crazy, show-off mode}, connected in some way and are still interested, they are invited to our home to see the kids in their environment and meet the pets; if they interact well with me, the kids and pets and their references pan out, they will get an offer from me.

Yes, it's a multi-step, drawn out process, but over time this system has seemed to work. I don't like to invite the potential nanny to our home right away, having never even met us. I don't want a young college girl to be put in that situation of having to go to a stranger's house. After the Craig's List murder here in the Twin Cities a few years ago I feel justified in this argument; for the safety of both parties.

The Importance of a Nanny

My Darling Boys love having a nanny, even if just part-time. The time they have with a nanny is exclusively their time with undivided attention on them. Each nanny has taught the Darlings different things; each adding to the boys' character and enriching their lives. I make it clear to the nanny that I want her focus on the boys' not housework or homework. While I and DH do play with the boys, we also have other responsibilities around the house. The nannies are there to simply play and care for them. We don't live near family. They rarely get time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. So, this time is special to the Darlings; they relish these experiences. And I get my work done without worrying about my kiddos.

The Scoop

A friend once told me that her sister, who regularly used nannies for her kids, said, "Every nanny has a shelf life. They don't last forever." At the time, I thought that sounded harsh, but now I know what she meant. A nanny can be perfect for the particular age of your child or time in your life or her life, but then the child moves on to another age and stage and the nanny's life or goals or interests or schedule changes too or your particular needs for a nanny change, etc. Thus, the term of a nanny does have an expiration date; some sooner than others. Wish me luck finding #7. Over and out...