Somehow, in spite of the universal knowledge that all humans are flawed, most parents tend to believe their child is perfect. Needless to say, that sentiment comes in the very early years of a child’s life. Before the throwing of the sippy cup; before the Academy Award-winning temper tantrums; before the constant pulling of the family pet’s tail; before the relentless refusal to eat certain foods; and way before those embarrassing inconsolable moments. You know the ones, in public, of course, where you try unsuccessfully to bribe your crying toddler with everything under the sun, or at the very least everything within your reach.
The way I see it, parents are entitled to his or her own definition of perfect when it comes to their offspring. However, perhaps we can at least agree that children, while not perfect per se, are perfect to their parents.
In light of this perfect child phenomenon, when on the hunt for child care assistance every reasonable parent aims for nothing less than a perfect nanny; that wonderful, kind, Scottish-speaking, granny-aged and highly skilled “Mrs. Doubtfire” type. If that’s your expectation level, then keep on dreaming. She, err he, only exists in the movies.
There is still hope, however. I’ve put together a guide to assist you in your search for that next-best option to “Mrs. Doubtfire.” As part of my non-scientific research, I consulted my 26-year-old daughter who is a nanny and a very good one at that. Why wouldn’t she be? After all, she is a perfect child remember?
She has girlfriends her age who also nanny (yes, I made it into a verb, like we do with Google). They work in the Los Angeles and North Hollywood area where that profession is in high demand. Because the competition is intense, they must be highly skilled to successfully compete. Therefore, I figured they just might know a thing or two about how a parent would go about selecting that perfect nanny.
By the way, in your search don’t rule out a male sitter. Male nannies are called “Mannies” and according to some online client reviews, have served their families very well. In a 2006 survey of 1,500 families, 8 out of 10 parents said that it was more acceptable now than 10 years ago to hire a man to care for the kids. You may even find your children adhering to the rules set forth a little more when given to them by an authoritative voice of a “Manny.”
3 important characteristics your nanny should possess
The following qualities are ones my daughter felt are so vital in a nanny that you should not compromise on them in your selection process. From these three attributes you can then build on other characteristics that would be pertinent to your household based on how many hours you need help, how many kids you have, and other duties you will require of the nanny (i.e. driving children to school).
1.) Be trustworthy
You want a person you can trust to tell you the truth about what's going on in your home and with your children when you’re not there. In other words, they are your eyes and ears in your absence. So you want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth from them. You don’t want to feel apprehensive leaving this person alone for hours each day amongst the personal items in your home. After all, a nanny cam doesn’t cover every inch of your home, nor do you want to spend all of your time watching one. Honesty keeps everyone at ease and leads to a long-term friendship as well.
2.) Be fun loving
Let’s face it; you can’t force someone to enjoy his or her job no matter how pleasant you make the environment. You want a fun and energetic person who can hang with and relate to your kids. Someone who will get them off the computer games and motivate them to play outside or use their imagination with arts and crafts. So, while being a fun-loving person may not seem as important of a trait as trustworthiness, it actually is when considering that all day long this nanny must love interacting with your kids and not be agitated by having to do so.
3.) Be balanced
You want someone who can balance fun, safety and discipline. You want your kids to have a good time but to also respect the nanny and know how to follow their instructions. For safety purposes especially, the nanny needs to know how to gain the kids' respect so that they can implement your boundaries and house rules into your kids' daily regimen.
3 steps to take before narrowing your choices to one
Finding the right nanny is a long process and rightfully so. Some parents have been known to start looking while the wife is still pregnant. Here are some steps to take to help you narrow down your choices with confidence:
1.) Do your homework
Check all your sources i.e., nanny referral sites, parenting blog sites and reviews in parenting magazines to find questions or matters others have addressed but that you may not have thought of. Review caregiver profiles.
2.) Conduct phone or Skype interviews
This will save you and the prospective nanny a heap of time. Set aside a notebook specifically for your interviewing process to keep all your data organized. Nothing is worse than following up with a nanny and calling them by the wrong name or referring to something incorrectly from a previous conversation. Have a list of questions in your notebook with space to record their answers.
3) Evaluate your choice thoroughly to ensure the fairest and objective selection is made.
Always run background checks on every nanny who passes your inspection — even if you have a “good feeling” about them. This is not an area where you want to cut corners due to the cost or the time it takes to complete this task. Your kids' safety and well-being are at stake.
Resources to consult
There are both free and fee-based nanny placement agencies in almost every city across the U.S. and online. They can help you take the guesswork out of hiring a nanny. Some of them even do the vetting for you with background checks so you don’t have to. Either way, their collective goal is to present you with a pool of recommended prospects at your fingertips.
For a more first-hand approach, there’s always the option of reaching out to friends, family, coworkers, church members, etc. to ask for nanny referrals. This method may allow the searching parents to feel a bit more at ease.
Whichever method you apply, don’t negate your gut instinct. It’s a very reliable source as well.
That perfect one for you
Once you’ve settled on a nanny that you and your child(ren) think is terrific, pat yourself on the back and breathe a big sigh of relief! Remember, though, there is a difference between a perfect person and one who is perfect for you. So don’t expect your nanny to be a jack-of-all-trades, mastering every task you assign or else they're fired. Sometimes you have to just give an “A” for effort. After all, even “Mrs. Doubtfire” set her fake boobs on fire and made a disaster of the kitchen just trying to add basil to her stew.