Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Job Hunt, part one

So, I've been out of work for a while. A really long while. And each day I spend a few hours answering ads placed on nanny/family matching sites, cruising craigslist, checking in with agencies, etc. etc. etc.

Today's favorite ad reads as follows (emphasis mine): "We have a 10-week-old baby girl and are in desperate need of a nanny. We have had the HARDEST time finding the right person. We live in Northwest Atlanta/South Cobb County on the Chattahoochee River. Our needs are every other Monday from 11-4, Tuesday from 10-4 and a few Saturdays from 10-3. Eventually Mondays would be added permanently. We would pay $7 per hour, and $10 per hour for special occasions. We would not require any laundry or meal preparation. Our dog would not need any care either, although the occasional tummy rub would be nice! We would like our new nanny to be available for the long-term, as eventually we would need them full time."

And while I am doing the best I can to stay positive, ads like these really annoy me. I made $7 per hour when I started as a nanny 16 years ago. I try to remember that new nanny employers may not know that it is actually ILLEGAL to pay a nanny less than minimum wage, but I have to wonder why parents wouldn't do some due diligence, asking people "in the know" what the average nanny hourly rate in the area might be.

I also blame the websites that allow potential employers to choose illegal wages as their "pay offered". If a website is matching nannies and parents, then parents seeking a nanny should not be able to offer less than legal minimum wage to the potential employers who might answer their ad. I'm not a technical person, but surely there is some way to offer only options for pay starting at minimum wage when the parent checks off that they are hunting for a nanny.

Ultimately, in childcare as in everything else, people get what they pay for. That means that parents who offer ridiculously low rates to a "nanny: will often wind up with their children paying the price for that decision.

Ahhhh....that feels better. I'll save my vent about interview cancellations for later. :-)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Facebook is making me feel old...

Why? Because I found 4 former charges on facebook last week. When I last cared for them, they were 6 and 5, and 10 and 8. Obviously far too young to have a FB account, right?

So the fact that they are now 17, 16, 15, and 13 is a bit of a rude wake-up call. I mean, I know the years are passing by, and all that jazz, but I do enjoy being able to revel in my belief that I am really just 28 or so, and all the kids I ever have cared for are kind of frozen in time at the age I last knew them.

The good news is, I am still apparently enough of a cool person to have been friended by all of these teenagers who I knew as elementary schoolers.

So maybe all is not lost after all. I can still be a decade (Ok, fine 12 years!) younger than I really am in my imagination, and I get to enjoy getting reaquainted with some fairly fabulous teenagers.

"The Honeymoon", we are in it...

Whenever you start a new job with older kids, i.e., NOT infants, there is always a bit of an adjustment time that I like to call the honeymoon. During the honeymoon, the kids, parents, and nanny are all on their best behavior. It makes for some easy days and it's quite tempting to think that the new job will be a breeze.

But eventually, the honeymoon comes to an end. Generally speaking the nanny and the parents are better able to hide any grumpy feeling that pop up when they realize that the new situation is not, in truth, practically perfect in every way. But the kids? That's a different story.

I have a slight advantage in my new job. I know the kids fairly well, and have seen both Destructo Boy (1.5 years old) and Prickly Rose (4.5 years old) at their not-so-best. So I know there will be stormy days ahead, when they let their defenses down and start testing to see what might make me angry. Doesn't mean it will be an easy road, but I do have some sort of map.

If you are starting out new with older kids and find yourself without a map, just remember that all kids save their worst behavior for those they love the most. So one day, when all heck breaks loose, step back, take a deep breath, and think, "Well, at least I know they're finally comfortable with me and feel secure with me if they are acting THIS horrible!"

Then toss around some significant discipline, and take an Advil or two. And smile, because the job is just starting to get exciting.

INA membership giveaway!

In an effort to win a membership to the INA, I am reposting this entry from! Feel free to spread the word and enter to win by following the directions below!


Since returning from the INA Conference in Dallas 3 weeks ago, my good friend Alice and I have been brainstorming about how to get the message out to nannies that we can't simply sit around lamenting about the lack of respect our profession gets. We have to be actively working to improve the image of the nanny profession and one of the most important ways to do that is to be actively involved in a professional nanny organization.

We both knew and loved the late Harriette Grant. Harriette was a Co Founder of the first and longest running support group in the United States. Association of DC Area Nannies (ADCAN). She was a founding member of INA, a board member of INA and the first INA Nanny of the Year in 1990 We will be posting her story on her June 3rd Birthday and in honor of her upcoming birthday Alice and I decided we would work in conjunction to give away an INA Membership on our blogs.

Alice has 2 blogs. Her first blog is This is a blog about her adventures as a nanny, helpful tools for parents and nannies as well as other items of interest.She was also inspired by Dr. Lynne Kenney at the INA Conference to brand herself. She is launching her new blog, The Financial Nanny that is focused on helping nannies (and others) save money and invest wisely with the start of this contest.

My first blog is about nannies in transitition and how to deal with the emotions of leaving a nanny positions and other changes that happen when you stay with a family for a few years. It is called Nanny Transitions. My second blog is just for fun and it highlights my creative side as The Creative Nanny.

Starting on Friday, May 15 and running through Monday June 1, we will offer you the opportunity to win a one year INA Nanny membership (Valued at $95) If you are already an INA member we will pay your membership for the following year.

You can gain entries by doing any or all of the following.

1. Sign up to follow either blog. (Each blog counts for 1 entry so if you sign up for all 4 you will get 4 entries). Please leave a comment at each blog stating that you signed up to follow or already do.

2. Talk about this give away and post a link to our blogs on your blog, post about it to a yahoogroup, or post about it on a message board like Nannynetwork, or NannyislandTwitter it, or put it on Facebook.

Send us a copy or a link and each one will count as an entry.
Send it to (put INA Giveaway in subject)

3. In addition to that you will get double entries for posting on any of our blogs :

a. Why you want to be a member of a professional organization, or

b. What it means to you to be a member of a professional nanny group

The winner will be chosen from and announced on all four blogs on Tuesday June 2, 2009. Good luck!

For more information on the INA please visit their website, their blog, their facebook fan page or twitter.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Changing jobs, mourning losses

Two months ago I was let go from a job I had held for 4+ years due to the economy. I cared for 2 girls and had been their nanny literally since they were born. I spent a good bit of time crying, mourning a sudden and dreadful loss of daily contact with 2 kids I loved so very much. Beanie and Buttercup were no longer in my care, and I worried about them.

I didn't miss the dysfunction that had infested the job. I didn't miss the crazy. And I felt guilty because I was enjoying not being involved in the 24/7 crisis mode, and that feeling of relief was so strong it almost overwhelmed the mourning I was going through simultaneously.

I got very lucky and found a new job quickly, due to a combo of changes in a friend's job status. I started caring for a preschool girl and a toddler boy this past week. I've known both of these children through my nannyhood network since they were about 3 months old, so we're fairly familiar with each other. Hopefully that will ease the transition pangs a bit, as they get used to me and I get used to them.

It's odd to get accustomed to a new job while still actively mourning a job loss. I find myself wondering what "my girls" are doing, if they have what they need, and even thinking about what I would be doing if I were with them , instead of at my new job. I know I will like my new position, but the demands are much lighter, and the kids are generally less dependent, which leaves me at loose ends occasionally.

I also miss the girly girl atmosphere of my old job. I am sure I will eventually get more used to meeting the needs of a tomboy who loves bugs and reptiles and a toddler boy who mainly enjoys whacking things with invented weapons, but some part of me misses barbie, dress-up, and polly pockets.

In a way, being a nanny means knowingly opening your heart to eventual loss. If you love your charges, moving on is a grieving process that can't be ignored. If you are lucky, you will remain in touch with former employers and charges. There's not much that's cooler than getting to move from "nanny" to "friend" after you leave a position. I hope with all my heart that I will have the chance to be a friend to Beanie and Buttercup. I hope their parents recognize and accept that the girls have experienced a loss as well, and that the pain of that loss can be muted by maintaining a relationship.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Professional Nanny's Guide to Finding and KEEPING a Terrific Nanny

Dear Parents:

Because we love your kids, we stay with your family, through good times and bad. But sometimes, we just need to get a few things off our chests. Please note that the following comments do not apply to all of you, nor do ALL comments apply to ALL employers. This outline of mutual expectations is based partially on a recent post. You know which one, right?

--Before deciding to hire a nanny, please do your homework with regards to the average salaries in your area. Offering a wage far below what is generally seen as normal for your city will result in you interviewing glorified babysitters, who may or may not do a decent job watching your children. If you cannot afford a nanny, there are wonderful family day care providers and terrific corporate daycare services. Use them instead.

--Take into account the costs associated with paying nanny legally when you are looking at what your childcare budget needs to be. Paying off the books is illegal – set a good example for your kids and follow the rules. You don’t really want a lawbreaker taking care of your kids anyway, so refuse to hire “nannies” who are eager to work off the books.

--Offer appropriate paid time off and personal/sick days. Recognize that nanny is human, and needs to have regular vacations and days off, just as you do. Also, consider that if nanny gets sick enough to miss work, she likely caught those germs from your kids. Have a back-up care plan in place.

--Ask nanny to do reasonable household tasks that revolve around the children. The kids laundry, keeping the kitchen, play areas, and kids rooms tidy, preparing and serving nutritious meals, cleaning up messes made during the day, even grocery shopping and errand running for the children…these are all reasonable expectations that can be accomplished WHILE nanny nurtures, plays with, and educates your child. Expecting nanny to provide high-end childcare while mopping, vacuuming, or cleaning toilets is not reasonable. Hire a housekeeping service.

--Set and discuss “house rules” during the interview process. If nanny may not have friends over for playgroups, make that clear. If you must meet anyone nanny would like to invite to your home, make that clear. If you will be requiring drug testing, make that clear as well. A professional nanny wants to know the rules of your home so that she can respect them. If a nanny has any issues with your house rules, please be willing to listen to what she has to say, but then make your decision and explain your reasoning.

--Write and sign a work agreement that outlines job duties, salary, benefits, and what expectation nanny can have of raises and bonuses for a job well done.

--Set up a household account for nanny to use when shopping for or entertaining your children. Set a budget, get a check card for her use, provide a place for her to keep receipts, and review the bank statements when they come in. Do not ask nanny to pay for things out of her own pocket. Ever. Period.

--Only hire someone you trust. Check references diligently. Ask friends, neighbors, and relatives to “drop by” unexpectedly if you want to get an idea of how things go when nanny is in charge. If you absolutely must nanny cam, make that clear at the start of the interview process, so that any nanny who chooses to not work on camera can remove herself from your interview list.

--Allow nanny reasonable access to your refrigerator and pantry. If nanny chooses to eat a specialized diet, it would be nice to provide what she needs, but if that means making an extra grocery trip each week, you might offer to provide her with a small food allowance that she can use to purchase things on her own time. Be aware that most professional nannies do abide by the “Never eat the last serving!” rule, but do be sure to let nanny know if something is off limits. We won’t be insulted if you tell us the premium pasta sauce is for the dinner party you’re throwing that weekend.

--Little benefits and perks mean a lot. If you can afford to provide nanny with a cell phone, do so. Same goes for adding nanny to your family gym membership, making sure your family zoo/museum/aquarium passes include nanny, and being sure to provide safe and reliable car seats for nanny to place in whatever vehicle she uses to transport your children. IF you can provide a nanny car, that’s terrific. If not, pay nanny the IRS dictated mileage rate, and do so with a smile, knowing that nanny is using her car to take your children on exciting and educational adventures.

--Consider helping nanny pay for continuing education classes or conferences that help her learn new skills to bring to the job. Offer to pay for, and attend along with her, CPR and First Aid classes.

To keep the relationship positive and make sure your terrific nanny stays with your family, here are some tips for keeping yourselves and nanny happy.

--Do not comment on or offer advice to nanny regarding her wardrobe. If she is a true professional, she will be properly attired to work with and play with your children every day. If your “nanny” wears heels, cocktail attire, or skanky clothes that are too tight/revealing/short, that’s a tip that she is not focused on being a childcare professional.

--Do your best to avoid adding duties to nanny’s contract without her agreement and additional financial compensation. If you note nanny is stepping up to take on extra work, be sure to thank her both verbally and with the occasional thoughtful gesture, like a small gift or a day off.

--Make and keep your children your nanny’s top priority. You are paying a good salary because you want them to have that specialized individual attention.

--Provide nanny with the necessities she needs to keep a journal for you that will detail the activities, cute moments, and adorable sayings that happen each day. Ask that she take the time to update this journal daily.

--Do the best you can to maintain a livably clean work environment for nanny. The best way to make a nanny grumpy is for her to find her “office” trashed when she arrives at work on Monday morning. Yes, we know housework is something that can suck the life-force from you when you are tired or stressed. Finding a new nanny, because your nanny wrote her resignation letter in the grease on your granite countertops, can do the same thing.

--Maintain some personal boundaries with nanny, and expect she do the same with you. If you must discuss your marital issues with someone, find a therapist. If you like to watch or perform odd or unusual maneuvers with your spouse or by yourself, keep the DVDs wrapped up in the ubiquitous “brown paper”, store your grown-up toys, and delete computer histories on shared computers. It is mortifying to find details of an employer’s personal intimate preferences lying around at work.

--Keep the lines of communication open. Have weekly meetings to be sure everyone is on the same page with regard to outings, developmental issues, and phases your child is going through, and make time to discuss any issues your children are experiencing. Nanny can often offer sage advice – take advantage of her experience. Do not scream at nanny, freeze nanny out, or snipe at nanny. Treat nanny as you want your boss to treat you.

--Come to nanny when it is time for raises. Don’t make her chase you down and beg for a meeting. Be prompt, fair, and honest when giving annual reviews. If you are not able to continue raising her salary, discuss other benefits you can provide, like Health Insurance, a 401(k), or fewer hours. If nanny has not earned a raise, let her know how to improve and schedule another meeting in 3 months time.

--Expect nanny to want to discuss child related issues with you, and expect that once she has made her opinion clear she will graciously follow your lead, unless what you want will cause physical or emotional harm to your child. If she has an issue with the direction you want to take, she should either ask if you can both research the issue and then discuss it further, or suggest you discuss the problem together with an appropriate expert.

--Expect nanny to treat you and your home with respect. If you come home each and every day to a trashed home, kids watching TV, and nanny yakking on the phone, you may need to ask yourself if this person is the right one for the job.

--Expect a level of professionalism from a nanny who calls herself a professional. A true professional does not threaten, sulk, intimidate, or otherwise try to force her employers to cater to her. If you ever wonder whether nanny will take out her anger at you on your kids, FIRE HER, and start your search over.

--Respect is a two way street. Treat your nanny with respect, expect she will treat you with respect, and do not ever take a terrific relationship with your nanny for granted. In many ways, a nanny/employer relationship is like a spousal relationship. If you berate, ignore, neglect, or disrespect your spouse, they will not want to stay with you, but if you treat your spouse with kindness, express appreciation to them, and pay them positive attention, they will be with you for the long haul.