Sunday, May 22, 2011

What Nannies Want From Agencies

Communicate with us on a regular basis when we register with you! Nannies want and need agencies to keep in touch with us when we are job hunting. Send out email blasts or text blasts if you have a lot of nannies looking for jobs. Make a call and leave us a message if the number of nannies you represent is smaller. When we try to contact you, please get back to us within 24 – 48 hours. When nannies don't hear anything from an agency for weeks at a time and/or get no response to emails or calls the nanny makes to check in, we feel discouraged and annoyed. If an agency doesn't care enough about us to let us know what the status is for new jobs and our personal job search, we feel disconnected.

Prepare us for interviews with your clients. We’d like to know all there is to know about the families we are going to meet. Give us details and specifics about any issues the child(ren) are experiencing, let us know what the parents are looking for in a nanny, and we will look professional and prepared, which means the parents will see YOU in a favorable light. When we go in under-prepared, ultimately, the agency looks bad. We realize that it’s not always possible for an agency representative to meet face to face with every client family, but we still depend on you to do your due diligence.

Tell us what you understand the job description and pay scale are before we go to an interview. If we ask you a direct question, give us the exact information that you got from the client family. That way, if the family tells us something different about pay, duties, or hours, we won’t be caught off guard, and we can come back to you to ask why the information you gave us differed from what the family told us. Clear communication means less chance that a nanny will walk away from your agency feeling deceived.

Send us out for job interviews that match our needs, both stated and unstated. If we decline an interview based on the description of needs and pay that you give us, please don’t act annoyed or put out! Nannies know better than anyone how essential a good match between nanny and family is, and that means a good match in all sorts of ways. If you have a terrific nanny who you know (after meeting her and interviewing her and checking her references) is also soft spoken and extremely non-confrontational, her best match is not likely to be the loud, aggressively assertive family that says they expect nanny to always go above and beyond at all times no matter what. That match will end badly, whether it starts and stops with the interview, or evolves into a job placement, and bad matches mean that neither the nanny nor the family will call you back when they need help next time.

Keep in touch once the contract is signed and the job begins. Nannies (and families!) occasionally need support during our relationship. Agencies are often able to see things from a perspective nannies don’t have, which means a little encouragement or brainstorming if we call you for help can go a long way to preserving a match. We do understand that you can’t solve our problems for us, and chances are that we’d love a referral to someone who can coach us and help us prepare for a discussion with our employers. If we can call on you when an issue arises, we will call on you again when we are ready to search for our next position!

(This was sparked by a discussion on linkedIN about how traditional nanny agencies can compete with on-line matching sites.)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

And since I apparently blog either not at all or all at once...

I thought a wee update on M. might be in order! He's now 7 (!?!?!) months old, and he's a big healthy boy. I actually thought about using the excuse, "But I carry around a 21 lb. baby all day! I have arm fatigue!" for my reason for not posting much recently, but that seemed kind of lame.

We are getting out and about a lot these days, hitting playgrounds, local lunchtime concerts, playgroups on occasion, and spending time with K. and L., M.'s neighborhood buddies, whose nanny, S., is one of my besties.

M. is threatening to start crawling any darn day now, although I guess a purist would say he started crawling last week, when he managed to move over 4 feet to get to a bag of animal crackers tucked into Nanny S.'s tote. The boy is motivated by food. Even so, since he just started moving from back or belly to a sitting position on his own, I think we'll hold off on declaring him officially mobile. Because I am deluded.

The job overall is going wonderfully, with a baby I adore and awesome employers. I asked to leave work 1.5 hours early last week so I could go to a former charge's middle school graduation, and there was no issue at all, just a "Sure, we can do that, sounds terrific!" I am so happy to work for people who treat me well.

Nanny’s First Job, a cautionary tale of woe

Once upon a time, many many MANY moons ago, a young woman we’ll call, um…Deb, was going to school part time, baby sitting part time, and working at a major retailer part time. One day, she paused to take a breath, looked around, and said to herself, “Self, I think I am ready for a change. What can I do to make money and avoid going to school for a while?”

After looking in the newspaper want ads, (I did say this happened a long time ago, right?), Deb wiped the ink from her hands and said, “I’ll be a nanny! That sounds like fun, and I like kids, so it’ll be great!”

After answering several ads, and interviewing with a few families, Deb decided that she wanted to work for a Doctor (D) and an Executive (E), caring for their 18-month-old little boy (T). She was sure the $275 per week salary would be plenty, especially since she would only be working 50 or so hours a week, caring for a little boy who was, according to his parents, easy to amuse.

Deb reported to her first day of work full of sunshine and happiness, ready to adore her “charge” and learn all about her new employers from the nanny she was replacing, a sweet Chinese lady. Boy, did Deb learn a lot that first week! She learned that since T. was “underweight” he always had to be entertained by a floor show when he was being fed. Singing, dancing, puppet wielding, full on floor show 3 meals a day and 2 snacks as well. She also learned that T. got a bottle full of kiddie Ensure mixed with a cup of Hagen Daz vanilla ice cream when he refused to eat anything, which happened, oh, 5 times a day.

And Deb learned that E. was pregnant and actually lived in another city, working for a semi-shady fellow who wanted to open a casino. And Deb learned that D. not only prescribed antibiotics for his own kid at the drop of a hat, but that he also worked 12 – 24 hour shifts 5 days a week. No matter how Deb tried, she couldn’t make the math work out to her actually working 50 hours when D. was at work 70 – 80 hours and E was in a different city.

However, T. was cute, and he didn’t seem to actually need that mealtime show to eat once Deb stopped stuffing him with ice cream and Ensure. The fact that they couldn’t leave the property of the condo where Deb worked except to walk on a sidewalk-free road to a duck pond ½ mile away wasn’t so bad. Really, it wasn’t. At all.

Then, pregnant E. came home about 6 weeks after Deb started, and cried sad tears about how she missed her baby, and Deb agreed to go and live with E. and T. in a “suite at a grand hotel” owned by (semi-shady) boss of E.

Any guesses as to how grand that “suite” was? Here’s a hint. It was 3 connected rooms in a “hotel” on the level of a low-end Hyatt.

So, after getting lectured for ordering room service on her first night in the “suite” after traveling all day with disengaged E. and T. to get to the completely new, and ever so slightly dangerous, city where Deb knew only her employer, Deb figured out how to find a grocery store, wrested occasional control of the rental car from E. after promising she would deliver E. to work at 7 am each morning that E. didn’t need the car, and Deb set out to find fun things to do with T. other than hang out at the low-end Hyatt all day.

Sadly, many playgrounds in the main area of town were “not for our kind of people”, and the days began to drag. Toddler was bored, so E. put him in school. T. and Deb went with E. to see E.’s offices, and Deb realized that E. was trying (rather hilariously) to hide her very obvious pregnancy from her boss.

And then Deb realized, after opening the door to the “living room” one weekend day, that E. was a pig-like slob. Which meant that food left where it was dumped tended to bring ants into the “suite”. Deb also realized that if she was around at all on weekends, she would be told to work in the hellish pit of slop created by E. because E. was “tired and needed a break”. Luckily, there was a mall and a movie theater within walking distance of the low-end Hyatt, and the drivers who took tourists into the city proper always asked Deb Friday and Saturday nights if she was escaping the next day.

Eventually, D. came into town so he and E. could go house hunting. Of course, it was essential that Deb and T. come house hunting too, because that was a terrific day long activity for a 20-month-old on a weekend. Then, it was decided that D., E., and T. would go home for a long holiday weekend, and that Deb would be thrilled to NOT go home.

After some soul searching, and some discussions with her parents, Deb decided she needed to find out when there would be a house to live in, whether D. and E. had actually been paying taxes, and, generally, how much longer her 50 hour work weeks would actually be 75 hour work weeks. When Deb asked E. those questions, she was told that no house was going to be bought, because it “made more sense” to stay in the low-end Hyatt with a 22-month-old and a newborn, that of course no taxes were being paid, and that Deb should have known that her hours would get longer when baby arrived.

So Deb gathered her courage around her like a cloak, and said the magic words, “I am going to give notice as of now, since this situation is not going to get any better.” In exchange for that statement, Deb got to work 2 weeks with E. doing her best imitation of an icicle, a ticket home on a 5:30 am flight, and much huffing and puffing about “ungrateful people”.

Deb made her escape after 4 months of 70+ hour weeks, happy to have survived, and sure that she would go back to work in retail. Deb also got scary papers from the IRS a month later, and got to explain that D. and E. were a bit confused, since Deb was not the employer at all, and Deb was sad that D. and E. hadn’t been paying the taxes they had to pay. That was pretty fun, actually.

Then, Deb discovered that there were actual Nanny Agencies, and that the Nanny Agencies placed nannies with families who understood the concept of a 50 hour work week, and paying taxes, and all sorts of stuff that made it much more fun to be a Nanny. And Deb found a job through a Nanny Agency, and stayed there for 4 years. And then she found another job, through another Nanny Agency, and stayed there 7 years. And so on, and so on…

Deb realized that life as a nanny was pretty terrific when one knew a little about how the nanny world worked, and she also realized that almost every nanny she met had a scary story about her First Nanny Job. And Deb lived (mainly, overall) happily ever after.