I want to start by saying that, no, this is not a sponsored post. I wanted to write this piece for any parents or caretakers who need child care and find themselves either out of options or are afraid to use the Internet to get help. I was totally there myself a few months ago and want to share my story of what we did to find our new nanny that we absolutely love....
Finding quality, reliable child care is so much more difficult than I ever imagined. I know for many families there are several factors at play -- location, cost, reliability for starters -- that make it pretty stressful at best, or even impossible at worst. The stakes are never higher than when you're talking about your kids so we want the absolute best, safest option for them, while at the same time keeping our resources in mind.
Since Harlow was born we've had three nannies, all named Katie coincidentally ha! The first two I found through friends which meant I got the gold medal, first-hand recommendation. Sadly for us but happily for them, our first nanny went away to get her master's in Montessori education and our second nanny gave birth to her first child! So we found ourselves back at the drawing board and fresh out of friend/family nanny hook-ups.
Which brought me to Care.com. I'd seen it advertised and my first nanny (whom I adored) said she used to be on it while living in Texas. But I still felt so nervous using the Internet to find someone to care for my daughter. I am a world-class worrier, someone who thinks up the most unlikely scenario and frets over it. So yeah, going online to hire a nanny freaked me out but I was also getting deeper in the weeds with my work and other responsibilities without any child care at all. This was late spring so day cares were closing up for the summer; Harlow was already enrolled in actual day care but that doesn't start until the fall. Faced with no other option as far as I could see, I made Mike sit down with me and together we started researching nannies on Care.com.
Tip #1: Create and post a job listing. Don't just do a search for caregivers in your area. We tried this initially, and I even messaged a few I liked by checking out their profiles. That got me nowhere fast, and some didn't even message me back. In fact, I felt like sometimes they were more skeptical of me than I was of them, which just rubbed me the wrong way.
Then I saw I could create a job listing that allowed me to pretty thoroughly describe the type of person I was looking for and the particulars of the position, like how many days or hours a week, which side of town we live on, etc. Once I posted it, I got over 40 responses within a week! It was a lot to go through, but A) it made me feel confident I would find several contenders to interview, and B) I could pretty quickly weed out the ones I knew weren't a good fit based off their responses. Like a few didn't even include a greeting and just said "this is how much I charge, I'm pretty busy, but maybe I can make an exception for you." Pffffftttt thanks but no thanks.
The ones you do like you can mark as "Maybes" so you can quickly reference back to the real contenders. I found this very helpful as my number of responses grew!
Also, each responding caregiver's message shows up like a new email in your job posting inbox. It's easy to see which messages you haven't read, the ones you've replied to, and then go back and read your messaging history. Trust me, this is really nice when your mom brain farts out and you can't remember the details of who's who. We were doing this after Harlow went to bed at night and my brain power is usually running on E by that time!
Tip #2: Set up your interviews. We narrowed down our list to our three favorites and started setting up interviews. Ideally I would've done them over the weekend so Mike could be present but our schedules didn't allow that so I moved forward on my own. Here's what I would recommend:
Meet in a public place like a coffee shop or playground. Clearly you want to meet in a public place the first time -- don't go inviting a pure stranger into your house! Decide on somewhere near your house or wherever it is they'll be caring for your kid so that they're aware of what the drive/commute is like. Bring your kid so that they have a chance to meet; this lets you gauge their personality and manner of being around children. You definitely don't have to do this but I'm glad I did because it allowed me to judge the vibe between them and then with me, too. Which is SO important: you want someone YOU feel like you can talk to openly and honestly.
Prepare a list of questions, and prepare to answer some yourself. This one made me nervous because I was afraid I'd miss something important. Thankfully Care.com has an awesome checklist of things to talk to a caregiver about during your interview. I used many of the questions/talking points they provided and they were very useful. Obviously most of the Q&A will start with you (the parent) but they're going to have some questions for you, too. The hardest of which is "what is your parenting style?" That's not an easy thing to articulate. A few things I'd suggest thinking about beforehand...
Do you use the word "no" with your child?
How would you want another person to discipline your child?
Are you comfortable with letting your caregiver drive your child to playgrounds, Mother Goose readings, etc?
What are activities you want to see your caregiver engage in with your kid?
How much (if any) TV time is allowed in your house?
Do you have pets and do you want the caregiver to pay them any attention? (Be sure the candidate is comfortable being in your home with pets and the particular types/breeds you have.)
What do you want the nanny to do when your child is asleep?
This one is SUPER DUPER important! Establishing this expectation upfront is not only a key part in determining your caregiver's hourly rate, but also crucial to preventing them from sitting on your couch idly scrolling through their phone when they could be helping you with other tasks tangential to caring for your children.
Understand this is their job. Meaning, just because you only need a few hours a week doesn't mean that's a good fit for them. While some people nanny to augment their income or to bridge between jobs or school semesters, many others do it full-time and want to be employed as such. Be clear about the hours you need and what you can pay. I walked them through what I was looking for: how I wanted them to care for Harlow, plus some other things I need help with around the house while Harlow naps. Once I outlined the job description in full, I let them tell me what rate they felt was fair for them. None of them gave me a flat figure and said "take it or leave it." They were usually open to discussion, or offered a range. However, you have to be fair about what you pay and clear about what you're asking for.
Tip #3: Ask for and check references! Guys and gals, this is a biggie. When you ask for references, they know right away that you mean business and you're thorough. Specify what kinds of references you want, such as those from other families they've cared for instead of the last office job they had. You may want that one, too, but personally I wanted another parent to tell me if they'd recommend the candidate or not, and why.
Make your phone calls relatively soon after you receive their information. Think about how busy people are, and how unlikely they are to answer a call from a number they don't know, or even check a voicemail. Be prepared to wait a day or two to hear back.
You will probably find out something that will heavily influence your decision either way. Both of the moms I talked to in reference to my current nanny said quote "we are jealous of you because we miss her and our kids do, too." They lived in different cities and had different numbers and ages of children, yet both were effusive in their praise of Katie. I already had a good feeling about her and they confirmed it in spades. Husbands/wives/partners who can't be part of the process for one reason or another also find extra comfort and confidence in hearing multiple people echo your opinion on how good a caregiver your top pick is.
Tip #4: Make your decision and notify the other candidates. I took a weekend to mull over the three candidates I interviewed. Ultimately I chose the one I liked most because of her experience, personality, flexibility, and references. And what's so funny is, the one I hired was the one I liked the most from the very first day I started receiving messages. There was just something so professional and courteous in her tone, and she was very forthcoming with her resumé and willingness to get extra certifications if need be. That signaled to me that she is very dedicated to caregiving and confident in her skill set.
While I was thrilled to hire Katie, I was less thrilled about telling the other women I had chosen someone else. They were lovely, and one in particular was so sweet I could've just sat and talked with her in the coffee shop for hours! Though I hate writing these types of things, here's what I recommend including in your message to the caregivers you decide not to hire:
Thank them for meeting with you.
Reiterate that your process included meeting several candidates and you've decided one was a better fit for your current needs.
Specify why if you want, but don't feel you must.
Tell them you'd refer them to anyone you know looking for child care IF you truly mean it! (I know it sounds weird that you'd tell someone to hire the person you didn't choose, but different families look for different qualities in nannies.)
Ask if they'd be interested in staying on your call list for babysitters.
Finally, remember to close your job posting on the website. I went the extra step of telling every single person who responded "thank you for your interest, but the position has been filled," even if I never interviewed them. To me, that shows a thoughtfulness people rarely show these days. You never know if one of the applicants is really excited over the potential of your job and is waiting to hear back. Provide closure where you need to and then enjoy all the experience you gained through the process! And celebrate the fact that you found a new nanny!
I can't tell you how much we love our nanny, Katie! Harlow loves her, and she is always taking Harlow to do fun activities like go see the ducks at the lake, play at local playgrounds, go to story time, or just set up games in the yard. She's been with Harlow a couple times when Harlow took a spill; she texted me immediately to let me know what had happened, what she was doing to make it better, and how Harlow was handling it. Parents need that kind of communication to feel like their children are in safe, capable hands!
For someone who was skittish about using Care.com, I'm so happy I did because it brought Katie into our lives and I hope we get to call her our nanny and friend for a long time! Hopefully this will help you if you're on the fence about using Care.com's website to find child care, or if you're looking for some insight on how to look for and hire a nanny.
Thanks for reading along and for visiting the blog today! Hope you have an awesome weekend! 💜 Brooke