More Finding a Nanny Advice for the New Parent

A friend of mine had her first baby this week! YAY!! And before she went to the hospital, she took me up on my last few nanny blog posts to ask me more detailed and specific questions. So, I thought I’d take this time and space to answer them for her and anyone else looking.

What sort of questions should I ask a potential nanny?

First I’d suggest you and your spouse/partner/what-have-you come up with what you’d like a care provider to be. What attributes you value, what essentials you’d require and then tailor your questions to gather that information.

For example:

How much experience do you have?

Some people want the nanny to have a lot of experience, especially first time parents who might already feel overwhelmed and out of their element. Others don’t want to be ‘schooled’ by their nanny so they’d want someone with as little–or perhaps a tiny bit more–experiences as them.

What’s your personality type?

Believe me, you’re going to want to find a nanny who has a personality, but you’ll also want to find one that has one that will match your family’s to some extent, or maybe you’ll want the opposite personality type. Maybe you tend to be socially awkward and keep to yourself and maybe you’d want to find someone who can field those play dates and trips to the park for you. Or maybe the idea of having a bubbly, cheery nanny feels you with dread.

Since you’re interviewing them and they’ll probably be a tiny bit nervous, their personality might not shine through, coming out and asking them will give you both a starting point to see how compatible you are. This question more than any other is a question I wish I would have been asked when I was looking for nanny jobs. It would have saved me a lot of grief there in the beginning.

What is your childcare philosophy?

You want to know what they see their role as, how they go about achieving that and how they deal with disciplinary issues. Here you want to find someone who is absolutely compatible as possible, or someone like me–easily adaptable.

This also might be a good time to run a few scenerios past them and see what they would do in that situation. It could be as basic– you’re taking the child on an outing to the park, what would you pack to bring with you? To more worse-case-type things– You smell smoke in the building, what do you do? Or anything else you’d think would gauge how prepared and thinks-on-their-feet they are.

Outside of childcare, what is important to you?

You want to know where their passion lies. This is a good time to bring up things that are important to you as well. This is also a good place to find out about their beliefs–religious, political what have you–and share yours. Like everything else, you don’t have to find someone who thinks exactly like you do, but it would be a good idea to see just how their beliefs will influence how they look after your child. How willing they would be to help you raise the child with your beliefs administered–or at least honored–as much as possible.

What sort of paperwork do I need to do for tax purposes?

I could go on and on, but really, all the information I could give you can be found here at’s Nanny Tax 101 and also, they can help you by DOING IT ALL FOR YOU! I cannot offer the same. I barely understand it myself.

What are some red (or green!) flags that might turn up in a nanny’s bio or posting?

Oh, man, I wish I could help you out with this. I just don’t spend any time looking at what nannies say when they’re looking for jobs. The only real advice I have here is to listen to your intuition. If there is something that doesn’t sound right, rings as untrue or insincere, then pay attention to that and act accordingly.

What does a nanny need from me to make her/his job easier?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. RESPECT. There are a lot of things that apply to nannies that don’t apply to any other career. Nannies need to be treated as professionals and also as a valued member of the family. Their benefits should be less the 401k and stock options and more the being included in family dinners and invited on vacation with the family (AND getting at least a little bit of that time to do their own thing). Of course those are just examples, you don’t HAVE to and some nannies maybe wouldn’t want to anyway. Basically, value them.

Communication is key. A nanny who isn’t afraid to come to you you with concerns or with questions, will be a much better employee and advocate for your child. Telling a nanny exactly what you want and letting them know when they are not doing it is incredibly helpful. Telling them when they are doing good or that you appreciate them is also super nice.

Also, and this is pretty funny when it happens, remember with toddlers, they tattle not just on their siblings and their nanny, they also will tell your nanny EXACTLY what you think of them. So, if you need to complain about your nanny (and we get it, it happens, we all need a place or person to vent things) PLEASE make sure your toddler is not hearing it as well. I mean it’s cute, but it’s can also be a bit of a what I was saying about respect. If you want your child to listen to your nanny’s instruction and respect them, than you have to too.

Is there anything I can do to combat feeling like I’m going to turn into Betty Draper if I hire someone else to look after my kids, because logic doesn’t seem to be cutting it?

Oh man, this is a tough one. Obviously I’m a big fan of working moms. They’re awesome!

But seriously, I see this less and less now, this guilt woman are supposed to feel for working, for finding stimulation outside of the home as well as in it. A lot of this is due to a changing mindset (finally) about a parent’s job and how you can still raise upstanding members of society AND make enough money to feed and cloth them and whatnot. Mostly though, this has become less and less of an issue because it’s just the reality we live in now. It’s not a choice for a lot of parents; they both NEED to work.  Even if they could take a year or two off to be there for all the milestones and diaper changes, they will have to worry about what sort of job will be waiting for them when they return, how many changes and advances in their field will they have missed?

One family I worked with rationalized it to me this way: We chose to live in a place, to have a lifestyle for our family that requires both of us to work.

I liked that. It was honest and made sense to me. So, I’d suggest, at least once a week, you hold your baby to you, you walk them around your house, go to the windows of your home and show them the world outside and tell them (and yourself):

We chose for you to live in the best city in the world, where diversity and humanity seeps out of every door and is celebrated in every street. We chose to live in a city where art is revered, from the hundreds of museums and galleries, to the graffiti and performances on the street, where music is praised from the orchestra in the theater to the performers in the subways, where everyday is an experience to be lived, explored and adventured.  We chose to live in a city where people keep to themselves and minds their own business and expects you to do the same, but when tragedy strikes, when our city is hurt and the people of it in danger, we come together as a whole, as a family and we raise each other up. We bring out the best in each other because we all know, living here is a choice and none of us would choose to live anywhere else.

But, that choice isn’t free. It costs. It costs us our sweat, a bit of our patience and a lot of our time. But look out there, look at all we get in return. Look at the world we’re giving you. Tell me that’s not worth it.

Or something like that. Obviously that was a bit of place specific (love you NYC!) but there are other reasons, reasons personal to you and your family to why you need to, want to work. Own the reasons. Value them. Teach your children to value them too.



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