How To Go About Hiring A Nanny
Heading back to office after your maternity leave or a WFH stint? Here’s some practical advice to help you choose the right person to care for your little one in your absence
By Aruna Raghuram • 8 min read
Which couple would not wish for a dedicated nanny who would care for their child like her own? With double-income nuclear households increasingly becoming the norm in urban India, new parents are looking for support from efficient, reliable nannies while they juggle careers and parenthood. Especially now, with offices opening up, and the work from home situation caused by COVID-19 slowly phasing out, hiring a nanny is on the minds of many parents.
Hiring a nanny means your baby will get individual attention and will be cared for in the security of your home. Nannies are likely to be more flexible than creches. However, nannies are expensive and may not be reliable in terms of punctuality and regularity. It is not easy to find someone who is well-trained and trustworthy. The trust element is vital, as you will be leaving the nanny unsupervised at home.
Live-in or not?
The first decision you need to take is whether you want a live-in nanny or someone who comes for a fixed number of hours a day. If you opt for a live-in nanny, will you be able to provide a separate room for her and thus ensure that you do not have to sacrifice your privacy? If you choose to hire a part-time nanny, how far away from your home does this person live and how she will commute to work are important considerations. If the commute is hard for her, she may not be able to be as punctual as you desire. Also, the conveyance allowance may add up to a large amount. With the current COVID-19 situation, safety concerns regarding her daily commute will also have to be taken into account.
It is important to give yourself at least two or three months to look for a nanny before you plan to get back to work. This way, you won’t get desperate, compromise on your expectations, and hire the wrong person. Hiring a nanny well before you return to work will also help your baby get used to her, and the nanny to get familiar with the baby’s rhythms and routine.
Talk to people you know who have hired a nanny and find out about their experiences, the arrangements that need to be made in advance, and mistakes to avoid. Do an online search for agencies that provide nannies in your city. Find out which agencies are reliable, either by going through reviews or talking to people who have used them.
THE HIRING PROCESS
- Write down the job description: It is better to be clear about the tasks you would like the nanny to undertake before you interview her. Would you like her to be involved only in childcare, or do you want her to do the baby’s laundry as well as some light housekeeping, cooking and occasional grocery shopping?
- Pen down your expectations: It is a good idea to write down your expectations.
- Age: You may prefer a nanny who is a mother herself, or an older person, who knows how to care for a baby. A young girl may not know some basic things that may come naturally to an older caregiver.
- Experience: What is the level of experience you are looking for? Make sure the nanny has had experience looking after an infant. Are you particular about the education level?
- Flexibility: What is the degree of flexibility you are looking for? If your hours of work are irregular, you may require her to be flexible about staying late or coming to work earlier on some days.
- Special skills: Would you like her to have other special skills, like cooking, driving a car, or knowing a certain language? For instance, if you belong to Karnataka, you may want your nanny to speak to your baby in Kannada so that he becomes familiar with his mother tongue.
- Personality: A cheerful, positive personality is a must. A nanny who is grumpy and keeps complaining is not good for your baby. An amiable nature and being able to handle criticism well are desirable qualities. So are good time management skills and efficiency. Laziness is a deal breaker.
- Attitude to discipline: It is important to find out how she will deal with a wailing baby or one who refuses to eat. You don’t want a nanny who gets impatient and yells at your baby in frustration, or one who feels it is okay to spank her occasionally for ‘misbehaviour’.
- Nurturing qualities: It’s a given that your nanny must enjoy being with children and have nurturing abilities. Patience, gentleness, and a warm nature are very important attributes to look for. To gauge these qualities, you will have to observe how she handles your baby for a length of time during the trial period.
Apart from qualities that are an absolute must, put down some which you would like the nanny to have, such as a love for music and the ability to sing to your baby. A sense of fun will be a bonus.
Be realistic. If you are imagining a Mary Poppins with the magical powers to soothe every tantrum and transform your somewhat chaotic home life into perfect order, it is time to tone down your expectations.
- Interview process: Using referrals from friends and family members or going through an agency, you may have shortlisted half-a-dozen applicants based on age, education, experience, salary expected, where they stay, and other relevant factors. Next, you need to call the candidates for a face-to-face interview. Write down a list of questions you would like to ask the candidates. Some important questions are:
- Does she have any health problems?
- Does she have children of her own? If so, who will care for them when she is away at work?
- What are her future plans? Tell her you need at least a one-year commitment.
- Why did she leave her last job?
- Has she cared for a baby before?
- How about her family commitments – husband, boyfriend?
- Does she use tobacco and/or alcohol?
- Is she comfortable feeding your baby milk you have pumped before going to work?
It is important to keep the lines of communication open so that your nanny candidate feels comfortable to discuss any issue with you.
- Checking references: Call every prior employer and find out why she left their employment, her strengths and weaknesses, and any other important details. If she has worked only for short periods with many families, it is a red flag.
- Police verification: This is a vital step. Insist that she brings a police clearance certificate. Ensure that you have her photo as well as valid identification (such as copies of her Aadhaar or ration card), apart from her mobile number and residential address.
- Terms of agreement: These would include:
- Salary (ask around to find out what is an acceptable amount). Consider if this would include conveyance and medical expenses
- Normal working hours (this would also apply to a live-in nanny). Consider if these include attending to the baby if he wakes at night
- Weekly off (say, every Sunday off or a half-day off). Consider if you will be able to give her a full day or half-day off on festivals and public holidays
- Paid vacation (this may vary from a fortnight to a month in a year). Consider if you would pay for her return fare
- Specify the childcare tasks she is expected to do
- Name any additional duties you would like her to take up
Like most relationships, there is a great deal of adjustment needed in a mother-nanny relationship. If you, as a parent, find that you do not have to compromise on any of the important things, you may just have made the right choice!
Your Action Plan
- You may feel sad or guilty about going to work leaving your baby in someone else’s care. Sort out your feelings and don’t let them interfere with your assessment of the nanny.
- You may wish to install CCTV cameras at home (with her knowledge) during the trial period and after that too, so that you can observe your baby and the nanny when you are out of the house.
About the author:
Written by Aruna Raghuram on 22 August 2021.
Aruna Raghuram is a journalist and has worked with various newspapers, writing and editing, for two decades. She has also worked for six years with a consumer rights NGO. At the time of writing this article, she was a consultant with ParentCircle.
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