What Makes a Straight-A Nanny Stand Out?

opinion 1
Hello there, I don't know if this is a submission and really, I'm asking whoever is available to answer. If it is a submission, I hope I can post as anonymous.

I'm a nineteen year old about to embark on professional nanny school next year. I have to say that I am a follower of your blog and have been for quite awhile. After seeing so many bad nanny posts and really enjoying reading other nannies advice, I have yet to feel alone or unsure of my future. I now know how not to be and what to ask for and expect. Thank you for that.

I do have one question though. In your opinion, what makes a fantastic straight -A nanny? What will make me different and stand out away from all the BAD nannies we see on your blog?


nycmom said...

I'm sure it is different for every employer, but I can share the common characteristics I have loved (and hated) in various caregivers. I'm going to leave out the basics like being on time, responsible etc. Those are easy to find.

What makes a nanny stand out:

-The ability to read and bond with my kids. I know this sounds basic, but it is not. It is actually quite rare. I have 3 kids with 3 very different personalities and levels of difficulty. The best caregivers have known how/when to approach them, form the bond slowly, and when to step back.

-Don't be a doormat. On the flipside of above, don't let my kids take advantage. Set rules, enforce them. Communicate with me. I will always back you up. But if you don't make it clear who is boss from day one, you don't have a chance.

-A strong work ethic. If there is downtime, apart from a reasonable break we all need, finding something helpful and productive to do.

-Initiative. If the kids are being lazy and just want TV, finding a creative way to make another activity enticing. Learning our household and anticipating needs. For example, if your job includes daily outdoor trips, finding new and interesting places. Making playdates. Buying a needed item without having to be asked.

-Flexibility. A nanny job evolves, kids grow older, family needs change. If your goal is a long tenure with one family, be willing to grow with them. Yes, it might mean more personal errands or household stuff with commensurate reduction of childcare hours. If you simply don't want to do those things, that is absolutely your right and I respect that. But I won't be able to employ you for many years, though I will still give you a good reference : )

Things that have led to no longer employing a caregiver (again besides lateness, missed days, disengagement):

-Laziness. Just not doing the job well. You show up, you check the boxes, but you never go above and beyond. You accept kids' excuses and use them as your own.

-Greed. We agreed on everything up front. I have adhered to it diligently. Please don't hit me up for more money or perks before the agreed upon review date. If it happens once, I have learned it will keep happening.

-Stay off the phone. No really. Use it for emergencies. Make appointments if you need to. But don't spend 1-2 hours on a personal call. Don't pull out the phone to text every few minutes.

-Not bonding with the kids. This takes time. I give it time, but sometimes personalities just don't mesh. Two of my kids are hard. I know that. I won't fault you if you can't/don't want to deal with them long-term, but obviously it means the job won't work out.

nycmom said...

I'm going to add a little example simply because it was so incredibly rare and unusual. We recently took a family vacation. As my kids are a bit older, we now use agencies at the destination instead of our nanny traveling with us. The sitters are usually fine. Not bad, not great. Fine. But we had one recently who was absolutely amazing. Like jaw-dropping. Now, I'm not sure if she would be able to translate her amazingness to a ft nanny job, but as a sitter she was truly the best I have ever had. She arrived with several games, bubbles and age appropriate books for the kids. She took a moment to tell me how much she loves her job, ask if I had any rules, and say hello to the kids. Her cell phone range. She apologized profusely, checked the number, said it was probably her boss about a job for another day, but of course she would never return non-emergent calls while working. She then proceeded to actually use the items she had brought! She had my kids blowing bubbles for an hour. She took them on a night walk, after asking permission, with flashlights. She engaged my oldest daughter in a long and appropriate conversation. My 4yo is clingy and has a reasonably difficult time with new sitters. Not this one. We usually hang out in an adjacent room for 1-2 hours with anyone new before going to dinner. He never came over once which has never, ever happened before. I know this doesn't sound so amazing to just read. But her demeanor, initiative, energy, kindness, professionalism and ability to read each child were the best I have seen in 12 years. She is in school to be a teacher. Some future kids are going to be very, very lucky!

MissMannah said...

Nycmom, that was a great answer for what makes a great nanny after she's hired, but can you give us some pointers of what you look for in the initial nanny interview? What really wows you enough to schedule a second interview? I am really interested in getting a parent's perspective on this.

Beezus said...

Going to just say something for any parents out there reading, I can't tell you how important and helpful it is to leave your nanny with some spending cash. It is not the nannies responsibility to fund your babies fun times. I think that some parents often over look that. Just $20 over a week in the summer goes a long way!

Truth Seeker said...

I would say most of it depends on chemistry between parents, children and the Nanny. If the chemistry is right, then that takes precedence over most other things. ☺

nycmom said...

Miss Mannah,

That is a good question, but actualy a hard one to answer. I look at the initial interview primarily as a screening process to weed out nannies who won't work. I look for someone I like as a person (not a buddy or friend, just a decent, normal interaction) and who feels the basic job requirements (salary, hours, flexibility) are a good fit. I am also quite direct about what can be challenging with my kids so the nanny is aware this is not a simple job. I actually don't care if she interacts with my kids at the first inteview, and often if a nanny does it feels forced and awkward for everyone. I then check references diligently and ask very direct questions.

Next, assuming 2-3 potential candidates, I do a working interview/trial. This is the most important part. Here I look for the ability to handle my kids well, initiative, work ethic and being proactive. Even though I know a nanny could not possibly know small details (where does this toy go?), I look for those who make an effort or ask. My kids are also old enough to give me clear feedback on a nanny's cell phone usage when I am not present and their general personality. I have had a couple of nannies who it became clear during the working trial would not be a good fit. I have not yet had someone be amazing during the trial and not work out long term, though of course that is always possible.

So, in summary, the first interview is the time for both parties to be very direct about their basic needs IMO. No point pushing a situation where I need someone who can stay until 9:00pm twice a week, and you know it will be extremely tough for you. No point in a nanny trying to make it work for a family who is offering a salary she knows she simply won't accept. Frankly, a lot is luck too. You can only interview nannies looking for work at the same time as you need a nanny! There usually aren't that many great fit situations with mutual availability.

My current new nanny, whom I am growing to really like more every week, I had some real doubts about at first. Partly because she had such big shoes to fill after my last nanny, I'm sure. Wages out here are SO much higher than NYC and she asked more than most. She has a young child and not much backup support so I wasn't sure about her ability to be flexible. She is also kind and sensitive, and with older kids, esp my oldest, I was worried she would not be able to handle preteen sullenness. But she has grown, adapted, and impressed me a lot. She has gained more confidence and initiative. I am hopeful it works out in the long-term!

MissMannah said...

Thank you for such a thorough answer--I am always intrigued by the parents' POV. I appreciate that you are direct about your needs in the initial interview, I have come across some families who will not discuss salary until after the working interview, which quite frankly I feel is a waste of my time.

oldfashionedmommy said...

Kindness, intelligence, sense of humor, imagination, energy, confidence, playfulness. Same philosophy regarding who makes decisions (adult or child) and how rules are implemented. A strong belief in teaching good manners and respect - towards adults, parents, caregivers, peers - and how that translates to self respect.
I'm sure everyone has their own specifics, but those are my priorities. I have looked for the same qualities in a caregiver and equally, when working as a caregiver, in the parents I liked working for.