Calling Chicago

I have a long standing career (14 years) in early childhood education working with infants-school age children and their families, along with a year of nanny experience. During this time, I have worked with a variety of children and their families, from the low-income mother struggling to pay the bills to the upper class (not wealthy) family. No matter the income and education level of the family, or where they lived, one thing is the same: families want quality care while being affordable for their family's needs and budget. After a struggle to find work as a nanny here in my college town (it appears to me that parents only want to hire inexperienced college students to be nannies, and let's face it, the less experience one has as a nanny or early childhood educator the less they are looking for in pay) I have decided to make a drastic change: I plan to move to Chicago after graduation in May of 2013. I have family in the west burbs, and believe there is more to do (Art Institute, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Joeffrey Ballet, etc) as an adult and for children in Chicagoland. From what I have read here on ISYN, it is my understanding that the nanny market is pretty tight right now due to the economy, making jobs in the area scarce. The traffic is nuts, the city is huge, and I feel that if I want to nanny, the place to do it is there, as the city is bigger and I will have more options to choose from.

That being said, what is the nanny market like in Chicago? Is it competitive? Here I compete with people half my age and a fourth of my experience for nanny jobs. It's rather funny, because most of the "qualifications" for nanny jobs here are experience with children, own transportation, and a nonsmoker. I am qualified, however, apparently I must not be for some reason. lol Anyway, I was in Chicago this past weekend and am excited to start a new chapter in my career, even though it's a year away. I happened to watch "Beverly Hills Nannies" last night, and it got me to thinking about families and what they look for in nannies in Chicagoland. Do I need to be cute and look like the mom would hang out with me, with the right labels and know the right people? I am a jeans and tee shirt kinda gal for the most part. I don't own any designer labels. Is physical fitness important in the nanny market to be hired by a family in Chicago? I am very engergetic, however, I am overweight and trying to get back into shape. I am careful in what I eat, yet I don't exercise like I should. Does my weight and figure matter to prospective families? Lastly what agencies should I avoid? I have a list of ones that I felt weren't too friendly, based on the reviews and website (Cambridge Nanny Group comes to mind.) Any really good ones that can place a 40 year old nanny with an associate degree and 15 year career in early childhood education? Secondly, would $20-30/hr be too much to ask for, given my age, experience, and education? Thanks for your help! - Anonymous


I need a break said...

Sorry if this double posts as I'm having trouble with my phone. I too work outside the Chicago area and have done so for the past 22 years. I find the job market to be very competitive at the moment. I just found a job after looking for about eight months. I did hold out for a family willing to pay taxes, which seems hard to find.
Like you I have years of experience, I drive and all my references are local. That being said I think your salary expectations are a little high. I currently gross $16 per hour, I watch one child with her laundry being my only responsibility.
I have never used any agencies do I can't help you in that department. Good luck with your nanny search and your move to Chicago.

knittynanny said...

First of all, that show is FAKE.

As someone who has grown up in Chicago and been a nanny here for five years, believe me when I tell you that appearance means very little here. Families tend to be very cheap here, and dont want to pay on the books.

My MB told me that 80 people applied for my job. So there is a lot of competition.

If you want a somewhat decent paying job, stick with listings in Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast. Those are the only places that seem to offer liveable wages.

Also, 2/3 of the families I have worked for don't seem to understand the difference between a nanny and a nanny/housekeeper. They try to trick you into doing more work for the same amount if money, so be very careful about being taken advantage of.

I'm sure there is more I will think of later, but that's all I've got for now.

P.s. I don't want to sounds pessimistic, but you will probably get paid half if what you're thinking of asking.

Chicagonanny said...

I agree with pp's. Most families will start at $12-$15 for one child, $16 for two. A lot of them don't pay on the books. I found my job immediately, but I've had a lot of friends that have struggled to find a good fit or another candidate was chosen.

I wear workout clothes to work everyday, and would laugh if someone asked me to dress up.

As far as agencies, a lot of them are absolutely worthless and unprofessional. Check out Alter Ego Concierge. I found my family through them and they are amazing. Incredibly professional and thorough. Tell them you heard about them from Jen!:)

Penny said...

OP it sounds like you have a lot to look forward to & Chicago is a great city to relocate to.

Okay down to business. I have lived here for 12 years and have been a nanny here for the entire duration I have lived here. I have worked for one family, part time for two families and have done nanny shares. As a seasoned pro in The Windy City, I would recommend working for only one family if you can help it. In my experience nanny shares here are a dirty underground system. First off you will get scammed on either pay, hours, or vacations. Plus I find that the families will get jealous if you do certain things for one family than the other & get stupid about pay. It's not worth the headache honestly.

Like knittynanny said looks here are not even an issue. I look like I have given up 5 days a week simply because I feel how I look is the least of my concerns during the day. Plus once you have been puked on Linda Blair style you too would rather wer crappy gym clothes than can handle a good poop or puke stain.The nanny job market here is very competitive and petty. I have friends that are teachers who were laid off who also have nanny experience that can't find work and have a hard time finding a job here with decent pay. I have also noticed the extremely low wages too. People here want high quality private in home child care for $5-$8 an hour, 10+hrs a week 5 days a week under the table, no benefits, no mileage reimbursement or car insurance & in many cases for multiple children. People here want the perfect nanny but pay her less than minimum wage & have zero responsibilities as employers. I have also noticed a big influx of WAHM & WAHD that want a full time nanny which I refuse to work for WAHP simply because it upsets the balance & routine (parents pop in & out all day long, make passive comments about how you do things, retrict daily activities, etc,) that can complicate the day to day job & lead to burn out. Plus more & more people want a nanny, housekeeper, personal assistant all rolled into one package. I don't find that the neighborhood you work in matters finically it's more the mentality you have to watch out for. Lincoln Park, Downtown area people tend to be real nit picky & can a pain. Not all but most. If you find a job here state you want to work only for one family ($15-$20 hr/salary for a nanny with good experience,) work out a contract stating salary, hours, duties, car use, rules, etc. Good luck OP, it's a jungle out there!

Miss That Windy City said...

Hi there, I left a wonderful position in Chicago (Andersonville)one year ago because I had to return to the West Coast to care for my mother. But when I decided to move there in 2008, I found several positions on craigslist, and flew there for a weekend of in person interviews (after we met by telephone). I first found a live-in position for 2 doctors: one newborn, live-in, $800.00 cash for a 50-55 hour week. Second position for another professional couple (two moms): newborn twins, live out, four 12 hour days per week, $900.00 per week cash.

I also have a bushel full of experience and am middle-aged. Both families remain my dear friends.

I did get into a nanny share situation that was horrible while working for the first family (it was at my request, not theirs, for socialization opportunity). I would try to find one good family that is grateful to add you as an extension to their care team. :) They are out there...and, oh boy! Chicago! I LOVED it and consider returning when my mom passes away. But for now, I am here and loving my current family too. I think a lot of it has to do with a positive attitude. raising kids is hard. If we keep our humor and work respectfully most jobs will work out.

Two out of three anyway! ;)

Alice said...

MB in Chicago here

I wanted to comment on the pay issue. I think you will be hard pressed to find a family that can afford that much for their nanny: you're talking $800-$1200 a week which is a 40-60K salary. Some families out there can afford this but we certainly can't. And I am not a stingy bitch; it's just reality. Our nanny started 3 years ago with us at $15/hour taking care of my then newborn and 2 year old. We gave her a $1/hour raise each year so now she makes $18/hour taking care of my now 3 year old while my 5 year old is in school/summer camp. Random school holidays or sick days she will take care of both. She gets 2 weeks paid vacation, any sick days she needs for herself (we never stated a number, I just trust that she needs them when she says she needs them and it has only happened a few days each year). Everything on the books. When compared with many other families in my neighborhood, we are higher on the pay scale - many of my neighbors started at $10-12 an hour. $30/hour I don't think you will find very easily. Good luck - Chicago is a great city!

AC said...

I'm a certified teacher with experience as a live-in governess. I understand where your coming from. I can't find a job anywhere! Agencies are TERRIBLE. They do not respond to emails or voice messages. Cambridge, Alter Ego, Chicago nannies, First Class Care..and the list goes on. There is no follow through. A couple were excited with my background(I'm also cert. in special education), but never make the effort to respond back. I then try to contact the agencies from craigslist,, and other sites..still nothing.

Penny said...

To MB in Chicago- I understand your situation that paying a nanny comes out of your pocket and it's a financial commitment but nanny's work very long days! In fact I do not know a nanny that works under 10 hours a day 5 days a week and are seriously underpaid with zero health care, and even fewer have mileage reimbursement. I'm sorry but you cannot expect someone to do such a difficult job full time for minimum wage. We nannies have to make a living too. Have you even thought about how difficult it is to pay rent when the average cost of rent for one person is $685-$700 a month and that's with a roommate! Forget phone, cable/internet, health care, gas, car insurance, car maintenance, food, clothing, school loan payments, medical bills, rent alone I'm finding more and more nannies struggling to just do that much while all their other bills fall through the cracks. I'm sorry but this is a serious job no doubt about it. You want high quality child care full time you have to pay well and treat nannies fairly. You get what you pay for. And all the nannies I know that are looking for work refuse to work for less than $18 an hour/salary and I don't blame them. They are all very qualified with years of experience & child development education because of that they know what they are worth. And if families continue to low ball and try to get a housekeeper, nanny, personal assistant rolled into one before long all the amazing nannies will disappear and find work in other fields while all the inexperienced people who get into the nanny field because they cannot find work in their respected fields work for very low wages while barely taking care of your children. Nannies like myself who have years of experience are passionate about early childhood care and do everything they can to better their charges lives. Who would you rather have and pay for? The passionate experienced nanny/teacher, or the woman who cannot find work in corporate America? Until people get that your rolling the dice with child care.

It sound like you pay your nanny well and are very fair to her as well and I applaud you! But the reality is nannies NEED to work too.

Alice said...

Hey Penny, don't take it out on me. I agree with you, nannies (actually everyone) deserve a living wage and I sure as hell try to make sure that happens in my family. I pay my nanny well, I guarantee her 40 hours a week and if it happens that she only works 35 I pay her the full 40. And if it happens that she works 45, I pay her time and a half for the extra 5 because everything's on the books. We can do this because my partner and I stagger our work hours so our nanny never works 10 hour days, but honestly, we are the exception and I was just trying to be honest to the OP that if she is looking to make $20 to $30 an hour she is going to have a hard time finding that job.

gypsy said...

Even a wealthy fam won't fork over $30 an hour for a nanny in most cases because that's higher than the going rate. If you ask that much, you'll lose potential jobs. Get busy online finding out what the going rate in your area is. Here, the agencies say that a nanny earns on average $20-$25 an hour. This is coming from a high end agency in San Francisco.

You're just a few years older than me with just a few years less of experience. I can relate. Except, I'm a bored sahm. I was looking for a mothers helper & decided I wanted to be a nanny. Anyways, Here is what I would charge:

$15/hour for one child
$17-18/hour for two children(depends on ages)
$20/hour for three children

I would RUN from any fam that tries to negotiate the fees with you. If they do, they're cheap. When youre full time, get paid fifty-two weeks per year, no exceptions. And do not do their housework. Child related clean up is expected. But if they ask for a "favor" and want you to just do a load of laundry "just this once" always decline. Always. If you have a hard time saying "no thank you" then say "Oh, the laundry!! Yes, I will gladly do the laundry for you. I understand how busy you are. I'm busy too but I should be able to squuze in some time to do laundry." Go to your handbag, pull out your sheet. "Here, this lists the household chores you may be interested in me doing. Ill keep tabs so you don't have to worry. The first of the month, Ill leave the total you owe for chores posted on the fridge." :)

I have had a lot of time to prep for a nanny gig. You may or may not want to do what I've done. Its just that I have tons of free time and there aren't a ton of jobs I would want out there right now.

I created a "Household Manuel." Its roughly fifteen pages. It is for the fam to fill out & return back to me. I would keep it in my bag & bring it to work with me. It covers everything, from a "get to know me" worksheet for each child to how to use their alarm system & how to turn off their gas. Phone numbers for the parents & every utility company. I've also created "ouchy reports" & "incident reports" to share with the parents in detail if something happened that they should know about. Aside from this manuel, Im creating a nanny scrapbook. Inside the scrapbook: a copy of my driver license, a copy of my driving record, copies of my CPR & first aid certificates, copy of proof that I do not have TB, certificates from child care related workshops that I've completed, letters of recomendation & a pocket page to hold my page of references. Keep a few in there.

I'm actually excited for you! I've been searching for the right family myself for a few weeks! Its fun. So far I had one interview & was invited back to meet the kids. But haven't heard from the potental MB after I've sent three emails. So I think that one won't pan out. Please keep us updated on your search!

OPMissDee said...

OP Miss Dee:

Work agreement. Check. It's a few years old, and best believe it will be updated.

Statement about what I want in a family: one who understands the difference between nanny and housekeeper. Check. I will clean up after children, I will straighten up play areas, do child's laundry and anything pertaining to children in regards to cleaning. Caring for the children AND cleaning the entire house? Not likely. If I am there to care for the children, that's what I am going to do. A nanny's job is to stimulate a child's mind, providing experiences for them to learn and grow. How can I do that if I have to clean the house too?

I only asked about pay due to the fact that I have seen a few ads from agencies claiming that positions start at $12-25 per hour. Not sure if this is a gimmick to get more applicants or not. I think I will ask for $15-20 per hour and see what happens.

Thanks for the input of the areas that are better than others. I know what I am looking for in a family, and I won't accept anything less. I am planning on starting my search in January, when I plan on apartment hunting. Most likely I will be living in the west burbs.

I have seen a few positions on agency websites for SAHM's; one was for a FT position. YIKES.

Thanks for the help!!!

I need a break said...

Miss Dee,
I would also check some of the local message boards. I work in one of the western suburbs and found my job this way. Let us know how it turns out. Good luck and who knows maybe we will run into one another at a tot class.

MissDee said...

I Need A Break:

I have been looking at CL. Not sure if that is a good place to start considering I don't live there yet. Then again, I have found four jobs, three houses and my cat from CL, so I am one of the few that believes in the postives of CL. lol

Any local boards I can use, other than CL? I will most likely be living in Oak Park, River Forest, or North Riverside.

Who knows? Maybe we can have a playdate! :)

I need a break said...

Miss Dee:

I have worked in the Oak Park, River Forest area for the past 22 years. I do find the need for a nanny a little greater around here. I realize that you aren't living here yet so you would be unable to check the local bulliten boards. Usually you can find these boards at the library and WonderWorks(children's museum). I will keep my eye out and try to contact you if I see anything of interest.

NannyNYC said...

With your experience and education you can easily find a 20 usd per hr job. Good luck.