You're the Boss -- Like it or Not

woman talking with another woman

"I know she broke these glasses we had in our cabinet but she acts like she has no idea what I'm talking about."

Ten years ago, Julie, a journalist in Manhattan, could be griping about her roommate. This time it's her nanny.

"But I'm just going to let it slide. I figure, I'm not going to fire her over this, and she's great with the baby so why make a big deal about it? Still, it makes me wonder what else she isn't telling me."

Anyone who has ever employed a nanny knows that it's different from any other employee/employer relationship. She is in your home and spends more waking hours with your children than you do. You need to trust her and form a bond with her to make this relationship work. In many cases she becomes more like a friend than an employee. But along the way issues will arise. Problems that would normally be nipped in the bud in an office setting are often swept under the rug, straining the relationship.

Most likely, your kids adore her and you want to keep her working for you. (If not, there are tons of nannies to choose from on this site). So, you can learn to be a better boss. It will probably make all of your lives easier.

"After some awkward situations with our previous nanny, we decided to keep things more business-like with our current one. From the very beginning, we let her know of concerns/complaints we had as soon as they arose so that she got used to the idea of sometimes having to talk about problems," explains Rebecca, a teacher and mom to Phoebe and Jordan.

This is a good idea says Guy Maddalone, author of "How to Hire a Nanny".

He says that frequent communication and using the tools you learned at your own workplace will make you a better boss.       

Maddalone suggests that when you hire a nanny, have a job description written up, as well as a nanny work agreement and terms of employment.

"One really important thing, and where a lot of families get tripped up is creating "Rules of the Home" for your nanny," he recommends. "This can include things like cell phone use, the amount of time the children can watch TV, use of your personal computer, leaves of absences and notice for time off. You have an employee handbook at your workplace. So should your nanny."

A quick conversation each day with your nanny and a longer one at the end of each week can address issues that arise and help with communication. Maddalone also advises having a yearly compensation review which highlights the positive the nanny has done in the past year -- using specific examples and then bring up any concerns your have.

If your nanny has been with you for years, that may feel like an abrupt change. Use the new year as a fresh start.  Start with a 'strategy-session' meeting with you, your partner and her. Try and have it when the kids aren't around. Treat it as an important work meeting. This may be your home and she may wear sweats to work, but it doesn't mean that she doesn't take her job seriously, so have respect for the meeting and her job.

  • Discuss some of the goals that you have for your kids no matter what age they are; from walking, to talking to sharing better to improving their grades.
  • Ask for her insight. Your nanny's perspective may enlighten you.
  • Use this dialogue to discuss things you want changed at home in a constructive way; "I think his vocabulary will improve if there is less TV time," is a way of making changes and not appear draconian.

As for Julie and her broken glasses. She did the right thing letting the issue slide.

"Always think to yourself, what do I want to accomplish before having this conversation," says Maddalone.

Smart advice for both home and work.

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Comments (31)
Rayne S.
I have been a nanny for several years, and while ground rules are definitely important, I also think it's very important to give your nanny room to breath. You need to trust her and give her the chance to prove herself without cutting her down for minor mistakes. For example, I recently began working with a new family as a live-in nanny for the first time. It's an awkward adjustment, and I'm a fairly shy person eager to please. My first day in, the children's grandmother snapped at me for using jelly on the kids' toast (too much sugar), for not picking up the living room (which the kids and I hadn't even been into yet), and then for not cleaning up after the adults' lunch (as in the grandmother, mother, and a friend...this one really confused me. I'm not their maid!). In the afternoon, she ended up shouting at me because I had swam one of the children, strapped into a floatation device, through the deep end of the pool in their yard, and at that point I just broke down. I had been so on edge after making so many mistakes on my first day that I just wanted to give up and go home, and that last one really upset me, even though her concern was valid. My point here is, when you wear down your nanny by getting disproportionately angry over small things, then she may not be as responsive when a larger issue comes up. It's so much better to just lay down some ground rules, and address concerns in a compassionate way. It was a bad idea for me to swim through the deep end of a pool with a small child, and I can completely understand that concern. But by that point I was so worn down and unsure of myself, because it felt like I could do NOTHING without the children's grandmother breathing down my neck and criticizing my every move. Trust your nannies and be considerate of them!
This may have gone completely off topic from the article. Sorry!
Posted: July 09, 2014 at 6:41 PM
Carol W.
I wholeheartedly agree with Brittany, too!
Posted: November 18, 2013 at 11:17 AM
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Anna V.
To Brittany P.
I am also a nanny. I read your post. thumbs up. Well said
Posted: November 17, 2013 at 8:43 PM
Cheyenne L.
Thank you for this information. We have just decided to hire a part-time baby-sitter for our child, and as we've never done this before, we could definitely use some tips and pointers. Being a care-giver myself (although for a different age group, in a different setting,) kind of gave me some idea of what to expect, but this was even more helpful than that.
Posted: February 05, 2013 at 2:03 PM
Wendi P.
Has anyone done a 90 day review with their Nanny before? We do that at work - and was thinking of implementing it at home. Thoughts?
Posted: November 18, 2012 at 9:18 PM
Member Care C.
Hi Roberta,
I am not an expert but this is something we at Care.com have heard before. In response we wrote an article dealing with the issue directly. I hope you find this useful. http://www.care.com/child-care-getting-over-the-guilt-p1017-q14821.html In terms of finding a better balance between your home and work life we also have this available on the site for you http://www.care.com/work-life-balance-advice-p1387-q18953200.html Best of luck!
Posted: October 01, 2012 at 6:42 PM
Roberta S.
I had a nannie that my daughter just truly loved. This woman was fantastic with our child! She got her day started, followed our instructions on everything and kept our house neat as a pin. She never ate our food or drinks. She brought her own lunch and drinks and even some for our daughter with our approval. She worked with our child on crafts and sang songs and played with puzzles and shapes and everything and I honestly think our nanny liked being at our home with our daughter than her own home! She was sick once and it was a cold, and out of courtesy she stayed away till it was over and declined payment for the time missed. We really trusted her with our home, our child and she totally respected us. She was a very nurturing person, and she showed up on time each morning with a smile on her face. Unfortunately, I had insecurities when my child pushed me away at the end of the day, and wanted our nanny. I felt I was being replaced! It was very awkward. I tried not to feel insecure and fear, but I did. I didn't see this come up here, and wonder what other people who have had their children get close to their nanny did. I only have one child and if she had siblings, it may have made a difference. I had a hard time welcoming her when she was wanted by my child more than me. ( she never knew this, i never told her ) Finally I made up some story that I was quitting work and let her go. Now I wish I had never let her go. The next nanny was all work and no personality. My baby girl cried for me all day, and dreaded the next day. Live and learn. I can't even call that woman back , since she thinks I quit. I shouldn't have lied, but the insecurity was not something I was prepared for. How do other parents handle this when they get a great nanny that the child like so much their kids push them away? I know this woman was very comforting and lovable, but so am I!! Is there an article about this somewhere to help someone like me ?
Posted: September 28, 2012 at 9:41 PM
Holly A.
I think its a great idea to have the rules laid out. That helps the nanny/babysitter know what is expected even before they get the job- no surprises later. There really should be two sets of rules one for the 'employee' (how to call off, phone, computer usage, ect) and one for the 'kids' (no running or yelling in the house, minutes of screen time, chores to be done). What a nanny/babysitter might think is ok- might not be okay with the parents. As an example, I've had sitters let the kids watch an hour+ of TV when I only let my kids watch no more than 25 minutes a day (DVRed). I am also surprised by the attitude shown in these comments by nannies/babysitters towards daycare workers. They work hard too! I wish I could take some of my daycare workers home with me to watch my kids because they are awesome!
Posted: July 19, 2012 at 2:01 PM
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Nicolette E.
GREAT article. Very helpful. Some comments are helpful, good advice, and good warnings.
Posted: January 31, 2012 at 2:29 AM
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Sara P.
You can interview, and re interview, but only time will tell if you have a good nanny/babysitter on your hands. Theres nothing wrong with a few unexpected home visits during the first couple months they are working. But most importantly, being open and honest with your care provider will ensure they are open and hopefully, honest with you as well. If they accept the job with the schedule, expectations and pay already decided, there should be no room for re negotiation or hiccups after the fact. With that said, theres nothing wrong with a Christmas bonus! or a paid day off when you decide you want to stay home from work and be with your kiddos.. its like a snow day for them!
Posted: January 19, 2012 at 1:36 PM
Photo of Teresa W.
Teresa W.
It's nice to read some of the nannies comments on here. I have had 3 nannies for my son in the past. We are now looking for our fourth. I get really frustrated with looking for responsible caregivers. I really don t understand why some people demand such high pay, but do not want to be held to high standers. All of my nannies in the past seems very excited about the job and I was very please for the first few weeks. But it seems after time caregivers just become very complacent with their jobs. The most important part of the child is the child. I find it hard to pay someone a big paycheck when I come home from work or just drop in for a surprise visit to find my Childs nanny playing games on her cell phone, texting, or even piled up on the couch asleep while my son plays by himself. The don t care attitude really gets to me. One other big issue is call ins. I understand that everyone has days where they don t feel well or didn't get enough sleep the night before. But I ve had two caregivers that would call in at least once a week sometimes twice a week, but still expect to be paid a full weeks pay. That is just unacceptable. We depend on our nannies to be there for our child/children. We are at the mercy of them, and there is nothing we can do when they call in but suck it up and take the day off work ourselves missing a day of pay or using vacation time, plus not to mention the lecture you get from your own boss because of unreliable daycare. It's very hard to be a mom who has to leave her child at all, but it's even harder when you struggling to pay a nanny and you know they are just milking the job for money and not the best interest of the child. People use to take care of children because it was their passion, you more so now see people looking at children as paychecks and nothing more. Now with that being said, it's not the case for everyone out there. There is a lot of trial and error to go through to find the right person. And it's hard to just jump up and fire your nanny, because you still have to go to work. My son's very first nanny was amazing with him, he really loved her. She was a great person. But she had a lot of issues with being late, not showing up, are playing sick once or twice a week. This made it so hard for me on my job. I put up with a lot from her because my son loved her, and it's not about me, it's about my baby and what's best for him. But there were so many times I would come home crying from work because my boss had just chewed me out because my son's nanny had called in at the last minute which caused me to miss work the day prior. It s very hard to find the right person. So bottom line nanny's please be good to the children and don t cause undue stress in the family s life just because you want to sleep in, or just want to stay at home and watch TV and get paid. Remember that when you take off from work unexpectedly that the child you are caring for has parents who work every day to provide money for the family to survive. So when you miss a day of work, so do they. As far as employers being rude or disrespectful to nannies, that is just unacceptable all together, I mean really who would want to do that to the person who is watching your child?
Posted: December 21, 2011 at 3:16 AM
Valorie P.
Hello, Allison

I like you idea of writing a book. Why don't you take that idea and run with it before I do (smile). That could be your second career, ooorrrr may be a reality show. Well, maybe not.... Take care everone keep up the good work, we need great people with a good heart and passion for the job(s).
Posted: August 14, 2011 at 11:13 AM
Janice W.
I believe that to enter someones home is to be trusted to enter their private sacred space in this world, and to be respected as such. It is an honor. And to take care of their precious children?????.....how even more an honor. I do believe Jesus has it simply and perfectly put, "Do unto others as you would desire them to do unto you. Love others as yourself." This applies to all things/relationships in life. If you are not a person of this integrity you have no business entering OR inviting someone to work in your home, much less with your children. And I agree that a reliable nanny or babtsitter should be paid a valuable wage. Anything less is insulting to how deeply/honorably care is invested into precious little ones of all age, and ultimately to the well being of the entire family unit as a result. And yes, mutual respect is mandatory for any healthy sucessful relationship, which absolutely requires honest, free, respectful and timely communication!!! I find it somewhat unfair that nannys/babysitters get checked out but we have no provisions to check out the family we might be going in to! Also, it is true, we do have a life beyond the employing family. Mutual integrity must be applied here as well, which again, requires prior and timely, honest,respectful communication. With these ingredients genuine love and trust can grow to the benefit of all concerned. And to this I would say,"Glory to God!". You're welcome to disagee. But without these real ingredients, I most likely would not stay in a home for long, no matter how much I love the children. My primary responsibility in the practicalities of life is to make certain that all MY needs are met. In any circumstance less than that could ANY employee expect the best from their employee? (Granted there are those who lack integrity, or take advantage on both sides, which does complicate the process for those of us who DO care.) This said, it truly IS a delicate two way street. And a trust worthy one found is worth 10 question marks in the bush!!! Let us create the GOOD in the world we want to see. It really WILL be best for the children!!!!
Posted: July 30, 2011 at 7:32 PM
Photo of Walter D.
Walter D.
I agree with most of the article - and the comments - but I have to disagree about the glasses.

If something is broken, absolutely ask about it. You can frame it as "do you know what happened to these glasses? If one of the kids broke them I want to be able to talk to them about it. If it was you, it's no big deal, I break stuff all the time, I just need to know."

Then if they admit it, follow through - you said it was no big deal, so it needs to be No Big Deal.

I've never had a nanny (looking for someone is why I'm here, after all) but I have had cleaners break things and not tell me, then I find it later, broken. Sometimes the broken parts are even a hazard to the pets or children. I wouldn't care if they broke something - not like they did it on purpose, I assume - but I need to know that something broke, and that I need to replace or fix it.
Posted: July 08, 2011 at 11:43 AM
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Brenda L.
I totally agree with Brittany...exactly what I was thinking!
Posted: June 14, 2011 at 10:06 PM
Photo of Doreen S.
Doreen S.
I have a 51/2 year old son and in the past maye 31/2 years we have used various babysitters, nannies, and mother's helpers and I can tell you paying a nanny $12 per hour to watch your child even it entails absolutely no chores and other duties does NOT neccessarily get you good childcare!! Let me debunk that myth right now! Actually, the first nanny I had for my son was the best!!! She was loving caring and nuturing to my son but unfortunately had to move a state away and this was in the midst of being a single mother of two children while going thru a separation....I still am friends with her. She never demanded a lot of money because she truly cared for my son. Since then thru various agencies and thru this very site I have encountered horrible, rude behavior. You wonder how so many people who don't even enjoy the company of children are applying for highly demanding positions such as nanny when they wouldn't be able to handle a simple babysitting position. Again two other problems that I have encountered are people putting up on their pages availabilities they really have no intention of going through with and listing activities and that they truly don't want to do. This all files under some of the posters above complaining about how the clients who hire them demand too much.....Well, did you lead them on in the beginning to seal the deal? That's not just counterproductive but somewhat unfair to those who hire you....Also, if you expect more money for your services don't apply for a job for which you know the client already listed they only expect to pay out a certain rate. Don't haggle, playing the price is right....Move on and scout out those who are willing to pay within your price range. Settling for a rate in the beginning hoping you can haggle it out later or worse refuse to or stop doing certain activities and chores you agreed to do for the rate you agreed to figuring you can passive-aggressively get the message to your employer that you're not being paid enough. Again, this can only lead to an eventual termination of your services both wasting your time and the family's time who hired you. I have worked with 5 caregivers. One of the five was excellent, One was fair, and I would say three were unacceptable. I have dealt with everything from yes, no, wild imagination here, breaking my belongings,and me finding them sitting on my counter later, saying they would fix meals for my son, and never did, and this service was accepted to me of their own accord, I finally learned to fix my child a meal prior to them coming over or leaving him over, taking food with out asking and then lying about it later, this chocolate meant as a gift for someone, worse yet lying and saying my son took it, wanting to leave early for engagements, Coming in late, not showing up at all, Saying they were fine watching my son on certain days and then later telling me they couldn't, Saying they could watch my son at certain hours and then later telling me they couldn't, Demanding every other week off for social engagements when they previously commited to the job on certain days, Aloof behavior: not forming a relationship with the family, Rude and Disrespectful behavior,Not being able to have adult conversation problems need to BE discussed, as well as not forming what I would feel is a nuturing bond with children as a care giver......etc, etc, etc. Not to even mention what I can tell is an increasing problem of caregivers setting up interviews and just never being courteous enough to tell the potential clients that are waiting for them that they will not be attending the interview they set up. As you can see on care.com, this is the surest, shortest way to receive a one-star rating virtually destroying your whole credibility and reputation on the website you are advertising your services on. Noone wants to hire someone who is unreliable. I think this article hits home with the fact that if these people who are for some reason put up with in the childcare providing world would be fired quite quickly and without regret in any other job force. For some reason there is a blatant attitude of resentment and entitledness that would not be tolerated in a more structured work environment. I agree that both parties should express expectations before they give or obtain a job in caregiving..... nothing good comes out of resentment in fact in extreme cases can cause abuse to your children and in the best of situations causes workers to be indifferent to doing a good job for their employer! Be honest, Be courteous, Be accountable!
Posted: June 09, 2011 at 10:38 PM
Photo of Erica S.
Erica S.
the only way you KNOW she broke them is if you have video of her breaking them. it could have been anyone else in your house. my advice from one human being to another, give people the benefit of the doubt. don't just assume someone, especially a caregiver in your home, is a sneaky liar. things are just things. someone who has a bond with your children is very special.
Posted: April 18, 2011 at 11:45 PM
Photo of Bonnie L.
Bonnie L.
what do nanny's wear? sweats, scrubs, t shirts? i am certain of 1 thing. The initial pay check I am buying some uggs! You can walk miles in them and your back doesn't hurt and you feel like you have more energy.
PS about the article_ I absolutely would like an employee handbook and projected schedules for the parents expectations. How will I know if I am doing a good job if I dont know what the expectation is? So yes... bring on the handbook (parents dont get handbooks issued at birth )... Nanny's should get them... We have a career to attend too.) For our own families sake.
Posted: April 15, 2011 at 2:34 AM
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Ruth S.
Very Balanced. I appreciate it.
Posted: April 13, 2011 at 5:59 PM
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Shari S.
What really irritates me as a nanny, is when your boss thinks you casn clean their home and watch their 2 children all on 10 per hour! People are very cheap, they do not want to pay good money for good childcare :(..After I clean I am way to exhausted to chase the babies around! I like to wear lose t shirts and work out pants, because It is hard cleaning and chasing babies around in jeans...Further more sometimes jeans are not apprpriate when they are tight, as a woman we know our pants can show too much when we bend over..not a pretty sight when the father is around! ackward!Yes Nannying is hard, espeacily if the parents work out of their home! People are so annal anymore and you just never know what to say or do!lol
Posted: March 06, 2011 at 11:42 PM
Photo of Brittany P.
Brittany P.
I've been a nanny for over three years. The first two years I worked for a wonderful family. I was a part of the family and the mother trusted my judgement completely. She let me take care of her kids with minimal interference after establishing exactly what she expected of me and we were both extremely happy with the arrangement. If there was something she was concerned about she let me know, but it was never harsh or judgemental and it worked out very well. She was kind and grateful so I went out of my way to help more than I was hired for because she paid well, she appreciated me, and I was happy there. When she was laid off from her job I had to find work elsewhere. It's been a nightmare for me. I have found the worlds worst families time and time again!

All I can say is...If you post an ad looking for a nanny and you expect them to work ten hours a day with two kids for $5 an hour you have completely lost your mind. If your children are truly the most important things in your life, you will NOT get an experienced nanny for $5 an hour so you better be prepared for a serious let down or learn to pay decently. I don't know anyone who is a nanny for the money, but what families need to take into consideration is that this is a job to us no matter how much we love your kids. We are nannying to make a living, to pay bills, to pay our mortgage, to pay our way through school...all the same reasons you do YOUR job. Noboby can survive on $5 an hour and you should have the decency not to ask someone to. If you are due home at 5pm and you show up at 6:30...IT AFFECTS US! We have families we'd like to see too, our lives don't revolve solely around yours! I am not afraid of hard work, I will approach every situation with professionalism and courtesy, and I will love your kids like they were my own...BUT, you have to be fair to your nanny. It is your home and your rules, but ask yourself if maybe you could lay off a little bit. It's normal to be slightly anal retentive when there is someone in your house with your child, but if you're confident that you didn't hire an idiot-let her show you she has good judgement without being micro-managed. If she breaks a glass, perhaps it was on accident and she forgot to tell you. Mention it, but be NICE about it. If she was afraid to tell you, maybe you should ask yourself why. Is it because you are easily annoyed and tend to blow things out of proportion? Are you constantly derisive or overly negative with your nanny and she was scared to dissappoint you?

This "arrangement" is a two way street. You are asking a stranger to watch your kids with utmost care. It isn't like a daycare where nearly anyone can get a job and attention to detail is lax...she is caring for your kids like a mother would...and that deserves your respect. I can't stand all these articles that suggest you conduct this like a business relationship with a handbook. LIFE doesn't have a handbook and you can't micro-manage someone into loving your children. This isn't science, it's life-and your nanny should be hired and fired solely based on their dedication and devotion to your children. PERIOD!
Posted: March 05, 2011 at 5:02 PM
Photo of Nina J.
Nina J.
yes this is really good advise and I can always see people thinking in the back of their head I should have said something no you should say something it will only help you out in the end if you dont say something now then what will happen next or the end result of the whole matter could be a big disater
Posted: March 04, 2011 at 12:53 AM
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Joni M.
The most important thing in the world to me are my children. As a nanny I also feel the children are the most important thing I do during the day and should be the priority. Maybe the nanny did break a glass but, maybe she forgot to say anything. If the children are well taken care of and like the nanny, I feel people should count there blessings, because it is really hard to find a good, trustworthy person to take care of your children. Nannys that are trustworthy and good with your children, should never be taken for granted, because these are people in your children life that shapes and becomes part of their everyday life. Nothing should be more important to parents then finding a good, trustworthy nanny, that gives them peace of mind everyday when they walk out of the house. They should never be taken for granted. The parents should never use small things to become big problems.
Posted: March 02, 2011 at 9:41 PM
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Mackenzie M.
I totally agree with kelly
Posted: March 01, 2011 at 1:10 PM
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Allison M.
well that's all here say working as a nanny is very,very hard now i love being with the kids but the mother and the father makes the job hard for u, so now tell me can someone write a book for nanny tell than how to live with bs boss.
Posted: February 28, 2011 at 9:34 PM
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Susan F.
My Mother always said "The most important job in the world is taking care
of another human being " And she had 5 children!!!!


Susan
Posted: February 28, 2011 at 8:18 AM
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Christine C.
I am not a nanny but a babysitter. I also work in management in a professional daycare setting. There are some parts of this article I think are very important and some that I think are a little over the top. I definately agree that their should be a call of or request of policy of sorts and basic household rules but you must also remember that if you choose to have a nanny you are choosing to give someone full access to your home, so most nannies will appriciate some basic ground rules. As a babysitter I feel most comfortable with families express thier preferences. I personally feel there are certain things that cross personal boundaries. For instance I never set foot in the master bedroom that is the parents most private space and should be kept that way. I also never use thier personal computer nor do I bring mine I have one at home and while babysitting the children should be my focus anyways not the computer. But typical office type things like professional dress code and things like that, if you are looking for that you should be using a professional childcare setting, comfy clothes are a must when tending to children 100% you need to be able to get down at thier level and play so if you put your children in play clothes your nanny/babysitter should also be dressed for the occasion.
Posted: February 27, 2011 at 9:43 PM
Photo of Jeanine K.
Jeanine K.
Thank You! This is helpful information to know. Please share some of your positive and negative experiences you have had with past nannies... the top 10 most wanted and top 10 worst or least liked behaviors/characteristics in a Nanny. And is there a book you can point me to that will better prepare me in this new field. THANK YOU! Jeanine K.
Posted: February 27, 2011 at 9:59 AM
Karen P.
Good insights contained in this article. One thing I think was overlooked, however, and should be considered a "main ingredient" to any employer/employee relationship, but a standout when it comes to childcare is Mutual Respect.
Posted: February 26, 2011 at 4:45 PM
Photo of Kelly C.
Kelly C.
Well That All Sounds Very Professional.However,Being A Nanny Myself I Can Tell You The Unprofessionalism That Goes On With The Families At Times Is Stressful And Uncomfortable.One Moment Your A Member Of The Family And The Next Your Just A Paid Person.If You Want To Have A Relationship That Is Strictly Professional,Put Your Children In Daycare.I Have Been A Nanny For 20yrs.,And Have Seen Way Too Much.It Comes Down To Finding The Right Match For Family And Nanny.Remember,We All Want The Best Environment For Children,Families And Nannies.
Posted: February 26, 2011 at 3:31 PM
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Jacob M.
Very nice article.
Posted: February 26, 2011 at 7:23 AM
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