Finding the right nanny to care for your kids is never an easy job. You need to hire someone who can nurture and care for them the way you want. The job gets even more complicated when you're looking for a live-in nanny -- someone who will watch over your kids and also live in your home.
How will you know if one nanny will work out and another won't? Like dating, you know when you know, says Becky Kavanagh, co-president of the International Nanny Association and former live-in nanny. "If you have that feeling, you are probably on your way to a good situation," she says. And although the feeling is hard to describe, you'll recognize when you find someone you can both work with and live with.
Kavanagh says that lots of talking from the very beginning is crucial. You want to know if your lifestyles will fit. What if your religious beliefs are opposed? What if she is a neatnik in a relaxed home or messy in a tidy home? Those are the kinds of things that conversations and questions will address.
Decide if a Live-in is Right for You
Is your family ready for a live-in nanny? Some think they want a live-in nanny, but don't realize that having someone else under their roof might not be as easy as they hoped, says Kavanagh.
Think hard about including a new person in your home full-time. What routines and habits will have to change? Talk to other parents who have working with a live-in nanny -- what were the challenges and benefits they encountered.
If there are medical issues involved, you may need more specialized care than a typical nanny can provide. Think about Hiring a Live-in Special Needs Nurse »
Examine the Cost of a Live-in Nanny
Look at your budget. What can you afford to pay for child care? Use our nanny tax calculator to figure out what the going rate is in your area. You can often give a live-in nanny a smaller salary since you'll also be providing room and board.
Keep in mind that live-in nannies aren't on-call 24/7. They must be paid for every hour they're on duty. Sometimes "on duty" doesn't mean they're playing with the kids, but rather they need to be in the home and aren't free to come and go as they please.
Learn more about What Does a Live-In Nanny Cost? »
Have a Family Discussion
Hiring a live-in nanny is different from hiring someone who comes daily, but lives elsewhere. Is everyone in your family on-board? What concerns and questions need to be addressed? A new person in the house will cause some adjustments, but the situation can also vastly improve the family dynamics. They can help with the morning routine, a baby who cried all night and backup care when you're called out of town or have to work late.
Get Your House Ready
A live-in nanny needs her own room and some privacy. She might be living with you, but she still needs her own space. Do you have an extra room to house a nanny so she has privacy? Do you have an extra bathroom or will she have to share? Will your house need any improvements or construction projects before she arrives?
Describe Your Mary Poppins
How would you describe your perfect live-in nanny? Do some careful reflection on your own and with your family to figure out what kind of live-in nanny will best fit your household. Do you want someone who can teach your kids a foreign language? Who is very active? Does she have a nursing background? Does she have her own car?
Draft a Contract
Start writing a contract to help you clarify your expectations for a live-in nanny. Writing down expected duties (child care, driving, daytrips, homework help, meal preparation, light household tasks), payment (hourly, weekly, overtime) and benefits (days off, vacation and sick time, health insurance) will give you a solid understanding of what you need when you begin looking for a nanny.
There are also things to think about and add to the contract because she'll be living with you. For example:
- Will you pay for expenses like food, cable, the Internet, a cell phone and utilities?
- Can she use your car or does she need her own?
- Is she allowed to drink alcohol in your home?
- What are the acceptable levels of cleanliness and clutter for her private areas and the rest of the home?
- Can she have daytime or overnight guests?
- Can she put her food in the refrigerator/pantry or will you provider her with a separate space?
- Can she use your laundry machine?
- Will you discuss a curfew for when she'll be watching your kids the next day?
- What are acceptable levels of noise?
- Can she use your backyard or pool when she's not caring for your kids?
Make sure you discuss the hours she'll be working, when her free time is and what flexibility you may require. If she works more than 40 hours a week, some states (like Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York) require that you pay her overtime.
Read more about How to Create a Live-In Nanny Contract »
Think About Taxes
Before you start your search for a nanny, you should also think about how to pay her legally -- it's actually very easy. Discover How to Get Started Creating a Nanny Payroll Account »
Care.com offers many great nanny candidates who might fit your needs. Post a job that describes what you're looking for, and you'll quickly get lots of great candidates. You can also ask other parents and family members. Word of mouth is another way for parents to find a nanny who their trusted friends, coworkers or neighbors would recommend.
While safety is always important when you're hiring a nanny, you need to be extra cautious when you invite someone to live with you. That means things like getting more in-depth background checks and asking for additional references -- preferably from families the caregiver has lived with and worked for.
Interview, Meet and Greet As you read through your pool of applicants, select the top five to ten candidates. Interview them either over the phone or in-person to get a sense of their personality and experience. Then bring the two best candidates to your home for a more thorough interview, where you introduce them to your kids and watch them interact.
During the interviews, gain a clearer understanding of how a nanny handles children by asking very pointed questions. Bring up topics like, "What would you do if the child you were watching bit his brother? What would you do if the child wanted a third glass of water during the bedtime routine?"
Since she will be living in your home, the interviews are particularly important. Use this list for inspiration: Interview Questions for a Live-in Nanny »
Arrange a Trial Period
Once you find the right person, spend the first few days at home, so you can help with the transition, suggests Ilona Bray, a lawyer and the author of "Nannies and Au Pairs: Hiring In-Home Child Care." "Watch them with the children," to see how they interact, and to get the nanny on track with the household routine.
Help her get used to her new home and area by giving her a tour of the town and introducing her to other local nannies.
Focus on Communication
When your nanny starts, make sure you talk regularly. You need to have clearly defined expectations and open communication, recommends Katie Medeiros, director of caregiving programs at Care.com. As an employer of someone living with you, you need to know what's working and what isn't working -- and open communication is the only way to do that. Medeiros suggests having a scheduled weekly check-in with your nanny to find out at least one thing every week that worked and one that didn't.
And find out How to Set New Goals with Your Nanny »
Now that you've hired the best possible nanny for your family, your life should get a lot easier. Having that extra set of hands to help out with the kids is a welcome relief and you can take comfort knowing all your preparation paid off.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is an award-winning freelance writer and a mom to two girls. She lives in Massachusetts and has written for local and national publications.