Your nanny options
Before you start your search for a nanny, your first step should be to sit down and outline your needs. A nanny can charge varying rates based on their schedule, certifications, and experience, so knowing what you need will help you get started.
Nannies can offer a variety of childcare and household help, but here are a few main “nanny types” to help you narrow your search:
These nannies do it all. They handle all of the child care duties like a live-in or live-out nanny would, but they also are willing to perform housekeeping duties during nap or quiet time, or while the children are at school.
It’s important to come to an agreement on what kind of housekeeping is required; you want to make sure your nanny housekeeper is doing what you need, but you don’t want her to feel like you’re taking advantage. Make sure her other duties don’t interfere with child care, which is naturally her first priority.
Also keep in mind that a nanny housekeeper may charge more (whether hourly or salary) than other nannies because she’s providing so many different services.
Full-Time Live-Out Nannies
These nannies work full time (five days a week, usually 45-50 hours) and their duties focus exclusively on child care (play, bath time, meals, activities, homework, transportation, and so on). They do not reside in the family's home, nor do any non-child-related cleaning or housekeeping. Many full-time nannies are professionals with extensive training or education in childhood development, which makes them a valuable asset. If they are using their own car to help out with nanny duties (such as picking up kids from school) or working extra hours, that will affect their rates, as well. Most full-time nannies are paid a weekly or salaried rate, which you can negotiate during the initial interview.
These nannies share the same responsibilities as live-out nannies but reside in the family's home. Live-in nannies typically have a furnished room, private bath, sometimes a cell phone, and access to a car. Having the nanny live with your family means your care costs are reduced, but be sure to draw specific boundaries about work and non-work hours.
Part-Time or Summer Nannies
These nannies provide help for parents who only need after school care, for just a few days during the week, or when school is closed for the summer. Because of their less consistent schedule, it may be more difficult to find this type of nanny. Also keep in mind that these nannies will have less time with the children or in your home, which means that their care will not be as involved as a full-time or live-in nanny. Hourly nannies (which most part-time providers are) may also charge more to account for time they are not needed.
Sometimes, nannies are open to sharing her services with two families. If you know someone who is also looking for a nanny, talk to them about their needs and their budget for child care. Once you have all that established, you can interview a nanny who is open to or experienced in nanny sharing. This saves money for both families while ensuring quality care from a trained nanny. Keep in mind that there are logistic issues; Where will the nanny go each day? Will you alternate houses? How will you handle paid time off, sick days, or when one family doesn’t need her? To find out if a nanny share is right for you, check out these tips.
College nannies can be a great resource for many families. These nannies are studying at local colleges and often have a school-friendly, flexible schedule. While they won’t be available full-time hours, they’re close by and are free after school and during the summer. And, if you find a Nursing or an Education student, she may have specific courses or certifications in child care and safety. This type of nanny can also be a great tutor for children. College nannies, because they are only working when they’re not in school, may cost less per hour than part-time or full-time nannies. Keep in mind that these nannies won’t be available forever; they will graduate eventually and you’ll need to find a new nanny.
An au pair is a unique child care arrangement, where a young student from a foreign country provides child care and light housekeeping in exchange for room, board, and a weekly “stipend.” Au pairs generally stay with a host family for one year and synchronize child care with their school schedules. This is a very affordable option, but keep in mind that it usually requires a full year’s payment upfront. There are also immigration requirements and program expenses related to connecting with your au pair.
Depending on your budget, accommodations, and work schedule, there are a number of nanny options. Before beginning your nanny search, consider how many hours a week you’ll need care. Then, decide what other help you need from your nanny, or what you’d like her to provide for your children (i.e. tutoring, transportation, etc.).
Knowing your nanny options should help you find the best child care for your family in no time!
Christine Koh is a music and brain scientist turned parent and writer about parenting issues for Care.com. She is also the editor of BostonMamas.com.