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Real mom tips for finding the perfect nanny

Erica Jackson Curran
Sept. 21, 2018

Finding a nanny to care for your kids is no small task. Finding someone who fits within your budget, can work with your schedule and meshes with your family’s unique personality can seem monumental. While it would be nice if Mary Poppins would just drop in on our doorstep when we need her most, finding the right nanny takes some legwork.

Fortunately, there are many avenues for starting your search and plenty of moms who have been through the experience with tips to share. Keep reading for real mom tips for finding a nanny.

1. Be vocal

Melina Zahalka, a mom of two from Bellingham, Washington, started her search using a student off-campus employment page at the university where she worked. The results were OK but ultimately unsatisfactory.

“Most were desperate for employment, and while they had kid experience, I was unsure how much because it had often come in the form of short-term internships and volunteer work,” Zahalka says. 

Then, she mentioned her search to her neighbor, who invited her to meet her own nanny Aimie.

“I chatted with Aimie when she was at the neighbor's watching their son,” Zahalka says. “She was bright, enthusiastic, unafraid to jump in and help buckle/unbuckle car seats, and was quirky and fun — clearly comfortable around kids and parents.” 

Zahalka knew right away that Aimie was the one, and she hired her on the spot. Because of Aimie’s existing relationship with the neighbor’s family, they often shared the cost of child care, which was an added bonus.

“She was integral in getting my small children from infancy to preschool and kindergarten,” Zahalka says. “I couldn't have been a single mom without her.”

2. Tap into your social network

Whether you favor Facebook, Nextdoor or another social networking site or app, using your social network can help you find the right nanny for your family.

Rebecca Alwine, a mom of three from Augusta, Georgia, started out by searching major child care sites but struggled to find someone who fit her requirements for time, location and pay. She didn’t need full-time care, and she needed a nanny who could watch her children in the nanny’s own home.

Then she turned to a local Facebook mom's group — and that’s where she found her family’s first two nannies. She interviewed the nannies, both with and without her children present. She also made sure to tour their homes and observe any other children, pets and adults who were around. Lastly, she checked in with all of the nannies’ references. 

“Working through a network is the most efficient way to find someone you can trust,” Alwine says.

3. Meet up IRL

Many moms find their nannies online, but while someone may seem perfect on the screen, it takes a real-life meeting to make sure they’ll mesh with you and your kids.

Alexa Doran, who has a toddler son, had just moved to Tallahassee, Florida, when she started her child care search. Her local network was nonexistent, so she turned to the wider web to start her search.

“Care.com was a lifesaver for us,” she says. “We were worried about finding someone quickly who would be reliable and safe and were lucky that one of the first nannies we contacted was a perfect match.” 

Doran’s family met with their nanny twice before hiring her.

“First, our families met at a park in a wide open, busy location,” Doran says. “We met our future nanny, her husband and her three kids, and the kids pushed our then-6-month-old on the swing and seemed very well-behaved. We then met again over dinner for a more extended period of time. Everything went so well, and we hired her after that.”

Although the nanny provided multiple references, Doran says she ultimately didn’t call them because she felt so good about their meetings.

“The face-to-face meetup in public is a must!” she says.

4. Plan ahead, but not too much

While your planning instincts may tell you to line up your new nanny as soon as possible, you might not always be able to. Katie Hemp Nielson, a mom of one in Richmond, Virginia, noted that just as her own schedule and needs may change quickly, so can a nanny’s. Think of it as being similar to finding an apartment to rent: Inventory often opens up just a few weeks before the start date, not months in advance.

“Good ones are offered other positions quickly, and since it is such a transient job, they don't wait months before starting a new one,” says Nielson. “Also, sometimes a nanny doesn't know six months in advance if they are still going to be working for the same family.” 

Nielson spent months trying to find a nanny within her community, asking everyone she knew if they had recommendations. Eventually, she found someone who was already employed with a different family but looking for a change.

“You will have to trust and know that you won't get it set until about one month before you need a nanny,” Nielson says. “Patience and persistence are the name of the game when it comes to finding a nanny.”

Read next: Awkward conversations to have with your nanny

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