Choosing a Nanny for Your Baby
By Alicia Stevens
The choice of who to entrust with the care of your child comes with many considerations. Perhaps daycare doesn’t fit your schedule, family members are not available, and staying home is not an option. In these cases, using a nanny might be the best fit for your family’s needs.
Here are a few tips for deciding who to allow in your home, and into your newborn’s life, as a nanny:
- Ask around. Madalene Daniell, coordinator of Mommy and Me at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, recommends talking with other moms about who they may have used when their children needed a nanny. Parents can offer the most candid opinions, and give you invaluable life lessons on things to consider.
- Use a nanny agency or service. If new to the area where you live, then there might not be anyone you know well enough to ask; in that case, these types of services can be very helpful. Dr. Marla Chapman, pediatrician at Children’s Clinic in Hattiesburg and mom of one toddler, said she relied upon the website Care.com for this reason. Services such as these will do an initial background check for a fee. “Also do an additional one, with the local police department as well as check social media,” Dr. Chapman added. Along these same lines, according to the International Nanny Association, parents should be sure to check the online Sex Offender Registry. Parents can do this themselves, and it gives extra peace of mind.
- Do an initial phone interview. Dr. Chapman advises that you ask questions unique to the needs of your family in order to screen potential candidates. For example, ask about comfort with pets if you have them. Ask about the person’s comfort with handling any special needs your child may have. She also advises you ask what number and ages the nanny candidate will be comfortable with; don’t just assume a nanny is as comfortable with infants as with preschool-aged children. Gynecologist and mom to a preschooler, Dr. Elosha Eliand — who attended medical school at Ole Miss — suggests getting in-depth. “Consider asking about CPR training, discipline strategies, and prior childcare experiences,” she suggested.
- Set expectations up front. Make sure you’re clear about what your needs will be for the nanny, such as your typical work schedule, and how this might change. If you desire to use the same person for date nights, then be clear about how this time will be paid. Set expectations about cooking, cleaning, napping, pet care, guests, social media postings, or discussions about you or your children.
- Do an in-home visit after a phone interview. Dr. Eliand has used only a nanny for her childcare, finding it to be ideal for her situation. She advised parents pick a day to observe the nanny in the home. “It’s important to see how they interact with your child,” she said, suggesting watching for how well your child takes to the person. She also stresses “trusting your gut” when finalizing your decision.
- Get a driving record. If your nanny will be driving your child, get a driving history report from the local police department and be sure yourself that the car seats are installed in her car correctly. The local fire department can check this for you.
- Pay the nanny taxes. According to IRS.gov, if you pay $2,100 to a non-family member who provides services for you inside your home, then you are required to complete a W-2 and file FICA taxes. The requirements vary, so visit IRS.gov or discuss this with your CPA. Failure to do so can lead to IRS penalties.
- Have a backup plan. When relying on one person for childcare, make sure you have a plan for when the nanny becomes ill. “I have a full-time and part-time nanny and a list of eight others I can call if needed at the last minute,” Dr. Eliand said.
- Check references. Now that this person seems like a solid fit, make sure you check the references. This is a must! Ask former employers about the nanny’s strengths and weaknesses, why the nanny is no longer employed with the family, and whether they would hire this person again. The replies might suggest a cause for concern, or raise other issues you might not have considered.
- Keep it professional. Put everything in writing. This will resolve any potential for confusion. You can design your own written agreement or find one at Care.com.
Good luck with this important parenting decision!
Alicia Stevens, a resident of Pearl River County, is a freelance writer, wife and mother of two who enjoys travelling with her family and friends.