Friday, May 31, 2013

So You Want to Be a Nanny

Nicole Brown, Marketing Intern Coordinator
Melanie Stoeckle, Marketing Intern

As summer swings into full gear, most students already have their jobs set. Some will wait tables, some will work internships and others will choose to nanny. Before diving headfirst into a nanny position, consider the following advice from girls that have nannied before.

As with any job, it’s important to make sure that you find a company, or in this case a family, with whom you fit well. Keep in mind that nannying is usually a larger commitment than just babysitting. Typically, babysitting is for a few hours at a time, on a case-by-case basis. Nannying is a much more full-time position that sometimes involves greater influence in the lives of the kids, based on the sheer amount of time you may spend with them.

However, different families expect different things of their nannies. For example, some may want you to do minor housework, take care of the dog and run errands for the family. Before accepting any position, use the following suggestions to make sure that you have gathered all the necessary information to make sure that your expectations match those of the family.

  • First and foremost, being a nanny is a lot of responsibility. Make sure that you are happy with the salary that they offer, and remember that legally, they must pay you at least minimum wage and you must claim the income on your taxes.

  • Is this a 9-5 job, or are you expected to have evening and weekend availability as well?
  • Will the hours be steady or vary by week?
  • Can you schedule any additional days off?
  • Will it be just you and the kids or will a parent sometimes be there too?

The Kids
  • How many kids are there? Are they boys or girls? How old are they?
    • Keep in mind that younger kids require much more supervision and that the genders of the kids that you watch will greatly affect your experiences. Young boys, for example, can be more prone to physically fighting with their siblings.
  • If there are multiple, do they generally get along? Are there particular problem areas? How should you avoid those?
  • Will they have friends and neighbors over? Are you expected to babysit them as well?

  • Will you travel to their house? Will they drop the kids at yours? Are they open to a mix of both?
  • Driving
  • How much will you be expected to drive?
  • Will you be driving their vehicle or your own?
  • Will you be reimbursed for gas?
  • Do you have a clean driving record? Make sure that the parents are comfortable with your driving their kids.

General Expectations and Responsibilities
  • What additional responsibilities beyond supervising the kids will you have around the house?
  • Do the kids have any limitations, like how much television they can watch?
  • Are there any activities that the kids must complete, like reading every day or standing appointments?
  • Are you expected to plan activities and entertain the kids, or do they already have activities planned?
  • What kind of activities are permitted? Should prior notice of trips (to the pool, park, etc.) be preapproved by the parent?
  • Are there any pets that require your attention?
  • What merits calling the parents and what is acceptable to just relay to them when they get home?
  • Will you serve as essentially the “acting parent” or do decisions always defer to the parents?

  • What are you expected to do if a child breaks the rules?
  • Be sure to have a thorough understand of the family’s discipline procedures and to stay consistent.

  • What meals are you expected to make?
  • Do the kids have dietary restrictions or limitations?
  • Will you be expected to bring your own food or can you also eat the food at the house?

Just remember to be professional, but also be yourself when you go to meet the family for an interview. If you are true to yourself, the whole experience will be more comfortable for everybody and can make you more likeable with the parents. The bottom line is that they must feel comfortable leaving their kids with you. 

Even after accepting a nannying position, make sure to properly prepare yourself for the work. Especially if you have not held a long-term childcare position before, you may need to adjust your expectations.

Here are a few things to expect:

Hard work
It’s true that some nannying jobs can come with frequent lounging by the pool, but while you’re working you are never off duty. You’re always responsible for the kids and always have to pay attention to what they are doing. Some days, everything will run smoothly. Other days, everything will just seem to go wrong and you’ll be run ragged very quickly.

Working with kids means that every day will be different. Expect that sometimes a child will throw a tantrum and that, inevitably, accidents and boo-boos will happen at some point.

Supervising, not parenting
Unless you’ve known and babysat for a family for an extended period of time already, being a nanny means walking a tightrope. Yes, you are caring for the kids, but all final parenting calls fall to the parents. Depending on the family, your level of involvement will differ—just be careful not to overstep your bounds.

Constantly-changing activities
The level to which this is true depends completely on the kids, but it will surely happen sometimes. Kids, especially young ones, move from one activity to another very quickly and often expect you to make their boredom go away. To them, the main thing you are there for their entertainment and to be their playmate.

A rewarding experience
Positively impacting a child’s life can give you a great sense of accomplishment. When they succeed, you’ll be proud. And your fridge may fill up with artwork.

This advice is all based on our personal experiences serving as nannies. You must remember that every family is different, and as such, every nanny experience will also be different. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly investigate before accepting a job. We highly recommend requesting a “trial day,” during which you watch the kids by yourself for at least six hours to get an idea of what a typical day might be like, and then decide if you’re a good fit for the family.

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