Not all nanny-families are created equal. You may be one of those nannies that gets lucky every time — thoughtful employers, great hours and pay, wonderful children. But chances are, every nanny will meet their match at some point. Consider these red flags when interviewing with a family to make sure you don’t fall for the shiny and new:
1. The family has hired several nannies over a short timespan
Usually when a family has had high turnaround with nannies, there’s a reason. Sometimes, the case is that the family just doesn’t know how to pick them, but usually it’s an issue with the way the family treats their nannies. Even if the pay and hours are great, a person can only work in a hectic and demanding environment for so long. When a family has had trouble keeping a nanny it’s often because the nanny is overworked, unappreciated, and unsupported. Stay away.
2. The family refers to you as a babysitter
A nanny is NOT a babysitter. A babysitter is hired, usually on an as-needed basis, to play with, feed, and keep children safe in their home while their parents are out. A nanny is employed long-term by a family to care for, manage, and invest in the children with which she works. Oftentimes, a nanny does much more than care for the children. She cleans, cooks, runs errands, plans outings, and educates the children. The compensation is also structured differently for babysitters and nannies, as nannies often receive legal pay with benefits, rather than cash out the door. If a family refers to you as a babysitter, that probably means they don’t actually understand what a nanny’s job requires. They may be looking for regular care, but they are not looking for a professional, nor are they prepared to offer a compensation package that reflects that. If you respect yourself as a professional, move on.
3. The family doesn’t call your references
In most cases, a family won’t call your references when they’re feeling pressured to hire you. That pressure can come from desperation and needing to find care right away, or fear that they might lose you to another offer. Either way, even if you are a completely normal trustworthy person, the family doesn’t know that and are choosing to leave the most valuable thing in their life with a total stranger. That should be slightly concerning as a nanny. What else are they so casual about?
4. The family is weary of letting you drive or take the kids places
I can understand the fear of letting someone drive your kids, especially someone you don’t know. It’s terrifying! The reality of having a nanny is that, unless she is able to get out with the kids, she will get antsy and eventually leave. A babysitter has no reason to drive your kids; a nanny has every reason to. Outings and classes give way to a more diverse schedule and provide opportunities for learning and growth. An immense and difficult part of hiring a nanny is learning to trust her. If a family doesn’t trust you to take their children out, they likely won’t trust you with other things, as well. This is why it’s so important for potential employers to call your references!
5. The family seems surprised when you mention other duties besides childcare
I have been in situations before where parents looked puzzled when I asked what other things they wanted done during the day besides childcare. I explained that I could do laundry, take care of light cleaning, or even prep meals. I once had a mom say to me, “You wouldn’t mind doing that?” Uh oh. Another family that doesn’t know the difference between a babysitter and a nanny. Some people like the idea of a nanny and the surmised sound of prestige it has, but they don’t really know what it means to employ one. Refer to Red Flag #2.
6. The family provides vague or contradicting responses
It’s okay for people to change their minds; it’s another thing when they contradict themselves or their partner during an interview. Providing vague and contradicting responses is a sign of poor communication and planning. When they don’t seem to know what they do, think, or want, a nanny will get thrown into that equation of uncertainty. I don’t know about you, but I like to know what’s going on everyday without getting a million things thrown at me the moment I walk through the door in the morning. Communication is tremendously important between a nanny and her nanny-family, so when the family keeps changing their expectations or can’t agree on anything, it creates an impossible work environment for a nanny.
7. The family won’t sign a written agreement or contract
Many families find a contract to be daunting and unnecessary. As a seasoned nanny, I can tell you they are not. If you and the family are serious about your employment, a written agreement is a great way to make sure both parties are protected. It can be as simple as stating agreed upon hours, pay, and duties; or as detailed as you want. Just get it in writing!
8. The family doesn’t give you a good feeling
It’s as simple as that. Some people just won’t mesh well, and that’s okay! There isn’t always going to be a communicable reason for why you feel uneasy about a certain family, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your apprehension. Trust your gut and wait it out until you find a family better suited for you.
Every situation is different, and just because a family presents one or two of these red flags does not mean you wouldn’t enjoy being their nanny. Consider what you are looking for in a family and how each of these red flags would affect that. Only you can decide what you are and aren’t willing to work with.