We all want the best for our kids. While many parents these days utilize day care, baby sitters, mom-baby groups and play dates for their little ones, the business of hiring nannies for extra help in those early years is still a thriving option for many busy families.
“In three years, I’ve missed one day of work, because it’s socially playful to be around kids,” said Dawn Davis, an Eastside resident who has worked as a nanny for more than 18 years. “Kids just make me smile. When you help kids, you help the future.”
The nanny industry, a field that has high professional standards of local, national and international overseeing organizations, provides for children what standard day cares often cannot: one-on-one attention with a tailored focus and in an individualized milieu.
Because of the depressed economy, however, families are using fewer nannies, as parents get laid off and do not have as many financial resources.
“People are cutting the middle-man in order to save money,” said Jennifer Gibson-Hatters, a Seattle-based nanny who has been in the business for more than 25 years and has worked for about 20 different families. “I [once] got laid off, and the mother thought she was going to have me for another few months, but they let me go because I was too expensive.”
Gibson-Hatters speculated that the number of nannies has not gone down exceedingly, but that the pay has. She noted, however, that parents get what they pay for.
“If you are hiring a nanny at $12 an hour just starting out, it requires more [of the parents’] time,” she said. “You need to be able to train another human being and give them insight as to how you want them to raise your kid.”
an organization that
places nannies across the country, as well as publishes information on nannying topics, stated that the hiring process for finding the right nanny can take weeks, if not months, and needs a high level of vigilance. When interviewing a candidate, parents need to be clear whether she or he is willing to stay with the household for at least a year. If the prospect implies that the job will only last until a better job opportunity comes along, then that individual is not the right fit.
“They have to be teachable, have to be good listeners and have to care about their job,” Gibson-Hatters said. “If it were any other job, you could fire that person if they don’t work out. But with a nanny, they will be working in your home.”
Parents should also attempt to hire someone who has first-aid and CPR training. Coursework in childhood development is a plus. The International Nanny Association, furthermore, offers an exam that deals with child development, safety and professionalism. References should be called, expectations should be affirmed and a background check should be run. In the end, though, parents should trust their gut instinct and intuition.
“You are looking for the right fit and the right person,” Gibson-Hatters said.
Others involved with the nanny industry worry that parents often take advantage of their nannies. According to law, nannies must be employed using the same state and federal employment guidelines as would be required for all other employees. Parents must make sure that their nannies have Social Security, unemployment benefits, health insurance, disability, etc.
Experts fear that many nannies suffer abuse.
Having worked in the field since 1985, Judi Julin, owner of Seattle-area’s Judi Julin RN Nannybroker Inc., stated that the overly laid-back mentality among nanny employers regarding employment standards is unfortunate especially because nannying is such a critical responsibility.
“Nannying is one of the more important jobs in the world,” Julin said. “The nanny is a co-parent with you, someone who is raising your children. If you want a happy nanny, treat them the best you can and they will do tenfold for you.”
Nannies, in general, often do more besides just taking care of children. They usually will prepare meals, do housework, reinforce appropriate discipline, provide transportation and facilitate playgroups and outings.
As such, nannies are usually paid $16 to $25 per hour, plus benefits, Julin said.
Hiring a nanny, in general, is always compared with enrolling a child in day care. Parents often ask, what is the benefit of hiring a nanny?
“The benefit of having a nanny is, [the child care is] in your own home, the kids are playing with their own toys and you have control as a parent,” Gibson-Hatters said. “There’s not a lot of sitting and waiting around, and there’s not a lot of time for kids to get bored and get into trouble.”
Day care, however, is superior for its social benefits, many confirm. Potential interaction with kids, including developing skills in communication, sharing, playing and general association are invaluable for little ones.
In the end, when families hire a quality nanny, and the nanny, in turn, bonds well with the kids and communicates efficiently with the parents, providing for a fulfilling experience for everyone — parents, children and nanny.
“You have to have the natural ability to be with kids and to guide them and teach them,” Davis reflected about the nannying career. “You are there to watch them grow.”