1. Know what you need (and want)
Write down your needs, expectations, compensation and wishlist. This deep dive won’t be shared with anyone but your spouse (as applicable), but you’ll need to refer to it often in your search.
You should also write up a super simple and clean paragraph that you can forward to friends, family or post online. Be careful not to reveal too much personal information like travel information, names of your kids, or your address if you plan to share this portion broadly and openly (such as on care.com).
Something like this will do for a introductory post/e-mail:
“Close-knit, active family of four (a boy and girl, both under 3-years-old) on the search for the perfect sitter! Flexible on days but will need 10 reliable and consistent hours every week, preferably in the morning and occasional date nights. Must have a clean driving record and reliable car, great reference, and experience with toddlers and infants. Requires you to be punctual and willing to wear many hats (folding kid’s laundry, doing the dishes to dancing around the living room or doing endless crafts!). High-energy, fluent in more than one language and a high-tolerance of “Baby Shark” – a plus! Family is located in Sherman Oaks area.”
2. Source for referrals
- Ask neighbors and other families in the area for recommendations
- Join your local ‘parents club’ and search their online forums or Facebook groups
- Post on Nextdoor or look for other posts in existence about childcare providers
- Join care.com, urbansitter, sittercity or other platforms for caregivers
- Consider a live-in/live-out nanny and/or an au pair
3. Do your research
- Thoroughly read their profile if using a public platform (like care.com)
- Check out reviews in their profile or search their name on the web for other site reviews
- Scope out their social media if possible (including LinkedIn)
- E-mail them a simple introduction and a few easy questions about their availability, rate, experience, location and interest working with your family
- Schedule a 15-25 minute Facetime or Skype phone screen
4. Next Steps
- Ask for their reference and call each of them. E-mail exchanges and recommendation letters do not do the same justice as a live conversation.
- Schedule an in-person interview to ask the candidate more questions, get a sense of each other and go over your high-level needs and expectations. You should also be in “sell mode” if you like them! You want them to like you and your family as they are likely interviewing elsewhere. I prefer this to be a 30-minute meeting at a local coffee shop (if you have the luxury of being kid-free). Otherwise, schedule it over nap time or school so you can truly focus on the conversation at hand.
5. Set-up a Trial
Be willing to set-up a ‘trial’ with your potential caregiver. Have them come over to your house for 2 to 3 hours when you will be there (and available). Walk them through where things are kept, how you like things done with the kids/in the kitchen/etc., your expectations of their responsibilities in your house/with the children, and leave lots of room for casual conversation and positive interaction with the children.
Spend time together with the kids and let them see how you play with your little one. Demonstrate how you speak to the children or how you handle a meltdown or meal time. Save time to step away here and there and just listen in to them engaging with your children on their own.
Getting to know your potential caregiver and allowing them to get to know your family will help each party make an informed decision about the fit.
Trials should be paid and that expectation should be set upfront.
6. Put together your offer
By this point you should already have a grasp on the providers requirements for compensation and they should understand what you will be offering them. However, you should make the following crystal clear before beginning the journey together:
- The hourly pay rate
- When and how they should expect to be paid (check, cash, venmo, paypal)
- Holiday, sick or vacation days you will be offering – paid or unpaid (for full-time caregivers)
- Your expectations of their responsibilities while on-duty
- If there are other benefits or perks you are offering. This might include things like a train or bus pass, gas money, a cell phone, use of your family car, food while working or other.
7. Be a reliable and fair employer
Whether you are gaining a full-time nanny, or an occasional sitter, it is important that they see you as a fair, reliable and trustworthy employer and that you value their role in your family’s life.
You should stay on the same page as them, informing them about changes in schedules, new house rules, guidelines about discipline, and back them up in front of your kids when necessary. They should feel like an important part of the “team” and on the same side as the parents.
If you are cutting hours short over the week or month, discuss their financial needs with them beforehand (they may be relying on you to pay bills!) and be fair to them with their responsibilities (doesn’t expect them to clean your bathroom or fold your laundry if that wasn’t discussed in the first place). Manage their expectations well day-to-day, if you are going to be late, you should give them the same courtesy you expect of them.
Never ask a caregiver to reduce their rate because your kids go to sleep, it is their time and competency you are paying for. Even if your kids are sleeping – if there was an emergency at night- you’d expect the best from them.
8. Make Room in the Schedule to Train Them
Whether it is a day, week, or a couple of hours here and there – ensure you leave room in your schedule to spend time with your new caregiver at the very beginning. Writing down instructions and making labels around the house will help also! Set your provider up for success! Training them in a way that demonstrates you trust them and expect great things helps them feel committed to a lasting, healthy relationship with your family.