UPPER WEST SIDE — Upper West Siders are not known for being shy with their opinions, so when we asked local parents for feedback on hiring and employing nannies, naturally they had a lot to say.
Respondents chimed in about what they'd do differently with their nanny arrangement in hindsight and advice they have for people hiring a nanny for the first time.
Here we've compiled their top 10 tips:
1. Be very specific and explicit up front when it comes to the job requirements.
Parents had a lot of regrets about not being clearer with their nannies regarding what was expected of them.
One parent wished behavioral expectations were less ambiguous, with guidelines like: "no talking on phone, no running errands with kids — running errands when kids in school, monthly check-ins."
Getting into the specifics of what parents want will also help them select the right person, respondents said.
If parents want to take establishing expectations a step further, they should write down "the things they could do that would 'wow' you so they know how to meet and how to exceed expectations," one person said.
2. Trust your gut, even if it means ignoring glowing referrals.
Many parents used the same three words in taking the survey: "trust your gut." Even if the nanny being interviewed is saying all the things parents think they want to hear and came recommended, parents shouldn't ignore how they feel, respondents said.
If parents are getting a bad vibe, something seems off, or they just don't feel relaxed or at ease in his or her presence, that's more important to note than any training, experience or referral, respondents said.
"Any red flags will only get 'redder' with time," one person noted.
3. Create a formal contract that both parents and the nanny sign.
Of the 162 people who responded to our question about whether they had their nanny sign a contract, 75 percent said they did not. Yet this was a major regret among parents.
Those who did have their nanny sign a contract included the basics of the job — hours, salary, time off — but they also included expectations such as no cellphone use while with the child, doing chores and other family policies. Others parents included a section on their termination policy.
4. Set up a trial period.
Given the enormity of the decision, parents should set up a trial period with their nanny just to be sure everyone will be happy. During the trial period there ideally would be no sick days or vacation days, one parent advised.
Use this time to continue checking references and "dig deep to ensure that references are not simply friends or relatives of nanny," one respondent said. Ask references what they didn't like about the nanny, not just what they did like, parents said.
5. Remember that "when the nanny is happy, the kids are happy."
This advice took different shapes, including not being "cheap" when it came to pay and thinking about how parents would want to be treated if they were in their nanny's shoes.
One parent said ensuring their nanny was cared for took the form of giving little gifts to boost morale.
"When the nanny is happy, the kids are happy — it's easy to make someone feel appreciated, and it's truly a small price to pay for helping support a happy environment for your kids," one survey respondent said.
6. Set up an hourly pay rate to avoid overpaying for parents who frequently let their nanny leave early.
For parents likely to come home early frequently — or, on the flip-side, come home late — they might want to consider an hourly rate so that both sides feels the arrangement is fair, respondents said.
7. Consider the nanny's life stage.
Respondents agreed that parents should first ask themselves what they're looking for — a nanny for the infant and toddler years only, or a long-term position?
Additionally, parents should know the nature of their need, they said. Do they keep regular hours, or are they likely to have work emergencies or travel that results in them asking their nanny to stay late or come early?
These factors will help determine what age and stage of life would be ideal for their nanny, parents advised.
For example, is the nanny looking for this to be her last permanent position as she gets close to retirement? Is this just a temporary job while she completes schooling or job training in another field?
"Our nanny is already married with a child. She does not work overtime unless there is an emergency," one respondent said, adding that the setup worked well for the family.
8. Parents should evaluate whether their communication style matches their nanny's.
Good communication and problem-solving is key, parents said.
One parent had his or her nanny fill out a written questionnaire to get a feel for the applicant.
"We had our nanny fill out a questionnaire which was really helpful in determining her childcare style, discipline techniques and how she would react in an emergency," the respondent said.
If the children are old enough, they should join part of the interview so parents can see how the applicant communicates with them, one parent advised.
"Leave the door open for communication throughout the year," added another.
9. Share the emotional side of the family experience with the nanny.
If parents are honest about what they're going through in terms of adjusting to letting someone share in the child's care, they can adjust their behavior and empathize, respondents advised.
"Always wish I shared how hard it is to hand over your child to another woman and that when I come home I like them to be able to gently separate and welcome me, rather than to feel like I am intruding," wrote one respondent.
10. Be a boss, not a friend.
If the fit is right, nannies can become more like family members over time. But don't take that camaraderie too far, and make sure to be a boss first, parents warned.
"Wish I would have been more emphatic about enforcing some of the duties. I let things slide off [the] list," one parent said.
Another said it's easy to get overwhelmed as a new parent and let your needs take a back seat.
"Being a first-time mom as well as the hiring process for a nanny, etc. I was too deferential from the get-go and it definitely set the tone for our relationship in that I felt like I was placing her needs before my family's," the parent said.