For many families there comes a point where consistent child care is needed. There are many child care options to choose from whether it be traditional day care, reliance on relatives or less traditional methods such as alternating shifts. Finding the right option for your family can be a challenge. To help, we are breaking down the nanny option, an option likely unexplored by most. While the word ‘nanny’ might conjure images of Mary Poppins or Maria from "The Sound of Music," many modern families have found nannies to be exactly what their family needs. We talked with some local nanny professionals and a local mom to help separate fact from fiction when it comes to nannies.
Myth: Hiring a nanny isn’t an affordable financial option.
Let’s face it, child care is expensive. In many communities across the nation, child care cost can soar to more each month than rent! But when you consider the value of quality care and the benefits that care offers families, it’s an essential expense worth the investment.
However, when crunching the numbers, alternative care options like hiring a nanny might actually be more affordable than you think. Traditional care options like centers usually have one pay option no matter how frequent or infrequent your child attends. If your family needs care occasionally throughout the week or outside the traditional 9-to-5 workday, you might be paying more money than you would with other options.
A nanny service or a nanny-share arrangement, where a nanny cares for children in two or more families, could be a cost effective option and can be tailored to meet your needs. It can be customized to include transportation to and from after school activities and more.
Since your family’s needs set the schedule, the flexibility a nanny offers can be a cost-saver. If your work schedule has you frequently late for pick-up deadlines, those additional fees can really add up! Andrea Palmer, an ob-gyn with Lakeside Women’s Hospital, chose to hire a nanny for this very reason, and a few others.
“Day cares open and close on a set schedule and there are so many days that just would not work for (our family),” Palmer shared. “The flexibility (our nanny) provides with arrival and departure times is key for our busy household.”
Marti Carpenter, the Palmers' nanny, helps bridge the gaps for the Palmers.
“I think everyone knows that arriving just minutes after a child care center closes could be very hard on a families’ budget,” Carpenter explained. “A nanny can also offer a wider range of flexibility such as picking up sick children from school or reporting for duty when the weather might cause school to be cancelled.”
Part-time nannies as well as a nanny-share situation can be a cost effective child care option for many families. Nanny services are also an affordable option since they can help facilitate some of the overhead costs in comparison to employing a full-time nanny. The additional costs, such as transportation, meal service and additional staff, can also be negotiated.
Myth: Nannies aren’t professional child care providers.
A nanny and a sitter are not the same thing. Both offer families very important services but they each have their own purpose. As with any profession, there will be a variety of experience levels and aspirations. However, for many, being a nanny is a career choice.
“I know people are curious and I welcome questions all the time about what I choose to do,” Carpenter said. “It’s tough, it’s not for everyone, but it is our real job.”
Meghann Shetley with College Nannies and Sitters of Edmond assures parents their nannies are trained and must follow their high standard of care.
“Training includes child safety and basic child development which encourages them to stay engaged with the children throughout the day,” Shetley explained. “We also have a strict no cell phone policy.”
When hiring a nanny, you get to do the screening. You have control over the level of education and experience you require as well as the developmental philosophies and care qualities you want for your child.
Beyond the flexibility a nanny can offer, families also get benefit of a low child-to-caregiver ratio and children get to be in their own home. Additionally, a nanny can increase an important commodity for you and your children: time.
“I don't have to get the kids up, dressed and dropped off somewhere before I get to work,” Palmer said. “On my earliest mornings, my kids are often asleep when I leave, and it's nice to be able to let them get their rest and wake up later.”
Nannies can also offer a consistent caregiver across your children’s ages and developmental stages. Carpenter is quite proud of the bond she has with the Palmer family.
“The consistency of being cared for by the same person is very important to children,” Carpenter said. “It’s a unique relationship. We get to be as close as parents, but also be friends. We know our charges inside and out. We celebrate their ups and we are hurt when they are hurt. There will be times when the kids are waiting at the door for Mom or Dad to get home and there will be times that we have to shake the kids off our legs to get out the door.”
“Our nanny offers our kids the ability to have a stay-at-home mom when both parents work,” adds Palmer. “She loves our kids and treats them like her own.”
Myth: Finding a qualified nanny is hard to do.
The idea of having a complete stranger in your home to care for your kids can seem overwhelming. The fear of choosing the wrong person might add some sleepless nights. However, with a nanny, you are the person making the hiring decisions. If this appeals to you but you don’t know where to start, there are local services that can help your family learn more about using a nanny.
The selection process takes time. College Nannies and Sitters of Edmond starts the process with an in-home meeting with the family to discuss past child care experiences and their needs. Whether using a service or not, these are both important things to have written down. A successful nanny-family relationship depends on open communication and clear expectations.
“Communicate your needs and expectations clearly,” Carpenter advised. “If you have three children in car seats and your newly-hired nanny shows up in a sports car or if a nanny has never picked up a pot or pan and you want your children to eat fresh organic food prepared at home then everyone is set up to fail.”
If you feel the potential cost and availability of a qualified nanny is a possibility for your family, there are still a few things to take into account. The up-front costs of a nanny can be straightforward but when deciding if a nanny is right for your budget it will require some number crunching.
“There are book-keeping expenses, tax liabilities, insurance liabilities and the need to be consistent,” Carpenter said. “If you are employing a full-time nanny and need him or her to be fully available to you, you will need to understand that your nanny also has living expenses and a budget.”
You should then carefully consider what arrangement would work best for your family. Take the time to discuss what you are seeking. If you are in need of part-time care, a nanny service or nanny-share situation might be important options to consider.
“Be picky and don’t hurry, if it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t,” Carpenter advised.
Thorough screening is very important. The Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation is a good resource for a background check.
“We begin the screening process by checking several character references, their past work experiences and a premier background check,” Shetley explained of recruitment through College Nannies and Sitters of Edmond. “The potential candidates must complete training.”
All this must be complete before Shetley even sets up an interview with the family.
“It is a tedious process and can take time,” Shetley said. “But that's what the College Nannies staff is here for to ensure the process is easy and simple for our clients.”
During an interview, both the nanny and the family should spend time exploring the fit.
“Find someone who aligns with your philosophies of care and discipline,” Palmer said. “We found our nanny through a site called www.nannies4hire.com and interviewed probably eight or nine people.”
But, they knew right away that Carpenter was the right choice for their family.
“She was an instant fit for our family,” Palmer recalled. “My kids have had the same loving nanny for seven years now.”
Common reasons a nanny might be right for you:
- Demanding profession
- Non-traditional care hours
- Kids with active schedules
- Desire to have in-home or one-on-one care
- Consistent caregiver for a variety of ages