When you're hiring the perfect nanny or babysitter, there are a number of dos and don'ts to abide by. Like you don't need to be BFFs, but you do have to like her.
When you're vetting a potential nanny, certain phrases and attitudes should inspire an automatic "Next!" and send you dashing to a better candidate. But once you've found your person, it's important she feels happy and respected. These dos and don'ts will help you find a happy place with your child care provider.
- DO be transparent about household chores Some light tidying up is totally fine, but don't expect anything extensive for the first year or two. (That baby is time-consuming, remember?)
- DO put everything in writing Aside from getting all parties on the same page at the outset, a contract will protect everyone involved should something go wrong. Care.com offers a sample template that you can follow.
- DO set clear expectations This is the biggest thing care providers want from their bosses, says Melissa Marchwick, executive vice president at Sittercity, an online database of caregivers. "They like working for parents who understand the scope of the job and take the time to walk them through expectations and things they need to know about little Johnny," she explains. So lay it all out there, but then let her do her thing. Having your sitter record food intake? A-OK. Making her write down every single board book they read? Don't go there.
- DO provide feedback Set up a sit-down at the two-week mark to talk about any issues or concerns so you can ensure it's a good fit for the long haul.
- DON'T trust a vague recommendation letter If the letter's author doesn't explain why the nanny is available, she could just be trying to off-load a not-so-great care provider. "I generally want to see, 'We're moving,' or 'I now need only two days a week,'" says Julie McCaffrey, owner of BabyNav, a maternity concierge company in Westchester County, N.Y.
- DON'T worry about dropping by unannounced "Ask a candidate, 'Is it cool if I work from home some days?'" McCaffrey suggests. "She should say, 'Yes, absolutely.' You want to make sure the nanny is doing her job well whether you're there or not."
- DON'T go with someone who has an aversion to the "s" word "Avoid caretakers who talk about not wanting to 'spoil' babies," says Rebecca Parlakian, director of parenting resources at Zero to Three, a nonprofit that supports healthy child development. "You can't spoil an infant. If he or she is crying, there's a need that's not being met."
- DON'T let them skirt Qs about past employers Nannies who can't tell you stories about families they've worked for, or who won't open up about some of the challenges they've faced in past jobs, might be hiding something.
- DON'T be fooled by an overly sunny view "I had one client whose nanny would say every day that it had been a great day," McCaffrey says. After some digging, the parents realized the sitter wasn't giving them an honest take. Ask candidates to characterize the ups and downs of life with a little one. "When you have a small baby, not every day is perfect," McCaffrey says. "You want someone who's going to give you the real story."