finding ms. right

A search for the perfect nanny took this mom right back to her dating days.


Why isn’t she calling? Maybe she didn’t get my message. Should I try again? No, I don’t want to come on too strong. Wait … maybe she’s seeing someone else!

Ten years after I bid farewell to the anxiety of blind dates, setups and mixed signals, I found myself doing the mating dance all over again. This time, however, I was trying to hire a nanny. And just as I’d always had a clear picture of who my husband would be, I also had a vision of the perfect babysitter: energetic enough to chase

my daughter through the sprinklers; patient enough to teach her a second language; responsible, loving and flexible. Well, I’d found my Prince Charming, so I had high hopes that my Mary Poppins was out there, too.

Taking a tip from my dating friends, I tried the Internet. On my first visit to one child-care message board, I thought I’d hit the jackpot. “We’re moving and can’t take our wonderful part-time nanny with us,” the posting read. “This educated, warm, wonderful woman cooks gourmet meals, has taught our son French and treats him as if he were her own.”

I practically sprained my finger rushing to call the woman who placed the ad. She promised that Dahlia would call me soon. So I waited. And waited. As I sat by the phone, picking it up every five minutes to see if there was still a dial tone, I had a flashback to a guy named David who broke my heart in 11th grade. Well, like David, Dahlia never called. Which taught me a valuable lesson: If someone sounds too good to be true, he or she probably is.

Resigned to the fact that I was going to have to “put myself out there,” I spread the word. Friends’ nannies passed along names. I got phone numbers off fliers. Once, when my husband was out shopping with our daughter, a woman slipped a piece of paper into his hand right there by the cantaloupes. “Call me,” she said seductively, and walked away. On the note were her phone number and the words “nanny available.”

Later, standing in front of my closet trying to find the perfect interview outfit, I felt the same heady mixture of hope and anxiety, optimism and cynicism that precedes any first date. Some interviews went as badly as some dates: One woman mumbled so badly that I couldn’t figure out if she had been a teacher’s aide or a preacher’s maid. Another sat primly as her 3-year-old son spun like a whirling dervish through my living room. I had almost given up hope when Dina, who was referred (and adored) by my friend Lisa, rang the bell.

Dina didn’t dazzle me at first; she was nervous and didn’t say much. But she seemed sweet, and going with my gut instinct, I decided to give her a shot. Good thing: By the end of Dina’s first week, I knew she was a keeper. My daughter loves her. Dina chases her through the sprinklers and is teaching her Spanish.

I learned in just a few weeks of nanny dating what it took me a decade of boyfriend dating to realize: Smooth come-ons, slick résumés and flashy first impressions are not the key ingredients for a long-term relationship. But trust, compassion and a shared love of Cheerios and Elmo can lead to happily ever after.