In my regular “Ask Manny” posts, I answer questions from actual parents seeking advice on challenging issues and topics. Last time, we heard from a stepmom who was at her wit’s end with her stepchildren’s mother. If you have parenting paradox of your own that you would like Manny to weigh in on, write to me here. Today’s question comes from the Facebook page (which you should totally be a fan of, if you’re not already):
Where does a parent begin looking for a manny/nanny in the Big Apple? I have some very big specifics, but I even don’t know where to start the search!
First of all, shout out to Amanda for explicitly including mannies in her search! Male caregivers exist, too, and most of us happen to be awesome.
This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to tackled the problem of finding a caregiver, but the issue last time was a matter of trust. It sounds like Amanda is struggling with a combination of big city overload and strict qualification criteria.
The advantage to seeking a nanny in New York City is that because there are so many people in this city, there’s bound to be one that will meet your needs. The problem with seeking a nanny in New York City is that because there are SO MANY PEOPLE in this city, it’s overwhelming to even try to begin to wrap your mind around where to start.
Amanda, I shall do my best to help you find the perfect m/nanny for your little one. Here are some strategies to start the search:
Get referrals from other parents. If you know other parents, chances are that they have either:
Ask any nannies you know. You may not know this, but we mannies have a tight network amongst one another. We are constantly hearing about openings, referring each other to new gigs and getting competing offers from other families. I have been referred to families, picked up spot gigs while my family was on vacation and even gotten offers to change families — not that I would do such a thing — all via other nannies. Harness the power of the Nanny Network, Amanda.
Do something useful with social media for once. Today, we’re able to reach more of our peers and acquaintances with a few keyboard strokes than we could 15 years ago with 4 hours and a phone book. Some of them are probably even actual friends who want to help. Make use of that. Reach out on Facebook and Twitter for referrals and ideas. Maybe you’ll even find a candidate or two.
Post an ad on Craigslist. OK, OK…I know it seems sketchy. And, yes, you’re going to have to weed through a lot of spam, scams and general creepiness in order to get to the good stuff. But, once you separate the wheat from the chaff, you may actually find some gems among that garbage. After all, that’s how my family found me.
Peruse online agencies. Not surprisingly, there are a number of online resources specifically targeted at helping parents find caregivers. These give you access to huge databases of potential candidates, all with easily searchable profiles and qualifications. Plus, many are free! I’ve used Nannies4Hire.com to find work, and that’s how my fiancee got her current gig. I’ve heard good things about Care.com, and if you’re willing to shell out a bit, Angie’s List may also be a good resource. A quick Google search — not like the one above — will yield some more channels to explore.
Search for students. In New York, we’re fortunate to have a huge number of colleges and universities close at hand. For students, this means a huge selection of schools, programs and courses. For Amanda, it means a huge selection of students, one of whom might be her next m/nanny. Students have the advantages of generally being smart and hard working, while also having weird schedules that can coincide with child care hours. Oh, and they usually need cash. Look especially for majors like psychology, child development, elementary education and the like.
When all else fails, reconsider your needs. Listen, you want the best for your child. I get that. But if you’re having trouble finding the right person after casting a wide net for a few weeks, it may time to think about whether what you’re asking for is reasonable. If your child has special needs and therefore needs someone who can, for example, use sign or respond to a seizure, then stick to your guns. Otherwise, is it strictly necessary that this person be able to make buffalo wings, build a proper campfire and drive a stick shift? (Incidentally, I can do all those things. Total package.)
For example, if you’ve been insistent that the person have a Bachelor’s degree, ask yourself if that’s really necessary. When I was hiring for the children’s shelter, the only educational requirement for our direct care staff was a high school diploma. And that’s for people who were being asked to teach skills to and build relationships with at-risk adolescents with serious behavioral problems. The ones who were great at it didn’t necessarily have a degree, because they don’t really teach that in college.
On the flip side, in my time at MSU, I met at least a handful of psychology professors who I wouldn’t really want watching my kids. My developmental psych professor was a brilliant scholar, but I didn’t so much trust in his child-rearing skills.
The point is, that quasi-indefinable “good with kids” skill that you’re looking for isn’t necessarily tied up in some set of criteria that you are fixated on. Nannies are a varied and diverse group of people who tend to have picked up an assortment of unique and valuable skills along the way. You might be better served by letting those come to you than being locked in on what you think you want.
I hope that helps, Amanda. You’ve got a big job ahead of you, and compounding the whole process is the fact that hiring a n/manny is not a decision to be entered into lightly. Best of luck, and if I can be of any further help, please let me know. Also, I could make myself available for the right price. (Just kidding, Salvador and Yoshi’s parents! I’m loyal only to you. Please don’t fire me.)
How about some of you other parents out there: what advice do you have for Amanda in her search? Where have you had success finding m/nannies? What do you look for in a caregiver for your child?