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Finding the Right Nanny and Keeping Her

Shortly after having your baby, you start worrying about who will look after your new little bundle of joy when you return to work. Unfortunately, it tends to consume a large portion of your maternity leave and can be extremely stressful. There are three options: a daycare, a dayhome or a nanny.

Depending on your situation, things such as the number of children requiring care, your location, economics and availability will all play a part in determining your childcare decision. If you decide to hire a nanny, the following are some tips to assist you in the recruiting phase and beyond.

There are two categories of nannies: live in and live out. If you decide to hire a live in caregiver, make sure that you allow plenty of time, as processing times are long for those who are working overseas and for those who are already in Canada under the Live In Caregiver program. Even if the caregiver you wish to hire is already in the country, she will need a new work permit to legally work for you.

If you decide to hire a live out caregiver, make sure that you also allow lots of time because they can be more difficult to source. Also, you need to expect that they will negotiate a substantially higher rate of pay than caregivers who are still under the Live In Caregiver program.

You can source out available nannies by word of mouth (tell everyone you know), using website-based matching services, or an agency. If you decide to use an agency, I would recommend using one that is based in Alberta; they have a bigger presence in the local market and a reputation to uphold.

Next, put together a good list of interview questions appropriate for your child (ren’s) ages. Ask lots of questions and trust your intuition. Interview the potential caregivers in your home and watch how they interact with your child(ren). If you are uncertain, have them back a second time. If you have a feeling that something isn’t quite right, trust your instincts and interview others. You will know the right one when you meet her. And don’t dilly dally - good nannies get snapped up quickly.

Check references and ask lots of questions.
Read between the lines when checking references. Sometimes former employers don’t want to come right out and provide negative information so you may need to dig for it. You can usually tell when someone is withholding information by their vague answers.

I remember when we interviewed a caregiver for our twins, who were 10 months old at the time. When she arrived at our home, she immediately starting talking and playing with the babies. My husband and I had no idea what we were doing and had nothing prepared for the interview, but we knew that we felt completely comfortable with her. After she changed their diapers (with no prompting from us), she asked what she should do with the dirty diapers to which my husband responded, “You can take them home, if you like.” He was joking, of course.

Villa, who became our beloved nanny for the next two-and-a-half years and remains a part of our family to this day, told me several months after she starting working with us that she almost didn’t take the job because she thought my husband was serious… thankfully she took the leap because all of our lives have been positively affected as a result of our connection. It was also incredibly easy for me to go to work every day having her in our home knowing that my children were loved, safe and having fun.

Lessons learned: listen to your intuition, watch the connection she makes with your children, simply let yourself reflect on how it feels to have her in your home. It is a very personal relationship and needs to feel comfortable not only for the children but for the parent(s) as well. Is she easy to talk to? Do you feel like you will be able to communicate with her during the day over the phone or in an emergency situation?

I had a friend ask me what she should do after she had interviewed a nanny who couldn’t communicate particularly well. My advice was simple: “Move on to the next possibility.” Don’t even consider the candidate if you feel like it will be a struggle to communicate. You cannot be at work attempting to have a conversation with your caregiver and be unsure whether your message has gotten across. It will not give you the sense of peace that you need when you are a working mother with small children.

It isn’t always perfect. There are cultural differences that you may need to work through. Once you have hired your caregiver, communication is key. You may want to use a communication book as a tool to ensure that everyone is on the same page and important information is being relayed. It is also useful to have monthly meetings to just check in to ensure everyone’s needs are being met. Caregivers are often reluctant to express their feelings, so make sure they understand it’s safe to communicate and that you value their thoughts.

Working together with a good caregiver is truly a blessing as you can never have enough people in your lives to love your children.

Calgary Nanny Connection Inc. is a local agency that provides extensive services to families who employ caregivers with an emphasis on creating and maintaining the best childcare possible. For more information, visit


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