The nanny files

Not just a babysitter ... Having a nanny might be a better choice for your family.
Not just a babysitter ... Having a nanny might be a better choice for your family. 

Once the bastion of the wealthy, having a nanny is no longer strictly for the rich and famous. Far from feeling like you are abandoning the kids to a stranger so you can go back to work and earn the filthy lucre, having a nanny can be a way of injecting a new family member into your little people’s life. And with the right choice, you can be giving your kids a new role model, a confidant and a fun friend - not to mention giving yourself a little down time too (okay, being a working parent barely counts as ‘down time’, but going to the toilet in peace can make for a fun change).

When my boys were four and six, I worked part time. Daycare wasn’t working for the kids anymore, and subsequently, it wasn’t working for me. A friend suggested that a nanny might be a better choice for our family, and as there were two kids to look after, it also cost around the same as their daycare fees.

We started out by using Find a Babysitter, and through them, we found our first nanny. While she was undoubtedly experienced, and a lovely person, it wasn’t quite the right mix; my boys are rowdy and her experience had been with quiet families with girls. Like many relationships in life, not everyone is going to be right for each other - but as long as the lines of communication are open, it doesn’t have to be a bad experience. After two days we all sat down to chat, and she said she wasn't really enjoying the experience, and the boys admitted that while she was nice, she "wasn’t much fun".

We struck gold with candidate number two. Armed with a fresh batch of questions, and "are you experienced and okay with rowdy boys?" at the top of the list, I met with Jacinta. Within a minute, I knew she would fit with us – we had that ‘click’ you sometimes get when meeting a new person, and she was outgoing and bubbly; rather than supervise the boys on the trampoline, she was pretty keen to get up there with them. She was also training to be a nurse - which, to me, screamed caring, capable of hard work and not in it strictly for the money - and with our number two boy being somewhat accident prone, this was a plus.

Right from the beginning, Jacinta worked with us to figure out our values and how we parent our boys. At the same time, we made it very clear to her that we trusted her to use her own judgement – we didn't expect her to do things exactly our way any more than we would their grandparents or uncle and aunty. Before you recoil with shock, I should point out that this was after getting to know her, and knowing that even if her methods were sometimes different, the reasoning and the outcomes were the same.

Having a nanny can be a way of injecting a new family member into your little people’s lives

It wasn’t all hearts and flowers for her and the boys though. One afternoon when I got home, the boys informed me they didn’t want ‘Cinta’ to come anymore. As they'd always adored her I was a little surprised, and asked why. As it turned out, she'd had the audacity to not take them bowling after they'd misbehaved quite badly, even though she'd warned them it was going to be the outcome if they didn’t stop. I smiled at them and said, "You know what guys, this is one of the many reasons Dad and I trust her implicitly with you." It would have been so much easier for her to just take them bowling– I’ve seen the punishment-induced tantrums they can muster up, and she would have had a hard day of it. But the fact that she cared enough about the humans they would develop into to hold them accountable was one of the many examples of why we consider her family.

My story isn't an isolated incident: a very good friend of mine employed a nanny a few years ago, and, again, her first try wasn’t ideal, but number two has become part of the family. She recently relocated to the States after meeting a US citizen who she's set to marry, but they stay in constant contact with the nanny through Skype, and there's little doubt the kids see her as an aunty.

In a time when families are more spread out, a nanny, when you find the right person, injects another close relationship into your children’s life. A mix of positive role models can only be good for them.

If you're on the hunt for a nanny and aren't sure how to get started, Find a Babysitter has a huge database of nannies to look through. They also have great tips and advice on interviewing and selecting the right person for your family, and the legalities around insurance and employment legislation.

To talk to other parents about daycare, babysitters and nannies, visit the Essential Baby forum.