Trying to conceive is an exercise in frustration – you ponder for months, years even, on when to have a baby and you psych yourself up for it and decide you are going to start trying. Out goes the birth control and then… Nothing. Months of nothing. Why were you ever worrying if you missed the odd pill when you can miss 100 and still not be pregnant?!
Selecting childcare is proving to be a similar object lesson in frustration.
First you reject other options; because childminders have too high a ratio of childminders to children with limited facilities and nurseries are too institutional, long hours, and dens of disease with too early closing times. But you only decide this once you have visited all the options in the area – just in case one was different. (To be fair, we found a nursery we liked – where the kids didn’t look like they were from Stepford and they took them out in a huge wheelbarrow thing to play in the park, but it closed at 6pm and with both our work finishing at 6pm, that put a bit of a spanner in the works).
Which leaves nannies as the only option – able to work in your home, to your childcare philosophy, to your hours. But they are properly expensive – especially once you have paid their tax, their national insurance and your employer’s tax – a going rate of £10 per hour quickly becomes £14.50, and this to be paid largely from your post-tax income (unless you can persuade your employer to pay you the amazing £28 per week, i.e. 2 hours’ worth, in childcare vouchers that you are allowed as a higher rate tax payer and find an Ofsted registered nanny to take them).
But you decide that your child’s happiness is the most important thing, and that it will be an investment in your career because you will be able to give it more focus as you won’t constantly be off with an ill child or having to leave early to get back in time to avoid penalties, and so a nanny it is!
After all that soul searching, you rather hope that the perfect nanny will drop from the sky when the wind changes. So far, no such luck…
I have been using childcare.co.uk for my search as they seemed to be the largest, and they have enjoyed taking my £19.99 a month in fees to allow me to message or be messaged by nannies in my fruitless search. This is a lot cheaper than an agency which can charge you a whole month’s worth of nanny salary, but is basically just a bulletin board where you throw pins at it and hope the right nanny has logged in recently.
I developed a fabulous profile, hoping to tempt like minded hippy nannies to our door:
“We have a relaxed parenting style in line with an attachment parenting philosophy, so are baby-led in weaning and schedule, babywear and plan to practice a gentle discipline approach (time-ins rather than time-outs and acknowledging her emotions while setting boundaries). We love spending time outdoors and learning through play and adventure.
We are looking for a nanny for our amazing (I would say that) 15 month old starting asap for four days a week with hours likely to be from 8.30am-7pm.
We are looking for a nanny with at least 5 years of nannying experience, who is energetic, happy and willing to learn and try new things and comfortable working with a child who is deliberately not in a routine.
Really looking for a like minded nanny who would enjoy following a gentle parenting philosophy and love spending time with our daughter as much as we do!”
I don’t think the profile is the problem – a lot of nannies get in touch, some whose reading comprehension is rather questionable and can be rejected immediately based on lack of experience or ability to write English. The rest are very tricky – you ask them to send their CV and any written references, but it is very difficult to work out from these who should be fonxed and who should be interviewed. So I have interviewed a lot.
I use a mix of questions from Tinies, Huffington Post, and BabyCenter and generally have a chat about our parenting philosophy – why we think it is important to treat children as people with valid emotions and viewpoints (even if we don’t agree with them) and that Elphie does survive without self-imploding despite not having a routine.
If they get through that, then there’s a second round with Fred and if they are through that then I check the references. For this I use a set list of questions from a set cribbed from Care.com, including the critical “Would you hire them again?” and it also allows you to ask open ended questions about discipline and routines to find out what they actually did, as opposed to them telling you what you want to hear.
At this point, interviews are done, references are glowing and you are happily imagining settling in days and returning to work safe in the knowledge that your daughter is being wonderfully cared for by her loving and experienced nanny. So you ring to offer the nanny the job.
She tells you she has already accepted another job.
Back to the drawing board you go…
With thanks to Joy for prompting the completion of a post!