When a woman graduates into motherhood, she adds another “hat” to the so-many-other-hats of her life! The thing about this particular “hat” though, is that it tends to demand so much more from a woman; physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, investment-of-time-ally, the-need-to-be-organised-ally and any other “–allys” you can think of. And because motherhood brings with it several dynamics, women sooner or later realise that they need H-E-L-P. This help can come in many forms: a spouse/partner, a reliable and trustworthy support system of family and friends, convenient household gadgets, a childcare facility, a baby sitter/childminder, an aupair…and one very common and key helper for many an African woman: A Nanny!
After having gone through an emotionally rigorous time of switching five nannies in a space of about 14months (no kidding!), I eventually landed on the one I usually coin “Heaven-Sent!” She has so far stayed the longest and our experience with her has been almost too-good-to-be-true such that I’m really hoping we are in for the loooong haul with her.
There are a number dynamics I observed over the rather distressing nanny-switching phase I went through; both in the family and with each nanny. From these observations, I’d like to share some of the lessons gleaned on the matter of: Choosing a nanny or helper for your home.
Clarifying the definition and role of a nanny can be a bit of a complex matter, as to one woman it may mean a childminder, to another, a domestic worker, and to others a combination of both. So to bring us all on the same page, the term “nanny” in this article refers to:
A person whom you have employed to help take care of your children and your household (in that order)
This person could be a live-in or a live-out, full-time or part-time, male or female; the common denominator being that they have regular interaction with your kids and regular presence in your home. The following qualities to look for in a nanny may be helpful to keep in mind when deciding on the kind of helper to engage for your family.
7 Necessary qualities to look for in a “Nanny”
- Clean criminal record. In this day and age when there are so many gory stories associated with nannies –from child abuse all the way to theft –you need to ensure that the nanny you choose has a proven clean criminal record. This may not totally guarantee their innocence but it will at least give you the assurance that they do not have a proven track record of crime. The first of the nannies I hired during the nanny-switching phase left a month after joining us; with my iPad and God-knows-what-else!
- Trace-ability and reliable references. You need to be able to trace where your helper is coming from without a hassle. Documents of identity and ‘proof of residence’ (where applicable) should be non-negotiable. It also helps to have reliable references about their personality and previous work experience.
- Physically fit for the job – Depending on the needs and size of your family, you will need to ensure that the nanny you hire is able to meet the demands of your household; taking into account issues such as age and health. Statutory requirements also need to be adhered to. One of the helpers I had during my nanny-switching phase was diabetic and almost 50. She tried, she really tried (bless her soul!) but she could not keep up with my two younger kids. We both came to the shared conclusion that she was just not physically cut out for my family’s demands
- Hygiene – Household and personal hygiene are important considerations to make when hiring a nanny. They can contribute significantly to how often your children get sick and the general ambience of your home. If your helper is lacking in this area and cannot be trained accordingly, this may be reason enough to go back to the drawing board.
- Child Safety and First Aid – If you have children in the home, it is needful to have a person who is clued up on matters of child safety and First Aid. If they are lacking in this area, and still not dependable after receiving training, you are better off looking for another. We all know of accidents that have happened in the home –with children dying or getting seriously maimed –because of a helper who has been negligent in one way or another. I had to ask another helper to leave 3 days after she had joined us because my one-year old toddler almost got burnt with hot water that she had left “idling in a bucket” within his reach.
- Shares similar values – I have found this attribute to be so important for my own family. If you spend a reasonable amount of time apart from your children and your children spend a lot of time with your helper, you want to have the assurance that 6-8 times out of 10, your helper will handle matters similarly to the way you would if you were present. It is also important that your nanny be someone you can trust and rely on. If you find yourself doubting your helper often, that may be a red-light you need to take heed of.
- Personality gels with the family – If anyone is going to be spending a reasonable amount of time in your home, it really helps if their personality gels with the family. This is especially needful for children. As much as possible, you want your kids (and their dad) to be comfortable and at home in their own home, right? If you find that your ‘family environment’ is regularly and significantly altered by the “personality traits” of the nanny you’ve hired, you might have to ask yourself if she/he is really worth it.
Now, I know I’ve dabbled on a few areas and there are many other areas to weigh carefully when hiring a nanny, but these seven have really made the difference for me and my family. I’ve also learnt not to “sweat the small stuff”, but to rather focus on the “core areas” that are important to me in the nurturing of my children and the running of my household.
If you have any other helpful nuggets that can come in handy when choosing a nanny, do share with us!