Nanny Nightmare & Tips for Finding Great Care!
This blog post is going to be two-fold. One part will be sharing our first experience with finding a nanny (the nightmare part) and the second part will be tips for finding a great nanny — now that I’m MUCH more experienced in this area 😉
Back when we were looking for a part-time nanny for Van as a baby, I really didn’t know where to begin. To be honest, I used to struggle with feeling guilty for even having childcare because, here I am as an entrepreneur with a flexible schedule — shouldn’t I be able to make it all work without daycare?? Um, no. I shouldn’t. This was a totally unreal expectation I was putting on myself, including loading on a ton of guilt about it. I’m so thankful to say that over the last few years, I have learned to not only release the guilt, but to create systems that help me to balance both my home and work life.
Anyway, we have no family in Seattle and not a very big support system at all when we are there. Yes, my girlfriends are amazing, but they have their own lives and families to juggle. I had heard from a few people that they had luck with Care.com for finding sitters, so I decided to give it a go. (Side note, that I’m sure there are many, many trustworthy, amazing caregivers on Care.com. I’m just sharing our experience.) We found someone who seemed like a great fit. I wasn’t able to find her on Facebook, so I asked if she had a profile. She gave me the name she uses and it almost seemed like it could have been her first and middle name — not that unusual these days. I also found her on Instagram and stalked her on there, too. What I found was a profile full of creative photos of her around Seattle and with friends, it said she was in college on her profile, and overall, she looked like a “normal” college girl. She said she took care of twin babies for over a year and provided me with a reference. I called the number, but got no answer, so I emailed instead. The “dad” emailed me back with a glowing review about this girl. At that point, we decided to have her over for an interview. She arrived on time, was super nice, and she seemed comfortable interacting with Van.
Now, it has been almost 2.5 years since this happened, so I honestly don’t know if Care.com has updated their “background check” process since then. All I know is that, back then, I was led to believe through their marketing that caregivers were screened prior to being able to have a profile on their site. So, in our minds, we were all set and ready to go with our new nanny!
She arrived for her first day and it was on a day when I did not have a photoshoot. I worked at home for the first two hours and then decided I would go to a coffee shop to give her some space. As I was pulling out of my driveway, I noticed a bag on our porch. Not sure what it was, I got out of my car and checked it out. There were some musty smelling clothes and a padlock in the bag. I was confused, but I came to the conclusion that someone must have mistakenly dropped it off. At that time, I was doing lots of free clothing and item giveaways on a local mom’s facebook group and had left bags for a few people in the last week. Maybe there was some sort of mixup.
So, I drove to a coffee shop 5 minutes away. About an hour went by and I started thinking more about the bag. Something just didn’t feel right to me. I decided to go back and look at the email reference. I then copied and pasted the email address of this guy and I searched it in Facebook. Up popped a profile of a gray haired guy looking to be in his 50’s. I scrolled down and my stomach was sinking as I did not see any photos of twin babies. What I did find was a post he made about the girl who was at my home with my son — she has a very unusual name, so it jumped out at me immediately. His post said how he never should have married her, she was not being the woman she should be, she was not following God, and how someone in her family needs to contact him.
I slammed my computer closed, and was in my car in seconds. I called Dan and was hysterical, driving as fast as I could and half wanting to get pulled over so that I could tell the cop to follow me. The thought that I specifically remember having was that they were plotting to kidnap Van. Running into the house, I heard her shut our guest room door, which is not too far from our front door. I scanned the room and didn’t see Van, so I ran to his room and he was fast asleep in his crib. It was the the best site seeing him snuggled up in there. Can’t even tell you what a relief. The house smelled like someone had just showered and the dryer was running. I came back to the guest room and called her name. She said through the door that she was just changing because Van had spit up on her clothes (Van was not a spitter — I can count on one hand the amount of times he ever spit up). She opened the door and had a hat on her wet hair. At this point, I just wanted her out of my house and did not want a confrontation. I asked her what was going on. She started talking about how Van ate his bottle great and fell asleep easily. I honestly didn’t know what to say at that point, so I told her she should have just asked me if she wanted to do laundry. She said, “Oh, I’m not doing laundry!” The dryer was running not 20 feet from us, I kid you not. I told her I was done working for the day and she could leave. She got her clothes from the dryer and sat on the couch and started to fold them telling me how she was heading to her aunt’s house on Whidbey Island after this. I said she needed to take her things and leave now. She told me she can stay the rest of the time if I wanted. I grabbed my purse and handed her cash for the full 7 hours. By that time, I had worked out in my head that she was homeless. The bag of dirty clothes, the padlock possibly for the lockers at a shelter, doing laundry, showering, it was all making sense now. I knew she needed that money and, again, I just wanted her out of my house. She took her time gathering her things and finally left.
She had showered in our master bathroom instead of in the guest shower. She used my razor and some of my other personal items. Her wet towel was shoved underneath the desk in the guestroom. I absolutely have compassion for someone, especially a young girl, who is homeless. Showering and doing laundry are things I could’ve easily gotten past. It was how easily the lies flowed out and the fake reference and how creepy and angry this guy (who seemed to be her husband based on his posts) appeared to be from what I saw on Facebook.
I grabbed my computer and immediately googled her name with the name I thought might be her middle name and with the last name on Care.com and found that she has a record of shoplifting and had a warrant out for an eviction case. All which make sense to her being homeless. I quickly looked for the things in our house that are valuable and everything was there. It didn’t appear that she had rummaged through anything except what she used in the bathroom. Although, I was only gone for just over an hour and she seemed very focused on showering and laundry.
Right away, I contacted Care.com and told them what happened. They apologized and that was the last I heard about it until a few weeks later when I received an email that her profile had been removed.
The day after this happened, I texted her. I told her that I wasn’t sure what was going on in her life right now, but that I hope she is okay. I also told her not to come back again. She did not respond.
Okay, so now that I’ve shared this experience with you, let’s get on to the good stuff! We are so fortunate now to have the most amazing nannies/sitters for our boys, both in Seattle and in Michigan.
Here are some tips for finding one for your own family:
2. Ask for recommendations at your local elementary or preschool. I worked as a school social worker for 12 years and, let me tell you, the office administrative assistants know so much about so many people in the community. I bet they easily could rattle off a few names for you. And, if not, I bet they would be happy to put the word out for you. Just make sure not to go at the start or end of the school day when they are extra busy. These ladies (and guys) juggle so much every day! You could also ask if you could put up a note in the staff lounge that you are looking for a nanny.
3. Get more than one reference and don’t settle for email! Ask specifics about their child’s name and age and compare with what the nanny says for consistency. Another way to find out more about them is to ask for their resume that isn’t childcare related. They might not have one, but if they do, you can always call a previous boss. You can really get a feeling about someone from the energy their old boss has towards them!
4. Do your research if you are going to use a big caregiver company and make sure you know their policies about background checks! Again, I may have just assumed because of how Care.com markets that they did these automatically. As of now, you have to request and pay to have them done.
5. Go to the park or indoor play center or even to the library. Look for parents with kids and ask them if they know of anyone! Yes, it can feel weird to walk up to strangers, but if someone came up to me and said they were looking for a new nanny and are wondering if I know of any, I would be more than happy to give them the names of people I recommend (with their permission). I bet every single parent can relate the stress of trying to find quality care for their kids.
6. Don’t rule out daycare centers! After I had Dre, we had Van in a center 2 days per week that was sort of like preschool, except the hours of operation were 7am – 6pm. We only had him there from 9:00-4:00, but the flexibility of the time if we needed it was so great! This particular place was a Spanish immersion program, so only Spanish was spoken to the kids. This is the absolute best way for a child to learn another language (aside from someone speaking it at home) and there is research that if they are exposed like this at a young age, they are able to learn the language much easier as teens and adults. Van did so many fun craft projects and talked about friends he made. The only downside, and this is a huge one for us, is that you have to pay even when your child isn’t there. Since we go back and forth from Michigan to Seattle, we were paying a lot of money for care that Van wasn’t even receiving. Because of that, we have decided to take some time off from it and enroll both of our boys again in September.
Sometimes it can feel so overwhelming and daunting to find the most important person you will ever hire, but hang in there, you will find someone!