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What makes a great nanny?

When hiring a nanny many parents can feel that interviews are not an effective way of being able to discern whether the people they are meeting with are really trustworthy. But there are a few key ways to tell if a nanny is the right fit for your family.

A great nanny is someone who has decided to make full time care of children a professional career because she genuinely loves children. As Jacinta says, after having worked as a nanny for fourteen years, “Knowing that I have contributed to a whole family’s life by being a major resource to parents who are entrusting their babies and children to me is very personally fulfilling.”

A great nanny wants to know all the details of how the parents like things to be done and will also provide plenty of details on what she does with the children when the parents are out. Owner of PR firm The Publicity Princess, Kate is mum to two boys Flynn and Jack says of her three best nannies, “Our communication was unreal – we would each provide stories about what the boys got up to, sharing the laughs as well as the challenges.” Other nannies may be asked to provide a formal record such as Simone who keeps a daily diary for the parents of the children she looks after. “Each day I write sleep times, what they ate, what we did and if anything in particular happened such as if any new words are spoken.”

A great nanny always lets the parents know where the children are and can be contacted at all times. Janelle a mum to four year old Luca was upset when her nanny took her son out for the day and didn’t get home until after 7pm but did not call to say she was running late.

A great nanny will tidy up after the children she looks after throughout the day and won’t need to be asked to do so, although any other chores and household tasks may need to be requested to be done by the parents. Kate says “I was very clear when hiring my nannies that the boys washing and cooking was integral to their care and that I expected them to do this whilst the boys were sleeping. I also stressed the importance of initiative and seeing what else might need doing.”

A great nanny will have a plan to act in an emergency and will ideally be trained in CPR or be willing to learn. Sarah, a first time mum says, “My nanny and I were both much more comfortable knowing she had CPR certification, me because I was a nervous new mum and her because she wanted to ensure I felt safe leaving my daughter in her care so trust could develop.”

A great nanny has a basic understanding of the different stages of child development, is able to care for babies, toddlers or older children and knows how to integrate play, learning and fun. Kate says “The three best nannies I’ve had made every day activities educational – like sorting the washing into colours, measuring ingredients for cooking, counting the steps on the way to walking to the park.”

A great nanny is respectful of her family’s privacy and is sensitive to any personal issues that may arise. Denna, a mum to three year old Mason and two year old Jasmine says, “I was suffering from severe post-natal depression and it became evident I needed help. I sought my nanny’s advice often as she had been a nanny for over ten years and she assisted with weaning from breast to bottle, potty training and dealing with nightmares.”

A great nanny is very rarely late and offers as much notice as possible on sick days. “Our last au pair did a ‘runner’ one Thursday night and we had to find emergency childcare. Since then we have not had another,” says Janelle.

A great nanny has plenty of energy and can keep up with the children she looks after. Kate says “I once had a fill in nanny who was a little bit lazy and happy to just watch TV – she wasn’t very outdoorsy. It helps to set clear ground rules from the start.”

A great nanny understands the importance of nutrition for children and can prepare simple meals. Janelle found she had to verbalise this to make herself clear. “I started asking our nannies not to take Luca to McDonalds after our second au pair took him all the time.”

A great nanny knows when to speak up about anything that may affect the wellbeing of the children she looks after but always remembers the parents have the final say. Kate says, “The nannies and I always agreed that whoever was in the room with the children was the boss. But I would set the routines and standards and what types of behaviours were okay and the nanny would reinforce these.”

A great nanny has excellent references and will seek to maintain lifelong relationships with the families she works for. Jacinta says, “When you start looking after a child from when they are a newborn to the time they go off to school you have been through every transition, every milestone and every experience with them. Some of the parents and children I have worked for have stayed in contact years after caring for their children and we still catch up.”

By Brooke Tasovac

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