Yesterday I participated in a HuffPost Live panel entitled: “Good Help Is Hard To Find”. I had forgotten about my nightmare nanny scenario that I wrote about when the parenting editor of DivineCaroline.com. A HuffPost producer read that article and reached out. Within a day, I was on a panel of experts discussing tips for parents on a nanny search. We weighed the pros and cons to such topics as whether new parents should use a nanny cam? Should all potential nannies undergo drug tests? Are there any questions that shouldn’t be asked during a nanny interview? Is it okay to ask about sexual preference or marriage status or whether the nanny has conflicts with her own children’s schedules, for instance. More importantly, we were asked to share our nanny nightmares. (You can see my video segment that HuffPost is running here.)
It was a very interesting and lively discussion and it brought back a lot of issues for me. (You can see the entire panel and chime in with your own written comments here.)
My nightmare scenario, in particular, is striking a chord with many viewers. In fact, AOL is now publicizing the event on their home page today (pic above). What that tells me is that I should dig further into the topic of what the telltale signs are for addiction. In my scenario, many years ago, I found out a potential nanny was an alcoholic. Luckily, I worked from home and was able to see her with my then three-year-old. Even though references checked out, I didn’t feel completely at ease. I didn’t trust my intuition as well as I do now, however. Still, she did all the right things with my son and said the right things to me. Her references LOVED her. I trusted that she wouldn’t steal from me and she was very sweet. I only needed her a few half days a week, so I could freelance. After a few months of working for me, I asked her to house sit and take care of our dog when we were away for a week.
Feeling the need to come home a few days early, I was able to pop in and discover the many, many vodka bottles. Afterwards, it all made sense. She was always chewing gum or eating mints. She always drank sprite or Fresca—an easy drink to mix vodka with. She never wanted to work early in the day. Since I needed part-time work, I was flexible. She had been let go from her job at a preschool, but she, and the preschool, both said it was because she was taking care of her aging mother full-time and it was getting in the way of her responsibilities. I’ve come to learn that some people want ‘to help’ an alcoholic. The belief that they’ll get better, and an underlying friendship, can lead some not to reveal there was ever a substance abuse problem.
Looking back, I see how trusting I was and how very lucky that I worked from home and popped back in on this woman. Clearly, if she started to drive my son to and from swim classes in heavy Atlanta traffic, that would have been incredibly dangerous.
So, as a few experts on the panel suggested yesterday, I should have conducted a background check, criminal check (that may have revealed a DUI), and a drug test.
Today, life is great. I have a wonderful part-time nanny who was actually my oldest son’s nanny when he was born in California, before we moved to Atlanta and then London. We came back from London so I could give birth to my second, and I was ecstatic to not only find her again, but to find that her current family was moving and she was free to work for me! We are SO lucky. She’s everything any parent would want in a nanny. I found her through my doula/midwife at UCLA Santa Monica. In fact, my doula was her sister’s mother-in-law. The entire family is wonderful and her sister, also a nurse, and her mother have all babysat for us. We love them. They truly are family.
With that said, if you are looking for a full-time nanny for your infant and you’ll not be working from home, these tips should help:
– Find reputable references for your nanny search such as your doctor, your nurse, midwife, minister…as these people will likely steer you in the direction of finding someone you can trust. Even if you find yourself in a large city without many friends, these sort of people may offer better candidates.
– Do background and criminal checks. These may reveal DUIs.
– Conduct a drug test.
– Use a nanny cam, but tell the nanny you will be using one periodically.
– Offer to provide health insurance and insist that she have a physical.
The news today is filled with nanny horror stories. The sad story of the nanny who killed the Krim children in Manhattan, is terrifying. The woman’s attorney is claiming she is severely mentally ill. This may be true. So how did the signs of mental illness not show at all? Last month, the nanny’s defense attorney says she is unfit to come to trial and that she hears voices. I wonder how she kept this side of her from showing? It’s something that must haunt the parents and family of those children. Mental illness is a mystery. This story is beyond tragic. Luckily, it’s also extremely rare.
For more tips on your nanny search, here’s a great article: