The Nanny Diaries

It’s 10 in the morning and I race to finish my breakfast. I’m late for work and there are several things lined up for the day. Time is running out and I make a scurry for the door. I shut the door to the gym room that is doubling up as my study these days and plug in the laptop. I settle down to work for the day.

 

Among the sounds of hawkers, horns and construction workers opposite the road my concentration is broken by V running around the house. Behind him is his nanny who is chasing him to sit down for his own breakfast.

I wait to hear if she’s caught him and if a battle has begun to get him to sit on his chair. No audible sounds of protest and I know everything is peaceful on the home front. I go back to my work. And then I hear her, “Look at Bonny! He is chasing a butterfly!” She’s reading from V’s book of Baby Animal Farm series. V loves all books in the series and I can almost picture him on the other side of the door… attentive, reading and munching his breakfast. He mumbles something and she says, ” yes, look he has lost his way in the forest.”

I smile. It’s time to really switch off and dive into work. I let Radha Didi read out to my son. And no, it doesn’t bother me that she is unlettered and is following the pictures to tell the story in the book!

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now. To begin with I wanted to write it on my blog, but went against it. I decided to write about it here. This is where I must share my experience.

I looked back at my posts only to realise that my status as a ‘working mom’ is on top of my mind all the time. Well, I have only returned to work and it’s obvious that this new status consumes my existence all day long! What has made my life simpler is that I leave V to a nanny who is really the centre of our home now. Today Radha Didi is not just V’s nanny, she is a housekeeper, a confidante and a family member to my husband, V and me.

But there is a back-story to how I got this incredible child carer. Last year I had a disastrous brush with a placement agency and I gave vent to it on my blog. Blogadda picked it up as a Tangy Tuesday post and made it really popular.

What began as a desperate search for a nanny, ended up in a prayer being answered in the form of Radha Didi. I don’t want this post to be about her and what makes her awesome. But I would like this to be a guide to finding a nanny.

Let’s begin by saying that finding a nanny for your child is tougher than finding your life partner! At least so I think. Because as an adult you can negotiate your life with another but when it comes to child care you want only the best for your child. So what are things that you must look for while searching for your child’s nanny?

Agency – My first brush with an agency was a nightmare enough to convince me that agencies are all quacks! But then I have friends who have got incredible nannies for their children from agencies… maybe I was plain and simple unlucky! If you choose to take the agency route to bring home a nanny, here is a checklist that you must carry:

  • Background & testimonials of the agency: It is not enough to see the website and pick an agency. Visit homes that have taken nannies from this agency and see how do they work. Cover as many homes as possible. Most agencies offer several people – nannies, cooks, gardened, drivers. You want a nanny, so look up homes that have taken nannies. If the agency is reluctant to share contacts, then there is something wrong!
  • Health checkups: You must ensure that agencies do a thorough medical checkup of the nanny that they are sending you. Remember, the nanny will be feeding your child, giving him/her a bath, giving medicines, dressing wounds. All of these mean that she needs to maintain high levels of hygiene and must be infection/disease free. Eye checkups are a must!
  • Feedback & Redressal: How involved is the agency after they have sent a nanny? Most agencies get women from Bengal, Orissa and Bihar. Some others cross the border from Bangladesh and pose as Bengalis from Bengal. You must inquire if the agency has a local office. Will they send someone to check on the nanny? If not, will they call on regular intervals? A shroud of non-communication is an ill omen! If things don’t work out, how soon will they send you a new nanny? Is there room for refunds?

NannyIf you live in a unit family, then she will be the most important person in your child’s life after you! You can’t go wrong with the choice you make! whether you choose an agency or you pick up someone outside an agency, the pointers remain the same. Here are a few things you could do to test her potential:

  • Experience – No job interview is incomplete without references
  • Motivations – Some do it for money, some because they enjoy being with kids. The ideal person will say both!
  • Understanding a child – If she is an experienced nanny she would know a thing or two about children and what they want. Ask her for her opinion and see how she reacts
  • Crisis Management – Throw possible situations at her and ask how would she deal with them? The child’s not eating or he’s throwing a fit to go out, or something more terrible… what if he has hurt himself badly? What would she do? You know the right answers to these emergencies!
  • On the job – Most agencies will let you keep a nanny for a few days to see if things work fine. A week is enough to know if the child is liking her and if she’s interested in the job!

Most agencies let you keep a nanny for a period of 11 months. Until a year ago, agencies and agents charged anywhere between 12,000 – 20,0000 as commissions. Nanny’s come in various categories – unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled. A nanny’s salary could be anywhere between 7,500 – 12,000 depending on her skill set. so if you choose an unskilled nanny on whom you spend 11 months teaching the skills you want in your child carer, she will go away and you will have to teach someone all over again!

There isn’t a perfect formula that will help you find the perfect nanny! If you have gone through this checklist, there is one last guiding element. One that I went by… gut! I chose someone who worked as a cook all her life. She doesn’t have kids of her own. Her only experience of bringing up children is being with her brother’s and sisters’ children. Yet she is the perfect nanny! I went by my gut… and I am lucky it worked for me!

The TV junkie is back into the idiot box. Besides pretending to be a superwoman between work and family, Rituparna also dreams of flying free as an entrepreneur! Her son’s student, she is learning the ropes of parenting every day. Rituparna blogs at http://onboardthemommyship.wordpress.com/ and you can spot her on Twitter as @VeesMother.