A Quick Checklist for When You Want to Hire the Right Nanny

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Last fall, NBC News ran a story detailing the influx of college-educated white women in their 20s who have flocked to the field of nannying, effectively turning it into a viable career option. And why not? The pay is good, at least good enough to support the expenses of urban living in cities in New York and Chicago (where young nannying is seeing its biggest booms). In fact, these young recent grads are now representing the fastest-growing segment of the nannying world.

But is that a good thing? A Slate opinion piece published shortly after the initial report tackled that question by asking two other, equally as important questions: “Are these caretakers overqualified? Or rather, for all their training, do they possess the right qualifications?” The 23-year-old MFA candidate who answered your Craigslist ad might not have ever had a single course in child psychology, after all.

Of course, when you’re a new parent, it’s important to understand how to hire a nanny. This is your new little bundle of joy, the light of your life! The treasure of your days and the moon in your night sky. Unless you’ve worked in the professional field before, hiring a caregiver for your kids can actually turn out closer to a nightmare. Your own experience in the field is probably limited to sporadic babysitting in your teens.

Understand how to avoid the biggest nanny hiring mistakes with this simple little checklist:

1. Is (s)he able to nurture, to be responsive and loving?

Remember back to The Brady Bunch, where Alice the housekeeper often provided a Greek chorus-like commentary on the silly situations the Brady kids found themselves in. She made a great sitcom character, but look more closely and you’ll see the children forming a real emotional connection with Alice over the course of the show’s five seasons. In other words, it’s wise to understand how to hire a nanny based on whether or not (s)he can give a hug when it’s needed.

2. Is (s)he patient?

There plenty of practical benefits of hiring a nanny — providing your kids an emotional stand-in when you’re absent, keeping the house clean while you’re away — but they’ll all be rendered moot if the chosen person spends most of his/her time getting frustrated with your children. Patience is a virtue, and no other field requires it at the forefront quite like nannying does.

3. Can (s)he set a good example?

This is where, in Slate writer Katy Waldman’s opinion, many parents often choose degrees over empathy. While it’s important to provide your child with intellectually stimulating environment before school ever starts, it can’t be forsaken at the cost of emotional distance. Choose a nanny that inspires, loves and smiles often. Your kids just might end up doing the same.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how to hire a nanny. Either that or, you know, giving your retired neighbor Rita a chance to get out of her house all day.