When I had my first "how am I going to do this?" breakdown after I got pregnant, I was so concerned about my daily balance and worried that I would lose all the things about myself and my life that I held so dear - my ability to meet a friend on a moment's notice, Friday night dinner traditions with Ian, and most of all my work. I've talked about this at great length before (here and here), so I won't go too far into it today but basically I couldn't see how it was all going to work with a baby in the mix. We had lots of conversations about how we'd get a nanny if we had to, but we weren't prepared for how much of a challenge it was going to be for lots of reasons : financial, logistical, schedule wise, and just finding the right person to bring on for the job, and at the right time.
At first, when Sailor was a newborn it just didn't seem totally necessary. I mean, it DID, but at the same time there wasn't a whole lot I could do. I was breastfeeding so I couldn't be far from Sailor for more than a couple of hours, I wasn't taking on styling jobs and had stepped back from blogging for what was supposed to only be a few months (haha). We had family members helping out here and there. But then around the 6 month mark, I started to feel really out of balance and the idea of getting some actual help we could have on a regular schedule started to sound more and more necessary. By this time, I had fully realized just how impossible it was to get anything done in a "multitasking" sort of way. I couldn't go anywhere without her, sit down and focus for more than 5 minutes, let alone really get deep into a project that requires all of my brain power.
A nanny HAD to happen, even if it was just for one or two half days a week, so I could schedule any appointments or meetings. With Ian gone at work for 12 hours a day, I was truly blown away by just how hard it is to function as the only caretaker of a baby, and adult member of society simultaneously. So I started looking, and actually started trying different people out for one-off babysitting gigs at around 8-9 months (WAY too late, looking back on it now). We had a variety of different sitters, and we liked most of them, but none of them were quite the right fit for a consistent situation, usually just due to scheduling. We had so many logistical criteria: I needed someone who could be flexible with schedules because mine changes week to week, while also wanting someone who we just genuinely like to have around.
Most people talk about how finding a referral from someone you know is best, but referrals can be tough. If that ends up working for you then that's great. If not, you will be in for a bit more work. In my case, I went to care.com simply because I had no idea what else to do. I really hate that website. It's so not user friendly, awkwardly set up, and it costs a million dollars (ok $40) a month. There is a free version but you can't see people's profiles. It's also so hard to tell from online profiles who is actually good for watching your kid. Some people aren't web or "personal branding" savvy but amazing caretakers, and vice versa. I hired a few girls to interview, which aside from a series of questions and chatting would include an hour or so of them watching Sailor while I was at home so I could see how they vibe with her (and me). Some were nothing like their profile implied, and some made me question how/why they were on care.com in the first place. The whole process is tedious, expensive, time consuming, and frustrating. But you just have to keep setting up interviews until you find that person.
Eventually, right around Sailor's first birthday, we found her. Madi was the 4th or 5th girl I brought in from care.com and we immediately clicked. Here are the things that made the light flash green for us, and the list I would use as "Things to look for when hiring a nanny" tips for anyone who might be going through this soon:
- She is confident in her childcare abilities. I don't mean in "describing" her skills, but in the way she would conduct herself. She would use her instincts on when Sailor needed something, and do her own problem solving rather than ask me a million questions. It was clear she just knew what to do when it came to the basic daily stuff.
- She has a naturally nurturing personality. A lot of earth qualities if you will. So, caring for someone else is not a departure for her, it's something that's fulfilling to her.
- She has street smarts. Madi is someone who can handle any situation that comes her way, not just with Sailor but with things around our household, the dogs, people coming to the door, etc.
- She is totally comfortable helping out around the house when Sailor is sleeping or playing by herself. This is a BIG one. At first it felt weird to ask her to fold laundry or do dishes since they aren't exactly childcare related, but at the same time, I didn't want to have someone twiddling their thumbs while there's downtime. Heck - if I'm paying someone to work in our home with a young child, then there's plenty of other stuff to help with! What this does is allow me not to obsess over planning the exact perfect minute to have her come so it's not during nap time. Sometimes the time I asked her to come ends up being right after Sailor goes down and it's no problem because there's plenty of other stuff to do. She's never been weird about it, and is always happy to make herself busy with house stuff and for that I absolutely LOVE her.
- We have a lot in common. Sure she's a decade younger than me but we went to similar colleges, we both love our Kylie lip kits and manicures, Bikini Punch, The Bachelor, and can talk about everything from politics to blog ideas. She's been showing me the ropes and introducing me to everything our new hood has to offer, and we've become great friends. I don't know how this happened but I'm so, so happy about it.
- She loves taking care of Sailor. This is another one that seems obvious but it isn't always. You can tell she loves it because she keeps her mind engaged while she's doing it, and goes above and beyond to teach Sailor things and gets excited to tell me about new things she did.
- Her schedule is flexible. She has another job where she works from home on her own time, so she's open enough that we can "play days by ear." Yet if she's not available (which has only happened a few times), she has friends who are also awesome nannies or babysitters who can take her place for a day.
The ONLY drawback I can think of in having someone like Madi as a childcare provider is that in the same ways we get along so well, I know I won't have her forever. She is not a "career nanny" and will eventually be making other plans. That will be a sad day, but right now I just genuinely feel so lucky that we have her in our lives. Given that our schedule is part time and fluctuating week to week, this is the right type of situation for our family. I can honestly say that when Madi came into our lives was when I started to feel balanced again.
As a side note, the outdoor photos here were taken two weeks ago at Madi's surprise proposal which Sailor and I had the honor of being a part of. I told that story on my Instagram so be sure to read it because it was a super special and cute day.
I can't wait to read these other mom's childcare stories and tips! This was such a hot topic to me when I was just starting out as a mom so we hope it's helpful to anyone out there trying to figure out their childcare setups. And there are some VERY exciting things to come for the Real Talk With Real Moms series, so stay tuned!
Photography by Ashley Burns