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Need Help Hiring Help?

Video Phones: Not Quite Ready for Prime Time |


| Wanted: Working Parent's Shangri-La

February 02, 2006

Need Help Hiring Help?

Anne Tergesen

One of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced as a working mother has been adapting to my role as an employer. It’s been over seven years since my husband and I hired the wonderful woman who cares for our three boys while we’re at work. But I still feel unequal at times to the job of being someone’s – well, um, er – boss.

Managing a nanny is not easy in part because the relationship between parent and caregiver is so complex. On the one hand, you share similar roles. You’re probably also friends (after all, who wants to leave the kids with someone you can’t share a cup of coffee or a joke with?) But here’s the rub: At a certain point, your economic interests are sure to diverge. And if you let the relationship get too personal, you risk hurt feelings over the inevitable disagreement over money, vacation time, or some other aspect of the job.

Recently, friends with an adorable seven-month-old came for brunch. With the mother preparing to return to work, we had a conversation that touched on everything from how hard it is to leave your baby with a virtual stranger to the nuts-and-bolts of hiring and managing a babysitter. My advice: Don’t sweat the small stuff. For me, that has meant letting my kids watch a little TV and eat occasionally at McDonald’s (once a week? I hope so). Similarly, when a friend got upset because her nanny was putting her daughters’ clothes back in the wrong drawers, I advised her to focus on the big picture: Does the nanny exercise good judgment? Does she always keep the kids safe? Is she good to them? Do they have fun together? Does she discipline them appropriately?

Over the past seven years, my husband and I have made some mistakes. The biggest was not putting everything—-big and small-—that we really care about in writing at the outset. With a written contract that spells-out such key facets of the job as responsibilities, compensation, future raises, work hours, vacation time, and sick time, we could have avoided the few disagreements we've had, including ones over a Christmas bonus and a week off. (Of course, even the most detailed contract can’t anticipate every contingency you’ll face-—we had no plan for my babysitter’s maternity leave, for example.)

To help anyone hiring a nanny, I’ve typed up excerpts from the most comprehensive nanny employment contract I’ve seen. It comes courtesy of an expert-—my great friend and college roommate, Margaret Talcott, mother of two fantastic boys with seven years of experience employing nannies. As her boys’ nannies have left to marry, return to college, and move south, Margie has refined her contract to include anything that wasn’t adequately addressed before. You can also find similar contracts on the web .

A word of warning: If your relationship with your nanny has been informal, but you’d like to formalize it with a contract, use your judgment before presenting her with a "laundry" list (so to speak) of responsibilities-—remember, don’t sweat the small stuff. Here goes:

Contract for Nanny Services

Nanny responsibilities include:

• Children’s food, planning and cooking—breakfast, lunch, and dinner (when working past 5:15 p.m.)

• Children’s dishes/bottle cleaning, including restocking on shelves after cleaning.

• Children’s bedrooms and playrooms—keep tidy and clean, make beds, neaten crib, maintain order within drawers and toy storage areas.

• Children’s shopping – Nanny to stock house with necessary food and supplies for children (including diapers, wipes, and toiletries). Nanny responsible for purchase of creative, educational, and school supplies, in consultation with parents. Upon occasion, Nanny will also be asked to shop for children’s clothing/shoes. Payment of items: Family will leave cash; Nanny to provide receipts/change.

• Family dinner to be planned/cooked – twice weekly Nanny to plan, shop for, and cook simple main course to be eaten by whole family (Nanny also invited, if she likes!). Note: Needs of children take precedence over this responsibility.

• Family/Nanny dishwashing—Nanny is responsible for children’s & Nanny’s dishes. Nanny to occasionally unload dishwasher (approx. every third washing).

• Family Housecleaning – Only as required following the children’s play and cooking activities. General guideline: House to be left at level of neatness existent when Nanny arrives in the morning.

• Children’s laundry—washing, folding, re-stocking of all children’s clothing, bedding and bath linens. Remaking of cribs, beds following weekly sheet-changing.

Nanny work Schedule:

Nanny’s regular schedule is 8 a.m. to 6:15 p.m., Monday through Friday. Additional hours may be required when parents travel (1-2 times a month for 2-3 days each occurrence). Major adjustments in 8-6:15 schedule to be discussed with 4 week’s notice. Employer guarantees 40-hour/week payment, 52 weeks a year.


Nanny starting salary $10.50/hour with review August 11, 2000 (Editor’s note: This salary may be out of date, depending on where you live and how many kids you have).

Sick and Personal Time:

Nanny will be paid for up to 5 sick days over the course of the year. At the end of the year, sick days not taken may be applied to vacation (subject to family approval) or compensated with 25% bonus pay for each day not taken.

Paid Holidays:

Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, President’s Day, and Good Friday.


Nanny to be paid for two weeks vacation per year. Dates to be chosen at family’s discretion, most likely to coincide with family vacation. Note: It is very likely that the Nanny will be given additional paid vacation—two weeks is guaranteed, however.


Nanny and family to engage in formal review session, oral or written, at minimum 6-month intervals during the first year. Potential raises or bonuses to be discussed during that time.

Termination of Contract:

If Nanny wishes to leave the position, a minimum of 4 weeks’ notice is required. Should family wish to terminate during this 4-week period, severance will be provided for the balance. If family terminates the contract, 4 weeks’ notice will be provided unless there is just cause.

09:59 AM


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This is great advice. Many of my friends have made the mistake of not setting clear job descriptions with their caregivers, which has caused lots of confusion later on.

Recently, a good friend got upset because her nanny expected to take off on Columbus Day--a holiday that many companies do not recognize.


Posted by: Lauren at February 2, 2006 03:25 PM


A friend just emailed me your article on hiring a nanny. I am in the process of doing this for the first time (I have three interviews today) and really appreciated your piece. It is such an important decision and a tough interview process -- I've hired lots of professionals in my life, but have never been trained on how to interview for a "third parent". I love the idea of the contract and so does my husband (he's an attorney so right up his alley). Thanks for putting all of this in writing. I am going to save it for other mothers-to-be. Best regards, Mary

Posted by: Mary at February 7, 2006 03:41 PM

As a nanny, I dont agree with all of this. I am an excellent nanny who does far more then what you have written down. BUT, what I don't agree with is, when you give your nanny two weeks paid vacation, SHE should be able to decide when she wants to take her vacation. If you were at a job and your boss came in and said, "Hey, I see you have two weeks paid vacation coming to you, my family is going to take off on the second and third week of July, if you want a vacation, that is when you have to take it." No one would put up with that, so why should a nanny put up with that? If you are going to be cheap (which is really what it boils down to in the case of having a nanny take vacation when you do) Then you need to find out when your nanny has decided to take her vacation and then plan to take yours the same time she is on hers. Or, you can be grateful for everything she does for your family and your home and not worry about the vacation and let her have hers when she wants, and if you want to take a vacation at a different time without her, then pay her while you are gone.

By the time she is with a family for four years, she should have three weeks of vacation. Six years, she should have four weeks paid vacation.

Posted by: Kathrine at March 31, 2006 10:43 PM

I am a mom of twins. I agree that the nanny should have some say in when she takes her vacation. It is most ideal if the nanny and the family can arrange so that vacations happen at the same time. I have been employed as a Registered nurse for 7 years at the same hospital and my husband runs a large division of a bank and has been employed there for 15 years. Neither of us gets 4 weeks paid vacation a year so I will have to disagree with the vacation time that the nanny is recommending. Our nanny will be getting extra paid vacation only because we will be vacationing without her 2 weeks a year and will still be paying her while we are away.

Posted by: Renee at June 17, 2006 05:36 PM

I thought your article was interesting-

you seem like a wonderful nanny employer!

Would you ever consider giving classes?

The only thing that offended me, as a professional career nanny of over 7 years, was that in one paragraph you used the word "nanny" and in another "babysitter". There is a vast difference. I truely wish the media would get the titles correct. Please only refer to "nannies as nannies", "au pair as au pairs", "babysitters and babysitters".

A written job description is simply a "WORK AGREEMENT". There is no such thing as a "contract" for the nanny profession.

I am sure if you check with any attorney, they will tell you it is not something that can be held up in a court, as nannies are employees at will, and can decide to resign at any time.

I too agree having a work agreement greatly helps- the nanny profession is like no other.

Remember a big part of having a good employee (nanny) is being a good employer.

Treat the nanny how you'd like to be treated, and I am sure she will treat you even better! ;-D


Posted by: Andrea of Nanny Alliance NY and NJ at July 21, 2006 07:53 PM

I would like to comment on kathrine's comment about the nannie being able to pick two weeks of vacation whenever she wants it. When hiring my nannie I had to have a discussion about vacation time not being able to be picked around her schedule given that in my profession I do not necessarily get the days off or vacation time that I would like, I cannot imagine that she would think that an employer does not have any say on when an employee can take their vacation that is absurd. Or to think that I would quit my job if I was denied vacation time due to my work constraints that does not sound like a person living in the real world.

Posted by: Rebecca at February 15, 2007 01:31 AM

I enjoyed the article. However, I would have to disagree with a few of the terms listed: such as the pay,sick days, and responsibilitys... First if you were only going to pay me as a very experiaced person $10.50/hr I would only do the job that a care giver would do and not all the added things... I get paid $12.00/hr currently at the job that I'm at and I only have the responsibility of my 4-5 toddlers and cleaning the tables and the changing table after i've changed the toddlers dipers and a maid/janiter comes in and does all the extra curricular things after the children have gone for the day... Secondly, the sick days should be able to roll over 2 the next year if not used or if the nanny has a child as i do doctor visits are a must so late at times should be ok... Lastly, coming from a mother I do not think that I would like it and I don't think you as a mother should like for someone else to buy your childs cloths and as the you mother should not want that privilege taken from you by a nanny. The nanny should only be there for the child not all the other extra curricular things. I do think that if the child is school aged and at school then yes the nanny should do all the other extra curricular things, or if not school aged durning nape time do all the other extra curricular activities, after all they're being paid to keep active. Otherwise, the nanny will be taking away the time that should be spent with the children to do the laundry. Sorry, but that is unnecessary. Furthermore, if you took your child to a child care ficility do you honestly think the ficility will do the laundry or care for your child? Just something to think about... Yourse truely, ????

Posted by: ???? at April 9, 2007 02:26 AM

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