One day, I received a call from a woman named Alicia, who lived in New York City with her husband, John. She had recently given birth to their first child, and with only three weeks left on her maternity leave, she was faced with the task of hiring her first nanny.
“I’m stressed because I have no idea what I’m doing,” she told me. “I wondering how to find a nanny in New York, but I don’t know what I’m looking for, or where to start. And I’m nervous, because I didn’t grow up with a nanny. I don’t understand nannies, and I don’t even really want a nanny in my house—but I have to go back to work. Can you help me?”
Many of my nanny agency clients are first-time parents who come to me feeling exactly like Alicia. They’re anxious because even though they want to hire a nanny, they don’t know that much about them, so they feel like they’re flying blind. The nanny world can be confusing and mysterious: nannies can be as different as night and day, there’s no standardized training or required certification, and usually, no clear correlation between specific duties and pay. Parents are forced to make up the rules on the fly in their own homes, and as a result, often have misguided notions or expectations about what a nanny should or shouldn’t be. It doesn’t help that, for many of us, the nanny we’re most familiar with is Mary Poppins—Walt Disney’s version of the magical, perpetually cheerful governess who arrives at her new employer’s home via umbrella and miraculously transforms the entire family through her firm-but-loving ways.
Julie Andrews’ portrayal of the character is so iconic that it has become part of our collective, cultural consciousness. When we think about the ideal nanny that we want for our children, we envision spoonfuls of sugar and everyone living happily ever after. We are often disappointed when a real-world nanny fails to meet that fictitious standard. However, there are many wonderful nannies out there who can be immensely loved by both you and your child. Just like Mary Poppins, these nannies can contribute to the joys of family life, and enhance your perspective on parenting and childrearing in remarkable ways. You just have to understand who they are, how they think, and what to expect from the arrangement.
Throughout this site and in my book, I attempt to give you a crystal-clear picture of what a nanny is and does. I explain what the job actually entails, and how you should or should not approach the relationship. I reveal the best and most-challenging aspects of the nanny-parent dynamic, and debunk common myths surrounding nannies, so that you can be as informed and realistic as possible when starting your search. I won’t sugarcoat the truth: unfortunately, the kind of perfection embodied by Mary Poppins doesn’t exist. Nannies are human, and just like everyone else, they have strengths and weaknesses, surprising talents and funny quirks, as well as their own needs and expectations. You will most likely never find the “perfect” nanny who flawlessly performs every conceivable task. However, if you follow my process, you will absolutely be able to find an amazing, real-world nanny who will be a perfect fit for your family.