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Nanny as a Career Choice – I Am a Nanny

Updated on October 9, 2016


Nanny as a Career Option

This year I made a purposeful career choice, that of becoming a professional nanny. My personal life brought circumstances that brought a career change into play. I have had so many people have questions about nanny work and the life it involves, and odd reactions that I thought it a good topic to write about.

More and more people opt to become a professional nanny as a career choice, instead of it being simply an in-between jobs gig, or a fresh out of high school thing, for many reasons.

Nannies can be any age, from younger women who just graduated from high school or college, or the older woman who is now an empty nester, to the whole gamut in between.

In my case, I had been in both the corporate world, and a director of a non-profit agency which was very rewarding and very stressful. I took a career exploration class at a local community college because I knew I didn’t want to go back to those career directions, but didn’t know what I did want. My children were grown and I found raising my children a rewarding experience. Through this class I realized I valued pouring into the life of a child, I needed work that I could put my heart into. Although I loved children, I am more of a one on one type person and knew I had no interest in working in a child care center, or any teaching a classroom or children, or any other setting caring for large groups of children. I looked at my strengths of what I could offer a family, many years experience dealing with children of all ages, including recent years of grandchildren. Several of those were that I’m patient, gentle and artist, fun and reliable. I was also CPR and First Aid certified for infant and child.

What are the Requirements to be a Nanny?

Some will vary state to state, but at the time of this writing, in my state there were no ‘official’ requirements. However, there are specific schools to become a nanny out there. The ones I researched seemed more targeted to high school graduates and helped them gain child development knowledge, care, and some experience under their belts. There is also a national nanny type association that offers training and testing to certify as a nanny, although certification isn't legally necessary. Another option education wise is Early Childhood Education degree through a college.

In general, the more education and experience a person has, the higher paying job they might land, and the easier it will be to find quality work.

Obviously also, a person has to has a clean background, no criminal past, a good driving record, a stable work history, personal and professional references. CPR and First Aid certification is usually required as well. Another strong plus is to be a good swimmer.

Personality also enters the picture strongly as well. Will the nanny be able to adapt to the wishes of the parents? They must love children, be able to follow instructions, responsible, kind. A successful nanny position is really one of a great fit between the nanny and the family. Some combinations are great; others aren’t, so it may take a couple of times to find the right fit. It’s important for the family and the nanny to be very upfront about who they are, their expectations, roles, and good communication skills to help determine if they might be a good fit or not.

Finding Work as a Nanny

There are many ways to find work as a nanny including word of mouth, internet sites matching families and nannies, advertising in a local newspaper, and working with a nanny agency are a few options.

Personally, I highly recommend working with an agency for several reasons. The biggest is if there is conflict between the nanny and the family, an agency is there to help smooth the transition for everyone to come to an equitable agreement. Sometimes the family, or the nanny’s expectations are just not realistic and an agency can be the one to shed some light on the issue, from a third party perspective.

A nanny agency also does a full screening and background check on the nanny, which gives families a higher degree of confidence. They also interview the family to try to match them with a nanny that as closely fits their needs as possible. Usually it is the family who pays any hiring fees to the agency, not the nanny.

What is the difference between a nanny and an au pair?

Nannies are usually considered an employee of the family and work anywhere from 40-60 hours per week, but that varies from family to family. Wages for a nanny will vary from area of living, how many children one cares for, what other household duties are expected, if it’s a live in or live out situation. Some average figures are anywhere from $12.00 - $18.00 per hour (but can be much higher). The nanny and the family pre-arrange the level of non-childcare related work is involved.

An au pair is a cultural exchange program, similar to an exchange student situation. They are between the ages of 18-26, foreign born and authorized by the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to care for American children. They must have a J1 visa, and if they will be caring for children under the age of two years, must have at least 200 hours of experience with children. They can’t work more than 45 hours a week, and can’t do any non-child related work. They also must be included and treated like family members and taken on normal family events, gatherings and the like. They also can only work for 1 year, so consideration should be taken to bonding issues.

What kind of family hires a nanny?

This is probably the question I get asked the most. I think the most common perception is that they are a dual career wealthy couple, and while many do fit into this category, it certainly isn’t all. With telecommuting and self employment being out there, some families are stay at home, but need a nanny in order to be able to work from home. Some families are very average in income that pool resources and do what’s known as a ‘nanny share’, which can be very competitive in price to a standard daycare. Some are single parents.

Some nanny positions are live in situations, others there are regular, definable working hours. Some families will want a nanny to travel with them on vacation or business functions. Some families have special needs children and want a nanny with experience caring for that situation. Some families hire a nanny, (or night nurse or doula) to help temporarily with the arrival of a newborn baby, especially during night shifts. Some families have twins or triplets or other size multiples and need help.

As for me, I went through an agency and was hired by a family that was a mutual great fit, caring for their baby boy. I absolutely love the family I work for, and love my job! I actually miss it sometimes when I’m not working. I know that I’m contributing something meaningful to a child and his parents. It’s a great work environment for me, I don’t have to sit at a desk all day, my work is appreciated and valued, and bottom line perfect for me at this point in life. It can most definitely be a viable career choice.


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