Q&A: How to Hire a Nanny

Back in November I posted on stories asking you for your questions about hiring a nanny, and there were a lot of them! I know the process is beyond overwhelming. Finding someone special to care for your most important person in the world. Lofty task.

We first started talking about and looking up child care options when I was about 5-6 months pregnant with Henry. I had all the same questions as you–how long does it take to find help? Is there a waitlist at the day cares? What is all to this going to cost? What do we doooooo arghstressful?!?!

We ultimately went the nanny route for reasons I detail below. Now Henry is almost two and the boys’ nanny is actually the third nanny we’ve hired so I’ve been through the hiring process a few times now in a short period of time… before you hear that and think “three nannies in less than two years? why should we listen to you?! you sound like a failure!” 1. Fair. 2. It was very circumstantial why we had to find a new nanny both times, and we’ve truly loved the two longer-term ladies who have been with our family (one of whom is our current nanny). The first was barely with us at all (a few weeks–she quit to get an office job), but she was also very nice.

The second was with us for nine months and ended up resigning due to health/scheduling reasons. I was so sad I cried when she said goodbye–she had become a part of our family. She was Henry’s best friend. It’s what you hope to find in a nanny. Fortunately the agency we used, Gold Coast Nannies, was exceptionally helpful and fast in helping us find a replacement leading up to Charlie’s birth. We love the new gal (although she’s not that new anymore! hah funny how fast time flies) who comes every day to be with the boys, but again, I’ll detail more below!

Allow me to start at the beginning…


5/6 Months Pregnant: Oh no, we need child care. Day care or nanny?

We really didn’t know what we were going to do in terms of child care. Had no idea what things cost or how it all worked. I started calling around to local day care options and “schools” in the West Loop (where we lived at the time) to get pricing and availability. They were all over $2000 a month for full-time infant care. When it comes to certified day care centers (not in-home “day care”), infant care is always the most expensive program–it gets cheaper the older the child gets because the kid/adult ratio goes down–and infant programs are usually harder to find part-time options (half days or 3-day weeks) as opposed to toddler care where 2 and 3-day programs are plentiful. That price was steep for one baby and we didn’t need 5-day care as it was since Dan’s parents had already told us they wanted to spend Fridays with Henry.


Attempting to Hire on Our Own

Now that we decided to go the nanny route, we took the advice of many followers and made an account with care.com to try and hire our own child care. Even paid for the premium website features (I do not remember what the upgrades were). I know a lot of people have success with this on both the hiring side and nanny side, but let me tell you–being in a big city where applicants are a plenty, it was so overwhelming on the hiring side. Basically it’s a full-time job trying to hire someone, which if you’re not looking for them to start until after your maternity leave, you basically have to do the hiring process during those newborn weeks because most nannies are not looking for jobs months out. They’re usually on a 4-week out basis for hire. And you’re busy enough w/ a newborn so it’s just one extra stressful process during an already stressful time.

Either way, not an easy process. Filtering through 100 applications, most of whom didn’t read your full job description and simply hit the auto “apply” button so their hours or pay grade or experience didn’t even line up with our needs… then scheduling interviews.

Many applicants never even replied to me, a couple did reply then never showed up for the interview. It was a mess. We honestly hired the first girl who seemed really nice and showed up on time for the interview–we both worked from home at the time and knew one of us would always be there in case she needed something or something went wrong.

This all ended up being a big mistake because in her interview, she stated simply, “I’m waiting for my Visa to come through and once it does I am looking for a more traditional 9-5 office job.” We thought we’d at least get several months–hoping for 6–out of her. I think she lasted 5 weeks. If that? So that was a big waste of our time, not even two months in and we were back to where we started, and at this point I was back at work and had no time to do the care.com process again….


Working with a Nanny Agency

Enter Gold Coast Nannies–a Chicago (and New York City!) nanny agency that made life so much easier. Truly–working with an agency to hire child care versus not is like night and day. Unless you have a personal reference which I never have, the agency route was so so much easier. It comes with a fee but there are so many benefits that I’ll go into, it all ends up being worth it. You simply tell them what you need, and applications of qualified, interest applicants just appear in your inbox.

First, the agency does all the heavy lifting–background checks, reference checks, writes the contracts, schedules the interviews with applicants who meet all the requirements you’ve already laid out, gives advice on pay and scheduling and how to handle any type of tough conversation you might encounter with a nanny.

They’re equally great for the nanny from what I’ve heard and represent both parties very fairly. If I was a professional nanny (which I did briefly in my early twenties), I’d want to go through an agency.

The BIGGEST perk we’ve encountered (after the super easy hiring process) is if you ever need a temp nanny. If your nanny is ever out sick or has appointments and can’t make it in, you still have to get to work and you need child care. Gold Coast Nannies has always gotten us a qualified temp nanny even when I’ve texted that morning asking for help. I believe they’re mostly nannies who are between full-time positions who have availability and they’ve all been amazing. This service has been so so so so helpful. Otherwise you’re just out of luck if your nanny is sick and then you’re calling out of work.

I have really loved having in-home child care while the boys are this little and feel very fortunate that we were able to make this work for our family. Child care is a huge expense no matter which way you cut it and this large expense has definitely impacted our lifestyle and choices but it’s where our family needs and chooses to allocate budget right now. I do get to work from home a couple of days a week, and it has been really wonderful being able to pop down and say hi and give a snuggle throughout the day. It has definitely gotten more difficult since we lost our home office to nursery #2 because now I work in the dining room and with Henry being older, he often wants to come in and see mommy… so that has been more challenging but during the baby phase it was really easy.


Alright–that’s the background. Onto your questions!


Reader Questions

When did you start looking?

We started doing research when I was 5 or 6 months pregnant with Henry. We started posting/interviewing shortly after Henry was born knowing I had two months maternity leave. Most nannies are looking 1-4 weeks out from when they can start but many are looking to start working ASAP and are not willing to wait and if another offer comes in they’ll take it.


How long did the process take to find her? How many did you interview?

Both times we interviewed approximately four women the agency sent over from a longer selection of applicants. It took about two weeks from me letting the agency know we needed someone to hiring someone, including trial days. That is VERY fast and not necessarily the norm.


Do you know anyone who used your nanny before?

We didn’t but the agency had called all references.


Did you call references?

Gold Coast Nannies does provide references if they have them. We didn’t call references on our first hire through them but did with our second. It’s definitely nice talking to other moms who worked with the individual and hearing about their experience. I recommend calling.


What are the key interview questions to ask?

I asked Sarah at Gold Coast Nannies if she had a list of common interview questions… here is what she sent (I bolded the ones that were particularly important to us):

The Basics:

1. Have you taken classes in child education?
2. Are you trained in CPR? First Aid? Willing to get certified?
3. Are you vaccinated and/or willing to get a flu shot? TDAP vaccine? Chicken pox? (this was important to us having a newborn in the winter)
4. Are you fluent in any other languages?
5. What pay rate are they looking for? Are they okay with getting taxed?
6. How many hours a week? Any flexibility on hours? More/less/schedule changing last minute, etc.–only as it applies to your needs. – the agency usually clears this up before you’re even sent applicants so you are only getting applications from those who meet your pay/hours needs BUT double check and confirm during the interview.
7. Describe your personality.
8. Smoke, drink, do drugs? Willing to take a drug test?
9. What do you like to do when not working?
10. What do you think your references would say about you?


1. Why did you choose to become a nanny?
2. How many years have you nannied and for how many families?
3. What age groups have you cared for? we wanted to ensure they’d worked with a newborn, and this time we wanted to make sure they had experience with two babies (multiples or two under two)
4. What age group do you like the most and why?
5. Have you worked with [anything specific about your kids…. reflux, tantrums, multiples, special needs, allergies, colick, anything and everything to gain their sense of experience and comfort with what your child is like)?
6. How long was your longest position?
7. Comfortable taking kids on outings?
8. Have you ever experienced a childcare emergency and if so how did you handle it?
9. Are you comfortable talking to a baby (who doesn’t talk back), singing, dancing, being silly, not being embarrassed, getting on the floor and playing, etc.?


1. Strengths and weaknesses as a nanny?
2. Ideal position (how many kids, work from home parents, pets, etc.)? – we were very clear that we are around often because we both work from home and made sure the applicants were comfortable with this or had experience with it before
3. Discipline philosophy – must be willing to follow parents direction on this? – after quite a few interviews we learned there are two types of nannies: those who view themselves as extensions of the parents following schedules, guidelines, etc set out by the parents (most were this), and those who are primary care in the absence of parents and kind of do things their way as they see fit. Both are totally fine, but we wanted the former so this was something we discussed in the interview.
4. Valid driver license/car?
5. How to keep the active and engaged (agency does not accept television, ipads, etc. as an acceptable answer)?
6. Activities to do with different age groups (newborn-1, 1-2, 2-3, 3-5)?
7. Activities on rainy/freezing days?
8. How would you incorporate learning into each day?
9. Do you know appropriate milestones for each age group?
10. Willing to travel with family?
11. Are you open to caring for more children if we have play dates or family visiting?
12. Are there any activities or responsibilities that you can’t or won’t do?
13. Are you willing to help out around the house when the boys nap? – the boys nap a lot so I go into more detail below regarding how to ask for other household responsibilities to be done.

Did you have any trial runs before you hired?/Do you recommend doing a trial period?

This question makes me laugh since one applicant, an older woman who had been nanny-ing for at least thirty years, simply said she didn’t do trials–”she knows what she’s doing.” She didn’t say it in a rude way or anything, just matter of fact. We liked her but ultimately didn’t hire her, and the two women we have worked with long term were both happy to do short trials. I highly recommend a 2-5-day trial if the nanny is willing and able (yes–this is paid). You really get a sense of how your child is with them.


How did you ultimately decide who to hire? Was it just a feeling? What were the biggest factors?

Honestly, yes. I just had a great feeling about the women we ultimately hired–talking with them was very easy. Both women had great energy which is very important to us with little boys. Our first nanny from care.com was very quiet, too quiet, and granted Henry was a little baby, but she barely talked to him at all and it’s so so important to talk to babies and let them hear words. And sing. Or anything. So when we started interviewing the agency applicants, we really wanted someone with high energy, playful, educational, and natural/confident (as opposed to shy or awkward) in how they interacted with kids. Our first long-term nanny was that and was hugely instrumental in Henry’s language development and encouraging independent play.

We also needed someone who was comfortable with us working from home and being around–not everyone is.

And experience with infants was very very important. Caring for a walking, talking, potty-trained child is wildly different than a baby. And caring for one child is wildly different than caring for two. When we hired our most recent nanny we knew we needed someone who could keep up with boys and the energy it takes to care for both of them. It’s a lot of up and down stairs, carrying them both, etc. So those were big factors we considered.

Yes we would love someone who can speak a foreign language (our current nanny does and Henry does know quite a few Spanish words now–all the body parts, colors, animals, food, etc.!), but ultimately this became very low on the list of priorities compared to our son’s happiness and safety–which we could see with Henry and now with Charlie. Henry runs to the door to greet her when she arrives every day and their faces light up when they see her. That’s ALL you can ask for.


How often do you have a nanny? Do you split between grandparents and nanny?

Dan’s parents generously watched Henry on Fridays up until recently and now they still do some days but the two babies IS a handful, so we have had our nanny 5 days more and more frequently the last two months and are likely going full 5 days with her starting… gosh maybe this week? Hah We both work full-time and need full-time care and honestly with the two boys, our nanny knows their routine and schedule and quirks in and out so it’s just easier having her five days a week. Plus his poor parents had a hellish drive with traffic to get to the city and back on Fridays. Just trying to make it easier on everyone.


Are nannies more common in the US? Nurseries seem standard in the UK but not sure why?

I truly have no idea?


I’m 8 months pregnant–when should I start looking?

If it’s for a nanny, I’d recommend starting the process four weeks out from when you need them to start.

If it’s for day care, I’d start contacting immediately because most around here have waitlists, sometimes a year out.

How much approximately does it cost? Where can I research price ranges? How much does it cost compared to day care?

IN CHICAGO: I believe the average hourly rate for an in-home nanny is $15-22/hr for one child. You can negotiate the rate a bit depending on job responsibilities, benefits, guaranteeing more hours in a week, etc.

The hourly rate does go up with two kids but no it does not double. Again from what I’ve heard, $18-25 is about average in Chicago for an hourly rate for two kids.

A nanny share is your most cost effective solution. With a nanny share, you and another family is splitting the rate for two kids–let’s say it’s $20/hr, but you’re splitting it. So now it’s only $10/hr per family. Your 8-hour day just went from $160/day to $80/day, or $800 a week down to $400 a week. Much more budget-friendly solution but you have to handle the logistics of whose house they’re at, having all of your kids things at both spaces, two schedules/lifestyles, etc. A lot of people make this work and the cost is worth it. I know Gold Coast Nannies also offers this type of placement service–usually finding another family w/ similar aged child in close proximity!

Most nannies want full-time, guaranteed hours each week but you can definitely find those willing to do part-time. We looked at what pricing would be for center-based care and it’s just as expensive if not more as an in-home nanny for the two boys.

All of that being said–if you work crazy long hours or unexpected hours from time to time, center-based day care might be your better option since they have much longer open hours–usually 6am-7pm, and 12-hr days just gets very expensive with a nanny. But if budget isn’t an issue, do what works!


Are there any other expected services (cooking, cleaning) and what training did you require?

When we had one tiny baby Henry with the first nanny who was only with us for a couple of weeks, Henry napped 4 of the 8 hours she was at our home. And while he napped she sat there on her phone (applying for other jobs). Hah Granted that is on for never realizing that would happen or asking her to do anything else. When we interviewed her we didn’t even think to ask. After that experience, we had talked with Sarah who heads up Gold Coast Nannies about what can reasonably be asked of a nanny during nap hours and she helped us…

Typical non-child responsibilities include:

  • maintaining clean space where kids spend time–this includes our kitchen, family room, children’s spaces–vacuuming, wiping down counters, emptying dishwasher, etc. Our family room/kitchen always looks so clean at the end of every day, our nannies are really amazing about that.
  • children’s laundry – washing, folding, putting away (some nannies do all family laundry)

Additional duties some nannies will do (this is all discussed during interview and can affect pay rate and some have a different title other than nanny like house manager or house assistant). We don’t do any of this but it sounds nice?:

  • grocery shopping
  • house management
  • running errands
  • cleaning more of the home


How do you protect your valuables at home with a “stranger” in your house?

This is where the background/reference check that the agency does is huge. But also think about it–your GREATEST valuable is your child. And if you trust them with your child, then you should just trust them period. I know bad things have happened for people but again, this is where working with the agency/calling references proved really beneficial.


Do you have a nanny cam?

Yes, we have a Nest camera in our family room and in the boys’ rooms. They are in no way secret or hidden–they are in plain sight, and when we told the applicants we had cameras during the interviews not one had a problem with it. It’s fairly normal.

I definitely checked in during the day that first week or two just to see how things were going, how our nanny was interacting with Henry, etc. But now, I barely ever look at it and if I do, it’s just to see the boys while I’m at the office. See them playing or eating or going about their day while I can’t be with them; it’s nice to have. We completely trust our nanny (and the last one). If you have any kind of over-worrying, helicopter-ing tendencies (those who do probably know they do), I think cameras could be truly be problematic and obsessive.

We also have this inexpensive baby monitor that our nanny uses for Charlie; Henry’s nap is on a set schedule and he doesn’t require a camera anymore.


How do you deal with all of the contracts, etc. I wouldn’t know where to begin!

Agency writes and handles of the contracts which is amazing. .


Do you have your nanny track your child’s day in an app?

We are old-school and use an ol’ pad of paper and a pen. But only for Charlie and when Henry was a baby so we could track how much they were eating and sleeping and pooping during the day. Henry doesn’t need tracking of any kind anymore–he’s super easy. I just ask what he ate for lunch so I know not to repeat the same thing for dinner.


Do you stay in touch with your nanny throughout the day?

We did more with our last long-term nanny–she’d text photos every day while I’m at the office (or even when I’m home working in the other room)–even check in on weekends. We get occasional updates from our new nanny, and if I asked for more I know she’d send them, but it’s all good. I know the boys are in great hands and happy and having fun. 🙂


What benefits do you provide? PTO? Food?

Yes, Gold Coast Nannies helps with all of this in the contract. Standard terms for full-time employment typically includes:

– one week PTO of nanny’s choosing
– one week PTO of family’s choosing
– one week PTO of sick days
– plus standard paid holidays which are listed out in the contract

Our current nanny does eat lunch at our home–not that we specifically grocery shop for her meals but she can help herself to whatever we have and is typically just eating a version of what she makes for Henry. Our last nanny always brought her own food. We want our nannies to feel at home / a part of our family so I always encourage them to helm themselves to our pantry/fridge/coffee. It’s never been an issue.


Please let me know if you have any other questions! Otherwise I’d recommend reaching out to Sarah at Gold Coast Nannies–she was a huge help with all of this.


Read my post about transitioning from one to two kids here!

Read my Newborn Essentials here!

Essentials for Nanny