“Poppins in a Pinch” – What to do When Work Won’t Wait

We have all been there. It’s 7pm on a Monday evening, your childcare worker has called you, she’s glowing Kermit the Frog green from food poisoning… and you have a hugely important, completely unmovable meeting tomorrow morning… at 9:00am. You are stuck. Your Mum is back on the prairie enjoying mortgage free retirement, your friends are all booked up from here to eternity, and you took four family sick days due to the world’s most contagious flu last month…What now?

What about an on-call professional nanny? “Who does that?” you ask. What kind of mum just hands her child over to a complete stranger? The answer to that question is….LOTS and LOTS of mums who end up in a painfully merciless childcare pinch. In actuality, Nannies on Call an on call nanny agency says thousands of mum’s (and dad’s) in Vancouver, Calgary, Victoria and Whistler do just that… thousands of times a year.

Rather than call the teenager (or senior citizen) down the street (who may or may not be qualified or capable) why not call in a professional? You wouldn’t let a 17 year old without any experience have a crack at fixing your car or your teeth, why on earth would you allow someone without experience or carefully checked credentials care for your children?

So how to you ensure that everyone’s needs are being met? How do you ensure that your children really are being well looked after and that you are able to calmly focus on getting your work done? Here are some guidelines to help you have an on call nanny agency work for you and your family.

Questions To Ask:
Check your local on call Nanny Agency to find out what screening and interviewing process nannies go through before being hired. Ask what training the agency provides and how long the agency has been in business. Check to make sure the agency has liability insurance and that all of their nannies are bonded. Check to see what requirements the agency asks of each nanny, and how long each interview takes. Do all of the nannies have clear current criminal record checks? Do all of the nannies have their CPR/First Aid certificates up to date? How many reference letters were asked for (personal or professional?) and how many references were actually checked? In the long run go with your gut. It really is a mother’s most reliable information source. Do you trust the person you are speaking with, how does their website look, have any of your friends used an agency? What was their experience like? Ask around. If someone gives you a short or vague answer…ask another question.

Points To Ponder:
So you have decided you will take the leap…into the world of on call nannies, (or at least go with the free fall into the abyss into which you feel have been pushed.) How do you help things go smoothly? How do you help this experience become a truly positive and pleasurable day or evening for your child or children? Tell your kids ahead of time who is coming to watch them. (Reputable nanny agencies should send a bio ahead of the nanny so that you can share the information with your child) My daughter sees on call nanny time as “PLAY time ALL the time”, it is quite simply play heaven. Endless books, hands on help with creating elaborate playdoh worlds, no running errands, no car seat. no “Mummy just needs to check e-mail before we…” She LOVES it. A lot of this comes from the fact that she has a pretty easy going personality (kids are who they are), but most of it is because she has had LOTS of on call nannies and we started that quite early on. We schedule a date night on the first day of every season whether we have somewhere to go or not. We book an on call nanny and don’t have to rely on friends or family, (not having to return a swap actually is quite nice) The date night does us good, and there is no pressure. If she doesn’t love a nanny we can come home with out any problems or stress, (That by the way has never happened.) Having focused one on one play time really suits our daughter and we now have a list of nannies who she is familiar with that we could call on f we ever got in a real pinch. Plus …she is simply used to having nannies which makes going out easier on both us and her.

Take away the time pressure – Give yourself enough time to show the nanny everything, tell her everything she will or may need to know, and to let your child get used to her. 20-45 minutes is usually enough for a first time visit 15-30 minutes for subsequent visits. If you are stressed out about time your child will sense it.

Have a plan – Will the nanny call you after 10 minutes no matter what? Or is no news good news? Will your cell phone be on?… or will you call home in a half hour. Figure out what will work for you and your children and then communicate the plan clearly to your nanny.

Put it in writing – If you feel you need to write everything down ahead of time – DO IT. Special instructions like NO TV, or only 4 bedtime books and then two night lights on, are important. Your children’s routine will offer them comfort and security. It will be easier on them if their routines stay the same.

Be creative – Some on call nannies can pick kids up from school for you (using transit if they are on the school’s release list), they can help kids get to and from activities, they can even help pack a lunch in the morning or supervise a prescheduled playdate with a friend . Some nannies welcome open ended bookings, (I might be back at 5pm, or 2 am…I work in film….I’ll call you when I can) Make sure you communicate your needs clearly to the agency so that they can find the right nanny for you. If you are open to figuring out new solutions…new solutions will come.

Think outside the box – If your child is used to going to Auntie Mimi’s house and playing with cousin Jimmy…perhaps you can go in on an on call nanny night with Auntie Mimi. The two families split the cost (making it VERY affordable and your child has the comfort of a regular playdate. Note: there usually is a minimal extra fee if the situation is a nanny share like the one I just described.

Be Sensitive – Talk to your kids before AND after the booking. Ask what the nanny was like, what did they do? Ask the nanny too. Some nannies will be a perfect fit and others may not, but all will be qualified, and SAFE. In the future you can speak to a booking agent at the agency and request the same nanny… or one with a similar childcare style (or not) depending on how the experience went for you and your child.

In a perfect world we would all be home as much as we liked, and we would all have jobs that were completely flexible, all of the time. Childcare would always be a choice and never a necessity. Unfortunately this is not the world the majority of us live in. Priorities collide, schedules change and we all do the best we can to be the best parents that we can be and still pay the bills. Sometimes finding last minute childcare is just one of 55 items on an ever growing to do list…and it is a stressful and serious item that you can’t just check off willy nilly. Using an On-Call childcare agency is an option that are is out there. It may or may not be the right option for you….
Isn’t it better that you educate yourself in advance about how it all works, so that in the event of an emergency… it really is an option?…just in case it ever becomes the only option.

Leanne Hume is first and foremost a mother who has been a on call nanny, a placement nanny, a teacher and now is in charge of Nanny Recruiting for Nannies on Call in Vancouver.
[email protected]

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