Riley is sick: feverish, coughing, draped bonelessly over furniture with great unhappy anime eyes. He is utterly miserable, and so of course our household has been plunged into a state of bleak distress. I vaguely remember a time Before The Illness where the sounds of laughing children were heard and meals were consumed and the adults went about their business with smiles rather than grey, shadowed faces, but it already seems as though our current routine of wiping snot, tears, and grimly administering useless doses of fever reducer has become inescapable—like this is what parenthood is going to be like from here on out. Caring for depressed, consumptive toddlers who require 3 AM All Your Laundry Are Belong to Us Tylenol-barf cleanups. WOE.

Dylan thus far has remained illness-free but I can only assume he too will succumb, and then the adults will absorb the childrens’ germs and transform the symptoms into something even more disgusting in our clunky grownup bodies, like geysering arterial jets of blood from our eyesockets, and then there will be nothing left to do but burn our house down.

I am feeling maybe a little despairing today, can you tell? I wish it was sunny outside. And that I had a gallon of peppermint ice cream. With Xanax sprinkles.

In other news, I am kind of looking into hiring a nanny. We’re not unhappy with our daycare, but I’ve been thinking more and more that it might be nicer to have someone come to our house instead. There are pros and cons to both situations, really, and it may be that we simply can’t afford a nanny, even on the part-time basis we need, but you know, I’m checking it out.

So have any of you hired a caregiver before? I could use some help thinking of the right questions to ask. Also, if it turns out the right person is a young college student who can only work for us between now and fall, do you think that would be worthwhile, as long as we had a back-up plan when they start up school again (ie, hiring someone new or holding a spot at daycare)?

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  1. kate on May 7th, 2008 8:53 pm

    i skipped most of the comments, so someone may have already said this, but i was a nanny in the past (before the MASSIVE FAILURE of ortho-tri-cyclen low dose, aka sugar pills brought so much unexpected joy into my life…um, where was i?) oh right. nanny.

    besides all the obvious stuff- reference checking and what not- the most important thing is to hire someone you really like. they’re going to be in your house all the time- perhaps the most intimate someone can be with your family without being, uh, intimate. you should LIKE them, and riley should really like them. otherwise everyone will be awkward and uncomfortable and you don’t need all that relational weirdness in your life, especially since it costs so much more than daycare.

    also keep in mind, they will probably snoop through your stuff. nannies i know have all kinds of “guess what i found under their bed” type stories. i didn’t snoop that much, mostly because i really liked my employers (also i’m nice, and an easy blusher, and could never had made eye contact again if i’d stumbled upon something…)

  2. Linda on May 7th, 2008 8:59 pm

    A friend of mine found both her nannies on craigslist. She lives in the Issaquah Highlands and was able to find one very close to her house. It seems like there are a lot more options on the Eastside than down south, where I live. You should also get on http://www.red-tri.com. I bet they’d have suggestions, too.

  3. Chris on May 7th, 2008 9:53 pm

    I’m not going to bother with all the background check and what not. You are going to do that. All I can tell you is that, in my opinion, having someone come to your home to take care of the boys has got to be better than daycare. You keep the germs fairly confined. Having the boys at home, with one caregiver, has got to be better than daycare, where, not only are there 20 other kids with snot noses, but caregivers who came to work because they have to with colds/strep/ebola…yeah, keep the boys at home with someone carefully picked by you.

    You are a smart mom. You know what you need to do. Trust your instincts and go with it.

  4. superblondgirl on May 8th, 2008 5:46 am

    I used to be a nanny and it was a really cool job. Not that that gives you any advice, but.. you know. I don’t know. I think it’s a great idea, and it is awesome for the kids to be able to stay home, have one person focused on them all day, etc. etc. Just make sure your checks are always good, because when I would go to cash my check on Friday and be told the funds weren’t available, I was an unhappy nanny.

  5. Debbie on May 8th, 2008 5:51 am

    I know you are looking for nanny interview questions but I wanted to suggest looking for another daycare — maybe a smaller one. My husband works a crazy schedule and is home sometimes during “normal” working hours so a nanny would never work for us as he wasn’t comfortable with having someone there when he was trying to sleep. We were having a lot of illness issues with daycare and I considered quitting my job as I am only parttime too but have *excellent* benefits that we really wanted to keep. As we were struggling with what to do, we got some inside information on a new, smaller place and were able to get our son in. There are only four kids in his room now instead of 16! That alone has made a huge difference with sickness. If you haven’t shopped around for a new daycare since Riley, that might be another option. Good luck with whatever you choose.

  6. moo on May 8th, 2008 6:33 am

    Not sure you’ll make it all the way down here but …

    We hired a young girl to come into our home the two days a week I go to work. We paid her an outrageous sum, more than we could really afford. And she was young. And I honestly was not all that comfortable with her. And her youngness. She had been recommended to us by my aunt, as they both attended the same church.

    Lo, she got ill (she had some major health issues) and I was able to gently, but firmly, fire her. It sounds really harsh, but it wasn’t. If you want, I can give you the details if you email me.

    Anyway, about the same time, an old friend of the family, still young, but older than the first girl, moved back home after college. And we hired her. And we love her. And I pay her about $15 less a day but she doesn’t mind. And it is awesome.

    And that was a book, but I wanted to say … it will work out for you. Check churches, family and friends, craigslist, mom’s groups, local message boards and local colleges. You will find someone y’all love and trust.

  7. Misguided mommy on May 8th, 2008 7:19 am

    You might check and see if Nannyclub has a location near you. They have licensed nannies there, and you get to meet and interview them. Then when that one went back to school or whatever you will have a chance to line up a new one way in advance. They are pretty cool, I actually rent my second house out to one of their nannies and she is a super sweet heart.

  8. Jeff on May 8th, 2008 7:21 am

    Re: Nanny vs. Daycare…

    My recommendation is that you always start with friends and co-workers – see if there is anyone that they know of and have had experience with as a Nanny, and would recommend. Can never go wrong with a recommendation – or if you do, you then have someone that you can hold accountable for whatever failure may occur :-) .

    We just lived through both sides of your decision. Previously, we had a 57 year old Polish wonderful woman who was with us for 4 years. LOVED our kids, extremely protective of them (much more than my wife and I at times) and very patient. She was single, with family back in Poland, so our family was all that she really had here in a sense, and I think that was a big part of how wonderful things were with her. An added bonus to her coming to take care of our three kids was in those few fleeting moments of synchronous nap time, she would do OUR laundry, or clean the house – wonderful. The one thing that she didn’t do was be strict in laying down the law or dish out punishment when rules where broken. So make sure they have the “balls” to be the bad cop at times. Neighbors of our hired a Nanny that had an child education background – and she had a ton of activities and projects that she did with their kids (and mine when we were over there). So ask questions about what they would be doing to pass the time, develop skills, etc. Maria loved the outdoors, and had our kids outside whenever the mercury reached 37 degrees or higher. Some of our neighbors with Nannies were extremely jealous of this.

    We’ve since moved to the suburbs and everyone now is in Daycare. We are constantly battling some sort of cold as they swim through the “Chicago Southern Suburbs Daycare petri dish, which we knew went with the daycare territory. Also, getting three of them dressed, in the car, and to daycare is a daily war, which leaves me with little energy to tackle my day at work – so we’ve thought about going back to daycare, for at least the two little ones, so that they can be in a more healthy (physically) environment, and make the morning trek somewhat easier. But having said that, we’ve decided for now to stick with daycare. Their immune systems may be working overtime, but we’ve rationalized that as a good thing for the long term. And they do so many things with our kids that we would have never thought of doing, or would have thought of trying in our house (paint, field trips, food, etc.). For now, the upside of daycare seems to rationalize the hassles associated with it.

    Strangely enough, for us, the cost of daycare 5 days a week for three kids came out to be about the same as our Polish Nanny for all kids, 5 days a week. Don’t know if that meets with the common perception. It was a bit of a surprise for me.

    I hope this helps. I love your blog and your writing.

  9. Lise on May 8th, 2008 7:26 am

    This is my first time commenting (though I’ve been reading you everywhere!), and I just want to mention the nanny service I worked for in Seattle many years ago– Careworks (www.careworkseattle.com). I was the “nanny placement specialist” and can vouch for the thoroughness of the interview/screening process as well as the personal integrity and professionalism of the owner. Hope Riley feels better soon!

  10. Jenn Bo on May 11th, 2008 3:45 pm

    I haven’t read the other comments, so this may have already been suggested. You could look into an au pair. With two children (especially when one is an infant), the cost of an au pair pretty comprable to the cost of day-care. Tricky part is that they need to have a bedroom/bath in your home.

    I am from the eastside (of Seattle) and could find out the name of the agency that my friend uses.

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