How likely is it that your nanny will succeed, and how will you know? Our caregiver assessment focuses primarily on personality features of your candidate, because they are the most difficult to ascertain. However, there are other important elements you should also consider, as they will help determine the success or failure of your nanny/au pair. These include:
1. Employment environment
2. Intelligence, skills and experience
3. Motivations and maturity
4. Private life
Here we discuss the first two factors: Employment Environment and Intelligence, skills and experience. In Part 2 of this article we discuss factors three through five.
Factor #1: Employment environment. This is your home - where your nanny/au pair will work and possibly live. Myriad factors within your home can impact your nanny – many of which you may not have considered, such as:
- Her relationship with the members of your family for whom she does not care. For example, if you have a teenage son who treats your nanny as if she doesn’t exist, she may feel snubbed or unwanted, which could negatively impact her overall experience.
- The emotional tenor and communication style within your household. If your family does not know how to communicate negative emotions effectively, then hostility tends to build, which creates an uncomfortable feeling in the air, and this affects everyone.
- Relationship between you and your spouse. The quality of your marital relationship can affect your nanny directly and indirectly. It affects her directly if she is put in the middle of spousal disputes, used as a sounding board or confidante by either party, or just subject to living and/or working in what feels like a hostile environment.
Indirectly, marital disharmony emotionally impacts your children, who the nanny is then required to manage. For instance, the children may act out their distress in all kinds of ways when you are gone, and the reasons for their behavior may be confusing because they are doing it when you’re not there.
- Organization of the home. How organized is your home and home life? And how much do you expect your nanny/au pair to help you maintain this organization? These issues frequently give rise to unspoken expectations and disappointments, so it is important to be open and honest about your situation and what you need up front, so your nanny has an accurate view of the home environment and is not unpleasantly surprised.
- Cultural, religious and language differences. This issue arises frequently with au pairs. It is easy to presume that because your au pair speaks English well enough, that she is acclimating without any problems. And we are often too busy to want to think about her emotional experience. But, being in a foreign country where nothing is familiar, in a family of strangers, can be a very lonely experience. And, she may say nothing about it until she informs you that she is going home.Hence, being empathic and communicative with her, especially in the beginning, can be the difference between her staying for 2 years and leaving within 2 months.
Factor #2. Intelligence, skills, experience. We don’t test for intelligence, as it would cost more than it’s worth, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it or take it for granted in a candidate. Your perception of her intelligence is important, and probably accurate. You should take it seriously.
When it comes to childcare skills, we evaluate caregiver reflective functioning – the ability to view your child’s behavior as motivated by mental states. This is a vital skill in caring for children of any age. However, other job-specific skills are also important. It is risky to assume that a candidate who has little or no experience caring for children who are similar in age to your child will “figure it out.” There is something to be said for the confidence and wisdom gained through experience.
Check out Part 2 of this article to learn how the other three factors: motivation and maturity, private life and character, can impact whether your nanny/au pair succeeds or fails.