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Mature, responsible, loving, trustworthy, honest, warm, clean, well-mannered, multi-skilled, and impeccable in her behavior and conduct. Should be just the right age, should be able to multi-task without raising an eyebrow and most importantly, should be wholeheartedly devoted to the family.

While to some this may sound like the description of a prospective Indian bride, to a mum this is the secret list of attributes she hopes to find in a nanny. However, to find (and keep) a help who is as perfect as this, the stars must be shining down on you with their very best intentions.

Indeed, nothing compares to the immense relief a mother feels when she knows her child is in safe and loving hands while she is away. A nanny or house help is increasingly becoming the indispensable support system for working as well as stay-at-home mothers in urban and semi-urban parts of the country.

Over time, a nanny becomes an integral part of the household and will inevitably develop a special bond with your child. Hiring the right person whom you can entrust the very important responsibility of caring for your child can be a tricky task, more so if you are doing it for the first time. Here are some tips from experienced mums that may help you through the travails of hiring and retaining a good nanny for your child.

The Source

The monthly salary of full time support staff varies from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 8000. If you are hiring through a placement agency, the yearly commission can range from anywhere between Rs.10,000 and Rs.35,000.

The benefit is that the agency will provide a complete background verification of the candidate. Also, you will be able to have choices and can ask for a replacement if things don't go well. The flip side is that at times, the agency may not have a suitable replacement available right when you need one.

As Rashmi, mother of 2 year old Arnav shares, “Just when I had finished training her and was looking forward to get back to work, I found that my nanny was 4 months pregnant. The agency feigned complete ignorance when I confronted them and although they worked hard to provide a replacement, there was no one available. With my commission money stuck, I had no choice but to wait and make do with a temporary replacement who could not tell the front side of a diaper from the rear!”

Instructions to the Agency

To ensure that you get your desired profile in minimum time, it will help to give clear instructions to the agency regarding the following –

1.Age group

Some parents prefer having a mature full-time caretaker, someone who can singlehandedly take care of the children as well as other household responsibilities. Some prefer young females, required only to care for the child. As per the Indian Labor Law, it is now illegal to employ a child below 14 years of age.

At this point you may also want to convey if you would give preference to a candidate from your home state.

2.Experience

A complete fresher would not demand the same salary as an experienced nanny, however training them from scratch is a big challenge. Busy parents, particularly working mums, would need someone who is well versed with handling a child.

At the same time, some mothers find that it is much easier to mold a first-time nanny to their specific needs.

3.Educational background

For someone who is going to single-handedly take care of your child, basic education will come in really handy in carrying out day to day tasks. For simple tasks such as reading the clock, using equipment or using the phone, administering medicine, conversing with the child, a nanny who has been to school can be a life savior.

4.Reference Check

An experienced baby-sitter will be able to give you references from past employers. Speaking to previous employers can provide a fair idea of the candidate's skills and suitability for your home. For someone who is not able to provide any past references, you may want to consider a week's trial before confirming employment.

Prachi, who is now a self claimed pro at hiring home-help shares “I always prefer hiring through an agency, however this one time I took on a middle aged lady referred by a neighbor. This way I would also save on the year's commission. It proved to be a good decision and I loved having someone who could help in running the household, apart from taking good care of my little girl. But something in her demeanor seemed off and one fine weekend I caught her stashing tobacco in her bag. The lady admitted that chewing tobacco was a habit and that explained why she seemed somewhat 'off ' most of the time. When I called my neighbor, they said it is not unusual and since I did not ask, they thought I might be ok with it!”

5.Setting Expectations

Once you have zeroed in on a candidate, you may want to share important details such as the expected workload, hygiene, off days, family visits etc. This will also be your opportunity to interview the candidate and adjudge their capability as a dependable helping hand.

You may also ask them to share their own expectations right at the beginning. A full time nanny will need to be provided basic utility items such as toiletries, personal care products and sometimes, specific food items such as rice which is a staple diet in many parts of the country. As with any individual, respecting your employee's preferences will not necessarily spoil them but will help you win their loyalty and commitment.

Real time Experiences

Here today, Gone tomorrow!

There have been several instances of fly-by-night placement bureaus duping innocent clients. As one mother from Delhi shares.

“We hired a nanny through a newspaper advertisement. The agent said they would bring the girl to our place if we could pay the auto-rickshaw fare. Home delivery of my house help, how innovative was that! The agency won my vote hands down. So this guy dropped a young girl, collected the Rs.20,000 commission and left. The women in my joint family could now take a breather from the never ending chores. Not for long though! Two days into her job, this cheeky girl managed to flee with 3 mobile phones and mum-in-law's purse in the middle of the day and while three adult members were at home. The agent of course was nowhere to be traced. When we contacted the police, they had one look at the agency's address and said it was fake, there had been several other cases reported against the same agency. Now ofcourse I make sure to visit the placement office although it means taking a day off work.”

Gut feeling vs Playing safe

Reena knew that her sixth sense had yet never failed her, the girl was a godsend and Reena knew her family since a long time. She decided to keep her and ended up with a trusted nanny. On the other hand, Smita, a yoga and wellness coach by profession had waited enough. She had to resume her practice but needed someone to be there for her 7 year old when she came back from school. The girl indeed proved to be an awesome caretaker for her child ( or so she thought ).

Teenage is a volatile time and the house help is no exception. One night, when the sound of her front door woke her up, Smita found her trusted nanny sneaking out to meet up with the society guard. The girl had to be sacked immediately, a complaint was lodged at the society office. However before anything could be done, the girl eloped with the same guard. The experience left Smita wondering how many times her home had been used as a lovers' nest and how much of it her daughter had witnessed.

The importance of a police verification cannot be emphasized enough, even if the agent assures you it has been done at their end. If you are hiring someone suggested by friends, neighbors or someone brought in by your existing house help, a thorough background check by the police becomes all the more important, even though the candidate may have been recommended by someone you trust.

But despite such experiences, life does go on. Now Smita makes sure the front door is locked at night and keeps a check on her staff through surprise visits and phone calls from time to time.

Poaching

Yes, your help may be poached by another mum desperately in need of a nanny. Parents have shared instances where their help was approached by another mum during the daily park visit, offered a more lucrative salary and lesser workload, an offer anyone would find hard to refuse.

It is now becoming extremely important, rather a norm, to treat our support staff with respect. As exploitation becomes a thing of the past, hapless urban parents do everything they can to keep the elusive nanny happy. There is indeed a very fine line between providing basic comforts and over-indulgence, and it requires discipline at both ends to maintain cordiality.

Chances are, even if you are lucky enough to have found your dream babysitter, one fine evening, you may be left rather dismayed, wondering how they could desert you when you did your best as an employer, but then you would soon get busy looking for a replacement.

Retaining a nanny is no child's play as many mums reading this would agree, but with time, we all learn the ground rules! and hopefully get a nanny who loves and takes care of our child the same way we would.

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