Nanny vs. Nani


by Nitika Puri  @modernindianmom & online at:

Spending a full year on maternity leave with my son was one of the most exhilarating and exhausting experiences I have ever had. Granted, there were a few instances when I felt I’d had enough. (Note: wanting to drop everything and lock myself in a bedroom with a bottle of wine and watch baby-unfriendly television all night). Even so, I would not have traded the exciting opportunity to bond with my child for anything.

Having said that, I ultimately decided that I was ready to return to work as we neared my son’s first birthday. The only problem…who would look after him when I returned to work full-time? As a fairly new, modern Indian mother living in Toronto, I was open to exploring various options for childcare.
I naturally looked to my son’s grandparents first, (my grandparents were very involved in my upbringing, even though my mother was a stay-at-home mom). Grandparents have helped raise grandchildren for thousands of years and in some cultures, joint families have traditionally been the norm, especially in India. In my case, my mother-in-law and parents are not-yet-retired and are busy with work, caring for their own elderly parents and social activities. In fact, I have discovered many mommy friends whose parents’ social calendars are more full than their own!
So, I finally narrowed down my options; either I could enroll my son in a local daycare, or look for a nanny. From what I have seen, nanny-fever is spreading as young, professional, South Asian couples are considering nanny-care as an increasingly attractive child care option.

I have always been most comfortable having my son looked after in our own home, regardless of who was babysitting. This ensured he was in a familiar, childproofed environment and could sleep in his own bed during naps and bedtime- a must for him- and for my own peace of mind! Considering this, my husband and I decided we would prefer to hire a nanny for our family.
When my nanny arrived at our home for her first interview, I expected my son would stick close to my side at the sight of a stranger in our home. Boy, was I wrong. Instead, he bolted toward her, climbed up her leg and flashed his gummy (“how you doin’?”),  heart-stopping smile.  I felt mixed emotions at that point; guilt at the thought of leaving my son and for wanting to go back to work, fear that my son would build a stronger bond with our nanny over me and also some relief that I may have found someone who would love and care for my son like he was her own. (It didn’t hurt that she was willing to do all the laundry and housekeeping too!).

The interviews with our candidates took place on a Saturday afternoon at our home so my husband could also take part (a second opinion never hurts!) I had prepared a list of interview questions, however each interview began with the nannies having 5-10 minutes of observed, free “play” time with my son.


The most important questions on my list were the following:
•    Do you have any experience taking care of young children? How many and how old were they?
•    How long have you been a nanny?
•    Why are you currently looking for employment?
•    Are you looking for a short-term or long-term position? (Live-in or Live-out?)
•    Are you certified in First Aid/CPR?
•    Are you willing to work weekends/evenings?
•    Do you have any references I could contact?
•    When can you start? (Now please?!)

I judged each nanny candidate on her relevant experience with children, flexibility with work hours/duties and overall demeanor. The “winning” nanny had better experience with babies and toddlers and was extremely friendly, smart and adaptable. I had my nanny start a trial run the following Monday, prior to my official start date at work, which gave me a chance to follow up on her references, allow everyone (mainly my son and I) to slowly adjust to my upcoming absence and practice a new routine. During the two-day trial run, I had my nanny carry out a routine that she would be doing on an average workday. I looked for how the nanny interacted with my son (verbally and physically), her attentiveness to detail, how my child responded to her care, how closely she was able to stick to my son’s routine (i.e. nap time, meals etc.) and her care in handling our home and belongings.

The trial period will give you a chance to practice leaving your child alone with the nanny; use this time to run an errand or grab a coffee with a friend! Our nanny is live out, which means she works her shift and then goes home. However, flexibility is  key and our nanny is willing to stay late if I have to stay late at the office and also work weekends on occasion. During the nanny-hiring process, I learned about a few key differences between nannies and nanis.

Nanis are wonderful, they give love, advice and can be trusted without the extensive interviewing process required for a nanny. There are, however, some key advantages to having a nanny look after your child. Dealing with very young children requires a lot of energy, which a nani may not be able to provide as easily as a younger nanny. When you have a nanny, you make the rules. Your nanny is a paid employee and ultimately answers to you. Nani may not be as flexible about being told what to do and how to do it. Nanis, on the other hand, will work for free. Most nannies also perform household chores such as cleaning, food preparation and possibly even cooking, while most nanis would prefer to spend their time playing with their grandchildren.

My overall expectations are that my nanny keeps my son safe, well-fed, engaged and happy–all of which I have noticed are taking place. I love that he receives one-on-one care and that I am able to perform “spot checks” during the week without interrupting more organized routines/scheduling that may take place in a daycare setting.

A few tips if you do decide to hire a nanny include:

•    Follow your instincts when choosing a nanny, you’ll know if she’s the one!
•    Hire your nanny while you are still on maternity leave, this will give you a chance to further observe and train her according to your needs. Your nanny will most likely appreciate this as well as she will have the opportunity to ask questions without having to disturb you at work.
•    Childproof your home and establish rules before you go back to work (i.e. are visitors allowed etc).
•    Keep the lines of communication open between you and your nanny. Communicate your expectations of her and let her know she can contact you if she has any questions. (Don’t be afraid to call and check in throughout the day).
•    Follow up with references and ensure that your nanny candidate has up-to-date CPR certification. If possible, provide her with an emergency action plan for your home.
•    Try to relax! The more comfortable you are with your nanny, the more comfortable your child will be.


More about Nitika:

Nitika is an Ontario Certified Teacher and a Modern Indian Mom to her 13 month-old son. She lives in North York, Ontario, Canada,  and is currently ‘occasional teaching’ with the Peel District School Board.

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    • Nitika Puri

      Thanks Sundeep. Boo to the not so good experiences! I tried out part-time nanny sharing for a short while and that was when I also had a not so good experience with a different nanny, and I ignored the gut feeling with that one for a long time.

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