We had to fire our nanny this week. Our nanny contract and attendance tracker saved us $1,000, because the nanny tried to lie and say we owed her more money. I don’t like to be preachy, and I’m not going to outline 15 reasons why you need a nanny contract or an attendance tracker. I’d rather tell you a story to illustrate that fact. Oh, and by the way, at the end of the article you can download the exact contract and tracker we used, and use it with your very own nanny or babysitter.
I’ll start at the beginning – why we had to hire a nanny in the first place.
My wife and I both works 60+ hour weeks, hers in an office and mine mostly at home over the phone, so we need someone to help out with the baby. We knew from the start that we’d have to find a reliable daycare or a super nanny that we could trust enough with our first child. My wife was taking 3 months maternity leave and I wanted to get started on research right away.
I immediately went to baby center to read and download anything and everything I could get my hands on regarding daycare interview questions and nanny contracts. Baby Center did have some good printable questionairres for daycare interviews, but they fell short on the nanny side of things, which at that point was OK, because we were leaning toward daycare anyway.
I also went on the state’s human resources and child services website to lookup business licensing and get a list of daycares close to our home. We were snail mailed (didn’t know people still do that) a list of about 100 daycare centers all over the middle tennessee area. Not what I asked for, but it was over inclusive, so it worked. The daycares ranged from zero to three stars, a proprietary rating from the state that I desgregarded from the start, since 90% of the centers seemed to have a 3 star rating. I figured it can’t be that hard to get, so it must be a fairly meaningless system. Turned out I was right, but more about that later.
The Daycare Option
Armed with the daycare interview sheets and bogus 3 star report, we setup meetings with the executive directors of 10 or 15 daycares within 20 miles of our home. We would tackle 1 or 2 per day, depending on how fussy the baby girl was. It took us about two weeks of solid interviewing to work our way through ALL the daycare centers. In the end, we weren’t any closer to choosing than when we started.
Some of the daycares were stand alone buildings, some were people’s homes, and others were even in strip malls. Few were clean and sanitary, some of the daycares were dirty, and some were down right nightmarish. And I don’t mean they had dust in the corners. I mean the floors were nasty, boogers and other crap were stuck to the walls, kids were laying out relatively unsupervised, and they too had faces full of dried snot and leftover food. I expect that when you get 30 or 40 kids together there will be a few whiners in any group, but these kids were beyond that. They didn’t look like they cried anymore; they looked defeated, their spirits looked broken. It was sad. It was a far cry from some of the day cares we’d seen in California, which were like little slices of baby heaven in comparison to the ones we saw in Tennessee.
To make matters worse, everywhere we went the staff was either rude or completely oblivious to the fact that we were checking the place out. At a few of the daycares we just let ourself in and walked around for minutes before anyone asked us who we were or why we were there. Seriously, we just walked in, unattended, and not checked at the front door. Granted, we had a baby with us, so we looked like we fit it, but still, someone should have stopped us sooner. At those places we just turned around and walked right out.
The search was looking bleak, but before we gave up completely, a friend referred us to a daycare that was a little bit further than we wanted to drive, but she had her two kids there and raved about the place. We decided to check it out.
It was one of those daycare combined with a child development center. I’m still not sure what that got us, but that’s the name. It was attached to a non-denominational church, and access was secured through a separate entrance. That’s a good start, we thought. We’d later find out that everyone needs a personal key code to get in. That’s another plus.
The place was clean, the walls were painted in bright colors, and each room had a different theme. It looked like a hollywood movie set, and the kids seemed to love being there. The teacher to student ratio was more in line with what we heard was the norm, and at this place they were attentive, even helpful.
We made it through our daycare questions, and interviewed a few of the staff. The daycare price was $280 per week, or about $1,100 per month. Expensive, but not as expensive as some of our family members’ daycares in cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, or New York. We were able to negotiatedthe price down a bit because we agreed to pay with auto debit, around $1,000 per month. Finally, we enrolled our daughter. She would start a month or so later when she turned four months old.
That’s when the trouble started.
Soon after she was enrolled, we got a letter from the daycare that RSV had been going around. It arrived four days after it was mailed. Why would they send that as a letter, why not call? If you’re not familiar with RSV, it’s a virus that young kids get. It presents as a cough and turns into a pretty bad respiratory cold. Most kids get over it after a few days, but since our daughter was so young and her immune system so immature, she got hit pretty hard and was in the 1% that needed to be hospitalized. Poor baby girl could hardly breathe and for a month after that we had to have her on breathing treatments at home with allbuterol. That was miserable.
After she recovered, we kept her at home with us for another month. We figured it was an isolated incident so we put her back into the daycare. It took less than a week and she got something similar to RSV again. Back in the hospital and back on meds. At that point, we knew she wasn’t going back to daycare. We started our nanny and babysitter research.
Finding a Nanny
We found the best information from nanny agencies, and started working with two of them to help us find a nanny. We also researched the going rate for baby sitters, which seemed to be in line with the pay rates for nannies, if not a few dollars per hour less. But, most babysitters didn’t keep up detailed resumes and were not willing, for the most part, to let us call their references. It was like the nightmare was starting all over again.
The nanny agencies seemed to be working out better. They sent us packets of nanny resumes and we started calling in a few for meetings at our home. The nanny agency gave us a list of questions to ask the nanny about her experience, methods of care, etc., but we made sure not to use those prepared questions because we didn’t want the nanny to be too prepared for what we threw at her. We found some stock questionnaires through the international nanny association, and used those.
After meeting a bunch, we settled on one lady who was like the italian version of Mary Poppins, except about 200 pounds heavier. We were a bit concerned that she might not be able to chase after our little one, and climb up and down the flight of stairs we have in our place, but she had a great resume, excellent references, and happened to be from Long Island, which is where I grew up. That sealed the deal.
We filled out a nanny contract, which we both signed, and it was a good thing we did. More on that in a second. (You can download the exact nanny contract we used by filling out the quick form below) We started her at $13 per hour, with a guaranteed amount of work per week and per month. We also hired a nanny payroll company to take care of all the paperwork for us. They charged $175 per quarter to run payroll and do all the tax paperwork for us and the nanny, or slightly over $55 per month. That was inline with what I would’ve had to pay if I used quickbooks online or someone to do the books for us, like a CPA or bookkeeper.
Problems with the Nanny
At first, she was great. She did baby laundry, cleaned baby dishes, took the baby to storytime and to the baby play center. Then one day she called in sick. No problem I thought, better stay home if you’re sick so as not to infect the baby. The next day she came in, and everything went back to normal. A few days later, she called in sick again. I started thinking maybe she’s interviewing for other jobs, so I asked her flat out, “Are you interviewing for other jobs?” She said no.
A few more days go by. Now she’s doing laundry less often, the dishes are starting to pile up, and the baby bottles aren’t getting done. She’s taking the baby out less, and just plopping her in the play center to watch tv. The nanny starts reading the bible in my recliner while the baby watches tv. I mean, it’s nice she’s reading the bible, but I had to put a stop to that lazy nanny behavior fast. We had another talk, after which everything seemed to be OK, but the next day she called in sick again. She played up a phony cough.
She came back in the next week and apologized, told us about some stuff that was going on in her life, and promised everything would be OK. And it was, for about a month. She had an entire week off because my wife and I went on vacation to see family and we took the baby with us. We paid the nanny because we knew money was tight for her. We also allowed her to take another vacation which she had planned just a few weeks after that.
When she got back from vacation she worked a day here, and a day there, and started calling in sick again. Finally, she just didn’t show up one day and didn’t call at all. That was it. I called her at home. She hammed up the phony cough. I told her not to bother coming in the next day, she was fired. She couldn’t care less. She asked when she could get her last paycheck. Seriously?
The Nanny Contract Saves our Ass
I told her she could stop by the house for her paycheck and reminded her to return our key. She asked how much the paycheck was. I told her it was for the one and only day she worked that week. She told me I needed to give her 14 days notice and that I needed to pay her for that time. She told me that I owe her that money and if I didn’t pay it she refused to return the key.
I pulled up the handy dandy nanny contract, referred her to paragraph 6, which states we can let her go at any time if she slacks on her duties and misses too much work. She claimed she only missed a few days and was within the parameters of the contract. I also shared with her the information I recorded on the attendance tracker and reminded her of the real days she called in sick, and the others when she didn’t call in at all. Her 6 “sick” days and 3 unexcused days certainly qualify as non-performance.
I sent a copy of those documents to the nanny agency which helped to place her. Within an hour the key was back in our possession. What could have turned into a legal nightmare was averted with proper planning and and a good nanny contract!
During all those missed days we were able to get a temp nanny in the house, and she is our full-time nanny now. So far, it’s working out great.
Oh, and we have a new contract.
Save yourself from heartache and unscrupulous nannies. Don’t get caught without either one of these helpful documents.
Get Instant Access to the Nanny Contract and the Daddy by Default 2012 Nanny Attendance Tracker.