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“It takes a village.” We’ve all heard the popular phrase that acknowledges how much support it takes to raise children. Many Canadian families, mine included, have chosen to hire a nanny to help out. Child-rearing is demanding, and often impractical for two people to do it alone. Typically, extended family has been the proverbial “village”, but to quote Bob Dylan, “Times, they are a changin” – grandparents are aging and can’t help in the same way their parents did; people move away from home and don’t have the same support network. Dana and I fell into the latter category.

Our daughter, Amelia, was 14 months old when I returned to work. She attended a day home four days a week and we had a live-out nanny on Fridays. Amelia was well cared for and well loved in this arrangement. She was happy and thriving, and we would have kept the status quo forever, if not for the fact that our Friday nanny purchased a business and quit. We were happy for her but sad for us! 

After trying a few childcare arrangements that either didn’t work for us, or didn’t work for Amelia, we decided it was time to hire a live-in nanny. I will answer all your questions below, but first, a side-story about Hot Nanny.

Before we decided that a live-in nanny was the solution, we thought we would try a live-out nanny. We put out an add in Kijiji. In hindsight, maybe the place where you sell used cars is not the place to find childcare? In any case, one applicant had a great resume, complete with excellent references. I creeped her on Facebook and discovered she was also a model. I showed her picture to my sister, who said, “If you hire her and your husband has an affair, that’s on you.” Ha! I was not deterred. I trust my husband, and the girl can’t help being beautiful. After seeing how great she was with Amelia, I hired her – except she didn’t show up for her first day of work! I couldn’t believe it. I had just started a new job and was scrambling. She eventually responded to my harassing number of phone calls, apologized and said she got the day wrong. Dana said that everyone deserves a second chance; I agreed..AND THEN SHE DIDN’T SHOW UP FOR HER SECOND DAY. Dana wanted to give Hot Nanny one more chance, but obviously, I fired her. When our next candidate showed up at my door for an interview, all I could think was, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Are all nannies young and hot?” In the end, Hot Nanny 2.0 took another position and the search for a live-in nanny began.

How did you find your nanny?

My top recommendation for finding a nanny is to ask around: does someone you know have a nanny they trust? If so, they might have a lead for you. In an ideal world, your candidate is someone who knows someone else’s trusted nanny. I should note that there are many agencies who help Canadians find international nannies, but these agencies come at a cost to both you and your future nanny. Many of the agencies claim that there is no cost to prospective nannies, but they often have a workaround such as expensive initial application fees or third party handlers. Agencies can prey on disadvantaged women desperate to come to Canada, so if you choose to use an agency, do your homework! I still haven’t answered the question, though, because this is not how we found Shirley (our nanny).

The Canadian government has a process in place in which a person must post an ad for a nanny position. We received hundreds of responses from this ad. Before we had permission to look abroad, the Canadian government needed assurances that we could not fill the position within Canada. Since Hot Nanny was a no-go, we had no problem justifying that a foreign worker was required for the live-in nanny position. I reviewed hundreds of applications and narrowed down the selection to about twenty candidates, who then received an email from me, telling them about what it would be like to work for our family, and asking them questions about themselves. Based on the replies, I narrowed my search further to four candidates who then provided references and did Skype interviews with me. All four of these candidates were Filipino women who were nannies in Hong Kong at the time (Hong Kong is considered a great place to find the best Filipino nannies, but since it has a more stringent permanent residency program, Canada is more attractive for immigrants in the long run). After the Skype interviews, I knew that Shirley was the right fit. 

Live-In or Live-Out Nanny?

This is entirely a personal choice, but I will give you my take on the pros and cons. 

Live-In Pros:

  • More likely to be available for extra hours (hello, date nights!)
  • Will generally charge a lower hourly wage than a live-out nanny
  • More consistency for the children: our kids see Shirley as a family member
  • Daily helpfulness: Shirley is another member of the household, and pitches in on family tasks even when she is not on the schedule.  It is very helpful! 

Live-In Cons:

  • Reduces my usual household singing when no one is home…because someone is always home.
  • I have to remember to wear pants and a shirt around the house. I had no idea I was such a nudist until I had to start remembering to wear clothes!
  • When you have kids, it’s rare to ever have the house to yourself. When you have kids and a live-in nanny, it seems you never do. Sometimes, you just want the house to yourself. 
  • Space concerns: not everyone has an extra spare room – so what is normally a guest room becomes a nanny suite.

Obviously, the live-out pros and cons would just be this list, reversed. To me, the big benefit of a live-out nanny is that you have your own space, unencumbered by another person taking up part of your home. That said, when my husband was doing lots of traveling, I can tell you that I was very glad to have a “roommate.”

Celebrating Ewan’s 1st birthday with Shirley, our family, & Ewan’s Godmother

What is it like to have a Nanny?

Having a good nanny is very much like having a fairy Godmother. She has our best interests in mind, and takes care of our children when we can’t. In the place of a magic wand, she has an excellent work ethic and can magically make dinner and get the laundry done much faster than I ever could. When I worked full-time, Shirley was an essential part of my family’s success. So much more than a childcare provider, was our household manager, taking care of grocery shopping, making dinners, and keeping the house clean. She is part of the family, has dinner with us most nights, and loves my children as her own. Last week, we went away for the weekend and came home to a spotless house that had been cleaned by Shirley in our absence. 

I no longer work outside of the home, so our family doesn’t need additional childcare like we used to. Shirley still lives with us, helps with meal prep a few hours a week, and looks after the children as needed. She has been with our family for over four years now, and will soon move out to start her life with her own family. When that happens, I will once again be able to walk around my home in my skivvies, but I will miss all of the support and love that Shirley has given my family over the years.

For more information about how to apply for a live-in caregiver in Canada, please see the link below: