Many dual working families face the challenge of finding reliable care for their children. When the children are young, the solution is pretty simple: day care or a full-time nanny. Things get trickier when the children reach school age. They are in school for most of the day, but then there is a gap between 3 and 6 pm when the kids are out of school and the parents are still at work.
To find out how parents handle this dilemma, I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Erin Krex. Erin is the owner of First Class Care (www.firstclasscare.com) and is also on the board of the INA (International Nanny Association). She has been working for years to help families resolve issues like these. When she saw a problem in Chicago, she founded First Class Care with her husband Steve. I was anxious to grill such an authority on child care.
What made you decide to start this business? Erin: I have always been interested in both sides of the child-care and mother equation. I am aware of the challenges faced by both, and I want to help people find good solutions.
What are the options for working parents? Erin: What we recommend is either a full time nanny manager or a housekeeper/nanny. This gives the parents the flexibility they need when the kids are sick or off of school for breaks and complete coverage for after school. They also get a huge bonus by having their house clean, groceries shopped for, dinner cooked and dry cleaning picked up. This allows the working parents to spend every minute with their kids instead of worrying about the little details around the house.
Why should someone hire a full-time employee if they only need a nanny for a few hours per day? Erin: That is probably the biggest question every mother faces, and she often finds that she runs into inadequate solutions. Say you wanted to hire someone from the hours of 3-6 pm. It’s tough to find someone who is willing to only work for 3 hours per day. It is very difficult for that person to have another job and be at your home by 3pm. In order to support themselves, they would need a high hourly rate for those 3 hours. Some nannies do this, and some parents are willing to pay. However, for a little more per day, you could hire someone for the full day. This is a win-win. The parents get help for a much longer period of time, and the nanny gets full-time work.
So what would this nanny manager or housekeeper/nanny do during the hours when the child is in school? Erin: There are all kinds of things you might have your employee do! Basically they can keep the household running efficiently. They can do all the cleaning, shopping, laundry, organizing and cooking. They can manage the yard crew, gardeners, maintenance men, or contractors who come to your home. You might even have them manage your household expenses. They can basically do anything that a mother might do throughout the day, but when your kids come home from school, they assume the role of a traditional nanny.
Don’t all those extra responsibilities detract from the care that they give to the child? Erin: The kids are always the #1 priority, and we go to great lengths to make sure every employee knows that. All extra duties occur while the children are in school. When the parent comes home from work, they can focus fully on the children rather than worrying about shopping or laundry.
Ok, I think I understand. So why not just hire someone directly? Why should a parent go through your agency? Erin: Well, that’s one of the challenges that I saw parents were having. If you try to hire someone directly, it’s very time consuming and tough to find the right fit. They must go through the process of checking each candidate’s references, experience, performing background checks, etc. It can become an arduous task to sort through all the applicants. By going through our service, a parent knows that each applicant has already been carefully screened, interviewed and reference-checked. We accept less than 3% of applicants to give you an idea of how much time it takes. We send only the best matches for their job and they will see at a glance which candidates we hand-selected for them. We schedule all interviews for the client making it easy for them to interview and then pick the best one for the family.
What happens if the employee doesn’t quite meet expectations? Erin: It happens less often than you’d think, but we provide a free replacement for up to 6 months.
Thanks for your time. Any last words or tips for parents? Erin: Sure, one last tip. If you plan on hiring a nanny manager or housekeeper/nanny, try to allow at least 2 weeks for the process. We have hundreds of great candidates available, but you need to have the time to interview, which for working parents is usually only in the evening or weekends. To prepare yourself for our first consultation it is best to have a list of duties that you want done throughout the week or day so we know what we are searching for. We can guide you on what to expect and lend advice after you hire how to keep the relationship strong.
If your children have recently reached school age, this may be an option to keep in mind. Hiring a qualified nanny for only a few hours per day often makes little economic sense. Instead, you might hire someone full-time to take care of your children, who at the same time can dramatically improve the productivity of your home. If you’re facing this challenge, then a combination nanny/manager or nanny/housekeeper may be the way to go.