We are lucky to have family in the area who can help out with babysitting when needed. Specifically, we have Spanish-speaking family, la abuela, who helps to care for Sofía. In four years, we have never used a babysitter outside of the family. We try to be a self-sufficient unit. I stopped working my job as a teacher to stay home and care for our daughter, so I try to be careful to not need someone else to watch her.
But then I had to have foot surgery. This changed everything and I needed to hire a niñera to help take care of Sofía. I am on crutches and can’t drive, so I began the tedious task of looking for a niñera.
I had the best luck with care.com. I highly recommend it over other sites!
My preference of course was for a native Spanish-speaking niñera, but I didn’t make it a requirement for hire. When Sofía was younger, I would have made it a necessity, but now that she is more comfortable with her inglés, I left it at only a preference. What I really, really wanted was someone who would be young and energetic and take Sofía to do the physical activities that being in a cast prevented me from doing. In my area, that combination was challenging and coupled with last minute hiring, it leaned toward impossible!
SIXTY people applied to be our niñera for the summer! I was blown away by the large number of applicants since this was only a part-time position. There were many times that I was overwhelmed with emotion because I thought I hit the jackpot of niñeras (local Kindergarten teachers looking for summer employment or college students, majoring in español, home for summer break) only to be let down by an extreme lack of professionalism or human courtesy. Several of the applicants accepted the job, we agreed to meet and then I never heard from them again! (I was particularly shocked when this happened with TWO school teachers that I had “hired”.)
¡No hay mal por bien no venga!
Luckily, I found the best niñera in the whole world!
The first afternoon she took care of Sofía, I called my husband and told him that I thought Sofía liked the niñera better than she liked us! The niñera was only 19 years old, but had the patience of a saint and an amazing insight on child behavior. She reminded Sofía to wash her hands before meals, chew with her mouth closed, and encouraged Sofía to clean up her room! The niñera wasn’t a native speaker of español, but she certainly was an excellent student in school. She used her español with ease and wasn’t shy to do so. (She even asked me new vocabulary words and then used them!) We feel extremely fortunate to have stumbled on such a competent person to take such good care of Sofía and that she does it en español!
For those of you who are looking or may be looking for niñeras in the future, here are my lessons learned:
1. Make sure you hire a niñera who speaks a language with which your child is comfortable. It will help with separation anxiety.
2. This process feels a lot like dating. If you don’t get an immediate response from someone, it probably means she changed her mind and is not interested. Move on to the next person.
3. Text-messaging is IN. Emails and phone calls are out.
4. Be direct and ask the applicant if she is available for the entire time you need help. I had to eliminate many applicants because they had too many summer vacation plans.
5. Tell her what the job will entail (mine included light housework like cleaning up after playing and helping me moves things from here to there while I’m on crutches) and how much the job pays and ask if she is in agreement. (I like to do this via email before we speak so that I don’t waste my time.)
6. Ask if the niñera is comfortable driving in the car with your child and/or comfortable driving your car.
7. Treat the interviewing process like a CEO of a large company would: interview several applicants and tell them you will get back to them. This needs to be done quickly — niñeras get picked up rapidísimo — especially during high-demand seasons like the summer.
8. Always meet in a public place for the first time.
9. Contact references and access background checks if available.
10. Have a back-up niñera.
11. Have a Plan B if the niñera cancels right before she is supposed to care for your bebé on the first day.
12. Once you hire the niñera, try to be home the first few times, making yourself invisible, in order to confirm that you hired the correct person. (We can never be too careful when it comes to the well-being of our bebés, cierto?)
13. Relax, let go, and breathe!