By Daisy Yau
The San Mateo Parents Club is starting an annual survey on the Peninsula market for household helpers – which includes nannies, babysitters, mother’s helpers, night nannies, and au pairs. This is the first such report, and the SMPC is grateful for the community’s response to the survey. The SMPC aims to publish the report every summer, the season in which the nanny market is particularly active as many families transition their children to school or other childcare settings.
Household Helper Types
We received 48 responses, with 35 (73%) of those being on “Nannies” and the remaining 13 (27%) being on other household helpers.
As defined by the survey:
- Nannies work on a regular basis
- Babysitters work on an as-needed basis
- Mother's helpers assist the parent while the parent is present. If the parent can rely on the helper to watch the kids without the parent's presence, then the helper is categorized as "Nanny".
- Night nannies take care of babies or toddlers throughout the night.
Overall Nanny Statistics
Since nannies are most common of the household helpers, this article will discuss the nanny numbers first. Overall, the average hourly rate is $27.44. Most families have their nannies working 40 hours per week. Of the responses, only 5 indicated work hours below 30. There is not a significant difference in hourly rate between those working full time versus part time.
Nannies get an average of 9.6 paid vacation days per year. 25 (71%) responses indicated providing sick days. Of those providing sick days, most responses indicated providing 5 sick days per year. 13 (37%) responses indicated providing W2; 20 (57%) responses indicated not providing W2. Interestingly, those providing W2 provide a higher hourly rate: the average rate for those with W2 is $30.42, while without W2 is $25.75.
Number of Children
There appears to be a correlation between the number of children under the care of the nanny and the nanny’s hourly rate. Based on the 35 responses on nannies, the stats are as follows:
The hourly rate for 3 children is strangely shown to decrease. However, of the 35 responses, 18 indicated one child, 11 indicated two children, and only 6 indicated three children. Therefore statistically speaking the data on families with three children is less reliable here.
Credentials and Responsibilities
Of the 35 responses, here are the number of families with nannies having the following credentials and responsibilities:
What credentials and responsibilities make the most difference in hourly rate? The stats are below:
- Note that the category "Formal Teacher Training" means the nanny earned some teaching credential, whereas "Teaching and Reading" indicates the nanny's duties regardless of whether she has any credentials.
- We see that "Speaking a Foreign Language" is correlated with a lower hourly rate. Is this an indication of any conscious or subconscious racial bias? Something for each of us to reflect upon when hiring.
- There weren't enough responses indicating "Swimming" as a duty, and almost all responses indicated "Feeding" as a duty. Hence we do not have good statistics to show whether these duties make a difference in rate.
Various Household Helpers
Looking at the various household helpers we surveyed about, here are the survey response counts and average rates of each type:
Household Helper Type
Number of Responses
Average Hourly Rate
Additionally, there was one response on “Au Pair.” It indicated that the weekly stipend provided is $200. Since there was only one response on au pairs, we are not able to conduct statistical analysis about this type of household helper at this time.
Important Interview Questions
Here is a list of interview questions compiled from the survey responses, somewhat organized by category.
Questions About Kids
- What do you love most about kids?
- What do you least enjoy when working with kids?
- Does it stress you when a baby cries?
- What activities do you like to do with children same age as mine?
- What are some developments milestones you would expect my kid to achieve at X months?
Questions About Trouble
- What do you do when a child gets hurt?
- What is your discipline approach? What do you do when the child misbehaves?
- What do you do when siblings get into fights?
- You can also ask these questions by asking the candidate to tell about an actual incident as an example, or giving them a hypothetical incident and ask how they would respond.
Questions About Experience
- What experience do you have caring for similar age children?
- What educational background and training do you have?
- How many families have they watched for?
- Do you have any references?
- What driving history do you have? How confident do you feel driving a minivan?
Questions About Work Attitude
- What do you think open communication between me and you looks like? How do you handle tough conversations?
- Do you have flexibility if extra hours are needed?
- Are you willing to do chores XYZ while children are asleep/away?
Questions About Health
- Are you vaccinated? What Covid precautions do you take?
- Do you take any drugs or smoke?
- After the interview, do a trial period. The trial period is likely more telling than the interview.
Good Job Signs
A lot can be gained through observation. Are the kids happy with the nanny? If the parent is at home during the day (e.g., working from home), the parent can listen throughout the day. Otherwise, the parent can see if the child is excited for the nanny to come, or doesn't want the nanny to leave. A child sleeping well at night also indicates that the nanny took good care of him during the day.
The parent can also use extra eyes to observe. Ask the child about her day. What did they do? What did they eat? Who did they see? Also ask neighbors and friends what they see. And it is quite common to install cameras in the common areas of the house.
Other tell-tale signs. Is the nanny punctual? At the end of the day, does the nanny tidy up and finish assigned chores? Does the nanny give an honest summary of the day?
Do’s and Don’ts with Household Helpers
Here’s some wisdom compiled from the community feedback:
- Don't hire out of desperation. Do not rush to get the wrong person.
- Don't go without a contract. A contract can spell out pay, hours, vacation, sick leave, duties, termination terms, COVID precautions (including when to return to work after testing positive).
- Set clear expectations. Tell the nanny what you expect in terms of discipline; the nanny should set healthy boundaries with the kids. Plan the kid's schedule and write it down for the nanny. A nanny should listen to what the parent wants rather than insisting on doing things her way.
- Don't pay below market. The nanny will leave for the better paying job and will not be happy. Give big Christmas bonuses.
- Don't be too lenient with vacation and sick days. Keep good track of when such days are taken.
- Don't make a judgement based on too short of an observation period that a nanny candidate is good with kids.
- Don't forget to plan for backup care at the time of hiring a nanny. Hiring a nanny means you are relying on just one person, which inherently means if that one person is down (suddenly sick or planned time off), you need backup or you are on your own.
- Don't share a nanny with a friend. Sharing a nanny is messy and not too infrequently ends sourly.
- Don't go light on the training up front on what is expected and how the household flows. The first day should be solely observation for the nanny; the second day the nanny should begin to participate; the third day the nanny should run the day while the parent is present to help if something goes awry; the fourth day the nanny should work with the parent nearby but not actively engaging.
- Don't set a habit or expectation of giving too many gifts to the nanny.
- Don't stay silent about something the nanny does that you don’t like. The issue may be as small as not putting a hat on the child during a walk, but raise the issue when it first arises.
- Don't be too lenient with punctuality and other expectations. Always say, "Thank You for being on time." Don't let standards slip as time goes by.
- Don't keep on board someone who isn't working out.
Note: For those who are interested, here is the raw data.
Daisy Yau is an SPMC Board Member, an attorney, and the children ministry director at New Life Community Church, Burlingame.