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Hiring a Nanny 101: Getting to know the hand that rocks the cradle

When I gave birth last December, I thought of immediately getting a yaya (nanny) for my little girl.  Back then, I had every intention to go back to my job so I had to find someone who can look after my baby while my husband and I are at work. It seemed easy enough. We just need to ask around for referrals, surely someone might know someone who wants to take care of a baby and get paid for it, right? We were wrong. We’ve asked friends, friends of friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors— but nobody seemed to know anybody who wants to work as a yaya.  Next option, manpower agencies. It seemed like a good idea; they pool applicants so they probably have one waiting for us. But the man of the house has heard and apparently edited (he edits news for some network) too many horrendous stories about hired helps employed through agencies so we opted not to go that route. Besides, we prefer someone who’s referred to us by someone we trust.

On two occasions, we came close to finally hiring one.  On both instances, we’ve agreed to send fare through money transfer as the nannies would be coming from Bacolod. We sent money, no one arrived. Long story cut short, it took three more months before we finally got one.  She was referred to us by the nanny of my husband’s nephew. Security protocols set aside, we immediately hired her. She was easy to talk to (on the phone, I know right?), seemed agreeable—and if there was something going for her, our nephew’s yaya vouches for her. She’s a mother of five, married, and hailed from Quezon. Her first week with us was okay, everything went smoothly until she took her first day off. She was supposed to stay the night over at her cousin’s house somewhere in Antipolo. I allowed her to leave Saturday afternoon on one condition, she has to be back by lunch time Sunday, so she can clean the house and do other stuff before we get back from my nanay’s house. Fair enough, I thought. When we arrived that Sunday, she wasn’t home yet. We waited for three hours until my husband, who kept texting her, finally got a reply: ‘Ok ka lang, di sabi ako makaka-uwi lasing na ko, paano ko makakarga baby?’ (Are you okay? I said I won’t be able to come home. I’m drunk, how could I carry the baby?) My initial reaction was, she must be joking. She wasn’t. When she got home the next day, I scolded her. But no, I didn’t fire her. I wasn’t ready to lose my child’s yaya and look for a replacement just yet.

She changed her ways for a bit and we actually got along well until the drama queen emerged. She was always on her cellphone, always calling, texting. She barely got things done because half the time she was conversing with her husband, children, relatives, and some men who are ‘wooing’ her. I put up with all that. My hands were tied, I didn’t want to have to look for a replacement and go over the tedious process of scouting for one again.

After two months, she told me she needs to go back home—for a week, so she can attend her daughter’s birthday. That was the last straw. I gave up. Luckily, at that time, a friend told me she knew someone who badly wanted to apply for the job. We parted amicably. We even paid her in full.

So, out the door Yaya 1 went. I was optimistic Yaya 2 would be better. She wasn’t. She didn’t even make it to our house! Same story, money was sent; she was supposed to arrive on an agreed date from Bacolod. She never came. And she had the audacity to text me: Sorry, ate kasi di ba na-stranded kami sa barko, wala na akong pera kaya pagdating ko ng Pier, nagpasundo na ko sa kapatid ko, yun pinasok nya ko sa kapitbahay nya kasi ‘yun nag-pautang sa kanya ng pangsundo sa akin. Nakakahiya kasi sa kanya. The above statement, I won’t even bother translating anymore. Bottomline: we got duped again.

So, how does one keep from getting fooled and falling prey to this kind of yaya scams? Me thinks, it’s a matter of putting your guard up and not allowing your desperation to find one get the better of you. Easier said than done, I know.  I am no authority on the subject of hiring yayas (nannies). But I’ve had enough bad experiences that taught me a thing or two about what to do and what to avoid when you’re in the hiring process.

So if you got a minute, save yourself the trouble of going through what we’ve gone through and read on. Here are a few tips that might help. It doesn’t matter if you procured your nanny through referrals of recruitment agencies, same tips apply:

1.  Know who you’re hiring.

For someone who has serious trust issues, it was surprising that I actually agreed, on several occasions, to hire nannies I haven’t even met. Suffice to say, I learned my lesson the hard way. So, if you’re looking for a yaya, it pays to do a little background check on your prospects. Ask around, phone previous employers (this one’s tricky but if your yaya’s not hiding anything from you, there should be no problem contacting them, she may even volunteer their numbers), pry a little into her private life (get to know the husband, the kids, if unmarried, the parents).

2.  Bring out the bio data…and verify the information provided.

It’s just a sheet of paper—but you would be surprised by how much it can reveal. One, your yaya’s age. One of the factors to consider when hiring a nanny is the age. Would you go for someone younger but inexperienced? Or would you go for an old hand who’s set in her ways? There are always pros and cons. Two, education. Ideally, all moms would want someone who can at least read, write and do a little math, right? These days, you would be lucky to find one who at least finished high school. If you stumble upon one who knows how to speak in English, drop me a line, I’ll pirate her. Three, religion. Personally, it really doesn’t matter to me whether you’re Catholic or whatever—but since most mommies out there leave their children in the care of yayas for most of their kids’ waking hours, it wouldn’t hurt knowing that your yaya calls her god Allah and not Jesus.  You wouldn’t want to be surprised by a toddler who recites Aayat al-Kursiy instead of Angel of God, would you? Four, civil status. Don’t give me the eye, this is useful. You don’t want some woman yelling at your gate saying your yaya’s shagging her husband when all the while she’s married to him, do you? Five—I won’t enumerate everything here, I’m sure you already got the drift. The bio data can reveal every facet of your yaya’s life.  Once armed with all the information you need, do the verification yourself.

3. Ask for IDs, validate, and uhm, investigate.

Banks ask for 2 valid IDs when you’re making an all-important transaction. Hiring a nanny could very well be the most daunting task you’ll ever do (okay, I’m exaggerating, but I have a point, I promise)—you’re entrusting your child to someone not even related to you. So I guess it’s just fitting that you employ stern security measures. By all means, ask for a clearance from the barangay, the police, and the NBI. Or google her name, you just don’t know what might turn up.

4. Healthy, nanny must be…and oh, she must smell good, too.

One thing I’m very particular about is my yaya’s health and hygiene. Who wouldn’t be? They will be caring for your children. Surely, the last thing you want is for your offspring to get afflicted by diseases you dread the most. So before you let her into your home, why don’t you ask her to have a medical check-up? Shoulder the expense, if you must. Have all the routine pre-employment tests done like chest X-ray, urinalysis, and blood test. As for hygiene, it would be best to tell your yaya upfront what your rules are about taking a shower, for instance. I require mine to bathe daily first thing in the morning so when the baby wakes up, she’s already clean, sweet-smelling, and ready to hold her. And I provide her toiletries as well, so no excuses.

5. Discuss compensation and perks.

How much you would shell out each month for your yaya’s salary depends on several factors. One, scope of work. We’ll discuss this later. Two, experience. Three, the yayas in your hood. Yes, they factor in the equation, too. You know how it is, I call it the 4’o’clock habit. They take their respective wards out for some playtime, and there they converge, comparing notes. Who has the better amo (boss), who has phone allowance, who got the raise. And believe me, when your yaya feels inferior about her salary and whatnots, she might just head out your door and into your neighbor’s. So before her yayahood commences, it’s better to settle these things first. How much would she get per month? Are you paying her bimonthly or weekly? Does she get any other allowances besides her basic salary? Then there are the perks and benefits, of course. Will she get SSS? Insurance? Thirteen-month pay? List it all down and see which options you’re both amenable to.

6. Talk about her scope of work.

Will her responsibilities be confined to caring for her ward? Is she expected to help out with the household chores? Is it her duty to take out the trash? Here, everything must be laid out on the table. This way, you won’t get agitated when your yaya seems disinterested to help out in certain tasks. This also helps so both you and the yaya can manage your expectations.

7. Discuss off days and vacations.

A smooth-sailing employer-employee relationship is borne out of mutual respect, and such respect can only be achieved through transparency. You don’t want to contend with something akin to my issue with Yaya 1 (see above), right? Yayas are human, yes, they are. They, too, like you and me, need some break. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, try running after a toddler round-the-clock, or calming a crying baby half the day, multiple such tasks by 5 days and I bet you wouldn’t want to get out of bed by the 6th day. But breaks are b-r-e-a-k-s. A break is a short vacation, emphasis on ‘short’. Meaning, they can’t go overboard and must return on the agreed date and time. This clause, of course, will depend on your agreement. If your yaya leaves on a Saturday morning, can she spend the night over someplace else?  Or is she required to be back home before the clock strikes 12? Now, it’s just a few days before Christmas and for sure, yayas everywhere are planning on taking a holiday time-off. Would you allow your nanny to go on one? For how long? With pay or without?  Again, agree on the terms.

8. Define boundaries.

I grew up in a home where hired helps are treated like family. But my fleeting experiences with yayas taught me something: it’s not wise to treat them as your equal. It’s always a good thing to maintain distance, to show them you’re the boss. This way, they won’t take advantage of your kindness. From the start, know where to draw the line. This way, you will be able to establish respect and authority early on. But of course, you should treat them well and extend to them the courtesy and understanding that’s due them. And speaking of boundaries—you should be very clear about what role they’re gonna play in your children’s lives. They’re yayas, not mommies. Will you allow them to scold your kids? I know a friend who shrieks at the thought of her yaya kissing her daughter. Would you feel strongly against yaya’s affectionate gestures? Be very clear on this.

9. Discuss the house rules.

You’ve given the stranger you just hired the key not just to your house but to your life as well. But it is your house and you have your rules, so educate her about it. Is the TV off-limits? Can she use the phone? Is the ice cream in the freezer for everyone? Can she accept visitors? Lay your cards on the table and explain to her what’s allowed and what’s not. Transparency is key.

How about you, do you have your own yaya stories? Have you found the almost-perfect one? Share your stories. As for me, I was close to losing hope when finally, somebody came along. She was, again, referred by my brother-in-law’s hired help. They’re sisters. At 21, she’s already a mother of five; her youngest is just a month older than my little girl. So far, we’re getting along pretty well. I hope she stays until my daughter is old enough to fend for herself.

There you go, for those who are still searching, happy yaya hunting! And for those who are happy with the ones they have, treat them well, a good yaya is truly hard to come by.

2 responses to “Hiring a Nanny 101: Getting to know the hand that rocks the cradle”

  1. Camille Rose Dufourt Avatar
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