The Child Care Hack Series: What Do You Want From Mary Poppins?

Playing with children Hi! I’m a former Manhattan nanny with 12 years’ experience, and I’m totally obsessed with the child care in a weird geeky way. My column is all about you the new parent, looking to go back to work after a long pregnancy and the birth of junior, or you, the mom who needs an extra pair of hands with your growing brood.

Consider my hacks as short cuts, tips or tricks to navigating the complex world of U.S child care.

In my last column, The Child Care Hack Series: Finding Mary Poppins, I offered you two simple hacks to sourcing a great nanny. If you didn’t read it check it out here. Here’s a super quick recap:

  • Hack #1 – Keep a cool head
  • Hack #2 – Ask the herd (your peers)

If you’ve followed the above ‘2 Hacks’ you should have a list of places to start your search. But before you pick up your cellphone, you’ll want to have an idea of what you expect from Mary Poppins.

Hack # 3: Create an Employer Game Plan

It might feel natural to begin with a start date and to figure it out from there, but that can be a recipe for unmet expectations, misunderstandings and domestic chaos. You probably need your new nanny to start yesterday – and I get your sense of urgency – but until you have your Employer Game Plan figured out it could be an act of sabotage to hire someone immediately. So try to buy yourself a few weeks before outreach.

The two most important things in your Employer Game Plan are:

1. (a) How many hours a week will you require child care? (b) Will that change frequently?

2. What are you willing to pay per hour or as a weekly wage for that labor?

Hours = a schedule with set days and times. Write down the blocks of time you’ll need your nanny to be available to work. If that includes weekends or evenings, include that too.

Yeah but – my hours will fluctuate as I am a freelancer. As a freelance worker, you understand the need to bring in a certain amount of income per month to manage your bills. The same is true of your nanny.

If you have a situation where two weeks a month you require 10 hours weekly in child care, followed by two weeks of 40 hours weekly in child care, you could, for example, offer your nanny a basic block of 25 hours per week so that she can budget both her time and her income. This would need to be balanced out fairly to compensate your employee for the total amount of hours she will be expected to work during a calendar month.


If your schedule changes frequently, and you expect your nanny to drop everything and step into your shoes and perhaps even sleep over (if you have to travel for your business), again you must be prepared to compensate her for 24-7 accessibility. A sleep over is extra. Don’t assume your nanny is off the clock when the kiddos are sleeping – because she’s not. She is on stand-by duty, ready to awaken and deal with a sick infant or a child recovering from a nightmare. So set a flat overnight rate and add that to her weekly salary.


The bottom line on wages is what you can afford to pay for a nanny, but you should also be aware of the minimum wage in your state. Rates also vary based on these factors:

  • Experience (at least 2+ years and 2 local references)
  • Education
  • Skill-sets (talent)

As with all industries, some workers are more valuable than others because of what they uniquely bring to the job. In child care, you will want to look first for experience before a glowing resume, and experience must be verified by at least two previous employers. In a later column I will detail further what you should ask for and look for from previous employers.

Experience is vital because it means that the candidate understands how to care for children properly, and that she is confident, trustworthy and competent.

Education that is pertinent to our children’s needs can also raise a nanny’s salary. Advanced college degrees in child development or early childhood education are two good examples.

Skill-sets and talent: if your nanny can speak two or three languages, or is musically talented or artistic, or is a math or science whiz, that’s an added enrichment value for your children – and yes, that’s worth more money.

Next: Employer Liability, Wages & Mary Poppins

Feel free to email me at [email protected].  (100% confidentiality guaranteed) to brainstorm answers to your problems.

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JakBurkeJacalyn S. Burke is a British author, artist and child care consultant. She is also the founder of Baby Does NYC (.com), a website focused on events, products, and services for parents of 0–24 month-old children. Jacalyn has been featured in The Daily News, NEWS12, I Saw Your Nanny, Best Nanny Newsletter, The New York Times and the Nanny News Network. Jacalyn spent a decade working among Manhattan’s nannies from 2004-2016, and her book: The Nanny Time Bomb Navigating the Crisis in Child Care, is a definitive guide for new parents searching for good child care. She is a graduate of Middlesex University, London, UK. Jacalyn lives and works in NYC and offers a variety of nanny agency and parent/nanny coaching services.

Twitter, Instagram: @babydoesnyc. Facebook: BABYDOESNYC. Website:

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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