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VOL. 128 | NO. 227 | Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Childcare Options

Busy Memphis families find nannies as good alternative

SUSAN AGEE | Special to The Daily News

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When most people hear the word “nanny,” they probably think of Mary Poppins or Fran Fine or some other fictional character employed by incredibly wealthy people.

Maggie Smith has found a career as a nanny that she first thought would be temporary. She is pictured with the Lankfords, from left, 6-year-old Matthew, 2-year-old Suzanne, and 4-year-old Micah.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The reality is that nannies are used often by incredibly busy families.

So where can one go to find a good nanny in Memphis? Or where can one go to find a job as a nanny? There are several options.

Websites like Care.com and GreatAuPair.com offer opportunities for nannies and employers to connect online. Both of these companies are international and place nannies in several countries. Au pairs are nannies who leave one country for educational or personal reasons, and take care of a family’s children in exchange for housing in their new location.

Care.com and GreatAuPair.com also offer listings for elder care, pet-sitting, short-term babysitters and tutors. Both of these sites offer guidelines and services to assist clients in finding the most suitable nanny for their situation, and they also offer background check services.

Care.com is constantly expanding its services, and has even linked with corporate employers to be offered as a part of their employees’ benefit packages.

Anannyonthenet.com, easyaupair.com and sitter.com offer similar services just in the United States. Nanny jobs are also listed on all of the well-known employment websites like monster.com and Indeed.com.

But maybe the best way to find a nanny job in Memphis is the same method that works best for other jobs or anything else – word of mouth. People who work with children and do it well get talked about in the right way. Word gets around.

This was the case for Maggie Smith. She is in her second official nanny job, and this one has lasted for almost seven years. She was with her first family for two years, and at the time, she thought of caring for children as a temporary thing.

“I wasn’t looking to work as a nanny,” she said. “I had been studying interior design at the University of Memphis.”

A friend of her mother’s had heard about Smith’s previous work with children as a babysitter and at The Children’s Museum of Memphis, and asked if she would be interested in a short-term nanny job. The offer came at a time when Smith had made the difficult decision to not carry on her family’s 30-year-old silk screening business.

“That was one of the hardest and most adult decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Smith said.

She took the nanny job because it was a job, but she kept looking ahead to when she would get an “adult” job. Then the nanny job got extended from six months to two years. When the end was approaching, Smith found herself pushing the idea of finding another job to the back of her mind.

Then one Saturday she received a call from Ann Lankford. The Lankfords needed a flexible full-time nanny who could start that summer. Smith was happy to have the job, but she still didn’t think of it as a step toward a long-term career.

“Becoming a nanny was not the direction I wanted my life to take,” Smith said. “But that’s where God wanted to take it. So I followed.”

Smith considers herself well compensated. Her salary reached $30,000 this year, and she works four days a week for a total of 40 hours. She doesn’t get health benefits, but uses services offered by the Church Health Center.

While she gets four weeks of paid vacation, she gets no “official” sick days. She tries to give her employees as much advance notice as possible when she does have to be off, just like at any other job. Smith says she tries not to miss, because it’s difficult for the Lankfords to find someone who can fit three car seats into their car.

Otherwise, they have to find multiple people to care for their three children who range in age from 2 to 6.

“I like to think of it as it just takes more than one person to be able to do the job I do,” Smith said. “That makes me feel pretty good.”

Smith describes the Lankfords as excellent employers who respect her opinion and appreciate her work. They hold a yearly meeting with her to discuss goals for the children and ways for Smith to improve her job.

“I know there are people out there who get paid more or have better benefits, but all things considered, I am one very happy accidental nanny,” she said.

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