Finding the Perfect Childcare Option: Podcast Episode #183
Kristin and Jaynie Fawley of Michigan Nanny Solutions chat about childcare options and finding the perfect nanny. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.
Welcome. You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting. Let’s chat!
Kristin: Hello, hello! This Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Jaynie Fawley today. Jaynie is the owner and founder of Michigan Nanny Solutions, which started in 2013. Jaynie is a professional nanny herself, and she saw a need in the Kalamazoo area for someone who could establish realistic expectations and standards for what the nanny job and the nanny-parent relationship should look like. Jaynie wanted to be able to provide education, advocacy, and empowerment to the local nanny industry. Michigan Nanny Solutions exists today to be that resource for nannies and families. Jaynie is a professional career nanny and certified newborn care specialist with 16 years of experience supporting families in Kalamazoo. She has spent the last eleven years working as a nanny with the same amazing family, now doing before and after school support for them. So she knows the relationship that nannies have with their families and families have, so she craftfully pairs families with the perfect nanny for them. Welcome, Jaynie. So happy to have you here!
Jaynie: Me, too!
Kristin: So we are going to talk about everything from childcare options for a family with a new baby or expanding their family to hiring the perfect nanny. So let’s get into it.
Jaynie: Awesome, yeah. So we as an agency specialist in placing long-term, professional nannies who are really well educated, highly qualified, and they’re looking for long-term placements where they can stay with a family for a long time. Yes, ten years is a lot, but the average, you know, a family is hoping to have a nanny until they no longer need them, and nannies are hoping to have multi-year placement. But part of our intake process with new families is helping them determine if that’s even the right choice for the family. With so many options out there for childcare, for everything from having a family member watching the child so using an in-home daycare, daycare centers, all the way up to having a nanny, there’s a lot to consider. I would say the first thing is the affordability of each option. So if we’re looking at a relative caring for a childcare, that might be free or very reduced cost because it’s a grandma or an aunt or something like that, where there isn’t any legal requirement for the family to be paying a certain amount. And then if we don’t have a family member that’s available, then maybe a family starts looking at daycares. And an in-home daycare is an awesome option for a lot of families. There’s a lot of pros and cons for that, but it tends to be the most affordable. It tends to be $30, $40, $50 tops per day per child. And then if they’re using a daycare center where there’s more children, more caregivers, more overhead, and also more qualified individuals working there, it’s going to be a little bit more expensive, averaging $75 per day per child. And then a nanny with the current average hourly rate being $25 an hour, that could be $200 a day. That’s going from $30 a day to $200 a day. It’s a pretty big range. So families will then decide, can I pay $500 a week or can I pay $55,000 per year. That is a huge difference.
Kristin: Right, exactly. And certainly, I mean, there are au pair options and other choices within that range, but I’ve found from an agency owner perspective that many of my clients in the last couple of years during COVID have really wanted a nanny versus a center to avoid getting any kind of illness for their child or their entire family.
Jaynie: Absolutely. That’s kind of the second consideration is what is the availability of this childcare option, and through the pandemic, we saw a lot of daycare centers having to fully shut down. And it could be days. It could be weeks. But that is potentially hundreds of children who are not getting care that week, and families are scrambling for backup care while also being considered about, does that mean my child was exposed last week?
Kristin: Exactly. And then you need to stay home because your child, you know, may not have COVID but was exposed. Yes, and then teacher ratios. It just – it does create a lot of difficulty for professional families.
Jaynie: Right. And of course, that exposure to kids – you know, honestly, back in pre-COVID, we used to say that one of the pros of using a daycare was that your child was going to be exposed to more germs, which is hard in those first years where it seems like your baby always has a runny nose and a wheezy little cough, but they just showed that they had increased immunity over time and would get less sick less often as they got older, where children coming out of nanny care, once they start kindergarten and first grade, that’s when they start getting all of those sicknesses, those runny noses, and those wheezy coughs. So it used to be something that we would say is a selling point. Like, oh, your kid’s going to have increased immunity. Yes, that means that they’re sick more often, and then of course, the downside of that is a daycare will not provide sick care for your children, so you have to have a backup option. And nannies do provide care for sick children, so that is one of the big checks in a pros column, which we saw a lot during the pandemic. Families are like, my child has a sniffle. They can’t go to daycare. But as long as they don’t have COVID, the nanny will come, right? Like, yes. As long as there’s no COVID, your nanny is going to be there if your kids are sick. If you’re sick and you’re not going to work, your nanny is still going to come, and most nannies are going to work when they have minor illnesses and injuries, so they’re less than that childcare. You don’t need to be taking time off or scrambling to find backup care as often for those sick situations.
Kristin: Yes. And then as far as nannies, especially because you are picking, you know, the best of the best nannies for your families, but what would a typical nanny background and training be compared to an in-home daycare?
Jaynie: It’s a great topic. So when daycares that are in-home daycares – it’s generally somebody who obviously owns a home and is opening their home to provide daily, full-time childcare. So they have to get licensed through the state. They have to get their home licensed. Everybody who lives in the home is background checked. But there’s no requirements for any early childhood education or really any formal education for the person providing daycare. And in daycare centers, the lead teacher in every single room has to have a degree in early childhood education. The assistant teachers don’t have to have a degree, but they often have what’s called a CDA or a child development associate’s, which is a certification program. But every staff person in a daycare center has to do continuing education. So that’s one of the big wins of an early childcare center or a daycare center versus having just a licensed daycare. But then nannies, most of the nannies that we represent do have degrees. Some come from completely unrelated fields, but we see a lot of early childhood education individuals, lot of elementary educators who are leaving the classroom setting to start working in early childhood. But at minimum, we work with candidates who have at least three years of professional childcare experience and are prioritizing the individuals who have stayed in positions kind of long term. That’s who we tend to find the most success with. But whether or not a nanny is educated, their job description, at the most basic level, is to fully invest in the personalized care for each child that they’re watching. So for any nanny that’s working with a child, they are going to be intentionally contributing to that child’s physical development. So for an infant, it’s making sure tummy time is happening. Working on sitting up, working on crawling, working on walking. They’re also working on that verbal and language development, which sometimes starts with, like, baby sign and goes on from there. They’re also intentionally working on educational development. So for infants, it’s a lot of sensory activities. Toddlers and bigger, there’s more challenging fine motor skills, gross motor skills. Letter, number, shape recognition; that kind of thing. They’re also going to be intentionally working on social development. So where socialization is a big mark in the pros column for both daycare centers and in-home daycares, nannies have to kind of go out of their way to provide socialization, but they’re really good at it. So that’s doing music classes, story times at the library, meeting other nannies at the children’s museums, seeking out opportunities to get those children socialized. And one of the benefits of a nanny is that the child that they’re watching is not just socializing with their age group like they do in the toddler room at a daycare. They might be hanging out with infants, preschoolers, and elementary aged kids, depending on what time of year it is. So they kind of get a broader range of socialization with more children in different environments. And then, of course, emotional development is a big part of what nannies do. Nannies tend to use, like, a connection-centered or gentle, positive discipline approach, which is working on a lot of emotional resilience from when they start with those children. So whether they’re doing, like, a planned curriculum every day or just making sure that all of their interactions with that child are meeting some kind of a developmental goal, that’s their job. That’s what they’re there for, and they can personalize that attention per child, where in a daycare center, every child is kind of learning the same thing, and they’re not able to adjust activities to make them more challenging for one child or less challenging for another.
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Kristin: So what is the difference – I guess my main question is, between, like, finding an agency, like Michigan Nanny Solutions for your nanny, versus going to Care.com or Facebook groups? What do you offer that would be different than a parent doing a search on their own?
Jaynie: That is a great question. One of the things I say all the time is that I’m not doing anything through the agency that a family cannot do themselves. But the agency provides a more streamlined process where we’re able to attract and identify and screen and train and orient the best of the best of the nannies who are currently available. So that means that when a family hires us, they’re not spending those hours and hours on Care.com screening, going through those messages, trying to get resumes. It can be a lot of time investment just wading through people they don’t want to meet. Where as the agency, that’s kind of my time wasted, not theirs. So they’re going to pay the agency, tell us what they want, what their budget is, what they’re looking for, what kind of goals they want to have met, what their own family culture is like. And then our job is to identify two or three individuals we think are going to be a really good fit. So the parents have just these three – we’ll say three individuals presented to them with letters of recommendations, with references checked, with letters of interest written, professional resumes, and they just get to pick the one they like the most, which is pretty incredible. That’s very empowering to be able to say, here’s three people who are excited about the opportunity, who are qualified to do it, and I just get to pick the one that I viscerally think is the best fit for myself, my children, my home, and our future together. So that’s the biggest benefit of using the agency is less time wasted and better quality candidates that are fully vetted.
Kristin: That makes sense. So Jaynie, if someone wanted to, as far as their goals, if they wanted to include household tasks or school pickups, if a family has older children, or specific newborn care goals or even a nanny share, you would go through all of the options with them and then help them work out part-time nanny versus full time and what they’re looking for exactly and then screen that again versus going on any of the online sites, including Care.com?
Jaynie: Exactly, yes. We take in applications and they fill out their applications with us. We ask all of those questions up front from the candidates, too. So if a family comes to us and says, “We’re really looking for somebody who has experiencing teaching in a Montessori classroom, and we would prefer for them to be this, that, and the other thing,” it’s very easy for us to go into our database and kind of narrow down who we already have available who meets those metrics. And then we also offer the parents that option of, like, would you hire somebody amazing and then pay for them to get a Montessori training because as an agency, we have those resources to share. And lo and behold, there’s actually a Montessori for nannies training course. So we help facilitate so that needs are met no matter what. And we have to be careful about certain demographic or things that can be discriminated against. We try to make really good matches based on culture and preferences that way, but of course, we can’t discriminate. So there’s certain things that we are able to be like, you want a Mandarin speaking nanny? I will do everything I can to find you a Mandarin speaking nanny. But if there’s certain other categories that I don’t even have the option to discuss with nannies, then families have to be more willing to say, okay, let’s focus on the Mandarin speaking nanny and not worry as much about those other things. But that’s one of the benefits, too, of using a nanny agency. We can prepare the person that you hire to meet your needs, even if they’re not ready to do so within their current training. So families that have newborns, we often recommend, since nannies don’t always have newborn care experience, since they’re usually starting after maternity leave, we’ll say, why don’t you pay for this newborn care training, and that will better prepare them to take care of your children or when your baby comes home.” This is usually like the nanny’s been there with the 2-year-old since maternity leave, and now they’re having a new baby, and they’re like, oh, we actually need our nanny. So what can we do to get her ready for this newborn to come home and be really effective? So we’re kind of here for that journey for families even after they hire their nanny to make sure that the nanny stays current with their professional development to continue to meet those needs. The needs of a family with a newborn and the needs of a family with a preschooler as far as that kind of day to day stuff changes. But things that are commonly a part of every nanny’s job – we’re prepared to do transportation, driving kids to and from school, driving kids to and from summer camps, driving kids to and from music classes and swim class, it’s just a part of our job. So generally the nannies are going to use their own vehicle. The family will provide car seats for each of their children. And then the nanny’s responsibility is to keep track of their mileage and get mileage reimbursement from the family. That is part of the cost of having an employee.
Kristin: Exactly. And then of course there are live-in nannies. Do you do a lot of placements for live-in?
Jaynie: We do not have a huge demand for live-in in West Michigan. Live-in nannies tend to be most popular in the major metro areas where the nanny can’t afford to live within a reasonable commute from where her employers live.
Kristin: Makes sense. So Detroit would see that more often than West Michigan.
Jaynie: Exactly. But if the nanny can get there reasonably within not having to use public transportation, then they will – most nannies prefer not to live in, but in certain major metro areas, there’s no choice. If you want to be a nanny, you’re going to end up living with the family.
Kristin: Sure. So as far as hours, say a family did have a live-in nanny. Then they would have time off and ability to leave the home. I’ve worked with our overnight postpartum doulas and newborn care specialists. We’ve had families have nannies during the day or live-ins who were not working overnight because they needed to be rested for the family during the day. So I would love for you to get into families with other professional services working within the home, whether it’s a household manager, a doula, newborn care specialist, and how the nannies can work seamlessly with other caregivers in the household. A cleaning service or a housekeeping service.
Jaynie: We see that a lot. Families that can afford to hire nannies can tend to afford to hire these other services, as well. And we’ve done placements for families where they have a nanny there for childcare. They have a private educator there to do virtual schooling, and then they might have a household manager there packing lunches and making dinner. So it can be a working household. I think the best thing is that mom and dad have to know how to maintain that communication and how to hold those scopes of practice for each person. If each person knows very clearly what their job responsibilities are and what expectations they’re needing to meet, there shouldn’t be a lot of confusion or overlap or somebody getting upset, that kind of thing. When you have somebody who’s highly specialized coming in, like a newborn specialist or postpartum doula, who’s there to do stuff like overnight sleep conditioning, I would say that kind of trumps what the nanny does during the day. For that consistency’s sake, then the family needs to help the nanny understand this postpartum doula, this newborn care specialist is going to come in and help us teach our newborn to sleep, so this is the plan that they would like you to follow during the day. It needs to come from the parents. So as long as the parents are able and willing to maintain their employer status, which each of those employees are contractors, the rest of that situation is going to go really well. And the consistency is really important, so it’s nice when the family, the parents themselves, are able to say, all right, look, here’s what I need you to do, and here’s when you get to kind of take back over. That helps everybody kind of not have any feelings hurt or make any big mistakes or missteps that would cause any kind of tension.
Kristin: Yes. And Jaynie, you also do placements for newborn care specialists. Can you let our audience know a bit about what that specialty includes and why it is so different than the role of a nanny or even a postpartum doula?
Jaynie: So newborn care specialists are highly trained. Many are certified. And their job is to come into the family’s home when they have a newborn, and most either are working a strictly overnight shift of 10 to 12 hours, or they’re doing a 24/7 shift with a couple of days off per week. But they’re specifically there to kind of take over the sleep and routine for that infant. They’re going to come in and help create routines, a daytime routine, a nighttime routine, a response plan for when that baby wakes and what they eat and all of that. But their overarching goal is to focus on creating a very safe and sleep-conducive environment for the baby to sleep in, creating those daytime and nighttime routines, and then their goal is that by the time the babies are three to four months old, they should be sleeping through the night. I’m doing quotes on “through the night” because it’s only, like, a six to eight hour stretch sometimes. If your baby is sleeping six to eight hours in that first stretch of sleep, that is what we would consider sleeping through the night. Ideally, eventually, they’ll get to, like, a 12-hour stretch of sleep. But by three or four months old, if you can get your baby to that point, mom and dad are going to get so much better sleep after that newborn care specialist time there is done. I also like to – because people understand very well what sleep training is, but what newborn care specialists do is not sleep training. They are sleep conditioning. So where sleep training, the goal is to alter your response to a child’s needs so that they need you less. A newborn care specialist is being so intentional in responding to a baby’s needs every time they need them that they just naturally end up needing them less. So you are never letting the baby cry. You are always responding to needs, but with that foundation that you’re doing intentionally with each wake up, they will eventually start waking up less, and it’s depending on their size and nutrition and all of that, too. We are not expecting a three-week old to be sleeping six to eight hour stretches. But just kind of setting those really good foundations. I find that many people will hire for the first time they have a baby. They don’t really know – they want the support. They would rather kind of give an expert, professional, the responsibility to help them learn how to teach their baby to sleep. And then on the second side of that, we have a lot of calls from families who say, I have a two-year-old at home, and when I had that two-year-old, I was sleeping when that baby slept. That’s what everyone told me. Sleep when the baby sleeps. She goes, when do I sleep now, if I have a two-year-old and a newborn?
Kristin: That is the challenge, for sure.
Jaynie: It is. So then they’ll hire the newborn care specialist to come for that fourth trimester, that three or four month period, just so that mom and dad are getting that full night of sleep. They’re better able to be parents to both children during the day, and then by the time that newborn care specialist contract is up after that three- or four-month period, they’re only waking up once or twice a night, which is sustainable. It feels sustainable for a parent rather than only getting an hour of sleep here or there. And then I would say the other people that call us are the multiple parents, the parents with twins and triplets. They just need help.
Jaynie: They need help, and a newborn care specialist can be so effective, especially with multiple and especially with preemie multiple where a first-time parent of newborns is going to get super overwhelmed and not know what to do. Having that newborn care specialist as your professional support is going to just make everything so much easier.
Kristin: Yes. And sometimes with multiple, one baby is in the NICU, and another is home, so there’s that stress and strain and back and forth. A newborn care specialist or postpartum care doula can be a huge asset. And, you know, again, they can be different developmentally and different needs with sleep and feeding and so on. I agree, it is a big demand to have that expert help.
Jaynie: And in our culture, we don’t always have family members. Back in previous generations, it was moms were mostly stay at home moms. And their mom and mother-in-law would be retired or stay-at-home grandmas and so you kind of had that built-in support network of people who are not working during the day and who can come and help you. And with the current generation, even our grandmas are often still working. So these moms just really don’t have as much even familial support that’s available. Somebody might be able to come for two or three hours, but that’s not enough to make a big difference, to give that parent enough reprieve.
Kristin: Exactly. And then of course, you know, if grandparents are involved in caregiving, they may not be up to date on the latest safe sleep standards or understanding car seat rules and regulations and so on. There’s a big difference in feeding and so many things compared to when they were parents themselves.
Jaynie: And they are tired. They’ve raised their babies, so they don’t want to stay up all night with a baby. They may not know how to sooth effectively. So it’s helpful – it’s awesome when you can have that help, but if you don’t have that help, you can hire it. There’s just about a service for everything nowadays, and helping people take care of their babies and children is no different.
Kristin: So true. So any final tips for our listeners, Jaynie?
Jaynie: I think of the childcare industry, and I am personally and professionally invested. I have been working with the same family for almost 11 years. The children that I nanny are 11 and 9. The 9-year-old, I held the day she was born, hours after her birth. So I am so invested in the beauty of the industry. But I also know that there are not great options out there, so I would just encourage parents to find the best of the best option and to find something that makes you feel in your heart of hearts and your soul of souls that my child is safe here, my child is loved here, these people or this person are going to be communicative, they are going to support me, and I can feel supportive of them. And whether that’s an in-home daycare or a daycare center or a nanny – the only way a parent is going to go to work and stop worrying is if they have full trust and respect in their caregiver. So going on that foundation is going to be the best place to start, and finding a place that you can count on long term is going to be a benefit, as well.
Kristin: Love it. Excellent advice. So Jaynie, let’s get into how our listeners can find you. You have a website; you’re active on Facebook, which is Michigan Nanny Solutions on Facebook. They can find you on LinkedIn also as Michigan Nanny Solutions. So we look forward to continuing our conversations, and thanks so much for all of your time and work you do with families and nannies alike.
Jaynie: Thank you so much. It was such a pleasure.
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