Does Age Matter in a Nanny?

Jacqueline Burt Cote

grandma and babyMy kids are lucky enough to have their grandma take care of them every day while I'm at work, and she's not your typical Nana (young for her 59 years, I swear the woman has more pep than I do). My childcare choice is a no-brainer, so I feel for my friends who find themselves torn between two categories of nanny: Energetic and young, or experienced and ... less young.

When my kids were babies, I loved knowing that my mother would know exactly what to do if my daughter's forehead felt hot or my son had diaper rash. I also loved knowing that my mom would spend hours playing peek-a-boo without getting tired. I understand that lots of moms feel better going with a seasoned vet, which explains the success of the new company Rent-a-Grandma. But I think younger nannies have a lot to offer, too.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, in between semesters and/or jobs, I nannied for several families, usually families with babies (as opposed to older kids). And if I do say so myself, I was a damn good nanny; in fact, I think I was a better nanny than I am a parent, probably because back then I went home at the end of the day and got a decent night's sleep. I was young enough to scoot around after a crawling kid all day long without wanting to stick her in a playpen and collapse on the couch by the time Oprah came on in the afternoon. When parents asked me along on family vacations, my answer was always "Sure, why not?" It wasn't like I had any major responsibilities that couldn't be left behind. I truly loved those babies as if they were my own, not having actually had any children yet.

There was just one downside to hiring me as a nanny, something many moms are afraid of when they hire an au pair or a part-time college student: I wasn't signing on for a lifelong (or childhood long) position. It was understood that once school started or I got an internship or whatever else, I'd be moving on with my life and leaving my young charge behind. There were many tearful goodbyes ... I'll never forget the baby girl who sobbed hysterically when her mother took her out of my arms for the last time, reaching out her little hands to me as they walked away. It still kills me. When you hire an older nanny, chances are she'll stick around until high school, likely becoming a permanent part of your child's life.

Still, I have tried to keep in touch with some of the families I nannied for, and I hope the kids will always remember, on some level, that their first babysitter loved them like crazy, even if she did have to leave.

Would you hire an older or younger nanny?


Image via Big Ben (Gaijin Bikers)/Flickr

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