household employees keep ghosting me

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’m the manager (also parent) for the lives of two kids under 5 years old. Their first childcare provider was a miraculously perfect fit for part-time work; lived nearby (convenient for last minute shifts, never late due to 5 minute car commute) was very flexible, a self starter, mature, patient, kind, and experienced. After three wonderful years with her, we moved out of state. (I gave her two months notice of our departure, a month of severance pay, and a glowing reference letter, as well as putting her in touch with her next two employers. All of which a Good Manager can and should do, I think, but just to demonstrate that I have a modicum of sense and emotional investment in the process.)

Several subsequent childcare providers have ghosted. I do not think I changed my interview process from the first time. I used the same website (care.com if that matters), asked the same thing on my post (“please state your availability on [a specific date] in your first message to me” to confirm that people were tailoring their response to my post instead of spamming multiple job openings), kept the same contract (paid vacation time, holidays, and sick days), and offered competitive pay (not the lowest and not the highest hourly rate for our area, but higher than average). There is a lot of flexibility in the position (I provide a variety of options, but the final schedule for the kids is at the discretion of the childcare provider; I have a flexible job, so I can typically accommodate any schedule changes necessary for the childcare provider with advance notice, such as if they have an appointment or prefer different start and end times).

The position is mildly contingent on the whims of two small children getting along with the childcare provider, but for the most part the children have loved (and been loved by, according to the providers) their childcare providers. However, Other Stuff always comes up and this job is the first thing on the chopping block for most of the people who have held the position. I’m not angry about not hearing back from long-time providers, but none of them have ever officially quit, so I am concerned about what I might be doing to cause this and I am sad that the children do not really get to say a proper goodbye to people who have been important in their lives.

Our current situation is for 10-15 hours a week (consistent days, flexible times) with someone I hired who is a friend of a friend, so a somewhat known entity. They had worked here occasionally pre-covid, and started back about two months ago as Covid restrictions lifted here (but we still wear masks etc). They live practically next door, but are consistently 15-60 minutes late and / or agree to work dates that they end up not bring available. They mentioned wanting more hours, but also took off one week with one day’s late notice to go on a vacation to a high risk area, and then took off the following week to get test results. They tested negative, agreed to work today 9 am to noon, then cancelled via text at 7 am and offered to come later in the week instead.

I can be flexible, but not so flexible that I can rearrange my entire work schedule and cancel appointments (that charge a fee for late cancellations) at two hour notice. I know that Stuff Happens, but this is a consistent pattern of behavior. I am also Solo Parenting, so this person is currently my only option.

How do I manage this situation? I would prefer not to have to find yet another childcare provider. I’d like to better manage the situation with the person who already has the position. What other benefits or incentives can I use to encourage punctuality and advance notice regarding scheduling changes? I know this is a particularly trying time with the global pandemic, but this is a persistent issue I have experienced as a person who works from home and needs someone to watch two young children. Is this just a Bad Job (watching little kids is exhausting, there are no health insurance benefits [US context], no retirement funds, etc, although I do pay into their unemployment fund through a payroll)? How can I be a Better Boss? Am I being too flexible, or too petty about punctuality? I think I would not be asking the latter part of this question if it weren’t a job that is done in my home, but since this is a pandemic and we don’t ever go anywhere, I could see why someone might think it wouldn’t matter when they show up.

I’m going to throw this out to readers to help with, but first some random thoughts from me:

* Are you checking references before hiring people? If not, I’d add that into your process right away, since people who have a track record of being reliable are more likely to continue being reliable (and vice versa).

* Have you considered going through an agency to find childcare? It might be more expensive but it also might garner you more consistently reliable providers. (Or not! I’m just guessing.)

* Part-time, in-home work seems to be ripe for this problem, for a whole bunch of complicated reasons.

Okay, readers, have at it — especially readers who have hired in-home childcare workers or done that work yourself.

{ 409 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all, the “I’m the manager (also parent) for the lives of two kids” comments reads like a funny, tongue-in-cheek remark to me … but even if it wasn’t, it’s already been addressed below and there’s no need to pile on about it. Further comments on it will be removed.

  2. Ann Perkins*

    If you haven’t already, look at centers nearby that offer part-time hours rather than trying in-home care. You’re more likely to get stability this way. The flip side is that you’ll have more covid exposure, but in my experience these days daycares that are open are taking it very seriously. Our center has teachers wear masks all day and they don’t mix classrooms so as to reduce any potential exposure, so it’s like each room is its own little bubble. If you’re not interesting in using a center, make sure to Alison’s suggestions. Another option to explore would be using a nanny share and there might be local facebook groups that can connect you to local nanny options.

    1. Momma Bear*

      There may also be centers who are willing to give a PT slot to keep enrollment up. Many are hurting as they had to lower class sizes for COVID and also lost children due to parents being out of work/staying home. If they are preschool aged, even a PT preschool situation might offer more consistency than these caregivers.

      1. Anonapots*

        The flip side of that is the massive shortage of slots because of restrictions. I know far too many people who are looking for day care and not able to find it because centers have had to reduce their slots. The priority is on full-time and the children of essential workers. It might not be so easy to find a part-time opening right now, especially if your start and end times of need can change.

    2. TallTeapot*

      I’ll second this. Using a center is going to give you more stability. An agency might be good, but generally, in my own experiences of hiring full-time nannies, part-time nannies and using daycares, it’s hard to find anyone who is willing to take part-time hours and not be a flake–usually because no matter how good the pay, it’s not enough to live on. This means that either 1.) they don’t NEED the money at all, so no big deal if they miss, are late, etc. or 2.) as soon as they find something that even has the whiff of being Enough to Live On, they’re going to leave.

      1. Barbara Eyiuche*

        Yes, I think this is the issue. It is not enough money to live on, so you are going to have problems with most people you hire. Maybe you could find an older retired person in your neighborhood who would like a job with only 10 to 15 hours a week, and wouldn’t be flaky.

        1. Zsazsa*

          I have an older adult (67 year old) watching my 5 year old. They also have problems with scheduling because they have lots of doctor appointments. I love who watches my son and they let me know well in advance (as well as they can) about appointments, but I must say the older population goes to the doctor a whole lot more than I do.

    3. Little Fox*

      I don’t have kids so take it for what you will, but just wanted to second, maybe a nanny share? Myself and most of the other kids in my family were all babysat by the same woman in our neighborhood. Basically a nanny share, maybe there is someone in your neighborhood doing something similar?

      1. Autistic AF*

        COVID makes this a less-great option, I think. The more families sharing the nanny, the bigger her (and consequently OP’s) bubble is.

        1. Anon Lawyer*

          Yeah, but you can’t actually hire someone for 10-15 hours a week and expect them not to have another job; they’re going to have another job one way or the other. (Or be a full time student living at home, but most full time students are out in the world too.)

          1. Beatrice*

            I have a special needs daughter so a center setting has not been an option for some time. I have had several nannies and one live-in au pair over the last nine years. A few were amazing! A couple were just ok and one was a complete disaster. But the only way I could make it work was to offer full-time pay for part-time work. They typically worked 10-15 hours a week but received a set salary for 40. It hurt to pay a premium for only a few hours a week but as a single parent, it was the only way I could maintain a shred of sanity.

            1. Autistic AF*

              This is the only way I can see part-time hours working with full-time availability. It’s not fair to further burden people like you but this is the society we live in, unfortunately.

            2. Boof*

              I usually figure I need to pay extra for part time (not sure what you meant by full time pay for part time if you meant the overall monthly compensation or the hourly compensation) – for a good part time worker you really have to do a lot to make it attractive.

              1. Beatrice*

                Sorry, I meant that they received a weekly salary equivalent to a 40 hour week. So, for instance, if the going rate in my area was $15 an hour, I might choose to pay $17 but they were guaranteed a weekly salary of $680 even though they might only end up working 12 hours that week. It was the only way I could get anyone reliable (and even then it was tough depending on the market).

            3. Erstwhile Poppins*

              If OP has an extra bedroom, an au pair might actually be a stellar option in this situation. There’s a limit on the number of hours they can work, but it’s in the 20-something range, IIRC. That said, I don’t know where things stand with au pair programs in light of COVID.

              As a former nanny – OP doesn’t mention whether she has a contact or not, but if no, it may help with re-establishing expectations (as well as protecting both parties in case of conflicts). Mine were always generated by myself and/or the family, but colleagues rave about the a-to-z contact.

              1. Andrea*

                An au pair is a good option for this situation, assuming the OP has the space and the desire for an extra person living with them. I work with an au pair agency, so I’m up to date on their current regulations. They are able to work up to 10 hours per day, up to 45 hours per week. They must get 1.5 consecutive days off per week, and one full weekend per month off, plus they get 2 weeks paid vacation. Au pair programs aren’t inexpensive, but they are generally on par with the cost of childcare in other settings.
                Most agencies are currently allowing arrivals, but that is always changing and I haven’t seen an update since the latest travel restrictions were put in place.

          2. Autistic AF*

            Indeed, I’ve mentioned this elsewhere. There were good suggestions about creating more structure by keeping appointments to the same day(s) of the week or the like.

            1. Ann Nonymous*

              I agree with this. Make it a regular job with regular hours. It is a real job and should be treated as such by both sides. The more it can be made to feel like one and not an any-old-time-you-feel-like-coming-in job the better.

    4. Anon Lawyer*

      Another possible option is a local stay-at-home parent who is looking to add a little extra income (and maybe socialization for their kids) by watching someone else’s kids along with their own part-time. We have a Facebook group for those arrangements in my area.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Having been a nanny who got a job through an agency, I think you sound pretty fair. Maybe expand to more sources. People either are conscientious or they’re not.

        You lucked out w/the perfect person previously, that’s hard to match. A retired person might like PT hours.

        1. FrenchCusser*

          I was a nanny for 10 years – the first family I worked for I got through an agency, and I was their ninth nanny (the kid as 14 months old at the time). They had used the same agency for all of them. I stayed 3 years, but it was an abusive situation and I felt kinda locked in because I had moved 2000 miles to take the job.

          The second family was also abusive and I lasted there less than a month, but I left that job for the family I stayed with for almost 7 years and am still in touch with 20 years later.

          It can be hard to find a good match. I know when I was looking that I did not get one position because I refuse to spank. I only believe in hitting someone if they’re physically threatening me, and I never believe in hitting children for any reason whatsoever.

          Which is just to say to the LW that it can be hard to get that ‘perfect’ childcare solution. We don’t value it very highly, so Mary Poppins is just not available for what we’re willing to pay her.

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes that’s how my mother arranged my childcare when she had to go back to work full time. One of her neighbours didn’t work but wanted a little more money. She had a daughter my age and a son a year younger and we went to the same school. So I went to her before and after work. She got a little more money, I got on with her daughter well enough that I was happy to go there (although we were never best friends because we didn’t have vast amounts in common) and Mum was happy that I was in a safe place. It was a win-win situation.

    5. Lord Peter Wimsey*

      When my kids needed care and I worked part-time, I found that it was very difficult to find centers who would take them on a part-time basis (and that center-based care was much more expensive than in-home care). Two things that worked for me: finding a registered childcare provider operating out of their home who was willing to take part-timers and also using local college students (and sometimes high school students, especially in the summer) who I found to be reliable but also appreciated/needed the flexibility too. Good luck!

    6. Massive Dynamic*

      I echo this – you need a center. I use one for my toddler and they do a great job adhering to precautions and no kid has gotten sick from Covid since they opened back up in June. They adhere to the each-room-own-bubble safety standard and it’s working out well – each room has their own separate outdoor play area too.

    7. Bear Shark*

      I agree that the LW needs to look at centers. If they can find a center that offers part-time hours they’ll be more likely to get stability. That can be a big IF though. Most centers in my area wouldn’t do part-time hours unless you paid for a full-time slot. I was fortunate to find one when I needed part-time care for my children where it only cost 80% of full-time for 3 days a week.

      Centers also don’t help with the problem of children getting to say a proper goodbye when people leave. The pay isn’t great so sometimes we got a heads up when a employees were leaving but quitting with little or no notice happened too.

    8. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I was coming here to say the same. Especially for kids over about 18 months, I think centers are great. They get to play with other kids; they get a lot of structure around mealtimes, naptimes, storytimes, playtimes; at a decent center, the care workers have some training in early childhood development and will be able to help them grow and learn in age-appropriate ways… If you can find an affordable one (a big if, I know) with part-time hours, this is the way to go.

  3. Dorothy Lawyer*

    I sure wish I had an answer to this. I’ve had a horrible time finding reliable help for my grandmother, who is in her 90’s and still lives in her own home. Similar kind of behaviors as the LW describes.

    1. Aglaia761*

      If you are in Maryland, I can give you a referral. I also know someone in the Gainesville VA area as well.

      1. Majnoona*

        A friend of mine saw an ad for someone looking for part-time child care in the building her father lived in and hired her (the babysitter) to watch her father part-time. It worked fine

        1. Majnoona*

          I always used two sitters (for part-time), college students. Yes, I had to hire new ones every few years but with two they could cover for each other and were very capable (some were studying early ed; one was on the diving team and taught my kids dives-we have a pool)

      2. MBK*

        I would loooove a Maryland/suburban DC-based elder care referral. I don’t need one immediately, but just this morning I was fretting about not having a backup option. I can share my gmail or Twitter DM info if you’d rather not just drop the info in the comments.

        1. Jean (just Jean)*

          Ditto here. If Aglaia761 doesn’t respond here (people have lives away from AAM! :-) I’ll try to remember to post the question on the weekend thread.

  4. animaniactoo*

    care.com has been notoriously flaky for friends of mine who have used it. I don’t have a lot else to add, just putting it out there that your first experience with them might have been more of a unicorn thing than something that is a reliable resource.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      Yeah. I wouldn’t use it in my area. Maybe it works better in some places but the people I know who used it had bad experiences. Not just flaking but theft and neglect.

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      I’ve had mixed experiences in different geographic areas with both care.com and sittercity.com. It’s worth posting on both – we’ve had much better results with one or the other depending on the location.

    3. redflagday701*

      Agreed on care.com — we were looking for a nanny for our twins a couple years ago, and just couldn’t find high-quality candidates there. We eventually found and interviewed one we weren’t thrilled with, but who had very good references and seemed to get the big stuff, so we went with her because we were getting desperate. At 8pm the night before her first shift, when we had just gone out for a drink to celebrate finally having some help, she texted that she wasn’t taking the job after all. MUCH CURSING ENSUED.

      But then we advertised instead on the local university job board, and we had a dozen strong candidates within a couple of days. The young woman we hired was just awesome, and she still checks in from time to time via text, even though she’s moved, because she and the girls got to be so close. If there’s a college near you, it’s worth seeing if they have something similar. We paid a small amount of money for the listing, but boy, was it worth it.

        1. Salymander*

          I was a nanny during and after college. I found my job on the university job posting board. I knew a lot of other students that found jobs the same way. I would need to make adjustments if my school schedule drastically changed, but then the schedule would stay the same for the whole quarter. A bit more flexibility around finals time is helpful, too as they aren’t always scheduled at the same time as normal classes.

          I think that making the hours the same each week, but saying that you can adjust them if you have enough notice is good, but if you are changing the hours around too much it can be confusing and make more reliable childcare workers think that you are the flaky one and avoid working for you. I had a number of families that would hire me, and then tell me that they didn’t need me that day when I showed up for work. So, I had driven 30 minutes or more to get there, and it wasn’t possible to get another babysitting gig for one day that quickly. And they would never pay for the time wasted either. For an emergency of course I wasn’t too upset, but most were just flaky and inconsiderate. This behavior is common enough that many childcare workers screen out anyone they think might be like that. So to a childcare worker who had been burned by this before, being really flexible right away might read as flaky. I would rather work for someone with a fairly inflexible schedule than one who was too changeable or didn’t set clear expectations. Especially for part time, if there was school or another part time job to juggle.

          Some people above advocated for paying extra to get good part time help. If you can afford that, it would be a really good idea. Household work of any kind tends to be poorly paid, and it isn’t easy (or may be impossible) to live on a part time nanny salary.

      1. cat lady*

        Seconding this, particularly if you can get a PhD student. a) they almost certainly need the income to supplement tiny stipends, but can’t take FT jobs until they finish b) they’ll be around for several years c) they usually live locally, so don’t “go home” for summer and winter breaks d) they often have flexible schedules
        I was the babysitter/backup nanny for a family when I was doing my dissertation, and it was amazing. I covered date nights and whenever the main nanny (retired early ed teacher) was on vacation– I adored the kids and still miss them! The parents even tapped me for cat sitting when they went out of town. It was ideal.

        1. Another Professor*

          Second this. I babysat through college and my PhD work. It was ideal for me and I think worked for the families I worked with too.

        2. Lavender Menace*

          Graduate students in general can be good options. One of my best friends in graduate school nannied while she was getting her master’s in bilingual speech-language pathology, so it was a great fit for her career goals and interests and the family got a capable, reliable, bilingual nanny.

      2. ThePear8*

        This is a great idea. I’m a student myself and can definitely think of people I know who would probably love to take the job (plus being part-time and with some measure of flexibility, you can work around their class schedule, which is something students value a lot, and they’ll probably want to do a good job in order to build up their work experience).

      3. Jack Russell Terrier*

        I echo this with local / neighborhood listserves. I live in DC and the cleveland park listserve is extremely active. People often ask about about childcare / nannys – amongst other things. I found a wonderful person to be with my mum for a couple of hours in the evening – give her dinner and have chat. She was retired from care work and looking to supplement her income. She had great references and was wonderful and reliable for a couple of years before mum moved into a care home.

      4. Happy Lurker*

        My best nannies/sitters were usually in college. I have a couple that we are still friendly with. Any that we found through employment sites were flaky. Back in the day we used craigslist and then care.com come out. But the results were the same behavior OP is experiencing.
        Another poster mentioned full time pay regardless of hours. That is another thing we did. Minimum of 40 hours and we paid over time for additional date nights, bookclubs, etc. If we had a day off, the sitter could come for a couple hours and still get full pay.

      5. Gumby*

        Yup. I was a nanny in college and not only did it pay better than retail work, the family was super flexible and very kind and it was a joy to spend some time every week with people who were not between the ages of 17 and 28.

        I have to admit, however, that I am pretty sure that I found that family on craigslist. Or maybe the family that referred me to that family. (I babysat for a couple of families on the occasional evening and they passed my name to their friends and possibly the next year to the family I ended up nannying for but it’s been *mumbledymany* years so I can’t remember if that was direct from CL or a referral.) If you are a decent babysitter and reliable, your name is *gold* and you can be about as busy as you want to be.

    4. Hamish*

      I don’t use them on principle. I tried to put up an ad to hire a nanny. I included in the ad that we’re a gay couple, and ideally would be looking for someone in the LGBT community, but strong allies of the community are also very welcome to apply. I think that’s pretty fair… obviously we don’t want someone homophobic to be working in our home, and it would be awkward for everyone if they showed up to interview and then found out we were gay.

      Ad was never posted. Care.com flagged it as inappropriate and blocked it from posting.

        1. Can Can Cannot*

          Not surprised. Most companies like this don’t allow postings that specify a preference for or against a protected class.

          1. Hamish*

            You’d think that would be in their TOS if so. (The form email I got even said that the ad violated their TOS.) I couldn’t find anything at all.

            1. Hamish*

              That said… LGBT people aren’t actually a protected class where I live, and allies certainly aren’t.

          2. looking for nannies*

            Protected class? I put ‘must be fluent in English’ because I was looking for a nanny to help with homework. Care.com specifically flagged that (I know because that’s the only edit I made to the post). How is that a protected class?

              1. Natalie*

                For employees covered by the Civil Rights Act (which household employees generally wouldn’t be), you can’t prohibit them from speaking other languages but it’s absolutely legal to require English fluency if the job requires it.

          3. Boof*

            Ah, I see. I initially read as “We are LGBT and need someone comfortable with that” which I would think should be fine, but it’s true if it said “LOOKING for LBGT” that’d be problematic because one isn’t supposed to discriminate.

            1. Hamish*

              The phrasing was something along the lines of “We are a LGBT couple and would be most comfortable with someone who is either in the LGBT community, or a strong ally.”

              Honestly, I think it probably got flagged just because it said “LGBT” and then whoever reviewed it decided to take it down. It wouldn’t even let me submit it when I used “queer”, which is the term I and most of my friends prefer. I have grumbles about that, but whatever. I can understand it being flagged for review (what if I had been saying “no LGBT applicants”, right?) but you’d think if they have a flag like that they’d also have guidelines for their employees to follow when reviewing the items caught by that rule.

              When I sent them an annoyed email, they put it back up with no changes. By then I was pretty hacked off by the whole thing. By chance I was just home from my city’s Pride celebration when I read the ‘your gayness is inappropriate’ email, so it stung.

              1. MassMatt*

                I appreciate your frustration, there used to be many problems like this where algorithms that were designed to screen out porn or work/school inappropriate language were also screening out all LGBTQ related content, even that which was about forming organizations supporting equality and the like.

                Whether this was a faulty algorithm or an individual’s bigotry, it speaks very poorly of the organization. One dealing with young people especially.

              2. Kochimochi*

                So I have a different take on this one. Depending on where you are, could this be a safety issue for you? In some places announcing that you are queer and then letting somebody you don’t actually know into your home could bring a world of trouble.

                And if you were a homophobe looking for people to beat up? “We’re queer and looking for queer folks” sounds like a good way to find them.

                1. Mimi*

                  It could potentially be a safety issue, but I don’t think that’s the site’s call to make. I have the right to exist as a queer woman, and to be as open about that as I feel comfortable with, without a corporation censoring my identities because they think I’ll be safer that way.

                2. DataSci*

                  So you expect them to remain closeted IN THEIR OWN HOME on the off-chance they hired a homophobe, rather than be able to screen for bigots? Give Hamish the benefit of the doubt that they know whether “we’re queer” is so dangerous that it’s something a company needs to prohibit them from saying.

                3. Hamish*

                  Oh come on. First of all, why is everyone looking for reasons that this website might not have actually done a homophobic thing? I wrote a perfectly normal and appropriate ad for a nanny and it was taken down. They said it violated their TOS. It didn’t, and when I complained they put it back up WITH NO CHANGES. Why is it so important to find wild excuses for this happening instead of just acknowledging homophobia?

                  Second – please. They’re not concerned for my safety. If they were, I’m sure they would have said that when I accused them of homophobia. And it’s really rich and condescending for you to even suggest that this might be on their radar. Like you think that you and care.com might be more aware of risks to my safety than I am! I live every day as 1/2 of a gay interracial couple in the Midwest, okay. I know what risks I’m taking just by living my life, and what kinds of homophobic violence are actually happening around me. You don’t.

      1. hbc*

        Oh, man, they blocked my account entirely when I changed my name on their account. I think it’s supposed to be so you can’t pretend you’re someone else, but 1) it’s still linked to all my history there, 2) people change their names pretty regularly, and 3) the rule is buried somewhere deep in their terms of service. They wouldn’t even let me change it back when I explained what had happened.

        Also, from an IT/user interface perspective, why do you make field editable if it’s forbidden to edit it?

    5. NOK*

      Just adding my voice to the “Care.com is shady” chorus. Univeristy job boards are a good idea, as is looking into an agency like College Nannies and Tutors.

      1. ggg*

        I actually had good luck with Care.com. We found our first afterschool nanny through there, and she was excellent, but she left us after a few years to move closer to family.

        Then I tried an agency and had a bad experience. They claimed that they placed part time nannies all the time but I don’t think that was true — I think their focus was on full time positions. They sent over several candidates who did not meet the requirements (i.e. people who did not drive, for a position that required picking up my kids from school, or people that couldn’t meet the hours). We wasted a lot of time with them.

        Back to Care.com and I found another great nanny who met all the requirements and my kids loved her.

    6. Maggie*

      I agree that care.com, just like craigslist and Buy Nothing groups on Facebook, varies drastically from one region to another. OP may have had great results and changed nothing personally, but changed locations. When I moved to Portland, Oregon, I furnished nearly my whole house with fantastic, high-quality used furniture off of craigslist. Great prices, great people, great everything all around. Where my mother lives in Indiana, barely anyone has even heard of craiglist and I doubt she could give away a thousand dollars on it. If literally nothing else has changed, I’d suspect the region is the main difference and to go to a local college job board if that’s a possibility. If not, even consider talking to your local high school guidance counselors! Many teenagers are working while going to online school. Their families desperately need the money, they have the energy and love, and they are flexible and live locally.

    7. (insert name here)*

      Yeah, we have hired 2 nanny’s and the one we hired through Craigslist is much more reliable than the one we hired through Care. Also the wages on Care are inflated for the area.

  5. Mel_05*

    All I can think of is that you may not be paying them as competitively as you think you are.

    These sound like the same staffing issues my husband has at a small chain restaurant. He pays more than minimum wage, but corporate won’t let him pay his employees in a way that is even close to surrounding restaurants or other similar types of hourly work.

    All the best workers are over at those jobs. He gets the people who call off right before their shift or who take a week off each month, because they just don’t care.

    1. Weekend Please*

      I don’t think having the pay be “competitive”for the area is the problem. It sounds like the nannies are not flaking because they are taking another childcare job but because other things in their life are higher priority to them. So paying more than average doesn’t actually mean that they will be more dedicated to this part time job. Paying more and being clear about what you mean by flexibility may help.

      1. Boo Radley*

        Mel_05 was not suggesting that people were leaving for higher paying jobs, but that people who don’t flake are all at the better paying jobs.

        1. Weekend Please*

          I’m agreeing with her. I think that one potential problem the OP has is she is looking at similar jobs and sees that she pays above average and therefore is able to attract candidates (competitive pay). Unfortunately, although it is competitive it isn’t enough to get the employees to feel invested in keeping the job.

    2. Rainy*

      It can also be a function of the limited hours–10-15 hours a week is just not enough to base anything on, so it tends to be the first thing in your schedule to go. When I was a retail manager I had similar upper management constraints to your husband, and it really affected the quality of associate I could keep because they had to have multiple other jobs, and the ones that paid better or gave more hours were prioritized, for obvious reasons. When my SM figured this out (after being told repeatedly it was an issue), she threw a temper tantrum and said that from now on she wouldn’t allow us to schedule associates according to their preferences, because she was tired of accommodating their other jobs. Unsurprisingly, our best employees left within weeks. She would only schedule 4 hour shifts at a time so she didn’t have to give a lunch break, and our associates made about $40 per shift, net, and she’d only schedule people for 16 or so hours a week. Of course no one stays. They have to make rent.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a big part of it. Someone willing to take on a 10-15 hr/wk job either doesn’t need it all that much, which means it’s not going to be a priority, or needs it enough that it’s a second (or third or fourth) job, which means it’s not going to be a priority.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          THIS.

          I am very fortunate to have someone who wants on the hours we have. If they wanted more hours, I’d give them some more to try to keep them.

          1. Hil*

            I wonder if a nanny share could work here, so she could pay for more like 20-30 hours for not much more? I know its hard to work in a pandemic but having different child care providers come and go isn’t ideal either (not judging! just saying the difference might not be too great).

        2. (insert name here)*

          agreed. If you can offer 20 hours for a slightly lower per hour wage, you might have more luck. Also if you give less flexibility you might have less flakiness.

          1. Brad Fitt*

            Hiring someone for 20 hours at $15/hr doesn’t fix the problem if 15 hours wasn’t enough when you were paying them $20/hr. “I’d like to work more hours” = “I’m not making enough money here but I don’t want to risk you firing me if I ask for a raise.”

      2. pcake*

        That was my first thought, too. Not only are the limited hours not enough to live on, but it means most nannies who stay with a family will have to take at last one other job, meaning more exposure to illnesses including covid, more scheduling issues and burnout.

        Also, personally if I had to work a nanny job with a second nanny job or babysitting on the side, it would make it harder for me to become as involved with one child.

      3. Charlotte Lucas*

        And if they’re students, they have to go to class. The one job I ever left without 2 week’s notice was in retail. (Bear in mind that I had worked at 3 retail & 1 food service places before this.) It was because they routinely got my schedule wrong. Since my other job was the career-focused one, the decision was easy. ( I didn’t ghost them, but when I saw that they had posted the next schedule, late as usual, & scheduled me for mainly times I wasn’t available, I called & quit. I told them that it would be easier for us both if they didn’t try to fix my schedule so that I could work a notice period.)

        Worst retail job I ever had (discount giant — guess who!).

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Oddly enough, I worked for possibly the same discount giant, and they never had any problem honoring my available hours. It might have been because it was a smallish college town, so a huge percentage of the pool of part-time employees were college students. If they hadn’t learned to respect our schedules, they would have found themselves in a pickle.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Same situation here! But very rural with enough non-student employees that they could do it. Then in January, they laid off everyone I had been hired with during the summer. After announcing in October that no November or December time off requests would be honored.

          2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            Could be whomever the scheduling manager was. I worked a part time retail job at a chain store where, at that particular store, had an Asst Manager that was specifically designated to HR matters – she did all recruitment, interviews, scheduling, etc. I was part time and it was a second job, and though my hours were typically set each week, I never had an issue either taking a day off or swapping my day so long as I let her know with enough lead time. (If I recall, it was about a week before the schedule was posted. I can’t remember exactly but it was more than fair and never an issue on my end.)

            When she went on maternity leave, one of the other Asst Managers took over this duty and he just plain HATED IT. It wasn’t his strong suit. I think because he was an extrovert and well liked (and I genuinely did like him!) everyone thought he would be good at it, but it also required MASSIVE organization skills and patience, which he just didn’t have. It became apparent quickly that my set hours/days were staying my set hours/days no matter how far in advance I requested a switch/off because he just couldn’t be bothered to tinker with the schedule. I knew it was a moment in time so I worked around it, and if it wasn’t something I could work around, I called off. Because it was a part time job and I wasn’t dependent on the income to make rent.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              The scheduling was done by the HR person. She was pretty awful. We were sure she didn’t like students, & she had hired her creepy son, & let him break company rules, including what he wore. (No company vest for him – wore a hunting vest. And worked in the hunting/fishing/camping dept.

              I was a really fast cashier, so they always wanted me for busy times, but my day job got priority.

            2. Momma Bear*

              We had a “different manager doing the schedule” problem. I worked at a grocery store and made it clear when I was taking a class or otherwise unavailable. When the second manager botched the schedule more than once with a “you figure it out” attitude, I decided it would be my last summer working there.

              1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

                I actually had that at a different job (which was actually an independently owned ice cream shop, NOT a big box retailer!) – it was in Summer Tourist Town X, and I had a full time internship in another city that went past the usual semester end date by about 6 weeks (so, think, end of June vs. mid May). I told him as a result I could only work Friday-Sunday until the end of June. There is one particular week that is quite busy in this town in early June (IFYKYK – any more details will give it away!) and asked if I had ANY ability to work that week. I said I could work 6pm-close (10-ish pm) that week, but had to go back to Fri-Sun for the rest of June.

                I went in for my shift that Sunday (exhausted, btw) and saw my name on the schedule for the whole following week starting at 3-4pm. I told his wife that I absolutely could not work those hours and she got really short with me and told me to take it up with her husband. I quit at the end of my shift that night and had another job before the weekend (see above – tourist town – I knew I’d find something by the end of June, at the very least!)

                The best was? HE CALLED MY MOTHER and left her a message that I “up and quit” on him. She was like, um, is he serious? You’re an adult. (He was an ass for other reasons.)

        2. clogerati*

          Yup, the only job i ever quit without notice was a retail job. When I was hired I told them that I could work anytime except for Christmas Eve and boxing day because I had a relative who most likely wouldn’t make it to next Christmas. I confirmed multiple times that I was off those days, what do you know the schedule finally came (late) for the week of Christmas and I was scheduled exclusively for those days. I called them and reminded them that I was out of town and wouldn’t be able to work and that I wouldn’t be coming back.

      4. Aquawoman*

        Agree with this, which is why the idea above to hire a student is a good idea.

        My other idea would be to work in a bonus for consistency–promise them $X additional dollars at the end of three months if they make good attendance metrics (not perfect, but strict-but-reasonable on both sides).

        1. HBJ*

          I think this is a good idea. Or even structure the pay differently. Be upfront in the ad that you pay $x/hr and if they are on time, it’s $x+$.25 per hr. There’s at least one very well known fast food chain does that (or I suppose it could be unique to a location, I don’t know.)

      5. MassMatt*

        I have been a retail manager and doing the schedule was a big hassle but it comes with the territory. We had a few FT and roughly a dozen or so PT employees, so of course all the PT folks had other jobs and/or were students with class schedules. This is real life. How many people can live on (at best!) $160 per week and will be available at any random time?

        Your “temper tantrum” manager was in the wrong line of work. Trying to make it easier on herself by being rigid with the schedule and refusing to accommodate people’s classes or other jobs is a sure way to drive off good employees and get stuck with unreliable ones. Probably even more so than poor pay.

        I had to take over a store from a prior terrible manager, he was a textbook example of a HOST of terrible manager behavior we see here all the time. Sales dropped, turnover skyrocketed, the store was dirty, and theft was rampant. Showing even a modicum of flexibility with the schedule did wonders for employee morale and retention.

        All that said–it sounds as if the OP is very self-aware and has researched pay in the area etc. and has had good luck with a long-term nanny before, so I think OP is not the problem. I second university job boards, and trying to offer more pay and/or more hours if possible.

      6. Mel_05*

        That’s a great point. I hadn’t noticed that it was so few hours. I would bet that definitely plays into this situation. Because it’s so part time, she probably needs to pay more than normal to get people to make it a priority.

    3. M*

      I agree with this and the hours. I met a nanny once who said she had to leave (she and my child played together sometimes as she worked long hours). She left because by the parents paying taxes on her salary she wasn’t making that much per hour and she didn’t get benefits.

      How much do they actually get per hour after things are taken out? Many people would rather take 10-15 hours from someone paying them cash.

      I agree with the commenter- look at college students or find a part time school. My child attends an outdoor school (with masks) that only has morning hours. We have to answer a safety questionnaire every morning and take a temperature. If you have done anything (indoor no mask travel, any Covid symptom etc) you can’t come to school, but it has been great for my child.

      Other option do you have a family you know who you trust and are following same protocols as you? Could you switch off your kids go to their house 6 hours on Monday and their kids go to your house 6 hours on Tuesday? I know some people who are doing this and it works for them but they have to be really honest about what they do. Both families don’t go anywhere. When they had yearly doctor appointments for the kids they didn’t do the switch for 10 days to be sure.
      Good luck!

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Just to be clear, what you’re recommending is a crime for both the employer and the employee. I know it’s common, but paying cash under the table to avoid paying taxes is illegal. It’s also a very bad idea for the nanny long-term, since it means they won’t be getting social security contributions or unemployment insurance.

        1. looking for nanny*

          I’m not sure what to do right now. We finally have a nanny candidate but she wants to be paid under the table. We’ve always done things above board. She is already asking for a lot and we don’t want to go higher, but we are desperate and covid means we have few options. Even if we hire her it’s just for a few months until schools reopen so I’m not sure it will be such a big deal.

          1. Riverlady*

            I wouldn’t do it! Paying someone under the table can come back to bit you in ways you couldn’t have expected, even years later.

          2. Brad Fitt*

            It’s always weird to me when someone outright asks to be paid under the table. At least if she was asking to be paid as an IC there’d be some plausible deniability, even though most childcare workers can’t be classed as independent contractors because of how the job is structured.

            Dont’ do it though: If you pay someone under the table, the person who pays is always taking more risk than the person who was paid because the person who was paid can theoretically file taxes at tax time and throw you under the bus for not withholding what you were supposed to. Better not to risk it.

    4. Sam.*

      This is worth looking at, but I’m also wondering how explicitly OP has set expectations about punctuality, changing the schedule, etc. If the employee knows OP has a flexible job and OP has always rolled with things in the past, she may not realize that it’s actually a problem.

      I think some of this is always going to be a risk if you have someone doing a part-time job they don’t have a lot of investment in (because they have other/bigger priorities, or they’re not worried about the money, or maybe they just don’t have a great sense of personal responsibility, etc.) If that’s the case for this person, I don’t think any amount of incentivizing is going to convince them to change their behavior. Personally, I’d be sure to communicate that these habits need to stop, just in case the employee didn’t realize it was an issue, but if nothing changes from there, you either need to deal with it or part ways.

    5. MassMatt*

      “All I can think of is that you may not be paying them as competitively as you think you are.”

      OP sounds as though they have researched the local market but I wonder if they are basing their “average pay” on actual jobs that get filled and people are working, or jobs that are posted but may never get filled?

      If 100 nanny jobs are posted, ranging from $10-$40 per hour, the real “average” may not be $25/hour if those jobs at the lower end of the scale are not getting filled or are filled with unreliable people. The scale is probably further skewed by the lower end jobs needing to replace turnover for people leaving to better jobs.

      1. pancakes*

        Where does wage stagnation fit on this scale, if anywhere? I had a full time summer job that paid $20/hour as a college student in 1995. That was a good wage at the time, but not a life-changing windfall. The discussion on this reminds me of a woman I worked for, a very well paid partner in a NYC law firm, who was apoplectic one morning when she learned her elderly mother’s home health aide was unreachable because her cell phone had been turned off for non-payment. She was shouting, “I pay her an above average wage!,” seemingly oblivious to the fact that even “above-average” wages for people who live paycheck to paycheck aren’t nearly enough to live on. There is no shortage of good date on wage stagnation and income inequality (EPI dot org in particular is good), but people who set wages seldom seem to consider it.

    6. Anonymo*

      Yep, totally agree. If you pay more the probably will get better. It may not go away, but it will get better. OP, you mentioned you moved, maybe the COL is higher where you are now. Your previously “almost top” pay may now be “barely above avg.”

  6. Ms. Yvonne*

    Hi – maybe you’d have better luck with a referral (kind of like your having pointed the person who was with you 3y to other families who needed help). In my city, on Facebook there are oodles of neighbourhood groups and fairly often in two I belong to, I see postings from families who are either looking for shared care, or work with someone part-time and that caregiver is looking for another part-time gig, or are e.g. moving and want to pass on the word about someone great who has worked with them. I think loads of households resolve their child/elder care needs this way here.

    1. Clisby*

      Same here. There’s also a 10,000-student college in my city, and a well-paid 10-15 hour job could be golden for some of them. Note: Here, I’d expect someone taking care of two children to get at least $15 an hour.

      1. Clisby*

        Adding … a potential problem with college students, of course, isn’t that they require wildly flexible hours – after all, they’re held to an academic schedule also. However, the academic schedule changes every semester, so anyone hiring a college student has to adapt to that.

        1. cat lady*

          I mentioned this above, but much of this is resolved if you can find a PhD student– they almost certainly need the money, they’re around for several years, and they’re out of coursework so you only need to work around their teaching schedules.

        2. Momma Bear*

          It depends. If I had a good job with known hours, I’d try to work my classes around that. I think it wouldn’t hurt the OP to make a schedule and see who applies.

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      I see these posts a lot, too. It’s worth a shot for sure, since it can help find someone who is close by, which can help with reliability. And in OP’s case, it might help her find a college student or retiree looking to make some extra money on the side, or a stay at home parent whose kids are a bit older who would like to make a little extra income during school hours. The hours and flexibility she’s looking for won’t work for most people who are trying to make a full living at child care jobs.

      We were exploring some part-time child care at the start of the school year and got some good leads through our neighborhood listserv, and a very mix than we got through our care.com and sittercity ads.

  7. DataGirl*

    Having hired many childcare workers over the years, in many different contexts, and having been a nanny myself before I had my own kids, I’d say it’s a field that tends to draw a lot of young, unreliable people. I think the amount of flexibility you are offering is actually detrimental to you, as the sitters seem to think you are fine with all these last minute changes. Personally I would set more rules, and just like any other job give something like 3 warnings, then firing if someone breaks them or is a no show. I also think Allison’s recommendation of going with an agency is a good one.

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      I agree that the amount of flexibility is hurting. People often misinterpret a flexible schedule as meaning more than it does, so maybe change the schedule to always be MWF 1 – 5 (or whatever).

      1. a heather*

        Yeah, one of the problems might be saying “I have a flexible schedule” is read as “I can change things up at a moment’s notice.” Maybe OP needs to be more strict about being flexible up to a certain point? Maybe “once we set a schedule for the week I can’t change it less than 1 (or 2) weeks in advance.”

      2. Anne Elliot*

        I came here to say this as well. It seems like the flexibility you offer is actually becoming an impediment to what you need, which is consistent, reliable childcare. So I would move to being less flexible: Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 5 (or whatever). I think since you want to keep your current provider you can work with him or her to agree on what days and hours those will be, but then set the expectation that that is going to be the schedule going forward.

      3. Rachel in NYC*

        I think that’s possible.

        People hear ‘flexible’ and think they can cancel the night before, where what you mean is that you can be flexible with a week’s notice.

      4. hbc*

        Yeah, I agree that an advertised set schedule will attract a better set of people. Once you get that reliable person, then you’ll end up earning brownie points for flexing around their schedule and they’re probably willing to be on call more.

        A post about flexible hours is a major draw for “I want more hours [read: money] in theory but I never actually show up to work” people.

    2. MistOrMister*

      I am not too sure the problem is flexibility. I think some of this bad behavior on the part of the workers is just due to the nature of the beast when you’re trying to fill a lot hour job without benefits and not high pay. But then also, it seems like OP is letting is slide that the current employee is doing all this problematic stuff. A good employee would not do this stuff anyway. But a bad one, where there is no punishment for not showing up/cancelling at the last minute, etc is just going to kewp doing those things until they leave altogether. I agree that a 3strikes type deal might be best. I’d say for OP to sit them down and go over firm expectations and then be prepared to fire them or have them quit. It really seems like OP only is keeping them right now because thry feel they have no other options. But arguably, this person is causing more issues and disruptions (plus costing OP money if they get charged for cancelling doctor appointments) than they’re solving due to the short hours they work.

    3. Cascadia*

      Yes, this was my exact thought too! It’s great to flexible, but it actually might be signaling that the job is not important, or that you are fine with last minute changes.

    4. Weekend Please*

      I have definitely found that telling job candidates that the job is flexible tends to attract unreliable employees. I have started not calling it flexible and addressing it very specifically if asked about flexibility. Saying things like “You are expected to work X hours per week but we do have some flexibility in start time and you can make up the time if you need to go to an appointment during the day.”

    5. not all karens*

      Yes, I agree–I think keeping regular, consistent hours is actually beneficial for these types of jobs. Be flexible in that if they have an appointment, you can shift things around for them, but otherwise make a schedule that they agree with stick to it. They can propose the hours, but I think most people like routine/predictability and will also think the job in general isn’t as…important? If they can change their shifts/hours willy-nilly.

    6. Nusuth*

      I also wondered if the flexibility is acting against OP, but for different reasons. I may have been reading the post wrong, but if the hours are so “flexible” that they change week to week, unpredictably, OP might be deterring more reliable candidates who need a set schedule to organize around other part-time commitments. I wonder if OP could organize their own work/appointments all on 2-3 days of the week, or during consistent periods every day – otherwise you’re almost asking for an “on call” nanny.

        1. Green great dragon*

          I read it as being flexible for the employee, not expecting the employee to have full time availability.

      1. LCH*

        she did mention something about how her last great caretaker living nearby was “convenient for last minute shifts.” i took this to mean OP asking the caretaker to provide care at the last minute. hopefully this isn’t happening more than a few times a year.

    7. Green great dragon*

      Do you need to be clearer up front that you can be flexible with schedule but can’t flex once something is agreed, and be readier to find a new carer if they can’t work with that? Reliable people are out there.

      And if it’s costing you money when they cancel at short notice, say so! Not in an aggressive way, but someone may be looking at you as having lots of flexibility and not realise that actually it is a problem for you (my nanny also did not seem to realise this, perhaps because she’d worked for SAHMs before).

    8. Alison*

      I came here to say this as well but also to add that as a person who likes rules and structure and is also very reliable…I would not appreciate or want a job with the kind of flexibility it sounds like your offering. I know it sounds weird, but thinking about your particular circumstances makes me really uncomfortable. I would want there to be rules or a method or a regular schedule that *could* be deviated from with xx advanced knowledge. When you just say it’s flexible, how do I know how flexible is too flexible? How much time do you need for me to request time off? How can I plan the rest of my life if I don’t know when you need me? If you’re home all the time why can’t I come by whenever and distract the kids?

      Also, I don’t know if this is actually happening to you, but people who are more highly regulated and like to plan/structure their lives and/or have other things going on might prefer to know exactly what you want rather than be told the job can be basically whenever. I have also seen that kind of flexibility make even the most reliable and good employee really flounder and not meet expectations without knowing it, because the expectations weren’t clear.

    9. Blackcat*

      Yeah. I’ve hired part time nannies twice. Both times I’ve gone for college students with some childcare experience. Both times I’ve chosen someone who worked retail while in high school. I’ve found that really young folks who’ve been able to hold down a retail job for 6+mo are super reliable.
      I’ve also used language like “Schedule is negotiable, but will consist of 20-24 hours/week between the hours of 8am and 4pm.” I specifically say schedule is “negotiable” not “flexible”, and I ask about their preferred schedule when interviewing. Then the schedule is fixed. This has worked really well.

      1. JR*

        I like your distinction between flexible and negotiable. I also always emphasize that I can typically accommodate one-off schedule changes, but only with significant notice (like 2+ weeks).

  8. Jennifer*

    I think you sound wonderfully invested and flexible… and so the negative side of me feels that you may be being taken advantage of? You mention what other incentives or benefits can you offer, but your fees and flexibility sound competitive and generous – perhaps it’s time for some tough love? It’s not about being punative but setting some boundaries – if someone left for a risky holiday during the pandemic with such short notice I would be inclined to say either don’t come back or this is a final warning. Show that there are standards that you expect and stick to them, after all you are providing a decent framework for a job that you describe as bad so you should feel within your rights to stand up for yourself and make sure you find someone responsible.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I was thinking something similar. Perhaps she is *too* flexible? Perhaps setting a schedule would be better. If I were a student or had other part time work, for example, it would be easier for me to schedule my life around a very set schedule.

    2. cabbagepants*

      “When people tell you who they are, believe them.” It doesn’t even have to be punitive per se, just, when people show that they are flakey, believe that they are flakey and adjust your expectations accordingly.

  9. BabyElephantWalk*

    10-15 hours is barely even part time. It’s not stable part time. That’s high school student needs spending money part time, not “I need to pay my rent” part time. That’s the biggest thing that’s hurting you. Unless the pay is exceptionally high you are positioning this to be the last priority for anyone accepting the job.

    Also – I wonder if you are coming across scattered or wishy washy in your ad. All that flexibility is great, but it can also be overwhelming to have a potential boss say “well what works for you? when do you want to start”. Post preferred hours, and state that you can be flexible for the right candidate.

    You’re coming from way behind with those hours, and once you give people one more reason to object they will run.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Yes, I was coming to say this. You’re basically guaranteed to get people who have multiple other things going on in their lives (other jobs, school, etc.), most of which will be higher priority. It might be out of reach, but is there any way you could up it to a consistent 20 hours a week?

      I’d also be a little more consistent in the hours you’re expecting – not “fit me in around whatever else you have going on”, but every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning unless you both agree to a change by the Friday prior or something.

    2. Tuckerman*

      I was thinking the same thing about the hours. Maybe works well as a consistent 2-3 hours after school job for a student, but very few people look for jobs with that few hours. And very few full time jobs can accommodate a 10-15 hr/week side gig, even with the generous flexibility LW gives.

    3. Casual Librarian*

      I also came to say this. Advertising flexibility everywhere is coming across as a lot more pressure and unclear expectations of the provider. I’ve even found this in my office job. Sometimes it’s easier to have preferred hours with the caveat that it can be modified/adjusted for the right candidate. Then, you can talk about the flexibility more when you meet them, but allow examples of what you believe is acceptable and what is not. Emphasize communication and timelines that are important to you, and hopefully you’ll find a good match!

    4. sometimes part-time is enough*

      I don’t think the number of hours is the issue and is a weird thing to fixate on. Sure, many of the best childcare providers do it full-time, but there are plenty of people seeking only part-time work for a variety of reasons, and many of them are also good at what they do. So long as OP is being very clear about the number of hours (and there’s nothing here to indicate they aren’t), OP is not doing anything wrong. And there’s no reason for OP to pay for more hours than they need or can afford to try to attract a better provider. It sounds like the issue is more going through care.com which doesn’t have reliable providers rather than the number of hours.

      1. BabyElephantWalk*

        Sometimes, sure. But OP has had “several” providers ghost on her, and wants this job to be treated as a priority. She is concerned that when something comes up, this position is the first thing that people drop. Most people are not going to prioritize a job that provides 10 hours a week. I’m a parent of young children and this is not a stable childcare option – in my community people who are looking for these sort of hours part time care are inevitably looking again in 3 months, and again 3 months from that and so on. Finding a longer term, reliable solution for those hours is a bit of a unicorn.

        Which isn’t to say it’s universal. But if she wants to find someone stable and long term, you have to consider the pool of potential applicants and what they need to get out of working. Most people are not going to make a 10-15 hour job their priority. It will absolutely be the first thing dropped. If she wants to change that, she needs to look at what she can control. Yes she can advertise elsewhere, and probably should. But there are other factors here she can consider.

      2. A*

        This is an over simplification. No one is saying OP is doing ‘something wrong’, they are – as requested by the OP – sharing ideas on how to potentially improve their chances of attracting & retaining a strong candidate. OP doesn’t ‘have’ to change anything, however they are asking for opinions on what could be done differently.

    5. DorthVader*

      I think the other option if OP is going to offer few hours is to consider a flat rate per week. I nannied for 5 years and, when my younger nanny kid started full-time school we were able to negotiate a rate of (I think) $200/wk for a minimum of 9 hours. In the summer we reverted to my normal hourly rate and kept $200 as a minimum. So a flat rate (at the higher hourly total) may be worth considering!

    6. Malarkey01*

      Not only are those hours hard, but how are they distributed? Are you looking for 2-3 hours a day after school or 5 hours for 2 day during the day or after traditional work? You need to market to different groups to fill this. I’d honestly shoot for college kids and expect to need to rehire every semester.

      You also had a comment about needing someone subject to the whims or tastes of your kids- honestly with your needs I think you need to scale back to finding safe, kind providers but if your kids don’t love Karen or Chris that’s okay. Most kids have babysitters, teachers, caregivers that they love and others that are lukewarm, and that’s okay because your need is to have your children watched.

      1. BabyElephantWalk*

        That’s a good point about the distribution. 10-15 hours over 2 days is very different from 10-15 hours over 5 or six days.

        It’s just not a desirable job. And that’s ok, those jobs exist. They need to be done. But they generally do have a lot of turnover.

    7. RagingADHD*

      This is a great point. Ten to 15 hours a week is a job for people who aren’t fully supporting themselves on the pay and have other, major priorities that come before work: school, caregiving of their own, health issues, a passion project. Or for people who have multiple part-time jobs. Inevitably there will be conflicts.

      You may find someone like a college student or a semi-retired person who prefers a regular schedule, but getting the right one isn’t easy. Your other major source of candidates, moms with older kids in school, is probably not available right now due to school shutdowns or staggered schedules.

  10. Rachel Morgan*

    I had absolutely horrid luck with care.com. I set up more than a 6 appointments to meet with prospective carers (as in, the last stage before hiring them, to iron out the details etc) and every one of them cancelled.

    1. juliebulie*

      Yes – I am thinking that just because that site worked fine before (in another location) it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s your best option now.

    2. Tbubui*

      Yeah, care.com is terrible from a provider’s point of view as well. I was on there as a tutor for over a year and was ghosted by multiple clients! I would give them my availability and schedule a first appointment then they would cancel and not reschedule despite my reaching out to them. I don’t think many people, client or provider, are very reliable on there.

    3. PostalMixup*

      I think Care.com is particularly bad in pandemic times. There are just so many families that need care that didn’t previously! We tried to use it to hire someone to facilitate virtual learning and completely struck out. The vast majority of the responses we got ghosted the interview. Also, my SIL is a nanny, and she said there has been a shift of people who previously worked service industry jobs (that disappeared) trying to get into childcare. So there’s a lot of competition for quality providers, and a lot of providers with no experience (who may or may not be lower quality).

  11. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

    The first sentence really threw me! I was thinking your kids were actors and you were a “momager.” Am I just not familiar with hip lingo these days and manager is used in place of mom? I was baffled when “domestic engineer” had to be explained to me…

    1. juliebulie*

      Yes. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to put “parents” in parentheses after “manager”! Even if it is “manager for the lives.” That’s… part of parenting.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      If the LW presents it that way when hiring, she may be scaring off the more professional nannies/babysitters by sounding odd. I read that first sentence 3 or 4 times, and it doesn’t give me the best impression of the LW. I did wonder if she was trying to explain why she wrote AAM for a babysitting question.

      A parent is not “child’s life manager,” they’re a parent. LW is, however, a person hiring an outside contractor and the person managing the contractor’s performance and compensation.

  12. IDK*

    I have a friend who has been a nanny for about 20 years to several families. She goes through a professional agency who finds families for her. I believe she still interviews with the families so both parties can make sure it will be a good fit, but IDK the cost difference. I know she still keeps in touch with all of the families she has worked with whose children are now grown. So, it might be worth looking into as a way to find longevity and reliability.

  13. NotAnotherManager!*

    You’re looking for a less than part-time position with variable hours, which is not going to be appealing to people who need full-time wages and/or a fixed schedule. Your job requirements eliminate a lot of people who have done this sort of work professionally for years and requires that your provider have another source of income that works around your preferred hours.

    To the best you can, I would set specific hours and see if you can find someone who will work additional hours when you need it in addition to the set times. You might also look for a childcare share/pool to employ someone full-time to cover your needs and other families’ to guarantee someone fullt-time wages.

    1. Beckie*

      “Your job requirements eliminate a lot of people who have done this sort of work professionally for years and requires that your provider have another source of income that works around your preferred hours.”

      This is a really good point — it may be that the provider has one or two other gigs.

        1. Moke*

          Not really. Why are people forgetting part time workers are a thing? Lots of people do not work full time for many reasons. Moms who don’t want a gap in their resume, people with health conditions, people with a trust fund, people whose spouse is a high earner … many, many people just work part time.

          1. Autistic AF*

            How many of those would want extremely part-time work in close contact with others during a pandemic, though?

            1. hbc*

              There’s a fair number of empty-nest retirees who could use some supplementary income and love kids but don’t have the energy or desire to chase kids 40 hours a week. I’ve hired a few who were excellent.

          2. RagingADHD*

            And many of those people, especially moms and folks with health conditions, often have urgent, unpredictable, high-priority conflicts that can make it very hard to be 100% reliable at a job that requires you to be physically present at a set time.

            You can work wierd hours to make up time and meet deadlines for a lot of jobs. Not childcare.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Exactly. And trust-funders and spouses of high-earners tend to be more drawn to non-profit, volunteer, and good-of-the-community work, not a personal childcare gig. At least around here. To say nothing of the complicating factor of COVID.

              It’s not that I’m unaware part-time work exists, but part-time work with variable hours and small children is not a great fit for a lot of people and is limiting the applicant pool. Were I looking for such a thing, I’d use an agency and be open to a nanny share or even considering hosting an au pair. Finding people with whom I trust my children, could afford, and fit our family schedule was one of the most stressful things we dealt with when my kids were small.

              1. Riverlady*

                I was thinking just that – care for two small children by yourself is HARD, emotionally draining, thankless work (plus covid risk!). It’s not exactly the kind of fulfilling charity role most people with time on their hands and an urge to Do Good will take up.

          3. MassMatt*

            I don’t think people are forgetting PT workers are a thing. It’s just that they are VASTLY outnumbered by the numbers of people who are underemployed and trying to make ends meet with multiple part-time jobs. This is only accelerating with the “gig economy”.

            Most people driving ubers or working 12 hours a week at a grocery store, or as a nanny, do not have trust funds.

          4. Paperdill*

            ^^This exactly.
            I work 2 days a week because that is what works for our family. I have a rotten time getting care for my 3 kids because I’m not commuting to the “3 day minimum” a lot of of providers have. We’ve even been asked to leave some services we were already in because another family came along wanting more hours than we had.

          5. mgguy*

            I fall in a weird gap where I have a full time, decently(not high) paying professional job as a tenure track professor. I’m planning on retiring from this position assuming I get tenure, and the money is definitely there down the road.

            I’ve been hunting for a part time job that would be something I enjoy for a couple of reasons. The last one I applied/interviewed for was at a newly opening hardware store. I’d like to think I know a fair bit about the “nuts and bolts”(no pun intended) of the products, and in fact on my visits into the store looking for something like a bolt or other odds-and-ends piece I’ve had 3 people trying to help me and none who could figure out what on earth I meant by a “Grade 8 1/4-20 1/2″ hex head bolt” and I ended up finding it myself.

            In any case, like I said I have a few reasons, none of which might be overly obvious. One of those is that I don’t pay social security at my current full time position, and from other jobs I’m 8 “work credits” away from the required 40 to draw social security when I retire. Consequently, I’m looking for a job that will pay into social security and let me rack up a couple of work credits a year. Also, I don’t want a minimum wage job but I’m not expecting big bucks, and I mostly just want some extra pennies to throw into the travel piggy bank for my wife and I when we’re actually able to do so again(one of our favorite things to do). Finally, I haven’t been in this area long, but I just enjoy being out and interacting with people.

            In any case, the last couple of places I’ve been firm that I am open to any weekend hours and any weekdays after 5:00PM, and that I would work with them on specific hours but probably not more than 20 a week and would be okay with fewer. I realize that’s similar to what a lot of high school students and the like will want, but I’d also expect those to be the busiest times for a lot of retail jobs. My work history speaks for itself on reliability and longevity in jobs, but I’ve been told that the hours I requested were “not acceptable”. On the last one, they’d only guarantee 10 hours a week, which would be fine, but was told that I had to be willing to work a “flexible schedule” not just on the days and times I told them I was available. In other words, they expected 40+ hours a week availability and would only promise 10 for a $12/hour job.

            End of my rant, but yeah there again I don’t mind short hours even if that was say 5-7 5 days a week and don’t want anything more than part time.

  14. Enby*

    I was a nanny for MANY years, never particularly well paid and never with benefits like sick time, etc. That said, I was always punctual and showed up at agreed-upon dates unless I was sick or had a legitimate emergency, in which case I communicated that as soon as humanly possible.

    I would recommend having a conversation with this child care provider (and any that you hire in the future) and saying something along the lines of “I have noticed that you are often late or change your plans, which has a big impact on my work schedule – and having reliable child care is the reason that I hired you. I consider this a real job, and I try to pay you and treat you like it is – I except the same from you, especially in terms of things like punctuality, scheduling, and communication. From my point of view, that hasn’t really been happening, and I’m wondering if there is anything about this job that you are unhappy with? I’m open to hearing more about what is going on for you because I would like to keep working together – I would love to do some problem-solving with you if you would also like to stay.”
    The wording on that isn’t perfect, but the point is to be direct and name it – this is a real job, why aren’t you treating it like one? Is there something that is bothering you?

    1. Enby*

      In the future, you could communicate these expectations clearly when you hire someone – you get to say outright “even though you’re coming into my home, this is a real job and I expect the child care providers I hire to treat it as such. In return, I will do the same!”

    2. Emily Elizabeth*

      I like this wording! Childcare can be such a fraught personal relationship, but if you’re being a cognizant household manager like it sounds like you are, that also includes the ability to give feedback and have a frank conversation about the expectations of the job.

    3. Name Required*

      “From my point of view, that hasn’t really been happening, and I’m wondering if there is anything about this job that you are unhappy with? I’m open to hearing more about what is going on for you because I would like to keep working together – I would love to do some problem-solving with you if you would also like to stay.”

      I like this wording in general, but I would not bring subjective emotions into the mix. The provider’s punctuality isn’t dependent on her liking her job. I might say instead, “I need you to be here at the times we agree upon. That hasn’t been happening, like when [insert examples here]. Can you commit to being here on time, on the days that we discuss? If it would help, I can commit to scheduling [x amount of time] ahead, or we can adjust your typical schedule to [alternative set times that would also work for OP] if the current days or time are not working for you. ”

      Let the provider decide if they can commit or not, and have them manage their own emotions and barriers to punctuality.

      1. boo bot*

        Yes please. I feel like when I was young I had so many frustrating conversations (not just at work) where instead of telling me to fix whatever I was doing wrong, the other person would assign me some kind of emotion and then insist I explain myself.

        I would have to sit through this confusing drama about my secret unhappiness, or whatever, and eventually it would emerge that I needed to come in 5 minutes earlier, or something. People meant well, I guess, but it’s exhausting.

    4. Quinalla*

      Yes, if you haven’t been yet, be 100% clear that while you are very flexible with the schedule prior to setting it, once it is set you need it to be adhered to except in emergencies and that includes being punctual. They need to give you X days notice if it isn’t an emergency (whatever X is that works for you). Maybe even briefly explain that you need the schedule set after a certain point because you are making appointments with clients, etc. that once made are difficult to change and carry a cancelation fee. And I agree with the other posters, I would not bring emotion into it either. Just ask if there is something that needs to be adjusted to make it work.

      If you have already been clear and they still can’t be punctual or have many last minute cancelations, then you do need to hire someone else. I agree that looking to local colleges is a great idea. You won’t have the person forever, but they are more likely to want a job like this with limited hours, flexibility for class schedules, etc. It is a really good fit for a college student and an outgoing one might be able to recommend a friend to take their place even.

  15. Cascadia*

    I speak from experience as someone who has worked as a nanny and as an infrequent babysitter through care.com, albeit almost 10 years ago now. It sounds like the person you have now is a bad fit, but I also wonder if perhaps you’re attracting flaky people by being too flexible in your scheduling. Don’t get me wrong, flexibility is great to offer, but perhaps this is so flexible that your job ad is attracting people who aren’t great at following schedules, and like to go on spontaneous vacations. I’m not sure if you can make this person work better – if you want to give it a shot I would sit them down and have a conversation to reset expectations and see if they are still interested in the job. If you end up posting it again, I would maybe try a job posting that is perhaps slightly less flexible. You can always show more flexibility later on if they end up being a reliable good fit for your family.

    1. Enby*

      Agreed! I strongly recommend setting a regular schedule and making it clear that you are open to changes within reason and with enough advance notice, but not necessarily talking about the job itself as flexible.

    2. CR*

      Agreed. I worked as a full-time nanny for years. I was very rarely late or sick because I knew my employers had rigid work schedules and I had to be there for the kids. I can see how a job with minimal hours and a very flexible schedule might feel more wishy-washy and easier to bail on.

  16. Beckie*

    LW, does this childcare provider know that you’re hiring them because you have work obligations, not “just” because you are taking some time to yourself. Given the low number of hours per week (10-15), the flexibility, and your status as a solo parent, I could see that the provider may not realize that it’s to cover work hours.

    Would more consistent hours work for your work schedule? If so, it might be worth having a conversation with the provider to see if they prefer that — lots of people (myself included) prefer a fixed schedule rather than one that’s all over the map. She might be finding out the hard way that an irregular schedule is just not for her.

    Either way, it seems like it’s time to have a conversation with this provider about why this situation is not currently working for all of you. We could brainstorm all day and still not hit on the reason this provider is currently flaking on you.

    Finally, if it works with your schedule, have you considered preschool? Many small preschools are taking very good COVID precautions, and they will provide a lot more reliability (and community!) for you.

    1. Clisby*

      I second the idea of checking into preschools. Both of mine attended preschool, and – years before Covid – that preschool had pretty strict sanitizing routines. Because little kids are gross. I’m sure they’ve had to step it up, but sanitizing surfaces multiple times a day would have been par for the course in that preschool.

    2. Ally McBeal*

      Looking into part-time preschool or daycare options is a great idea. I worked at a daycare when I was in high school, and a couple of the moms only dropped their kids off one or two days a week. Those moms had fairly high household incomes (one was the wife of an NFL player), so I don’t know if my daycare prorated or if the moms paid the full 5-day rate and ate the cost because they could, but I bet some programs do prorate based on the number of days you need care.

  17. childcare*

    When I was looking for part-time in-home care for my daughter (while i worked from home) I had better luck posting on job boards of local universities. I found that most of the folks on care.com were looking for full-time (so even if they accepted part-time it would like only be until they found full-time), whereas the students were only looking for part-time work and they had predictable class schedules.

    1. Cascadia*

      Yes, this is a good idea! I worked as a nanny both during and immediately following getting my masters in education. I didn’t want more than 10-15 hours a week, and I appreciated any job that would work with my student schedule. Post-grad school, I worked as an assistant teacher in a school from 7:30 – 1pm every day, and then as a nanny after school from 3-6pm every day. I loved that nanny job because it was consistent and reliable, and the schedule of the kiddo’s school matched up my other school quite nicely, so we had many of the same days off, etc.

    2. PolarVortex*

      Agreed, I’ve known a lot of people who were in teaching (for the younger grades) or early childhood development degrees that considered it useful experience to be a nanny. Plus it was generally set hours to work your academic schedule around which is always nice – and it was never late shifts like you’d get bartending or working at food services.

      I also know that a lot of people who recently graduated with these degrees are having a hard time finding jobs with the lockdown and are taking up nannying jobs.

    3. PersephoneUnderground*

      This is where my mother apparently found our nannies when I was young (in the 90s). Low-tech era, so it was actual ads in the local paper in the areas around the local community colleges, but same concept of targeting college students.

    4. Jay*

      I came here to suggest this. We hired college students for years to help with after-school care and transportation. I have friends who found sitters from the community college child-care training programs. We’re lucky enough to have a small four-year college less than two miles from our house. I talked with the Hillel director and Chaplain and asked them to connect me with sophomores or juniors for whom they would give a recommendation. That way I figured it would be someone who had adjusted to college life. I found a lovely young woman starting her sophomore year and thought we’d be set for three years. Unfortunately, she transferred at the end of that year – but she recommended a friend who eventually recommended another friend and that’s how we went for seven years (until my kid got her driver’s license). I paid a few dollars an hour over minimum wage, well over the standard babysitting rate for our area, and if they drove my daughter in their car I paid mileage. I also made sure the laundry room was free for them at least once a week, which was a VERY popular perk. It was regular hours – 3-5 two afternoons a week, 3-9 on our “date night.” My kid is now 20 and I’m still in touch with almost all the young women who helped us out.

        1. Riverlady*

          I love it too, as long as you don’t mind them putting in a load while they care for the kids! I feel like this should be common sense, but it was a Very Big Deal when I was an au pair and the mom found out I’d started a load mid-afternoon (while one kid was in school and the other on my hip). Apparently my “focus should have been 100% on the children”.

          1. Maeve*

            As a former nanny (and former au pair)…wow, that is messed up. Children can survive you putting in a load of laundry.

    5. Batgirl*

      People used to post jobs on our university intranet when I was a trainee teacher and I know of a few very reliable people who got work this way and they didn’t have any interest in full time.

  18. pretzelgirl*

    Are you on any community sites on Facebook? You could try posting there. I have found a few sitters this way. I also agree it maybe the hours/pay it may not be enough for someone needing to pay bills. They would likely need another job on top of it. If not I would try a daycare. Alot of daycares around me, have been realtively COVID free. In fact even in our local schools, our elementary schools have very few cases. It seems to be the middle/high schools that see alot more cases.

  19. MsClaw*

    Is this just a Bad Job?
    Kinda, yes. A quarter-time job watching multiple children is just not a great gig. Nothing to do with you or your kids, but that’s just by its very nature not a job that’s going to pull in a lot of people.

    One thing to consider as well — your flexibility might actually be a problem. It might be better to establish the specific hours you need childcare for. Since this is extremely unlikely to be the only thing your carer has going (they’re not going to be paying the rent on 12 hours a week), people looking for a job like this probably already have at least one other job. When someone is scanning the site for gigs, they may be looking for something that is MWF 8-12 or whatever instead of ‘flexible’ which might read as ‘highly variable’ and therefore likely to be in frequent conflict with their other jobs.

    And right now is just a rough time to be finding childcare. Lots and lots of people are using nannies, au pairs, etc who normally would have their kids in school or in group day care, so you are competing against a lot of other families looking for carers. The good ones are going to get snapped up quick and can afford to be choosy about the situations they take on because they can easily hop jobs right now.

    1. AVP*

      Also – if they’re working multiple jobs and one is retail, that schedule is going to get jerked around a lot just by the nature of retail, which adds a whole new wrinkle into your schedule. On top of the fact that those are kind of transient hours so if something goes wrong (car trouble, family needs help, surprise school assignment, etc) it’s easy to blow this one off instead of the other things.

      One other option might be to do this as more of a “share” system with 1-2 other families so that you can guarantee more hours per week and lock up the providers’ schedule better.

      1. MsClaw*

        Thank you. Luckily for me, I have a teen so I haven’t experienced this first hand. But I hear daily from colleagues who are struggling with childcare issues. I really feel for them.

  20. Momma Bear*

    I would ask the neighborhood parent group or listserv. Many people here post when they need someone or if their situation changes and a good, reliable person becomes available, or to ask about a nanny share. I think part of the issue may be that the people OP hires may be looking at the job as a babysitting vs nanny gig and aren’t as invested in it as a serious job. OP might also do better with an agency. We once hired a nanny outside of an agency and it was spectacularly awful. Ended up putting the kids in a regular daycare center instead.

    I agree to set a schedule vs being too flexible. They seem to be taking advantage of that and a schedule would allow everyone to plan. I would be very upset if someone was consistently late – 60 minutes!!

    If one of your concerns is that the children bond with someone and then they vanish, perhaps bring up the resignation notice period in the interview or when discussing a contract.

  21. Person from the Resume*

    consistently 15-60 minutes late and / or agree to work dates that they end up not bring available

    I don’t necessarily have a suggestion for a solution, but your current provider is a flake. There’s really no reason or excuse to be constantly late or to agree to schedule which she changes last minute. For whatever reason, this job is not her priority. Does she have another job (better paying or less flexible) that she’s prioritizing, or is she just a late/flakey person in general, or has she realized that you don’t mete out consequences for her lateness and flakiness so she doesn’t bother?

    Whatever, I recommend you start looking for a replacement while giving her a serious talk saying if she continues to be late and change her schedule then you’ll stop using her as a babysitter.

    1. Cascadia*

      Yes seriously. This is pretty unacceptable, especially if it’s happening more than once. Sit down the provider, give them a list of your expectations, perhaps a reset, and then institute some consequences, or let them go if it continues to not work out.

    2. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

      I also had to read it 3 or 4 times, I was very confused. I was a nanny for several families, both live-in and not, in my 20s and one of the moms worked from home. I really thought I was missing something in the letter. Your reply put it much more succinctly than me – if the hiring mom used words like this, I’d personally see it as a red flag, not a quirk generally, but I’ve also had some crazy experiences when I was in that line of work. I’m all for humor and sarcasm but that simple wording struck me a certain way for sure! I guess I didn’t get the joke? But if that’s how it’s posted, it’s highly possible it’s affecting her hiring pool. Did the word “nanny” go out of style?? Or simply child care provider? I understand words and terms change, I just didn’t get the memo I guess.

      1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

        oops this was a reply to above! somehow it ended up here, but for some reason now I can’t see a reply button above. it’s probably the crap computer i’m on, sorry!

  22. Colette*

    Have you been clear about what kind of flexibility is OK and what is not, and how much notice you need for a change in plans? E.g. “I need you to work 10-15 hours during the week, with the schedule set at least 2 weeks in advance. I understand you may have things come up at the last minute such as illness or emergencies you have to deal with, but I would expect that those would be a rare occurrence. Otherwise, I’d need you to stick with the set schedule.”

    It’s pretty common for people to think “I set my own schedule” means “I can make changes at the last minute.”

  23. sssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    With small children, flexibility is key but ironically, punctuality and following a schedule is also very much key for happier kids. So, you’re not being petty about punctuality at all. Especially if you are relying on the sitter to show up so you can attend meetings on time. A day’s notice for being away for a week (unless you’re terribly sick) is also not reasonable for any job, no matter how flexible you are.

    This person is working for you and it is a JOB. Therefore, it should be treated like one and boundaries, rules, schedules and expectations are to be laid out and respected. There is flexible and then there are limits – even a flexible tree branch will break if bent far enough. If this person cannot do this – no matter the reason (age, inherent flakiness, ADHD, whatever), then they are not a right fit for this role and they should be warned and then let go.

  24. thoughts on this*

    Just a note on the advice to go through an agency: agencies (at least the ones in my NYC and surrounding areas) usually advertise on the same childcare-finding sites that parents do (both the local posting boards and larger nationwide sites like care). So I don’t necessarily think that will improve the pool of candidates since they’re drawing from the same source.

    Like you, we lucked out with our first part-time nanny, who stayed with us for years until graduating from nursing school. Since then, I’ve found that checking references and asking a LOT of questions improved the quality of subsequent providers.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        That would be my expectation. The agency should be doing vetting and background/reference checks, not just posting the jobs, before sending candidates on. That’s what they’re being paid to do – find suitable candidates, not just candidates with a pulse.

  25. Jennifer (2)*

    I think part of the problem is that you need someone that is available part-time for differing hours. That’s not going to be doable for a lot of people. The only people who might be able to swing that would be high school/college students who just due to lack of experience and knowledge of professional norms, are prone to being a bit flaky. #notallcollegestudents

    I think using a daycare center that allows part-time hours, or doing a thorough reference check before hiring anyone else.

  26. TCO*

    My mom owned a nanny placement agency for nearly 30 years and I can attest that a professional service will get you better results. A lot of families became her clients after being frustrated by care.com and how much harder it was to weed out bad candidates from the good. A professional service will have already done a lot of the screening, and the nannies they represent will have already demonstrated their ability to reliably make it through some interviewing, paperwork, etc. A service isn’t cheap, but it might cost less than you think–and could be worth it if reliable childcare is essential to your career.

    I also wonder if you’re inadvertently getting worse candidates by being so flexible. The flexibility would seem like a big perk, but it might also be drawing people whose lives are already busy/chaotic who are deluding themselves in thinking that they can squeeze this one other obligation in “because it’s so flexible.” You might have better luck by stating a more structured schedule upfront and then giving that flexibility later once the nanny has demonstrated some reliability. I know it might be tough to experiment with this when your children’s well-being is in the balance, but it’s worth considering.

    You’re right that nannying has its challenges–the pay is low, the benefits aren’t great, and working in such a family setting can leave a lot of room for poor treatment and dysfunction. But having worked on and off in my mom’s office for many years, I can promise you that there are many excellent nannies out there who do this work because this is their career and they’re passionate and skilled. It sounds like you offer a decent job by nannying standards, and you might benefit from trying some different tactics for finding those candidates.

    1. TCO*

      Oh, and I’ll echo a lot of other commenters here by saying that you should target your advertising (should you decide to keep finding nannies on your own) to people who only want/need one part-time job. Students, as others have mentioned, could be a good source. You might post the job through local colleges. Retirees could be another group to target.

      1. often trapped under a cat*

        Seconding older people, though that might be a problem at the moment because of the pandemic; most of the retirees I know are trying to limit their own exposure so might not be looking for work outside their home/bubble. Also you want someone who can physically keep up with your child.

        My daughter’s nanny was an older woman who didn’t start working as a nanny until she was around 50 and her kids were all grown (though the youngest still lived at home). I think we were her fourth position and she had been at least two years at her two most recent jobs. She wasn’t interested in full time work BUT did want more than 10-15 hours/week–it wasn’t economically worth it to her to work such few hours. She did three days a week for me for almost three years.

      2. Kiko*

        That’s what I was thinking as well. I worked 10-15 hours/week as a college student for a wonderful single mother. It was a great set up for me as it gave me enough time to focus on my studies. I already had some experience in child care, so the pay was far better than a retail gig. I even coordinated my class schedule with the mom so I could be available when she needed me. It was a win for both of us!

  27. Clydesdales and Coconuts*

    You do not mention what you are paying these people, nor do you mention what tasks you require of them while they are there? You also do not mention if you are involved and engaged fully in work or if you tend to follow them around while they are there with your kids.
    You are hiring babysitters off of an internet platform- care.com is ideal for college kids or high schoolers looking to earn a few extra bucks now and then. If you want a professional licensed child care provider then you will not normally find them on care.com. Look to your state childcare commission for referrals. Just know that when you hire a professional child care provider they will be interviewing you and your children to ensure that you will be a good fit for their program, you will likely have a contract for a set number of hours and days, as they can only have a certain number of children based on their licensing requirements, and you will be expected to pick up/ drop off on time to fit their daily schedules of activities. The pros do this every day and are the most reliable option.( written as a former licensed childcare professional)

    1. TheBurg*

      In some areas, Care.com really is the best/only option even for professional nannies. My sister has been a nanny for a decade now and as terrible as care.com is (for parents AND providers), it really is the best option in our city and how she’s found her last two jobs.

  28. Vermont Green*

    On top of the pay, add something like a $50 bonus every time she goes four weeks without any deviations in the schedule she has committed to. If she misses a day or is late, start the clock again.
    When you hire your next person, find out how much an agency would charge you. Start at just a bit less, and promise that after six months of solid commitment you will bring the person up to the rate you’d pay the agency. If you pay very high wages, respect and commitment to the job will follow.
    (I needed care for my aging dad, and in my area, the agency paid elder care workers $12, but charged me $20 per hour. Once I started offering $20/hour directly to the caregiver for care for my dad, I was able to retain two excellent aides who handled the scheduling between themselves. Of course, I couldn’t hire anyone away from the agency directly.)

  29. Knope knope knope*

    I am having a horrible time with care.com. But right now my mom watches my daughter while I work from home (I know I am exceptionally lucky. However she is burning out and needs me to find a nanny ASAP.) here’s what I’ve found: less flexibility in the schedule is better for everyone. I felt like as a WFH employee I could swing it, but in reality a last minute “I won’t make it today” ruins my ability to function well at work, keep appointments, etc. sometimes I find I have EXTRA time now because I’ve removed the flexibility, but that’s actually a good thing. As you know there’s really no such thing as extra time. There’s always more to do, and sometimes it just helps to catch a mental break. My mom gets this now and it has improved communication dramatically. I also think it’s helping with the hiring process. The most qualified and seemingly dependable nannies want full time work. While I’d like to avoid that for my budget, a non-flexibile schedule allows a qualified nanny to have a second (Covid-approved) part time job. I’m treating it now the way I do my employees at work. Rules around notice and time off requests just make things run smoother and remove ambiguity. And given how this is impacting you, it doesn’t sound like you can actually afford to be as flexible as your being.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I agree about describing what you mean by flexible when hiring.

      I would not be flexible or ask the nanny to be flexible on a weekly or daily basis. That means neither of you get consistency. Someone working part time may likely want another job.

      OTOH in the job ad, I might stress that you’re flexible on how the two of you arrange the regular schedule of ## hours a week which would allow people who already have another job or commitments work out a schedule that works for both of you.

      1. Emma*

        Yeah, this would be my approach. My current job was advertised as “#hrs, schedule to be agreed”, and during the interview we discussed what schedule would work for both me and the company, and then we stuck to that schedule for 3 years until the boss asked me to change it due to changing business needs. It sounds like this is more what LW needs, rather than a routinely flexible schedule.

  30. Jennifer (2)*

    I also would suggest joining some local parent groups and asking around, or asking any local friends if you have any who have young kids. You may be able to share a childcare provider with another family that also only needs help a few hours a week. That way the provider is actually able to get actual part-time hours.

  31. pancakes*

    I’d think anyone with other options and/or much experience would prefer to not respond to someone who makes a point of calling themselves the “manager (also parent)” of their own children. That’s likely to be a red flag to anyone who’s worked with or for someone who seems unable to separate their work and their identity, and I’m wondering what the letter writer thinks it conveys that “parent” doesn’t.

    1. TechWorker*

      I think it’s a JOKE because they’re writing to a work blog I highly doubt OP uses that terminology otherwise.

      More importantly Alison said the same above and then closed the thread, so maybe don’t pile on LW here instead!

      1. pancakes*

        I saw that after I posted and agree it’s worth considering, but I also wonder if it is a joke, has the help-wanted ad included a joke as well? The risk of being misunderstood is too high, I think. It’s a fine thing to joke about amongst friends, but prospective candidates can’t be sure how seriously to take it.

  32. RM*

    Not a childcare provider, but someone who has spent many years working 2-3 low-paying part time jobs at a time.
    The total (small) amount of their paychecks may just stop seeming worth it over time, or after what *you* would consider a small life change. Basically the total amount of money you pay is only worth it if the job is also convenient with the schedule of their other job(s) and their current location and other stuff going on their lives. A job that suddenly chews up 2 extra hours or $X per day or adds an unsafe leg to their commute is suddenly not remotely worth it in a way that isn’t true of full time or even 50% jobs. Also, if they get a better job in childcare or other household employment, it’s not uncommon that they would forfeit the job if they have to wait 2 weeks to start. I know we’re perceived as unprofessional blue collar workers but actually embarrassment at seeming flakey or unprofessional can lead people to ghost rather than look you in they eye and explain they can’t afford not to take the other job, and the other job starts on Monday or never.

    1. Texan In Exile*

      I am working with a guy who wanted some part time, temporary help (for $10/hour) before Christmas to get orders out from his workshop. (Average item price ~$500.)

      I sent him a reliable, unemployed friend, but the business owner told me that he didn’t like that my unemployed friend wasn’t so interested once he learned that the workshop is 30 miles away from his house.

      I suggested that the business owner might want to offer to pay mileage.

      He took umbrage at that, writing that he wanted someone committed to the job.

      A temp job. Part time. For $10/hour. Where the pay for four hours barely covers wear and tear on the car. (And might not even, once taxes are taken out.)

  33. Rain In Spain*

    We used a local agency for a while- benefits: if you had a full time nanny (i think 30+ hours/week) they had on-call, ‘backup’ staff that could fill in if your usual provider called out, rates were low. downsides: more like a babysitter than a nanny (it depends what you’re looking for- we wanted someone to actively engage with our child all day, encourage learning, etc), for us with covid we were concerned about a lot of the backup nannies being college students and potential for exposure there. We had a reliable nanny we liked well enough for a few months until she decided to change careers, and then we had a hard time finding one we liked through the agency.

    We tried a few different websites including care and sittercity. We had better luck on care, but as others have mentioned I think a lot of it depends on who’s available in your area. Like you, we prefer to have a contract and pay properly (taxes/etc), and a surprising number of nannies were NOT comfortable with that. We had a very thorough interview process. We managed to find a very experienced (15+ years, early childhood education background, stellar references with history of long term placements) nanny we pay appropriately for her experience. We also regularly offer raises/bonuses. The sense of relief I have with a reliable nanny who’s invested in our child’s development is… astounding. I hadn’t realized just how much it was weighing on me until we settled in with her!

    I think part of the challenge for you is going to be finding someone reliable for part-time work. I agree that offering set hours might be the way to go- eg 15 hours a week between the hours of 9-5 (or whatever works for you), so you can offer *some* flexibility but not give them full reign over the schedule. It might also help if you know someone you can split a full time nanny with!

  34. el knife*

    “i’m the manager of children’s lives” friend you are their parent please relax

    part-time in-home work sucks. you’re going to get flakey people, and you’ll need to get lucky to find someone good

    1. insightful*

      el knife cut right to it. OP, I suggest you reframe your situation. You’re not a project manager, your house is not a factory, your kids’ lives are not a deliverable. Don’t try to impose a corporate management mind-set on a single mom trying to hire child care. I think this attitude adjustment might bring you more success … OR …

      As an alternative, go all-in the other way. Organize a syndicate of similarly situated parents, maybe three or four who need similar services. This syndicate or a subset of its members will write a contract, recruit and hire one committed full-time employee who works 10-15 hours at each house, and design a schedule that works for everyone involved. Professionalize your approach to the problem.

      1. Hamish*

        There have already been multiple threads pointing out that the “manager” comment was probably a joke given the type of blog this is.

    2. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

      It seems comments like these are closing threads.

      A few of us mentioned the wording as being…off putting or confusing to say the least, but seems some of us didn’t get the joke, and I hope OP isn’t offended by this! I wasn’t trying to offend, just confused. Sometimes things I say/write make total sense and are funny to others when they are not, it happens to the best of us!

      1. Jennifer (2)*

        Honestly, I would laugh. It would let me know that we had a similar sense of humor and would get along well together.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I do think it was a joke, but even if it wasn’t it’s been noted and I don’t want people piling on the OP about it (so am closing threads that start to do that).

      3. Budgie Buddy*

        I think people are picking up on one of those “JK but for realz you guys” vibes, that hopefully wasn’t intended by OP. Some people do “joke” as a way of presenting what they really feel in a more non-threatening way they can take back if needed.

        OP seems a little… intense, maybe? A bit over-explainy to me. Hopefully the advice to set clearer, simpler expectations will be helpful to them and a future nanny.

  35. Valentine Wiggin*

    Just a thought: if you’re unable to offer more hours, perhaps you could nanny share? That’s big in my area where a couple families fully employ a nanny – you may only need her for 10-15 hours, another family needs her for 20-25. It’s a way to get more professional full time help. Of course it’s not without it’s own complications, but just throwing it out there.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yes, I came here to suggest nanny share as well. Or hiring a stay-at-home mom who brings her kid to your house while she nannies your kids. For 10-15 hours a week, it’s going to be hard to find someone who treats this gig like a real priority, so it’s worth considering unique structures or other types of applicants who are a better fit for this arrangement.

  36. Observer*

    You can’t change the person you are dealing with – this is not a matter of incentives. That’s probably the first thing you need to realize. People are who they are, not who you WANT them to be. Sure, it’s more convenient for you to not have to find a new person. But that’s NOT going to change them, and you need to accept that.

    Have you had a chat with the people who run care.com? Is there some community there? Maybe you’ll get some good feedback or suggestions there.

    Given the number of hours, OF COURSE your job is always going to be the first thing to go. Expecting people to actually quit, though is not unreasonable.

    I also think that you may be offering TOO much flexibility up front. Not that you should not be flexible but if you are describing the job this way, you are probably creating a false impression.

    You may be looking in the wrong place – 10-15 hours a week may not be what a more “professional” type of person is looking for. On the other hand, I think that faux-professional veneer you are using may be off-putting to genuine professionals on the one hand, and obscuring your vision. You are a parent, not “the manager of two lives”. Sure part of your job as a parent is the management of their care, but that’s a different thing.

    I’m not saying don’t be professional. But in this context, being professional is not about pretending that your relationship with your kids is that of “business manager”. It’s about things like clear expectations, respectful behavior, reasonable levels of consistency, paying on time (and fairly) etc.

    1. Crazy Random Happenstance*

      We had an issue with care.com and corporate was non-responsive. We had found three great options for a monthly date night babysitter. Punctuality + happy kids + coming home to a clean kitchen & sleeping children = success. Each provider had been in our house at least twice but after half a year they all ghosted us. Oh well, life happens, we still have our website membership, so we restart the search. But now we’re blocked from looking at providers since my husband “failed” the background check and care.com had told the providers this which is why they had stopped responding. They had confused him with someone with the same name, born a different decade, and of a different race. Both men were born in different states but since the first letter of those states was the same, that counts as a connection, right? [sigh]. It didn’t matter that his first name was in the top 5 for boys in the 70s or that our last name is pretty common. We tried to correct the situation with corporate for about a month with no movement. We almost started a new account under my name since I hadn’t been background checked yet. Then it hit us – wait – they had let providers into our home for months without a processed background check. What if the same thing happened with providers? What if they were able to go into homes with only a pending background check? And that’s such a false sense of security for providers if only one adult in the home needs a background check for the entire household to “pass”. So we closed our blocked account, got a refund for our last 2 months, and have shared this story whenever care.com comes up in conversation. The background check was our main driver in using care.com. If it is for you also, I’d suggest asking when background checks actually “pass” and providers should compare the number of adults in the home to the number of background checks processed.

  37. Gene Parmesan*

    I’ve seen several comments here about the flexibility and/or limited number of hours being a hindrance. In my experience, these factors have not been an issue. But I will add, I live in a college town and have hired all of my child care workers (~5ish over the course of several years) through placing ads in the university’s job bulletin for students. A 10-15 hour gig with some flexibility is exactly what college students seem to be looking for. To the OP, if you have a college in your area, this may be a good source of potential workers.

    1. Observer*

      I think that that was where a lot of comments were trying to go – that if you have 10-15 hours a week, what you are looking for is not a “professional nanny” but “student looking to make a bit of money between classes”.

    2. Malarkey01*

      I think we need flexibility to be a little more defined. If flexibility means I’m okay with you working 1-3 on M/W and 4-7 T/Th I can see that being a huge bonus to a student. If flexibility means next week I need you to work M/W/Th and then I have no idea what days the following week yet, that’s going to be a mess for both parties.

      1. Urt*

        Especially since “lived five minutes ago, which was great for last minute things” reads a bit like they are looking for full-time on demand availability for part-time cost.

  38. post-er*

    I would also recommend going through an agency. I had someone come to our hours 9 hours a week early in the pandemic and went through an agency and it was a great fit. They were always on time and very communicative. However, I did have set hours each week (MWF 9-12) so they were able to schedule another client on TTH, and then get somewhere closer to full-time hours. It costs extra but they did a great job screening candidates and checking references.

  39. Sarah*

    I have a small child and employee a nanny. My first thought echoes Alison’s- are you checking (multiple) references? In my experience, other parents are very candid with me when they provide a reference (I am also a hiring manager and have found that I actually get more balanced references when doing nanny reference checks then when I have done reference checks in my professional capacity). For example, our current nanny doesn’t really pick up after the kids but I knew that going in because her previous employers told me. But for me it was a trade off for a loving, involved nanny who takes them on adventures everyday which is more important to me. So I would get really clear on your deal breakers (i.e. being on time) and ask a lot of questions about that.

    As for finding a nanny, I haven’t personally used care.com but I have heard similar ghosting stories from other parents who use that service. I have had more luck with a local mom facebook group. If your area has a local active parenting facebook or other type of group, that is a great place to find nannies.

    I also give a lot of the benefits you give, but we also provide money towards buying health insurance from the public market. There is a tax break on doing that so something to look into.

  40. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Have you considered an international au-pair who lives with you? I was one in Germany and it changed my life! A friend got one from England for their family in Texas. Probably not a lot of call for it during Covid when an au-pair might miss out on experiences, but I can imagine someone from a really locked down country would see American restrictions as quite lenient (just commenting on what my European friends in America have observed). Go through a good service, not just a matching organization for sure!

    1. often trapped under a cat*

      My understanding from other parent friends is that at the moment, au pair agencies are not bringing new au pairs into the US and that those who are already here are in great demand.

    2. JustaTech*

      Both of my friends who had international au-pairs lost them because they quarantined very tightly. One just went home (she wasn’t seeing any of the US, so it made sense) and the other quit to work with a different family in a state that wasn’t doing lockdowns.
      Since part of the reason that people choose to be au pairs is to see the US, it’s a really hard sell right now.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Makes sense! The only other suggestion I can think of is for OP to hire a college student who has to do courses online.

    3. Hamish*

      I’ve looked into this. It’s quite expensive, and probably a huge jump in cost and commitment for OP if she’s currently hiring people for 10-15 hours a week at a fair-but-not-high wage.

    4. MCL*

      I have a friend who hired an au pair who arrived like, the week before lockdown. The au pair’s home country is pretty strict about travel and she actually decided to extend her stay for a second year, so hopefully she’ll get to experience some normal life in the US before she goes back. My understanding from my friend is that the au pair market is pretty tight right now, though. But might be worth looking into.

      1. MCL*

        That said, for my friend an au pair was a comparable rate to hiring a full time nanny. Since au pairs live with their host families, you also need to make sure that they have access to private living quarters. I believe my friend also might pay for some meals? In any case I think she gets servings of whatever the family is eating for meals. For some families that is not possible given space constraints.

    5. Elf*

      I have an au pair currently. An Au pair is probably a lot more money than you are paying now, because it is approximately equivalent to 1 child in full-time daycare in a high cost of living area, but there are tons of other benefits if you get a good one (and it’s a strict cost savings for me because I have two kids and need full-time care).

      The Au pair situation might be improving at this point; the main reason it was so tight is that agencies couldn’t get new au pairs into the country because au pair visas were part of Trump’s visa ban. That is now expired, so the only barrier is travel restrictions, which agencies are able to get around with enough care (au pair from country A which is under a US travel ban travels to country B which is not and quarantines there for two weeks before coming here).

      Au pairs are a complicated situation to deal with, because you are supposed to treat them, literally, “like family” but they are also your employee. We have navigated the need for strict quarantine, etc, by being very transparent about what we do and don’t know, about what the rules are, and about trying to find safe alternatives (for example, we got a pop-up tent and and outdoor heater so our au pair could have friends over safely where we could be confident that they were distancing and not going indoors).

  41. Sarah*

    Having hired part-time childcare for my 2-year-old son I think the crux of the issue is the part-time hours. 10-15 hours per week is *very* part-time and my suspicion is that is the reason that this job is the first thing on the chopping block for the childcare worker. I would suggest hiring a high school or college student because those are likely the people who would actually be satisfied with that few hours. The high schooler we’ve hired to watch our son 8 hours per week is professional, prompt and he LOVES playing with her. An added bonus is that in my experience children tend to connect really well with energetic young people.

  42. Emmie*

    I understand why you’d want to resolve the issues with your current provider, but it does not seem salvageable. I recommend managing the nannies like you would direct reports at work.

    – Require that people commit to a specific schedule.
    – Go through a three warning process before termination unless the offense warrants immediate termination. (Three warnings: verbal, written, termination.)
    – Begin sourcing a new nanny at the second offense. Contact other people who did well in your previous interview process at the second offense.
    – Address lateness and schedule alterations ASAP. Taking a week-long vacation with little notice – unless it’s for a family emergency – is unacceptable.
    – Consider who your ads target. That part-time schedule will attract retirees, students, and stay at home parents. I recommend asking friends if their parent, or someone who is retired is looking for a part-time job. If you see a very friendly person working at the grocery store, is that someone you’d be open to watching your kids? Reaching out to your local community or technical college – particularly the academic lead or career center for the childcare, nursing, or college transfer programs – to tell them about the positions. Reaching out to local colleges with strong education and nursing programs for students. Contacting sororities on those campuses too, if your hours include evening availability, and especially when your local college is a regional working-class college. Asking around for stay at home parents. And also adverting in areas they would see these ads. Your nanny may be shorter-term, but more reliable with additional referrals.
    – How available are you when your nanny is in the home? If you are regularly available to your children, I recommend taking a step back and letting the nanny handle issues. This may create more accountability for the role since you are not free during the day.

    Your keys, in my opinion, are performance management to set expectations, and building your pipeline when the person is on the second warning.

    1. Zzzzzzz*

      The warnings seem a little rigid for in-home work, but I agree that LW needs to know her limits and have a plan for when she’ll look for a new person. Right now, she feels stuck and like she had no options. That’s the issue, I think.

  43. The Starsong Princess*

    You may have oversold your flexibility. Sadly, some people take a promise of flexibility as “I can work whenever I feel like it.”

  44. WonderWoman*

    I used to do this type of part-time childcare, and I found that really massive jobs sites were ripe for scammers. I signed up with an agency and was able to find decent employers fairly quickly. I’m guessing this works both ways, although I appreciate the efforts you are already making to filter for scammers on care.com.

  45. Geneticist*

    At least in my childcare-constrained major coastal city, Covid has meant that the best providers are prioritizing full time work for one family or a steady full time nanny share. Families who can afford it are requesting exclusivity to reduce their Covid exposure, so if you’re only offering 10-15 hours a week, you’re going to often end up with providers who haven’t been able to be hired for full or even half time work.

  46. Zzzzzzz*

    You are being too flexible! My guess is that the person really thinks it’s fine to cancel/change times because you are “just” working from home, and that 2 hours today or later this week are equivalent. I say this because this has happened to me with nannies/babysitters. I think I’m being kind and helpful, but it’s a mismatch of expectations and I end up resentful. (AAM taught me that when I’m frustrated with an employee, I need to use my words to adjust expectations. Not easy, but doable.)

    My advice: start over with someone new. This pattern is unlikely to change. In the ad, say your ideal: “9-noon, T W Th (times somewhat flexible)”. If you like the person, you get a good recommendation, and it’s possible, you can work on times: her favorite (for example) yoga class is on Th at 11, so switch to Fridays, or something like that. But it can’t be a weekly change. For your sanity snd the sake of consistent schedules. Our PT nannies are college students, and we change times by semester as necessary. (This spring, nanny will start 1 hr later on Th because of a lab.) (Of course, life happens and there’s occasional issues, and exams to study for; but that’s not every week.)

    Also an additional $1 an hour won’t be more than $25 more for you (counting taxes), and might get you much better people. Another tactic that can be good is to give a $1 raise a month or so in- my friend always does this, and says it makes people loyal. I usually go with a higher initial salary, but it might work.

    Good luck! It does take luck, but I would guess your being-too-flexible approach is hurting you. And you will find other good babysitters that DON’T add to your stress because you know you can count on them, so don’t stay with someone who isn’t what you need because you’re worried there’s not other people out there.

    PS We’ve hired through Care almost exclusively, but a lot of our as-needed babysitters (Saturday night or something like that) are through my kids’ daycare centers. For a 10-15 hour job, you might call some daycares and see if there’s anyone who would be interested. They might not help because they don’t know you, but it’s worth a try. Also consider asking your friends’ babysitters’ for recommendations, especially if they work at a daycare. I’ve had luck that way, too.

  47. Sami*

    I’ve never hired an in-home employee, BUT I’ve been a Nanny. The point that really stood out to me is the low number of hours. Only 10-15 hours per week is not enough for anyone to live on. And likely why people just leave. Can you combine your job with another family’s? A nanny-share? Maybe someone still in high school or college? A grandma who is fine with only a few hours per week.

    1. Squeakrad*

      Yes nanny shares are very popular in our neighborhood. Is there a way to reach out to another family who needs care as well? You’re also mitigating your risk that way

  48. Staying Home*

    I have also had bad experiences with care.com. I’m in the same position in needing childcare 10-15 hours a week. (I work 20 flexible hours a week). I’ve been through several childcare providers in the last 5 years. I have had the best luck with good students. We had a fantastically responsible high school student who stayed with us for three years until partway through college she began getting internships in her field. Right now we have a PhD student who is looking for a few hours to fit in her schedule. In between, we had bad luck with anyone sticking around or being reliable. My rule of thumb right now is to look for a student and ask for their GPA. While GPA is not an end all be all, a high GPA generally means they’re able to meet deadlines, do what’s expected of them, and juggle responsibilities.

    1. Zzzzzzz*

      We hire college students exclusively for a number of reasons. I think 15-20 is actually the sweet spot for that category. With 25 hours, many students can’t commit to doing that and school.

  49. Disco Janet*

    Having you considered writing in to a parenting advice column like the one over at Slate? I’m a parent whose been in this situation, so I do have advice – but I think you’re going to get a lot of potentially off base comments here because this isn’t really a work question, tongue in cheek manager joke aside.

    The person you’ve hired is unreliable. Find someone else. Don’t find them through care.com – the suggestions to ask in local parent FB groups are good. Local schools are also a good resource – with the pandemic, many subs and aides are looking to make extra money. They will also be more reliable than someone on a regular babysitter mindset.

    1. D3*

      This absolutely IS a work situation, as she is hiring an employee and looking to reduce employee turnover.
      Just because the job is child care doesn’t make it any less a work situation.

      1. Amy*

        I think this is actually very specific to childcare. And I agree, it’s not ideal for Allison’s column. Childcare is in-home, often off-the-books, often is through word-of-mouth, sometimes childcare providers bring along their own children. It’s sui generis.

        1. D3*

          Well, Alison answered it, so I’m just going to assume that she agrees that child care is a real job. Because it is. And people hiring child care providers *should* treat it as real employment more often, not less often.

          1. Roci*

            It’s not about is/isn’t childcare a job–of course it can be–but AAM skews very white collar office environment, and the commenters (the vocal ones anyway) tend to be people who don’t have (young) children.

            See other questions about working in food service, retail and other non-office environments, where many commenters with experience have to explain why other commenters’ suggestions don’t really apply to this specific industry.

        2. Kali*

          “And I agree, it’s not ideal for Allison’s column.”

          Surely Alison is the best judge of that? And she’s clearly decided that it is suitable. No one forced her to make this post.

  50. GhostGirl*

    If there is a Facebook Group or NextDoor for your town, I would post there. You will get recommendations from locals, either for people they have used and their kids outgrew, or people they currently use who are looking for more hours (which would help with the part-time aspect). Our local group usually has several such posts each week (and more as school starts looming!) and they get dozens of responses. I found that care.com usually has people from neighboring towns, who might not care quite so much about their reputation in your town. Word for sure gets around, and you will in the process create a network of moms who know EVERYTHING about childcare options.

    1. Zzzzzzz*

      I think it depends on where you live. Our FB groups are much more disorganized/varying levels of interest and quality than Care.

  51. Not trying to be rude, just good at it*

    Is there a local church that you could post on their bulletin board. I know it’s a tough time for older people, but with proper safeguards you might find someone who is flexible with their hours and has tons of experience.

  52. Anon for this*

    I’ve been trying to find a PT job for 10-15 hours a week (12 would be perfect) with a regular schedule for a long time. I haven’t looked into childcare, so I’m glad you posted this. It’s a great direction to look into! I’m surprised by how many people are adverse to the amount of hours. It’s not enough to live on, but it’s enough to make a difference in a sustainable way for many people.

  53. Not playing your game anymore*

    It’s a wild ride trying to arrange in home care. My 82 year old mom has needed assistance for a good 10 years now. She has MS. We started out with a neighbor who just popped in to check on her and to help out with chores mom couldn’t do. Drove her to appointments, took her out for lunch, that kind of thing. That was great for a while and as mom needed more help Anita was able to help more. We bought her gas and paid her for time worked, it was all very flexible, except for appointments. As mom needed more care Anita just picked up more hours. But then, the wretched woman (jk) decided to find a full time job and helped us find a replacement… we went thru a good dozen not very suitable aides hired independently or thru an agency. I agree with the advice to be flexible in setting up the schedule, but to be less flexible ongoing. I make it clear to moms carers that I can cover when they cannot, but I can’t do it at short or no notice except in emergencies…

  54. wkfauna*

    I too was in the exact same situation and had the exact same problem. I concluded it was the number of hours: it’s too low to attract the reliable sitters/nannies who do this professionally, but too high to attract responsible high schoolers. I was left with a pick of the least reliable providers, and not surprisingly, it did not work well. The worst event was when one provider completely ghosted me by not showing up and not replying to any attempt at communication on a day I had a Very Important Meeting outside the house :-\

  55. gbca*

    I once came across an amazing nanny search guide that a working mom put together (I think she worked for a venture capital firm and applied the same rigor to her nanny search). I think this may be helpful to you:

    The best places to look are Nextdoor and Facebook groups. People will post referrals for their nannies when they’re changing hours, moving or starting preschool. These tend to be good quality candidates.

    Every other evening I would go through all of the FB groups and nextdoor postings to see if there were promising candidates. My process was:
    Navigate to FB group
    Search for “nanny”
    Change “Sort By” to “most recent”
    Go through and and put any promising candidates in the spreadsheet

    Repeat for every local moms group. This was much more efficient than having to scroll through all the posts. Some groups had a single post for finding childcare in which case I’d bookmark it. I would generally look for new candidates in the evenings after my baby went to sleep and then call the candidates during her nap the next morning. Again staying organized with a spreadsheet (crm, etc) pays off.

    1. gbca*

      Also here’s what she had to say about agencies (note hourly rates she mentions are for the SF Bay Area, so they are on the high end):

      Agencies are expensive but can be useful if you’re on a tight schedule or having no luck with DIY. They are also very helpful if you need a temp nanny.

      They charge an initial searching fee (~$500) and commission if you end up hiring(~20% of the first year’s salary). The nanny isn’t charged.

      What they do for you:
      Have a stream of nannies (top of funnel) and do some screening (speak English, can work legally, etc)
      Compile a resume of the nanny’s prior experience
      Do referral calls and type them up
      Conduct a background check
      Help schedule times with the nanny
      Explain tax-withholdings to the nanny and ensure they’re ok being paid over the table
      Ask nannies to have vaccines up to date and CPR certified

      The biggest difference I found between nannies sourced from myself and agencies was that all the candidates spoke good English. These candidates also charge more money and one candidate confided that they were encouraged to charge $30/hr instead of $25 (the agency gets more if the nanny charges more). That said I was not particularly impressed with the quality of candidates from either one. I’m fairly confident in my interviewing skills and asked them to send me as many candidates as possible to widen top of funnel. The candidates tended to be worse quality than the ones from referrals on nextdoor/parents groups.

  56. mayfly*

    Those are so few hours, it’s going to be hard to attract a professional. Not impossible, but very, very hard.
    In addition to posting at any local colleges and universities, it might be worthwhile to see if there are any in-home caregivers in your neighborhood. Or a stay at home parent looking to earn some extra money.

  57. Sleepy*

    A lot of people are saying that the hours may be a problem, but I’m not sure that’s it. I actually hire and manage a lot of people who work in the 10 hour/week range and I’ve never had OP’s problem. People who apply to jobs with us tend to be current students who don’t want full-time jobs, or stay-at-home-parents who want to earn some money while being mostly available to their own children. Our hours are not flexible, and I state them up front in the job description.

    1. BabyElephantWalk*

      It’s not just hours, but hours together with pay/expectation. It does not read to me that OP wants a high schooler in this role. It reads as looking for a nanny, not after school childcare. An after school babysitter would love this – hours every week, paid vacation.

      But a high schooler does not sound like what the OP is looking for.

  58. gbca*

    One more thing – most professional nannies want full-time hours, I think this is part of the challenge – 10-15 is not a lot. One option would be to find another family that is willing to split hours with you so you can provide full-time hours to a nanny.

  59. BRR*

    I might be repeating someone but regarding pay, are you comparing your rate to full-time pay? This is not an area I know anything about (but I’ll still comment because this is the internet), but maybe a part-time hourly rate has to be higher to make up for the lower number of hours?

    My brother and SIL have a part-time nanny and ended up partnering with another parent to provide a a full time job. Is that an option? (That’s based on the assumption it might be slightly easier to fill a full-time role but I know finding good/affordable childcare is very difficult).

    I think at the end of the day though there’s just a small number of people who are good fits for this type of a role and I wish I could offer better help.

  60. MBA*

    I didn’t read through all the comments. However, I hire childcare for my children of a similar age. The difference between now and your last successful hire is the pandemic.

    1. EVERYONE is desperate for childcare now. A good nanny/sitter that complies with COVID restrictions to the extent you require is hard to find. Part time is even more rare as many providers want full time hours. If you have not already adjusted your rates to reflect this, you’ll need to consider it. As an example, I used to pay (off the books) $20/hr pre-covid. I now pay $30/hr.

    2. It’s a pandemic so the average person is going to need WAY more flexibility. Think about your own job. If you are going to require a provider to be extremely dependent, you’ll need to compensate them for it (see above). Everyone I know is barely treading water.

    1. JR*

      I agree with this. In my town, $15-20 is pretty typical ($15 or so for college students, $20-ish for nannies for whom this is their job/profession). I haven’t seen that go up in our local market, but a candidate I interviewed who lives in a nearby city (and therefore was also interviewing for jobs there) told me that she’d seen prices jump from around $20 to around $30/hour with the pandemic. (And I asked her this after she told me she was accepting another job closer to her home, so it wasn’t a negotiating tactic!)

    2. pancakes*

      “Think about your own job” seems at odds with paying off the books. I don’t think many regular readers of this site are paid off the books, nor many MBAs. I think it’s far more likely that we have access to things like Social Security, Medicare, workers’ comp, and unemployment insurance.

  61. R*

    I, too, have struggled with this. Local FB groups may be helpful as an alternative to use care.com. References are a must.

    1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

      sorry some of us didn’t get it :(
      the meme about the doctor “I’m going to deliver your baby now, wait actually we decided the baby should keep their liver” was lost on everyone except me the other day, and there were English graduates in the room. A good laugh was not had by all unforch.
      Jokes fall flat, it happens.

      1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        That meme sounds like something my husband would like. His sense of humor is very strange and often relies on references only he knows or on very tenuous connections to words that aren’t used or pronounced properly. Then he spends five minutes explaining why it’s funny and gets huffy when people don’t laugh.

    2. Urt*

      Unfortunately there have been serious questions about how to put such “managing jobs” on resumes, so several posters are twigged to see it as real attitude.

  62. Popcorn Burner*

    This sounds like the type of job I would have jumped at in high school or college.

    My parents usually found my sibling’s and my summer nannies (college students) through their social/professional networks. Our K8 parochial school printed an opt-in directory advertising older students who were available to babysit. (Admittedly, most of these kid were 13- and 14-year-olds, plus it was the 90s, plus my grandparents lived a mile away in case of emergency. The grandparents were not a babysitting option, for reasons I won’t go into.)

    My own babysitting/nanny jobs were also found through my parents’ social/professional networks.

  63. Managerrrr*

    To Alison’s point, people who are unreliable will tend to remain unreliable, so unfortunately, I think you need to move on from your current employee and find someone new. Arriving 60 minutes late to provide childcare is ridiculous, and no, you’re not being demanding to expect them to show up on time.

    I think the nature of the job makes it challenging, but that doesn’t mean the right person isn’t out there. You found a good fit once, after all. I think you’re just having a string of bad luck. It sounds like you’re doing everything right.

  64. dustycrown*

    Maybe you would have better luck with a retired / semi-retired person who is really looking to stay busy rather than to make a living. There are several online job boards for seniors; you could also inquire through your local senior center.

  65. Septembergrrl*

    I think my main question is whether the 10-15 hours a week is typical for these jobs, or whether you’re asking for a significantly lower than average commitment right now.

    If it’s lower than average, ignore the rest of what I say.

    But if it’s typical … honestly, you’re treating the gig more formally than the applicant pool likely is. You’re offering $300 a week, max. That’s nice money, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a level where you’re more likely to attract people who want a little extra cash than people who view childcare as a career. It’s the babysitter vs. nanny divide, and babysitters are almost always going to be a little flakier than nannies.

    Another issue might be that with you at home, the sitter might feel like you’re overly involved. You sound like a very organized person, which is great, but not everybody’s going to vibe with that. Take an honest look at your own behavior and see if you’re doing anything that might seem like micromanaging. And if you are, learn to step back. Obviously you can’t be completely hands-off, but it’s okay if the kids end up eating a little more peanut butter than you would like, or if if they watch a TV show you wouldn’t personally choose.

    I’m speaking as a mom who’s needed to hire sitters for similar gigs. We’ve had better luck with older people, and with giving the sitter a fair amount of flexibility about how to do the job. For example, one of our sitters wanted to take the kids to the pool or the park every day; another prefers watching them at her house, because she’s more comfortable in that setting. As long as the kids are safe and happy, we decided it was fine.

    1. Susie*

      That’s a great point about the parent being at home with the babysitter. Our amazing babysitter who I posted about below applied for a babysitting job for the summer when we don’t employ her. She ended up not taking the offer because the mom seemed too high maintenance and she was stressed about how to manage when the parent was home the entire time.

  66. Properlike*

    Haven’t read through the comments, but I went through this exact thing with my own infant and toddler while trying to complete a Masters program. I legit thought I would lose my mind. I think, in the end, I went through at least thirteen different caregivers in one six-month period. It cropped up again later when we were trying to find reliable sitters and in-home care, and we had also just moved to the area so didn’t have the social network to carry us through. We were not dealing with Covid or anything else global, so that also affects things, but I did everything you do at the time and had the same issues. The older teens who wanted gas money to drive in from East Jesus and then would say “My mom won’t let me work those hours” were a favorite refrain.

    It sounds like you had full-time care but now you’re down to part-time. This puts you at an immediate disadvantage because, as someone’s told you, it’s very hard for people to commit to a part-time gig that may not play well with other, less certain, part-time gigs. Anyone who’s looking for full-time will be out the door the minute something becomes avaiable. There’s also the people who want full-time and can only get part-time because they’re simply not very good (that’s not ALL, so don’t @ me, I’m also a part-timer.)

    It’s a numbers game. Which is awful for little kids who get attached, and especially during Covid when you need to be extra safe, but eventually you can land the right person.

    1) Agencies – nope. We got ghosted by those people, too. We were desperate enough to pay more.
    2) Care.com is where we eventually found a GREAT college student who is still a close family friend. She was local. But it took a while.
    3) You are probably going to do best with college students right now. Ask for references from a teacher and other clients. Ask about timeliness and reliability. Come summer, you’ll have more to choose from, including high school students.
    4) If there are local parent FB groups or mailing lists, get on those. Ask.
    5) If your kids are in school, ask their teachers. Call the local preschools and ask for referrals. Ask your neighbors.
    6) Is child care different in your new area than your old? Are home day cares the thing? Church preschools? You may want to look there to see if you can find a super-small, super-safe one for the hours you need during the day. Some places don’t have a daytime nanny/childcare culture.
    7) Nanny shares, as someone suggested above, are good.
    8) If you do find a reliable college student, ask them who their friends are and if they also babysit. We found our second good nanny that way.
    9) Would you consider teaming up with another family to swap child care hours? You take their kids 15 hours/week and vice versa?

    Sorry you’re going through this. It’s horrible and frustrating, but only for a relatively short period of time. Wait’ll you get to the random mid-week days off school stage and summer camp planning! :)

    1. Olivia*

      I very much agree with the college student recommendation. I have very similar childcare needs and college students consistently work out best, because the low hours actually suit them. I also pay very well, to make it a desirable and competitive job rather than someone’s only option.

      I also think it’s not going to work out with your current carer. That level of unreliability is pretty major and I don’t think you can manage them out of it.

      Good luck, childcare is so hard!

  67. Susie*

    We found our amazing babysitter for our pre-school aged kids through our community facebook group. I posted what we needed and she reached out. She also works part time at the local elementary school, which might be something to keep an eye out for? Does this person have another commitment that shows they can be places consistently? She already had a routine of being somewhere and the times we needed her worked in this schedule.

  68. kiri*

    As someone who worked in the office of a household staffing agency in LA for a good long while – you sound like a really great boss (and I have seen what bad bosses look like in these settings…)!! I think the nature of the hours might be a primary issue – it’s obviously not a job someone can support themselves on with 10-15 hours a week (which isn’t your fault!). But I think situations where people take 10-15 hour/week jobs are by nature kind of movable – like, either it’s a stopgap while they find a job with more hours/benefits, or they have another job that takes up the rest of their time that might want them more at some point, or they don’t need another job and are taking yours for some extra cash which they may not actually need, or a host of other things.

    I don’t know how well you can control for those things, beyond what you’re already doing. I’d say an agency or a daycare might be options that provide you with more consistency/longevity.

  69. Alex*

    I was a childcare provider for a long time, both part time and then full time.

    One thing that stands out is your description of your flexibility. Could it be that you have been unclear about how flexible you are? When you say “I’M SO FLEXIBLE!!!!” that can send the message that last minute changes are easier to accommodate than they might actually be. In trying to sell yourself as accommodating, your employees have taken advantage or tried to justify their unprofessional behavior by telling themselves this isn’t a “real” job. So make sure you are treating it like a real job!

    I have to say that this treatment of this kind of job not being “real” does slice both ways.

    My most successful job, which lasted almost four years, had a formal interview as well as a signed contract upon hiring. I was to arrive at 9am every day, and they were to return home at 5pm every day, and other hours were to be on a mutually-agreed basis.

    My least successful job was so wishy washy that I had to quit. They would tell me they were “flexible” with my hours…so I never knew when I was expected to arrive…or leave! That was really awkward. My first time meeting them I had assumed it was an interview and wore a nice skirt and blouse…only to find out they were planning on having me work that day, for some unspecified number of hours. I guess you could say that I ghosted that job, because I just told them I didn’t have any more availability for them–it was just too stressful to not know.

    So, just make sure you aren’t TOO flexible so as to confuse your employees about what is expected of them. Write it down, and let them know where there is flexibility and where there is not, very clearly.

    I’ll also just say that my “successful” job was through craigslist, and my wishy-washy one was a friend of a friend, so method of finding employees doesn’t necessarily make a difference.

    1. Alex*

      I also want to clarify that my “successful” job started out as part time–I think 20 hours? And still had a contract.

  70. boop the first*

    This letter was written so carefully, like a witness statement. Of course, it’s probably just a formality, or inexperience with contractions. OR it could be that deep down you already know the answer and you’re trying to avoid it. I’d say go with your gut on this one.

  71. Georgina Fredrika*

    I wonder if it could help to increase the pay? I can’t tell from this if it’s set that way because of your budget, or just because you think slightly above average is the fair place. I’d be curious as to how you evaluate what IS the average – just by checking on other ads? Or by talking to other parents about what they pay?

    This just came to my mind because I used to be an au pair and while I was paid more than “average” for the country, the average was low that the difference in pay was equivalent to like, two pizzas a month haha. But it did get me on board.

  72. Colorado*

    I would expand your search past care.com. Facebook in my area has a great childcare resources group. You’ll have to do your own due diligence but sounds like you’ve done this before. I know Craigslist is not what it used to be but in my smaller town, I’ve had success there too.

  73. purpler*

    Honestly, I think your flexibility might be working against you. If your attitude is, “Any time works! We can change it around!” then you might have providers who think being an hour late isn’t a big deal. Maybe you could say that the hours are flexible, but only to set the schedule. Then you can always have them come in Mondays from 9-3, or whatever. You can also make it clear that if they have an appointment or other obligation, you can change it just for that one day.

  74. Me*

    As others have pointed out, I think your biggest issue is you are looking for 10-15 hours a week. Even people who want PT work are typically looking for more than that. There are probably people interested in just a few hours A week but it’s going to be few and far between.

  75. Squeakrad*

    Others have mentioned this as well, but if you are you local university – if you have one – has an early childhood education program students in that program are often looking for a very part time work that is regular.

  76. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    A lot of the comments above already have some great advice, especially as it relates to expectations for the type of experience, etc. I am echoing that a college student is really your best bet. Some above have said PhD student, which while I see the logic as to why, I also think could be a tough find to have someone who ALSO would be interested and/or good at part time childcare. A college student studying elementary ed, social work, early childhood, etc. would be a better fit. If it is true your schedule is flexible in that you could accommodate shifting hours by semester (for example), it might be better to advertise that the hours are flexible but will need to be set, and you need x amount of notice to change if needed.

    There are also plenty of college students who either choose to stay nearby during breaks and/or who are commuter students and live nearby year-round.

  77. Emily Elizabeth*

    I’m currently a preschool teacher but have worked on and off as a part time nanny for many years, through and after college. I agree with what it seems many are saying; being too flexible in the name of accommodation can often backfire, so a set schedule works in everyone’s favor. If your own work or personal obligations shift too frequently for that, I recommend establishing a biweekly or monthly nanny meeting to set your schedule for that time period. Both of you agree to it, it’s physically documented and shared, and then not sticking to it has consequences. Whatever scheduling method you agreed on should be in their contract as well. Overall though I also agree that this current provider isn’t working for you – being a few minutes late is already not great when working with children, but an hour is fully inconsiderate. Some hiring thoughts from the other side: I’ve found a lot of my jobs through Care.com but it’s a big quantity over quality method. Local nanny Facebook groups and mom groups are a great place to be! If you’re not already, when posting your job, be really clear that 15 hours a week are expected, that you offer a contract, and what your expectations are during those hours. And ask for several references!!

  78. Kiki*

    Other Stuff always comes up and this job is the first thing on the chopping block for most of the people who have held the position.

    Unfortunately, for a lot of people a job that is 10-15 hours a week is going to be the first thing on the chopping block due to the nature of the role. They probably have other jobs or obligations or priorities that will come first. And some people do think “Oh, I’ll just find a job for 10-15 hours on the side to make some extra cash!” but then don’t actually think about how that will actually fit into their lifestyle (no last-minute vacations, having to be stricter about managing their time). I don’t know your current childcare provider and what their priorities are, but it kind of sounds to me like they like the idea of having a part-time job and some extra cash, but didn’t really think about how having a job would require them to change their lifestyle. There could be info I’m missing, but it sounds like you’ve been pretty straight-forward about what you need and this provider just isn’t cutting it. I don’t think there are incentives you can provide to make this particular person more likely to be more consistent, I think it’s time for a serious conversation about whether they are the right fit for this role.

    I think you can definitely find better than your current friend-of-a-friend. If possible, I would look for college students– a lot of them have set schedules, their vacation dates are generally known months in advance, and they’re often not looking for health benefits and retirement funds from a part-time jobs. I know that when I was in college, I nannied PT and it was considered a cream of the crop part time job by my peers. When I left after graduation, my younger friends were clamoring to get the job and the role was ultimately filled by a friend of mine and it sounds like it went really well.

  79. Pond*

    This sounds like a job for someone who enjoys working with children and can’t/doesn’t work full time. This could be anyone who has limitations preventing them from working full time, such as stay at home parents whose children are now in school but they need to be home in the morning to get the children to school and in the afternoon when the kids are home from school. It could also be someone who has disabilities which would allow them to work these limited hours but couldn’t work full time. Another possibility is preschool teachers whose work is only part time, ex. mornings. (I know people in all these situations who do this sort of work. If you were in my area I could say ‘hey I know someone who would be exactly what you’re looking for!’)
    Possible ways to find people include word of mouth, friends/family/acquaintances, church/religious/community groups, part time preschool/anywhere that’s only part time work, substitute teachers, and I’ll probably think of more later.

  80. Pond*

    It probably isn’t what you’re looking for, but you might also consider service exchanges. An example would be someone nannying for you one day a week and in exchange you care for their garden once a week, or trading babysitting for something you give lessons in (ex. if you were a music teacher). I realize these sorts of exchanges probably aren’t what OP is interested in, but maybe it will give ideas to someone else. For example, one person I know who wants to learn horseback riding but can’t afford it cares for the horses a couple mornings each week in exchange for lessons, because for the barn owner labor is worth more than cash.

  81. ExpertTechnicalWriter*

    I’ve had similar experiences with care.com applications in various fields (yard work, house cleaning, general help, etc.). I think it’s the source (care.com).

  82. Just an old lady*

    Look into “Nanny Sharing.” You and a few others pay for Nanny that is full time, but her time is split between the families.

  83. Kate*

    I see a lot of comments here about aiming for university-age nannies/babysitters.

    My advice is actually the opposite: aim older.

    All of the (successful) childcare help we have had has come from older women (early-mid 60s usually) who aren’t trying to navigate university schedules or relying on the 10-15 hours from us to pay rent. For example, one had a husband who had recently died and she wanted to get out of the house on a regular basis. Another runs an online clothing business on the weekends, and so doesn’t mind the small amount of hours (if anything, it’s a plus).

    1. Watermelon lip gloss*

      I second this, our best part time help has been friends of my parents that are retired and looking for extra income. They are very reliable and sometimes the skill set they bring from their old careers come in handy. One was a retired math teacher and was excellent at homework, She facetimes with my kids now for their online schoolwork her husband was a science teacher and loves to help. Another was a great baker and always had my kids making excellent cookies and breads, on the other end my 6 year old is now a cake snob.

  84. JR*

    I am in an extremely similar position – part-time flexible job, pay over the table with vacation time and such, use Care, etc. Here are my thoughts:

    1) This is always going to be a problem for part-time jobs, especially with that few hours. We now hire for 20-25 hours/week and it’s easier. Can you up your hours a bit? Do you ask them whether they’re truly comfortable with part-time work and ask what else they’re up to so that you can assess whether that’s likely true? We live in a college town and most of our babysitters/nannies have been in school (or similar training/credential programs) or taking a gap year post-college while applying for grad school – so it was clear to me that they actively wanted part-time hours. That said, the trade off is they all leave within 6-18 months because they finish the program/get into grad school/whatever. We always talk about this upfront and communicate how long we are hoping they’ll stay (we usually ask for a year, though we’ve been doing shorter during the pandemic because everyone’s lives are so in flux).

    2) We usually do a multi-step hiring process. Connect on Care (or whatever) and email them questions confirming that they’re onboard with the basic requirements of the job (actually free the hours I need, have a car to pickup the kids with, etc.). Then do a phone interview. Then do an in-person interview (though we did this via Zoom during our pandemic hirings). Then do a one-hour paid playdate with the kids (which we’ve been skipping during COVID). Then do a drive along to make sure I’m comfortable with their driving (also skipped during COVID) and check references. We lose some people along the way, but that’s sort of the point.

    3) 100% check references and ask about reliability.

    1. JR*

      Oh, and 4) Be as clear as possible about needs/expectations upfront, and give feedback early on when things come up. It’s soooo much easier to say right away something like, “I can be flexible around schedule but would typically need two weeks (or whatever) notice in order to move my meetings,” as opposed to saying that you can’t really accommodate a schedule change when she texts at 7am. I

      1. JR*

        Oh, and we pay at the top-ish of the pay scale for our local area (which is lower than the pay scale in bigger cities, so this may or may not be possible in your area).

  85. Educator*

    It really sucks that work as a nanny is devalued and not consider professional. I think that’s part of what leads to these types of experiences.

    A good friend of mine went from teaching to full-time nannying. She was so much happier…but she got a lot of crap from people who didn’t think she had a real or important job.

  86. staceyizme*

    You sound like a good employer. Have you checked to see if anything else is amiss? Is there an issue with your spouse, one of the kids or a troublesome pet/ neighbor/ other factor? Your household is the common denominator to the ghosting dynamic and you might want to try cameras or other techniques to see where the problem could be. If you were managing a team that had been successful in the past, but kept losing new hires, you’d check with direct reports, fellow supervisors and others in the environment to see if there was a problem there. You could benefit from using the same approach here.

  87. A B*

    Speaking as someone who has been babysitting full- and part-time since college, and has had many a position like this:

    1) You are great for doing it above-board on the tax front and with the sick days etc, and there are people who will care about this. I am in a major city and this is still harder to find than you’d think, especially with part-time work. The family I worked with that did this I have worked for for 8 years on and off because they respected me, my time and…

    2) …the other things I had going on. Everyone is right in saying that you will have better luck saying “Tuesdays/Thursdays 3-7, but can be flexible on set days for the right candidate.” I’ve had MANY a job like this and it’s so much easier to tetris it in with your other jobs’ schedules.

    3) There are plenty of people looking for this type of work! I feel like we’re getting a lot of full-time-4ever commenters who think 10-15 hours a week is nuts, but man, the number of times I have specifically sought out a gig like this. You want a mature college student (with flexibility around when their class schedule changes each semester), an actor or restaurant worker (helloooooo we are here and our industries are decimated!!!), or someone else who works something with predictable part-time hours as their other gig (i.e. retail might be tough).

    You are doing the right things! As a sitter, I want to work for you! Just try tweaking to the set schedule, keep being clear about expectations, and don’t try for too long to make this person stick. I work REALLY hard not to bail on a childcare gig because I know how it affects parents.

    1. JSPA*

      Someone on SSI disability (remembering that plenty of disabilities do not preclude childcare ability) is limited on how much they can make.

      “For an individual in 2020, you need to be making less than $794 of countable income per month and have less than $2,000 in assets to qualify.”

      It’s something OP may not be considering, so I’m throwing it out there for consideration. People on disability are too-often treated as afterthoughts or “probably not the best idea,” when in fact they can be 100% perfect for a particular job.

  88. Kallisti*

    Gently…

    It sounds a lot more like you need flexibility/constant availability and less like it’s a flexible schedule. If you sign on for one and it’s the latter, well…you’re going to feel taken advantage of, right? A flexible schedule is a collaboration, not “I need you in 10 minutes, please make it flex.”

    Maybe I’m misreading. But that is what struck me. I’ve worked with kids a lot and for some reason child care workers experience a lot of this.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      I wondered about this, too. From the employee’s perspective, are they experiencing it as flexibility or as unpredictability? If you’re asking them to work three mornings one week and two afternoons the next, there aren’t a lot of people who are going to be able to work with that, even students. Or if you suddenly really need them on Thursday at 3 because of a work meeting, even though they don’t usually work on Thursdays.

      Now maybe that’s not at all what’s going on, but it’s worth evaluating whether something that feels like “we’ll figure out a schedule that works for both of us each week” to you is coming across as “my boss is totally erratic about my hours and I can’t do this around my other commitments” or “my boss puts pressure on me to work on days I have conflicts because her work schedule is so variable” to your employees.

      Frankly, I don’t understand how a solo parent to two kids under 5 can hold down a full-time job with 10-15 hours a week of child care. I wonder if how thinly stretched you are is causing challenges for your employees, even though to you it seems like “flexibility”.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Re-read the letter again. On the one hand, you say the final schedule is with the provider, but on the other, you tout your beloved former provider’s flexibility and ability to work last-minute shifts, so I don’t know. It’s worth some introspection, at least.

  89. Pandemic Parenting is Miserable*

    Honestly I just think with such a part-time schedule even with a competitive rate it’s not enough money to get reliability. I actually wish you’d share specific rates because people often feel that $12-15 an hour is a competitive rate and it isn’t. (Although sadly that’s what our wonderful preschool teachers are probably paid.) In my experience, to get a reliable nanny you need to pay 20-25 an hour and provide 20+ hours per week. I’m in moderately priced area of an expensive state. I found that part-time center based care, or even full-time, was more reliable and about the same price.

    Care.com never worked for us. Sitter City was better, our wonderful nanny was hired through there and after she worked for us she went through a nanny placement agency so I’d have faith in those as well. We live in a college town there are several facebook groups where you can find college students, but college students have never worked well as standing, weekday childcare because they have classes and their schedule changes each quarter/semester.

  90. Lady Heather*

    10-15 hours a week is quite the spread; one week they’re earning half-again as much as last week! Offering more consistency in hours may be helpful, people can plan around that.

    Furthermore, how many days are these hours spread across? (Two, I hope. Otherwise, the short shifts are almost definitely contributing.) It’s very likely that other part-time jobs have approximately eight-hour shifts, so you may want to offer that as well. That way you’re less likely to be replaced by another parttime job, I think.

    And why not offer health insurance? It’s a pandemic! Healthcarefinancenews . com reports (Nov 5 2020) that the average uninsured patient’s hospital bill for a COVID stay is between 50,000 and 80,000 with outliers to 980,000 (average for people aged 21-40 who stayed in hospital for at least 15 days).
    Health insurance can be a great incentive to stay around, I think.

  91. Fellow Nanny Mom*

    I also employee a nanny, and I’d say the 1. You’re being too flexible; you should have dedicated work days and hours for this person. My guess is that people see the flexibility and that’s attracting flakey people and also leading them to think it’s ok to be late/change hours at the last minute.

    Second, have a contract and note that three late arrivals may lead to termination, and one single no call no show will lead to termination. Also taking time off in excess of PTO (unpaid time off). Track their time off in a sheet that is shared with them. That will give you a framework for having performance conversations and will set expectations for the role. Sometimes my employee will try to get me to “give” her a day off, like “I’m not feeling well, do you want me to come in?” And I say “feel free to use your PTO if you like, that’s what it’s for! You have 3 days banked right now.” In your case, if she says “I can’t come in.” Then you can say “ok, I’ll mark this down as a PTO day! You have X days left.” Or “unfortunately you are out of PTO, and this position can’t support unpaid time off. Are you able to come in?” And if no, then you have the performance or termination conversation on her next day in. I personally have PTO on an accrual format. That way if you have to let someone go due to flakiness, there’s a limit in the number of your own work days that are affected. The limit is nice for me because it’s similar to what I would have to call out for re: child illnesses with daycare.

    Anyway, all this to say that you need a PTO and lateness policy so that you can enforce professionalism and set a standard of behavior for your job.

    1. JSPA*

      I would not want someone to work while feeling “under the weather” these days. Or really, in most circumstances.

      Better to suck it up at the moment–“it’s not great for me, but working sick is never right, and I’m glad you told me.” If it turns into a pattern, and you have reason to believe someone is taking advantage, you address it as a pattern, or it’s a real recurrent illness, but beyond your power to accommodate, you let them go, and find someone else. As with any other employee.

    2. Dahlia*

      Eesh- this sounds like it is encouraging people to come in when sick. That’s a real problem. I would definitely not want someone coming in sick to my home (Especially right now!) or feeling like they have to work sick or be terminated. I also am in the lucky position of having options, but if someone responded to me this way on the phone when I called in saying I was unwell, I would 100% quit on the spot because it would feel very disrespectful.

    3. Travel_mug*

      eesh. I would not want someone working while sick right now (or ever! especially in my home!), and a COVID exposure could easily take up 3 days.
      I also am in the lucky position of having options, but if someone responded this way to me on the phone when I called them to say I was sick, I would quit on the spot. It sounds disrespectful to me, carries an implication that you either think the person is lying (?) or want them to work sick (?) and it clearly implies that you should work when sick or get fired.

  92. Manchmal*

    I think the problem with such a part-time job is that it isn’t anyone’s main source of income and thus not that important in the scheme of things. There are people for whom this arrangement would be great – students, for example, or someone out of the workforce (whether retired or supported by a spouse) who wants to make some extra cash. But I think people will treat their livelihood with more seriousness and dedication than a part-time job. Which leads me to suggest something like a nanny share. That’s someone whose full-time job it is to be a nanny (but whose hours are just split between families), and thus someone who will treat it more like real job than an optional hobby.

  93. CommanderBanana*

    Try NextDoor. I live in a very tight-knit community right outside a large metropolitan area and a lot of NextDoor chatter is about nanny shares, etc. I nannied during grad school and loved it, since it turns out I have a lot in common with toddlers when it comes to my sense of humor and how often I need to nap.

  94. Midwestern Weegie*

    When my first child was a baby, both my husband and I worked unusual hours. Our actual childcare needs were three set days per week, afternoon and early evening. We were willing to pay handsomely, pay taxes, etc. We could not find a reliable babysitter through any means whatsoever. In the end, I looked for a different position (also with unusual hours…), and my husband stayed home for over a year until we put Child into full-time daycare.

    Our current nanny is a college student, and she works for us 10-15 hours per week. However- we work around her college schedule, so her availability does change from semester to semester. Our jobs can easily accommodate that, and she’s beyond incredible, so we make it work. We’d likely run into issues if we needed her to work around our schedules.

  95. Carrie Oakie*

    Former Pre-K teacher turned home care babysitter here. Try being firm in your ad in hours/flexibility. Even though you’re open, having an ad that reads this is what I need can help narrow down people who are actively looking to do the job vs. looking to make extra cash now and then. In your interview is when you can explain that there is some flexibility. But also, try to have actual set hours/days regularly so that a routine is established. It should be more of a pattern to come in & work with the children and occasionally need to make changes.

    I’d also ask others you know what they pay for childcare – I had some families have me on a payroll which was nice, but others paid me in cash which I honestly preferred (I had a FT and PT job during these babysitting days, so this was my make ends meet income.) If you’re paying $10/hr but the payroll aspect makes it more like they get $8, you may be getting people who are looking for better paying in the moment. (This is based on each individual as situations are different.) just get an idea of what your competition is pay wise.

    One thing I’ll note, I didn’t enjoy babysitting/nanny jobs that had the parents home at the same time, because the parent would often still interact with the children, so it made me less authoritative overall, which made the situation awkward. Make sure you’re not indirectly putting your childcare provider in a position where they’re having to fight for control with you – when I was younger I had a hard time letting parents know they made the work harder. Now I’d just be up front.

  96. a thought*

    Personally I think the reliability of care.com is regional. I think this might be the source of some of your issues. In my area, UrbanSitter is a better resource (Washington DC region). Could be different in other places. But that is one of the first things I would change.

    I would also be less flexible. I think the way you might be communicating flexibility might be coming off wrong to people. So, I’d ask for set hours from your folks.

  97. Jess*

    Like any other employer, you’re going to have to go through employees/applicants who don’t really want to be there or who don’t understand where you can’t be flexible. There aren’t a lot of hoops you can jump through in that regard besides making everything crystal clear on your side at the outset, and reacting consistently when things go wrong.

    It’s harder to appreciate because these are the people who your kids quite like. But if there’s a mismatch between your needs/what you offer and their needs/performance, it’s best to establish that fast and move on to a different employee fast. For you and for the employees, and definitely for your kids.

    (Qualification for answering: had two marvellous in-house childcare providers, fired a bunch of others)

  98. Didi*

    I wonder if the “flexibility” is part of the problem. Many part-timers work more than one job, and for some, a “flexible” schedule is really a nightmare – they have to constantly juggle commitments, change plans at the last minute or just not show up to one job if it conflicts with another.

    Would you be open to trying out a new hire on a regular schedule for a month, see how it goes, then allow flexibility if the person seems like a good fit?

  99. Working Hypothesis*

    I had that problem with housecleaners for a while. A few routine interview questions helped a good deal.

    First, the old standby of looking at dates on resumes. If they don’t give you a resume (it can be pretty informal hiring for home positions) then ask for dates on their last 4-5 jobs. Job-hoppers can often be spotted exactly the same way any business spots them. Confirm dates when you contact references.

    Second, “Why did you leave your last job?” You’re looking specifically for whether the reason is something that you’d expect someone to leave a job for, instead of “I wanted to go east for several weeks around Christmas and couldn’t keep the job if I stayed away for more than a month,” or something like that. It’s surprising what people will tell you if you ask them, especially if they really don’t know what professional norms look like. (I’m willing to teach some, but prefer to hire people who have the basics down.)

    Third, I ask *how* somebody left their last job. How long was it between giving notice and departing? If less than two weeks, was that the candidate’s choice or the household’s? (I certainly don’t want to accidentally penalize somebody for giving notice and then being told that your last day was just moved up and they have to leave right away!) How did their boss respond to their giving notice? (This is mostly to see whether they’ve had a recent bad experience which might make them uncomfortable giving notice to *me*, so if they have, I can take steps in advance to reassure them. It also helps to catch the occasional candidate who’s fudging the truth; it’s harder to sustain an impulse lie when you keep getting asked for details.)

    Check all of those answers with their references too. “How did you and X wrap up your employment together? Whose idea was it to part ways, and why, and how did the process go?” is one of my most important questions for references.

  100. Anon for this*

    We tried some college students in the past, and it was significantly cheaper- 17-18/hour through an agency, but we didn’t get the level of engagement or reliability we were looking for. We also tried an older nanny through an agency but it wasn’t a good fit due to some physical limitations and language barrier. We decided to increase our budget to try to get more of what we are looking for, and we started our very experienced (20+ years, early child development education) nanny at 21 something/hour for one child (~ 1 year old) and have increased her pay every few months and given some bonuses. We also included a bonus for providing longer notice before leaving the position to help incentivize that. Honestly we tried word of mouth and weren’t able to get any recommendations that way- we ended up trying several different (paid) sites as well as a local agency (some in our area aren’t placing due to covid). It’s really hard to find someone that fits in to your family and that you feel comfortable with, I wish you the best of luck!

  101. Laura H.*

    Not a parent or a care-giver but I work part time -retail- and one thing that I’ve found extremely helpful is having a schedule within my availability range in at most for two weeks in advance. (And I did have a job where I didn’t know my hours till the week of and ugh).

    But also if I’m asked to take an extra shift or not needed, it’s with at least a day’s lead time.

    Flexibility is good but so is stability in scheduling, and as much lead time as can be given. Even if it’s 10-15 hours a week between the hours of 12pm and 6pm Monday thru Friday, that would give me enough to plan around and possibly voice any potential time conflicts (like needing to have a slightly shorter (10-15 min) done time one day a week because of another prior established commitment.) But a block like that also would give you another criterium for picking your employee.

    The punctuality issue is on them.

  102. Almost Empty Nester*

    For so few hours, you may be better off looking into a “mothers morning out” situation through a church or something like that. I don’t have little ones anymore, but if you’re just looking for a couple of hours a day, or even a couple of days a week, you’re not usually going to attract the cream of the crop in childcare providers. I’d think your best bet is to enroll the kids in a center-based childcare situation. Bonus is they get time with other kids which is always a good thing for them!

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Well, it’s not necessarily a good thing for *anyone* in the family during a pandemic. I could never put my kids in a daycare situation until the rest of us were vaccinated; both my husband and I are high risk. I’m fortunate that mine are teenagers now and fairly self-sufficient but if they were younger and I had to quit work rather than put them in daycare, I would do it. We need to survive.

  103. agnes*

    I think sometimes offering too much flexibility brings it own set of problems. A lot of people who have unmanageable lives seem to flock to those kinds of positions and then their chaos becomes your chaos. They treat the position as something “optional.” I would try to keep a schedule as much as possible once it’s agreed on by you and the provider.

  104. On the Childcare Journey*

    I have young kids and have hired after school nannies. Here are some suggestions:

    1) Consider an au-pair or other live-in situation if you have space. We’ve offered discounted housing to a college student in exchange for limited childcare hours.
    2) Set a schedule, even if you’re able to be flexible. I think it’s easier to find someone who can do 2-5 every weekday than say 15 hours, with flexibility on dates and times. The former forces them to actively make space for your needs in their schedule.
    3) Fire flakers – I know it’s a pain but someone who regularly cancels at the last minute isn’t actually solving your childcare problem.
    4) Consider sourcing more via word of mouth. Ideas include NextDoor, neighborhood listserves, local FB groups, churches, PTA listserves for local schools, etc. In these cases, the prior family typically advertises the nanny and includes details on their experience.
    5) Check references and solicit on local groups for others who are aware of the employee. I’ve found those to be spot on in knowing how a nanny may behave.
    6) If you go the college student route, know that excellent student doesn’t always mean great with kids or reliable. Students can still be immature and you may get some flakiness from that.
    7) Consider offering a discretionary retention bonus. I generally offer an annual bonus for nannies who stay a set amount of time. The availability and timing are specified in their contract, the amount is subject to my own discretion.
    Hope this is helpful.

  105. Esmeralda*

    Some years ago our child’s daycare/preschool suddenly shut down (poor financial management by previous director); another facility was able to take most of the kids but there was a six-week lag. I got together with a friend who also had a child there. We hired one of the part time teachers (college student) and offered, each of us, what we would have paid the daycare. In other words, we each wrote a check weekly to the teacher instead of to the (now closed) center. In other words, a crap-ton of $. We asked for more hours than you want, OP, but that young man was extremely reliable and our two kids had a great experience. I don’t know if it would help with this particular person. But more $ could make a difference.

  106. RandomRN*

    Gosh this is going to get buried but OP, consider reaching out to local nursing programs and trying to hire nursing students. Perhaps college students of any kind but nursing/other medical specifically tend to have some older students who would love flexible part time jobs. I know I would have!

  107. bpbpbp*

    Here is a thought about the current situation – maybe you’re being *too* flexible, and it’s giving off the idea that whether they show up or not is not a big deal. The care-giver may perceive the job as “helping out here and there” versus a regular job. Maybe a more consistent schedule, if your work permits (like weekdays 8am-12) would allow for the care-provider to establish a routine and find other steady work in the off-hours. Then it’s cut-and-dried when they are late or cancelling last-minute – they are missing work.

    1. Des*

      This! I just posted the same thing. I feel like the OP is bending over backwards to show how flexible they are in this letter, and I wonder if some of that is even more amplified for the care-giver.

  108. Save the Hellbender*

    LW, I think Alison and others touched on this but because you’re only hiring for 10-15 hours a week and are very flexible, I think people are taking this job as “babysitting” when you want to make them a part-time employee. If you can offer a bit more consistency in hours (even if you are more flexible) it will seem more like a shift at a job and less like a favor!

    I’ll add that the whole at home childcare process is filled with this kind of behavior – actually on both sides! Seems like LW is really not flaky, but when I was babysitting in college I was ghosted by multiple people for interviews and actual babysitting dates. Maybe some of the people ghosting you are just used to a field where that’s normal.

  109. Here we go again*

    My son goes to daycare 2-3 days a week from 9:00 to 4:00. So about 15 hours a week. He loves it there. The staff is amazing and I don’t have to worry about someone calling off at the last minute. The two years he’s gone there I’ve only had to worry about them being closed last minute for things like a gas leak and a power outage.

  110. Des*

    Are you being TOO flexible? I.e. are you sending the message to your worker that you’re “fine” with things being how they are? If you’re saying stuff like “it’s totally okay for plans to change!!” then one person might interpret it the way you want them to, and another person might interpret it as “It’s fine to cancel whenever if I feel like it and be 60 minutes late because Flexibility”. I’d consider whether you’re being explicit with whoever you’re hiring about your needs and boundaries that are not flexible.

  111. Elliot*

    Wow – as a former nanny of many years, this really shocks me! I don’t have advice, just came here to say that this behavior isn’t normal! I have never ghosted a family, and wouldn’t be able to leave without saying goodbye to the kids!

    I’d definitely be upset by this behavior. As for the current provider who is late, etc… I’d recommend looking for someone else. Sometimes, the only real way to learn that behavior is unacceptable is to face consequences.

  112. RagingADHD*

    There’s a small university in my town that hosts a job board for students, through their Career Development Center. Babysitting jobs are included right alongside internships and other types of employment.

    Because it’s connected to the school and employers can leave feedback, the students bring a more professional attitude than you might find otherwise. You may have a similar resource close by.

  113. halfmanhalfshark*

    We hired a full-time in-home caregiver as part of a “learning pod” arrangement with two other families while school is remote. Initially we looked through Care.com and it was exhausting. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Eventually we went with a service that is partially subsidized by my employer (and yes, I know how very fortunate we are to have this resource and I am grateful every day) to find candidates. The candidates set their own wage requirements. We told the service what we needed as far as hours and location. They did background checks and pre-screening. We ended up interviewing three people. They were all good but one was absolutely stellar. Reader, we hired him.

    The service handles payroll, taxes, and all that jazz, so technically the caregiver is an employee of the service, we pay the service, and they pay him. I prefer that arrangement given the headaches involved in the administrative side of things. Similarly, if we had any issues with the caregiver, we could go through the agency as a mediator (although at this point I think we’d be comfortable talking to him directly).

    If you can swing it, I’d recommend finding an agency (I think the one we use is specific to our area). That may give you a better chance of finding someone who wants a very flexible, very part time gig since the agency will only match you with people who are a good fit.

    Good luck! Trying to figure out childcare in the best of times is a lot. It’s a whole new level of stress these days.

  114. OP*

    Thanks, everyone, for all of the advice and commiseration!

    – I wrote this question a few months ago. Sine then, the employee’s availability has changed, so it’s now a 25-hour a week position (which was my original job posting, but she was working another job before). I pay cash per her request. The schedule has remained consistent on my end (it is now M-Fri, noon-5).

    – By saying the 3-year superstar was “convenient,” of course she wasn’t _always_ available, but she happened to be available (and very close by) when we had two medical emergencies. She was retired and traffic was legit horrifying where we lived, so proximity and availability were definite bonuses. (Her schedule was fixed based on mutual agreement.)

    – Part of my problem is that (like lots of folx) I’m trying to do a 60-hour a week job – in addition to anything I can’t do with kids in tow, like Covid-grocery shop or go to appointments – with 25 hours a week of spotty childcare. (She’ll come late but leave on time, so it’s not even always 25 hours.)

    – Yesterday at 5 pm, the current employee told me that she had an appointment today at the exact same time that I have an appointment that I told her about weeks in advance. She is a known entity (friend of a friend) with good references!

    – I had tried an au pair agency in the past and the au pair ALSO ghosted – 2 am flight to another US city. Agencies, including the au pair service, seem to cost thousands of dollars, so I will do more poking around Facebook groups and look into local centers.

    In conclusion, thanks for setting me up for all of the advice! I think there are loads of great points and tips. Finding childcare is a nightmare, which I read about before having kids but didn’t truly comprehend until living it. Solidarity, friends!

    – Also, sorry / not sorry to everyone who really didn’t like that first sentence. It was a joke, because I forgot that jokes are not allowed on the internet!

    1. Observer*

      Jokes only tend to work when people have context.

      And given that we have actually seen people use this kind of language seriously, no one here has any way to know that you were joking, which is different that knowing that you made a joke, but thinking it was a bad joke. (Look for the letter from the person who wanted to know why they can’t put down their experience as the CEO of the household on their resume.)

      On the core of your issue: Your current sitter is a known entity. And what you know about her is that she is NOT reliable. Nothing you can do is going make her reliable. Nothing is going to make dealing with child care stress free. But, getting your expectations realistic can make it LESS stressful. So, what you need to decide at this point is whether you can deal with her inability to be reliable or not. If not, start looking again.

  115. raincoaster*

    I do pet-sitting and have to say from the perspective of a worker, Care.com is not great. They charge the job hunters to communicate with the employers, and 9 times out of 10 it’s a completely fake posting that you’re replying to, wasting your money and enriching the website.

    Honestly, use Kijiji or Craigslist or whatever goes in your locale, some platform that doesn’t charge the poorest people looking for work. You’ll get better people.

    Trying to convert someone who doesn’t take work seriously into someone who does is a lot more work than simply finding someone (IN THIS ECONOMY yes I had to say it) who does take the work seriously.

  116. Kimby*

    My husband and I just hired a nanny and found her on care.com. While it’s only been a few weeks, she’s great so far. I would echo that the only thing I can think of is to check this on reference calls. I asked all of the nanny’s references how much time she was out, including vacation and unplanned sick time. We also stated the hours we needed in the first message and reiterated them several times throughout the interviews, included language in the written contract about punctuality, and that recurring tardiness over 15 minutes is one of the factors that are grounds for immediate termination. But I’d say the reference calls have more weight than anything else we did. All the references reported her always being on time and even rarely out for a sick day, and she hasn’t been late at all yet.

    That said, care.com is a trash service. The site and app are full of usability problems. They obfuscate email and phone numbers on some messages but not on all so I could never figure out the purpose (they claim overall this for safety reasons but there are better ways of handling this like telling users the risks and having them choose to share the info anyway). We tried to run a background check through their service, waited a week with no update, the nanny reported not even getting a notification, and they charged my card the fee anyway (luckily it was returned). There is also a lot of spam to wade through, including candidates who just apply to jobs without reading the requirements as you have found. So it was painful but ultimately landed us a good nanny. We did consider an agency, but heard mixed results about that path, so wanted to do it ourselves before resorting to that (and the incredibly high fees in my area).

    Good luck!

  117. Anannymous*

    Ok,long term nanny here willing to say what nobody else is…..
    Maybe it’s you.
    I’ve said yes to jobs that I thought would work out but when they didn’t, it was always because of the parents. Always. (Because a kid is the ultimate responsible of the parent, and a kids behavior is either manageable by a good nanny, parent and school all on the same page or needs professional help.) Like when you interview they say that their house is getting cleaned that weekend but it never does and half the food in the fridge is expired and there is mold in the kitchen cabinet and dog hair everywhere. Or their kid is sweet during the interview but locks you outside in 10 degree weather and the parent says it was a misunderstanding. Or the mom wants to be your best friend and know everything about you, or expects you to be a therapist and you have to listen to all this really personal stuff you don’t actually want to hear. Or they try to convert you to evangelical Christianity and you’re in the position of trying to explain to a 6 year old why no, you’re not going to hell but yes, her parents are right (because parents are always right.)
    Based on what others have said, yeah, its probably something else, but I’ve had part time jobs I kept for years, pre covid. (Or maybe your covid bubbles are too tight or too loose for people to feel comfortable now?) It’s not the hours. It’s something else.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      I wondered about this, too. It’s impossible to know through the internet, but the detail OP added in the comments about an au pair who left in the middle of the night is alarming. Yes, au pairs can certainly flake, but when the ghosting has been a consistent problem it’s worth some introspection.

      It sounds to me like OP is only able to afford (or only chooses to have?) part-time child care but as a solo parent to two young kids with a 60-hour-a-week job, probably needs full time care. She is probably stretched way too thin and that makes it more likely that she’s hard to deal with as an employer. Maybe she’s lovely and has reasonable expectations, but maybe she’s also dumping a ton of housework on the employee while expecting that the employee keep the kids from ever being audible in the background of her work zoom calls or something.

      1. Mayflower*

        OP said “I had tried an au pair agency in the past and the au pair ALSO ghosted – 2 am flight to another US city”. It’s incredibly unlikely that OP or the kids did something that prompted the au pair to buy a last-minute airline ticket and hightail it to the airport at 2 am! More realistically, they had the flight booked and didn’t bother to tell OP.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          You’re right that it’s mostly likely the au pair being flakey. But an au pair leaving is basically someone moving out of your house. Maybe OP is using “ghost” to mean “notified us last-minute and left us in the lurch for child care” but “ghosting” in the more common meaning of “going no contact and disappearing with no explanation” is a really odd thing for an au pair (or any roommate or long-term houseguest) to do.

          Combined with similar behavior from a series of more casual employees it raises some yellow flags for me. Not loud alarm bells, but it does seem… odd.

          1. OP*

            Something the au pair company said after the 2 am departure was that au pairs are very young and immature. (I don’t think that age is the only factor in maturity, but this was the corporate explanation.)

            The au pair _did_ ghost, in the sense of going no contact, but then got in touch a year later and asked to video chat the kids (who I think probably don’t remember her at this point).

            I do have a contract that outlines my (I think reasonable) expectations, no housework requirements, and no silence-while-I-am-on-Zoom-call requirements.

            Accessing consistent, reliable, affordable childcare is a widespread problem (especially in the US and Canada) as many sources suggest.

            For one recent example of coverage of this issue: https://thewalrus.ca/the-case-for-affordable-child-care/

            Anyhow, I wish everyone else luck on this whacky journey.

  118. Mary*

    Both of my kids are special needs, severe enough that finding outside care has been pretty much impossible always. Certainly not until they were 10 and 13. When I did go back to work parttime, I was able to reach out to their classroom teacher and aides for recommendations. Many times one of the paraprofessionals may be looking for just a few hours here and there, and they’re already familiar with the sorts of needs my two have.

    I started trying care.com last year with the pandemic. I’ve interviewed countless people. 85% of everyone I messaged to set up an interview with ghosted the interview or the first day. I found two who didn’t work out long term, one because she just needed more hours and one because she had to move suddenly. Eh, that happens. I also found a wonderful person that I have found to be 100% reliable and awesome, competent, and who I trust. That one person is why I didn’t toss up my hands and quit my job. So short answer I don’t know what you should do, but I can encourage you that its almost certainly not *you*. It’s just that some people are flakes and will always be flakes in specific areas, but there are also dedicated and reliable people who set the gold standard that we look for.

  119. Ellen N.*

    If I were you, I would offer health insurance as part of the compensation package. For starters, do you really want someone with no health coverage tending to your children? Also, due to the U.S.’s crazy policies about health insurance, it’s a perk that will attract and keep quality employees.

    I would not pay under the table regardless of the employee’s wishes; it’s illegal. There are financial penalties and in some cases jail time (plus it can tank careers ie. Zoe Baird) . Also, it means that the employee won’t be able to use programs like Social Security, Disability, Medicare, etc.

    1. Analyst Editor*

      For this to be a meaningful benefit it cns significantly increase the true cost of the employee for LW, at which point she can pay that higher hourly rate to attract someone better. I don’t think that buying helwhr insurance is a good proposition for a very part-time employee (under 16 hours!)

  120. Specialist*

    You have an employee who is an hour late to work and changes the schedule at the last minute. This person is now asking for more hours, when you can’t get them to work their current hours. This really has nothing to do with you. This is a problem inherent in your employee. There really isn’t anything you can do to fix this problem. You can consider all of those things like bonuses for working the schedule and not being late, but realistically, that is part of the job. Your flexibility has nothing to do with this person’s failings. I’d cut your losses at this point and get someone else.

  121. Maureen*

    Are you being up-front with applicants that you’d like them to stay long-term? I used to work in this type of flexible, 10-15 hour a week nannying position, and I agree with the people who said that the high level of flexibility you’re offering probably actually attracts less reliable people. When I did this type of job I was searching for a full-time job in an unrelated field, and the part-time nature of the position worked for me because it allowed me time to go to job interviews, etc, and I was living with my parents so I didn’t have to worry about paying rent. As I got closer to having a full-time job I wasn’t as available to nanny, and eventually the parents told me that they needed to find someone more reliable. I was fine with that because the nannying job wasn’t my main focus and the parents and I had agreed from the beginning that this job would be temporary. But if the parents had said up-front that they wanted someone who would stay long-term, I wouldn’t have taken the job.

    I agree with everyone who suggested that you look into a nanny share so that you’re providing close to full-time hours between multiple families and advertise through local colleges. The one other thing I would suggest is a little awkward, but one thing to be aware of when it comes to pay is that you might need to pay more if there’s something that’s more difficult about taking care of your kids, specifically. Babysitters generally expect to get paid more for three kids than for one, for example, or if your kids have complicated medical needs or tend to act out that can make the job less attractive. I’m sure your kids are wonderful, but that doesn’t change the fact that some babysitting jobs are more difficult than others.

  122. Bastet*

    I can sympathize. I have had such awful experience with care.com. My job was not nearly so flexible and I was very new, so people ghosting on me was a constant stresser for the first month until we finally found a gem. It was absolutely ridiculous and unprofessional and ran the gamut from people not showing up, quitting with 0 notice, calling out because “it is a nice day and I want to go to the beach” etc etc. People didn’t seem to consider it as a “real job” and treated it as such. I will admit, I was new to interviewing and perhaps not the best, but we managed to be screwed over and over.

  123. Jinni*

    I only have one child – and only had one provider, but had a very similar situation (WFH, flexibility, but needed a week or two ahead plan). What worked for me was ‘sharing’ a provider. I’m not sure if this would work for COVID – but it worked for us. Each family had 2 or 3 days – predetermined weeks/months in advance. The other family was maybe half mile or a mile away (in LA).

    I can’t think of a day that she missed that wasn’t pre-scheduled (for her own kids, doctors’ appointments, her aging parents’ issues). We’re still great friends (and yes for real). My kid loves her family and vice versa. It’s the best thing I ever did that allowed me to continue working and still spend substantial time with my kid in his early years.

    She came through an agency. I can’t remember if she or I had to pay the fee since I only used it once.

  124. MLH*

    I wouldn’t be surprised if services like Care.com have been flooded with folks who are doing childcare as a stop gap rather than as a chosen career move. That means you’ll have more folks who aren’t serious about the opportunity or are trying to juggle multiple other gigs in a less predictable way than in non-pandemic times.

    Might he better to ask friends, school parents, on neighborhood Facebook groups, etc. for more personalized recommendations.

  125. Analyst Editor*

    It can be you are too flexible. Its funny, but some people only take it seriously if you are strict and immobile, and when given leeway take advantage.
    (Kind of like students in high school lol.)
    With this person you might need to get stricter and be prepared to dismiss them, because if they call your bluff they won’t respect you any more than now.

  126. Beth*

    So the thing about part-time, in-home childcare is, you can be paying very competitive rates and still not have it add up to enough for your care provider to justify prioritizing you.

    Think about it. You’re paying them for 10-15 hours a week, on a flexible (read: not necessarily reliable for them) schedule, and it sounds like last-minute scheduling is a thing that happens at least sometimes. These are presumably adults who need to support themselves. That means that they’re almost definitely working at least one other job, and possibly several other jobs. If one of those other commitments is a better deal for them (which could mean better hourly pay, but could also mean more paid hours overall, more consistent and reliable scheduling, benefits like insurance, that job being their main career path while you’re their ‘side job’, etc), and that comes into conflict with what you’re asking from them, you’re not going to be the top priority. You’d probably do the same in their shoes.

    I know childcare is expensive and you’re paying competitive rates for your area. But unless you’re paying someone enough to actually live on in your area–which, at 10-15 hours a week, I’d be very surprised if you were–the odds of finding someone who’s going to be consistently available to you for several years are pretty low. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad employer; it just means that the position you have to offer is inherently a bit of an unstable one, and the employees you get are going to reflect that.

  127. fhqwhgads*

    My limited experience with this, what OP is finding now is much much much much much more common than the experience with the first care provider. I’ve had friends with super reliable schedules, good rates, and they still went through 4-6 nannies last year. One never showed up on time. One had a habit of not showing up. One ghosted. One might as well have ghosted because they moved over a weekend and then resigned the Monday instead of showing up. It was a nightmare. I felt like every time I talked to them what I heard was “ugh I think I have to fire the nanny” and I was like “didn’t you already?” But nope, different nanny. This is just one example but from what I hear from others, this type of pattern is just part of life. You had a unicorn before.

  128. Lunita*

    My 4-year old son has had the same nanny since I went back to work after maternity leave when he was four months old. We really lucked out; she was referred to us by a family friend of my husband’s. We also interviewed two people from Care.com but she seemed the best and having a recommendation was huge. I also spoke to two references of hers who gave her glowing recommendations. Is there anyone you can ask?

    Your requests sound reasonable to me. Maybe you need to be less flexible and more firm about changing the schedule and cancelling. It shouldn’t be this way but I feel like if you commuted it would be easier to set those limits.

  129. MeepMeep*

    I was near-apoplectic and ready to bite people’s heads off after 2 years of unreliable part-time nannies. I work 3 hours a day, self-employed, with flexible hours, so in the same situation as the LW. Every single nanny we hired would pull this sort of stuff, over and over, at unreliable intervals. We tried family friends, we tried going through care.com, we tried all sorts of stuff, and we just couldn’t find a reliable person. The last one quit with 2 weeks’ notice right before the holidays.

    Thankfully, we found a drop-in childcare center, which was a Godsend, and which saved my job and my sanity. One week after we signed up, when I realized that I could book appointments, any time I want, and drop off my child when I needed to work – any time I want! With no last-minute cancellations! – I brought the daycare owner an extra-special box of chocolate as a token of my gratitude.

  130. Emily*

    I wonder if your openness to flexibility is hurting you here. When you’re hiring, maybe start with a set, inflexible schedule to establish expectations of showing up for work and what kind of hours you’re offering and then let the flexibility grow with the working relationship. Flexibility sometimes is misinterpreted as non-important (she can just move her work to later no biggie!)

    1. OP*

      For sure! I actually gave her a fixed schedule, I don’t demand flexibility from her, but _I_ can be flexible, because I know Stuff Happens. (Also sorry everyone I’m not commenting on – I’m having trouble with my replies!)

  131. Rae*

    I’m in a similar position, trying to work full-time, take classes part-time, manage a family and an supervise virtual schooling without going insane. I hired 2 college students using care.com to come do virtual school/tutoring for a few hours a week. Care.com is really hit or miss but this round was pretty easy. I set up interviews with potentials and had written expectations. Tutors have a set day and time they always come, and then I ask if they want to pick up additional shifts. One works 4 hours and the other does 9 hours on Wednesdays. I pay a flat rate of $20 an hour, which sounds like a lot but helps with reliability, I think. Tutors can do their own classwork while my kid is in a Zoom class. One tutor also doesn’t drive, so I go and pick her up. My SO and I also divide up the week so I have two days where if something goes wrong it is not my responsibility to cover. Gotta be flexible!

  132. Erin*

    Oh what a pickle to be in with little ones and needing part time child care. I have 4 friends who are in this exact same predicament.

    Most of them have decided to do a combination of make the nanny role a part time gig that is same days/same time simply to avoid confusion, and the job not feeling like an actual job. After they established a routine with their providers, two have been able to implement more flexibility with days/times.

    One of the friends has rallied a few other parents in the neighborhood to do a childcare trade. They created a rotating schedule, and are keeping with mask mandates, etc. It’s working fairly well. I can see how a few parents who don’t hold jobs could get a little burnt out with taking on more than the parents that do hold jobs, but everyone has been good about sending lunch/snacks/homework with their child, and treating the neighborhood share as going to after school care. Idk if this would work in your situation because you would need to take a time slot to host as well. But, perhaps you could offer to simply pay for your kids to attend, which would relieve you of needing to host?

    I think it’s awesome that you’re so flexible and accommodating to your childcare providers. I mean, you offer paid vacation if I remember correctly?! You sound like a dream to work for!

    1. OP*

      Thanks! We do have a “normal” rotation with neighbors, but it is (like most things) on hold during COVID days. The co-op rotation has generally gone really well, though! (We did this in the last state we lived in, as well, and I definitely recommend it to people with littles who can make it work!)

  133. employment lawyah*

    Most obviously: Pay more, such that they don’t want to lose the job and such that they don’t have as much incentive to go work somewhere else.

  134. Kathy*

    I think because it’s part-time and not full-time work, people are treating it as more expendable. It’s not the only thing they have going on in their lives and not bringing in their entire income. Stinks, but it’s probably less important to them than it is to you.

    As the mom of three kids, and someone who has tried a variety of schedules and child-care options, from my experience the most reliable (as a previous poster said) is to find part-time care at a child care center. I also had difficulties with a single provider – more on the lines of she had her own kids, they’d get sick, she’d get sick, they had appointments – and I was the last priority. A center provides stable care, and backups when someone is out.

  135. HarrietWriterPants*

    Over the years, we’ve hired 7 nannies on a part-time basis. One we found on a university job board, but most were from Care.com. Three of them stayed with us for 1.5 – 2 years until they moved states/went to grad school/graduated, and we’re still in touch with all three. The gigs ranged from 35 hours a week to 15, depending on what we needed, with set hours. That being said, we did have a couple of flaky and unreliable nannies, two of whom I eventually had to let go because of behavior like this.
    My best tip for the OP is that the hiring process is key. Each time, I interviewed between 10 and 20 people on the phone, and then between 5 and (once) 14 people in person. Then, when we had our final two candidates, we had them each back for a second interview with the entire family (the first interview was just me and kids; the second interview included my husband). A few things: interviewing 14 people in person is too many! As time went on, I got better at asking more pointed and difficult theoretical-situations questions on the phone, stuff like “if child A has a toy and child B grabs it and child A screams, what would you do?” to get a sense of their instincts. It’s uncomfortable to ask those questions, because they’re hard to answer, and I always wanted to stop. But the people who could answer beautifully had more experience and confidence, and I got a much better sense of what they were like in a 30 min. phone convo. And wasted fewer people’s time in an in-person interview, because I’d done my job in screening. Also, I made sure to give them 15 minutes with the kids alone (ish) while I went to make us tea or something, so I could see how they interacted on their own without deferring to me there as the parent figure. I’d have them read a book to the kids or whatnot, and peek in to observe. The details/grownup conversation I had with them alone, with the kids in another room, so I could get a sense of how mature and responsible they were (for the most part I was interviewing young women in their early 20s). If punctuality or not canceling by phone or whatever was impt. to me, I brought it up then as a deal breaker and asked what her deal-breakers are. I tried hard to make it feel like we were collaborating, because in-home jobs are not like other jobs, and hiring another part-time caregiver figure is not like outsourcing lawn mowing. You need someone who feels invested in both you and the kids, and they need to know you’re invested in them, back. The ones I developed that kind of relationship with were very loyal. I hope some of this may help? Good luck, and I hope you can find a new person. I don’t think that someone who cancels at 7 two hours before her workday really gets the impact on your life, or is particularly empathetic. I hope you find Mary Poppins! They are out there, and they are 100% worth it. My girls loved their nannies and we loved them.

  136. Susan*

    People need more than 10-15 hours a week of work in order to pay their bills. Any person who agrees to this “on-call, flexible, 10-15 hours a week” arrangement is simply not going to make it their first priority. Either they are going to be constantly looking for other work to fill their hours and take that when it comes or they don’t need the money and are working as more of a hobby/a little extra spending money. Why not go on vacation? It’s not like they really need the paycheck. I would suggest offering more and steady hours or pairing up with another family with one nanny who goes back and forth or cares for both kids together.

  137. Sarah*

    We found two part-time nannies on care.com, and both have been fantastic. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to proactively look at caregivers’ profiles on the site, and reach out to people who seem particularly reliable (pay close attention to reviews left by other families), rather than relying only on the people who contact you (both of our nannies were people I reached out to, not vice versa). In addition, target people who are specifically looking for part-time work…if someone really needs full-time work, there’s a high risk they’ll take the part-time job because it’s better than nothing and then quit once they can secure a full-time position. With your current caregiver, it sounds like you may just need to be clearer with her about your expectations…for instance, establish a fixed schedule and let her know that she needs to ask for approval for any changes she wants to make at least two weeks in advance. If you haven’t already done that, she may not realize that her last-minute changes are causing problems for you.

  138. Katie*

    Nanny here, I was hired from care.com. I do have to say that there are just some unreliable carers out there, and I think it’s worth sitting down and having a frank conversation with her explaining your needs and how her last minute cancellations are having an impact on not only your job, but your kids lives. If that doesn’t work or she seems indifferent, I would heavily suggest finding another nanny. I’m not sure if you check references but it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Understandably, 10-15 hours a week may not be preferable for some, but at the end of the day if they’re not willing to work with the schedule BG dictated they need to be upfront and not take the job. It’s not fair for the kids to be jerked around like this, and that should be part of the conversation you have. I know the preference is not to swap providers, but it may be best for the kids in this situation

  139. Amanda*

    In my experience… You are actually being too flexible. It’s much easier to present a framework and let people say if they can’t do it. I totally get it, but you are extending the way you work to people who are not able to – but they see you as easy going where you are expecting the same reasonable treatment you are offering.

    Make a plan, put in some structure and if/when you get someone who you can work with and trust, then you can offer flexibility. You first need the be a boss. And actually, it’s easier to tell people when they are not meeting your expectations this way.

    I wish you all the luck!

  140. Alison*

    I had this issue when the pandemic started. I realized very quickly that the dynamic between myself and the childcare provider I hired was too informal. I accommodated too much and in the process, the job was not a priority for the person I hired.

    It’s not necessarily about asking the right questions, but about setting expectations at the outset. For example: I am going to need you here at x time, these are your duties, etc. Once my daycare reopened, it was much easier so I definitely agree with going that route first if you can, but by professionalizing the process a bit, you may find better candidates. Also I wound up hiring a university student who really liked kids and was very diligent, perhaps going that route will help.

  141. Aikaterhn*

    A couple ideas:

    Write up a contract: My sister is nannying and she has a 4 month contract. It protects you and the nanny. She and the family have agreed to hours, risk exposure, etc. I thinking writing clear expectations will help keep everyone on the same page.

    Contact local homeschool groups: a homeschooled, high school student would likely find 10-15 hours a week perfect and could adjust their school schedule. They also are excited to play with kids and responsible. Plus, if they can’t cover, they have friends/siblings who can.

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