Hiring a nanny (or manny!) is stressful because you’re seeking a person to trust with that which you hold most dear. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether the person will be the right fit with your family and the right person to nurture your child’s development. But, before you make an offer to your top candidate, how can you really be sure that person is qualified to assume such crucial responsibilities? I’m not talking about resumes or references—I’m talking about the essential prerequisites for the position. If I was hiring a nanny, the one question I’d ask myself would be:
“Would this person be someone I’d want around during a zombie apocalypse?”
Initially, you might think that caring for kids seems unrelated to fending off attacks from flesh-craving corpses. But the following four essentials for surviving the onslaught of the un-dead are also quintessential for surviving the antics of the recently born.
Makes Good Decisions despite Intense Stress
Feeling anxiety is not unusual when your life is in danger. But in the widespread pandemonium of a zombie apocalypse, it will be essential to extrapolate scenarios so you don’t escape the immediate peril for an overwhelmingly ghastly result.
When children present a problem—fussing, fighting, refusing to brush their teeth—your instinct may be to stop the problem as quickly as possible. But appeasing fussing teaches kids to use fussing to get what they want. The best reason not to fight is that you might get hurt, so breaking up a fight might interfere with the child learning that valuable lesson. And if they won’t brush their teeth, playing the long game and withholding sweets the next evening makes a greater impression than threatening or bribing them to cooperate. You and your nanny should be open and communicative regarding the enforcement of consequences, but if she can’t weather a few crocodile tears or some urine on the carpet*, she’s not cut out for the job.
How can you judge? If she’s rattled during a simple interview, she probably won’t make it through a week with kids. If she’s calm and collected, try to throw her a bit of curveball—take a phone call in the other room, something to get her one-on-one with the child—and see if she maintains her cool.
*We’ll talk more about potty training next week!
“Zombie Runs” are offered as one variation of the popular “Mud Run” races. The runs feature a simulation of running from “the infected.” You might want to consider making the successful completion of one of these races a prerequisite for your nanny applicants.
Children need to be physically active. It doesn’t matter if it’s soccer or yoga or any other activity, as long as kids can exhaust the manic energy inside of them. If not, it will come out in another, destructive way. Your nanny should be able to fulfill this duty, even if your child is enrolled in physically active sports camps or leagues.
It may sound judgmental, but a basic observation of an applicant’s response to questions about their fitness level will tell you if they consider a brisk ten-minute walk to be intense exercise. Otherwise, inquire about the candidate’s athletic activities and relate your child’s current, or potential, interests.
Good Group Member
Whether you’re on the road or hunkered down, it takes a cohesive effort to outlast zombies. Communication is crucial to clarifying everyone’s job. And if someone isn’t pulling his weight, he’s dead weight.
Consistency is the key to a child clearly understanding expectations. If the parents and the nanny aren’t on the same page, it is more confusing for the child and more erratic behavior is likely. And while her focus must be on the children, the nanny also needs to understand the collective family goals such as adherence to a schedule or maintaining an orderly house. So while it may not be her job to clean the house, being a member in that shared space means that she is partially responsible for its cleanliness. Furthermore, being part of a team means not only following plans, but also interjecting opinions when relevant. Good team members have useful knowledge and they are willing to share it for the good of the team. You’ll appreciate having someone on your team who has some good ideas of her own.
If the applicant makes it to a trial day, give her the rundown and see how well she’s able to follow the schedule. Then, as you come and go, pay attention to how well she integrates herself into the daily rhythm of your home.
Can Wind Down
What’s the point of avoiding death if you can’t live a little? If you’re driving down an open highway, you want someone nice to talk to in the passenger seat. And if the base is secure, you’d enjoy having a person who can sing or tell a funny story around the campfire. Otherwise, you might as well shoot them in the leg and leave them for zombie bait.
Kids need to explore their imaginations and be silly frequently. If you hire someone dull, it may dim or extinguish your child’s creative impulses. On the flip side, a fun, encouraging personality cultivates an environment where a child can be aptly expressive.
The last phase of the hiring process should be getting to know your new nanny as a person. Take her out to dinner with your family. Do you enjoy her company? Can she be playful and engaging? If so, you’ve found a winner.
And if the dead do rise… double-win.