For those of you Nigerian mommies who are in my shoes when it comes to ‘nannies’, January must have been a pretty busy month for you.

Many of these nannies (or helps as they are sometimes referred to) travel home for Christmas in December and it is not uncommon for them not to return back in January. To be fair on some of them, family influence and demands are some of the unavoidable factors which cause them to drift from home to home. As in, once it’s a new year, they are ‘commanded’ to test new waters. So even if you had shared a good relationship with them in the past year, you can still count on them to leave you in a fix, come January.

Actually this nanny story is pretty different from the ones I grew up with. Then there were really good helps who stayed for so long that they became like part of the family and even keep in touch till date. But today, even when you treat some helps really well and go as far as investing in the younger ones by sending them to school or to learn a trade, you can still count on them to turn their backs on you when you need them the most. Nevertheless, I will still point out that there are many exceptions to this norm. I actually know some moms whose nannies have stayed for as long as 3 years and they are still counting.

With that being said, what has been your experience searching for the perfect maid? Did you ask a relative to scout for a decent, young girl in your village? Or did you go through one of the sophisticated agencies that do the hassle of running all necessary background checks for you? Or did you go through the regular agents who run no real background checks and recruit for those of us who can’t afford the fees of the more sophisticated agencies?

Whatever your source, be sure to run your own personal, medical tests on the applicants. Two of my friends had helps who came back with positive pregnancy tests. There are also possibilities of Hepatitis, TB, HIV, etc. So be sure of the medical status of whoever you are bringing into close contact with your children. I personally take them out for the test to be sure that the results gotten are real and not fabricated.

Also, try not to make any choice out of desperation. Take your time to interview and assess the applicant because there’s no point taking her in, only to let her go after a few weeks or months. I have a friend that had to let hers go after only 2 weeks of service. I agree that sometimes we could be blindsided but still, there are also many things we often overlook in their history, dressing, mannerism, speech, etc. For example, I once had an applicant who seemed never to have worked in one place for long. I took a chance on her and was left stranded about 4 months down the line. I personally ask all sorts of questions – from her family background, to specifications of her role in her previous job, to the type of family she previously worked with, to her relationship status, etc. For example, there was an applicant who previously worked in a home where they had 2 nannies, a cook, etc. So her own role was primarily to watch the children. Even though she assured me that she could care for a house as well, I had my doubts she will be able to cope in my own home because I don’t have the luxury of several helps within my home. Also, there have being times I just weighed in on the applicant’s hair-do, make-up and overall grooming and I doubted that what I was offering her will be enough for her upkeep (and invariably her satisfaction on the job) which I must confess appears to cost way much more than mine.

Now, even though you want to carry out a thorough assessment, make up your mind as quickly as possible. The best of helps often go fast. So you want to be sure that you’re not left with the rejects at the end of the day.

Then finally, for those who are interested in hiring the younger girls, please be sure that you’re not going into child labour. Mentally put your child in the girl’s shoes and ask what would be acceptable as wrong or right. It’s also very important that as we assert our authority, we and our children treat these helps with love, dignity and respect because at the end of the day, we stand to give account to God and trust me, what goes around has a way of coming around. Sometimes, it’s amazing the way children are allowed to rudely talk to hired hands. However, seeing the way the parents themselves treat these ones, it’s no surprise what the children do and why the helps never stay for long.

So, what’s your own experience been like? What do you agree or disagree with? Do you have any other tip to share with us?

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