Can You Have a Non-Driving Nanny in the NYC Suburbs?

Jul 10, 2019

MAYBE, but having a non-driving nanny takes some creativity…

In the city, chances are you don’t even know if your nanny, sitter or childcare provider drives. Even if she does, there’s no chance she’s driving from her apartment to yours. She’s hopping on the subway, the bus or, even, in a taxi or Uber to get to and from—and she’s doing the same as she takes your kids from school to soccer practice to swim lessons to playdates.

In the suburbs, though, it’s a different story. If you’re aiming to keep your city nanny post-move, you’re likely going to have to coordinate some serious commuting, especially if she’s car-less (or, even license-less). Even if you tap a suburban nanny, there’s a chance she won’t drive—or will need a vehicle to tote your kids from point A to point B (and C, D, E and F…) every day.

That said, consider your options—like anything else in suburbia, there’s a way to strike a balance. If you’re thinking about a non-driving nanny, think about this…

What to Consider when hiring a Non-Driving Nanny

How Will Your Nanny Get to Work Every Day?

If your nanny can carpool with other nannies, walk, get a ride or use public transportation to get to and from your house on time every day, then that’s one major hurdle down. The problem is, their method of transportation has to be reliable, and available at times that complement your work schedule.

You could drive your nanny to and from your home or from a local transportation hub, or arrange for more local pick up, but be sure you aren’t adding too much to your morning routine. We all know what it’s like to get up and get out in the morning, and shuttling a sitter may be the straw.

“I see a group of three or four nannies at the train every morning,” says one Manhasset mom. “They come in from Queens every morning, together, and end up at the Manhasset station. The same taxi driver picks them up each day and takes them to their jobs in and around Manhasset. It seems to work well! He’s always waiting to get them, in the same spot.”

How Wil They Get the Kids Around During the Day?

Nannies have a lot of responsibilities. Chief among them, though, is ensuring your kids are safe—especially as they’re moving from school to lessons to practices to playdates. If your nanny doesn’t drive, they need to rely on other forms of transportation. Uber or Lyft. Public transportation. Carpooling. They’re all options, but they do take some coordination on your part. Uber and Lyft, for example, aren’t always as prevalent in the suburbs as they are in the city, so timing pickups “just right” can be a challenge.

“We have a bus that runs throughout our ‘main drag’—our little downtown area, past the park, the train station and near the elementary school,” says a working Sea Cliff mom. “I’ve never taken it, but our sitter will jump on with our oldest daughter and they can be at the park or the ice cream place in a few minutes. And my daughter thinks it’s so much fun!”

Another option: share your wheels. If your nanny drives but doesn’t have a car, you could let her use your car during the day.

“Other days our sitter drives me to the train, then takes the car for the day,” our Sea Cliff mom adds. “Either she leaves it in the same general spot on her way home, or she picks me up at the train and I drive her where she needs to go. It works well.”

Consider an Au Pair or Alternative Care Option

A live-in nanny—even weekdays only—or au pair might also work for your family. While this doesn’t necessarily eliminate the daytime transportation issues, there won’t be any problems getting to and from work, even if your sitter doesn’t drive. And if you do opt for an au pair, they virtually always drive—for most programs, it’s par for the course. You won’t have to worry about that, but you will have to provide a safe, reliable car they can use.

Care Expert Liza Maltz on Hiring a Nanny

“When you’re new it can feel completely overwhelming,” says Liza Maltz, founder of Have a Nanny, Need a Nanny, a site that connects families looking for in-home care and support referrals. “Where do I look? Who do I talk to? What—or who—is the right fit?” Too often, she says, this can be paralyzing to families. “Sometimes you get frozen—it’s a lot to think about and you’re bringing a stranger into your home.”

Community, she says, is central to overcoming these hurdles and finding that right fit. Her members-only site connects parent to parent, with direct care recommendations and referrals in New York City and beyond.

“Whether it’s a nanny, housekeeping, dog walker, baby nurse, tutor—it’s always best to go right to the source,” says Liza. “Ask that mom or dad what their experience has been like. What is that nanny’s take on discipline? Is the tutor reliable? You could interview someone and ask, but it’s so easy for that nanny or tutor to say what they think you want to hear—ask that mom or dad and they’re not going to say something just to appease you. They’re going to tell you the truth.”

This direct connection, Liza says, is especially important for families with specific wants or requirements. If your child has special needs, for example, by connecting with other special needs parents you can dig into a nanny or sitter’s experience and how she reacts to common challenges.

“Ask how that sitter works with a child on the spectrum,” says Liza. “Or maybe you’re welcoming baby #2 and want to know how a sitter really manages days with a toddler and an infant.” They’re considerations, Liza notes, that are critical to care success—but it’s all very hard to vet when you’re just interviewing a childcare provider or checking her self-supplied references.

Determining Your Unique Care Needs

Childcare, though, is just one care consideration when heading to a new community. Once in the ‘burbs, many families are in search of tutors, dog walkers, housekeepers and even specialized support like drivers, personal chefs, elder care and baby nurses.

“We’re also seeing a huge spike in homeschooling conversations,” Liza says. “Parents don’t know what’s happening in September and want to plan ahead—they also don’t want to have their kids in and out of school all year. So they’re creating home school pods, hiring former teachers to teach their kids—and they’re leaning on their extended communities for recommendations.”

How to Find the Right Care in Suburbia

No matter the care you’re looking for, when tapping into your fellow parents for recommendations and referrals, Liza has a few suggestions. First, she says, be mindful of where you’re getting insights and intel—and direct is always best.

“Before COVID-19 I’d tell people to meet up in-person—now I recommend a video call,” Liza says. “If someone really loves their nanny or baby nurse and wants to see them go to a great family next, that mom or dad will happily meet up for a cup of coffee or jump on a quick Zoom call.” Don’t just talk on the phone, she adds—you might not be chatting with a real reference. “It could be a friend of that sitter—or the sitter! Go face to face and you avoid that.”

And during that conversation, Liza advises, take the opportunity to dig into specific priorities and preferences—what’s most important to your family when it comes to care.

“It’s about aligning on values,” Liza says. “What’s most important to you and your family — does this sitter sync? For me, for example, I didn’t want a nanny who treated my baby like a baby. I didn’t want him constantly held all day. I wanted the nanny playing with him, on the floor, engaging him. So during interviews, those are questions I would ask: was the nanny constantly holding the baby, or was she really engaging the baby?”

No matter your values, though, there’s always one question Liza recommends asking: “what’s something that bothered you about this particular nanny? Because let’s face it, you can have a best friend in the world and there’s something they do that ticks you off. Find out what that one thing is now, and see if you can live with it.”

Ultimately, choosing care for your family—be it childcare, tutors, dog walking or, simply, someone to clean your house—is a major decision. The more streamlined you can make it—and the more often you can get it “right” the first time, the easier you’ll be able to transition into your new town.

“You want the mom saying, ‘Oh my God, have I got the nanny for you. You want the person who works, but who’s also aligned with your expectations,” Liza says. “That only comes when you tap into a community—when you ask other parents. On my site, only parents can list nannies—and they do so because these moms and dads are invested in finding an amazing new family for their sitters. That, to me, is extremely telling. Those are the nannies you start with.”

There are hundreds of towns to choose from. How do you figure it all out? You simply don’t, without getting a Suburban Jungle Strategist to help you through it all. Schedule here for your strategy session with our innovative suburbs strategy team. All services are completely free.

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