After graduating from college in 2005, I was a property manager in the commercial real estate industry. I managed large, beautiful buildings such as Willis Tower and AMA Plaza. In 2016 I became pregnant with my first child, and at six months pregnant, the building I managed sold and my position was eliminated. By the time everything processed, I was seven months pregnant and I knew it would be close to impossible to find another job. The company I worked for provided me a decent severance package, so I decided to relax, enjoy being pregnant, and worry about finding a job after having my baby.
On January 8, 2017, I gave birth to my first child, a beautiful little girl we named Sienna Capri Stern. I was immediately in love. Sienna brought a new focus to my life that opened up my eyes. Things that were previously important, no longer mattered. All the cliché things you hear about having a child are true. She is my greatest accomplishment in life.
After three months of being with Sienna, worrying about her, being 24/7 available to her, I struggled at the thought of going back to work. How would I leave this small, innocent little baby that needed me? Who could ever take as good of care of her as me? How could I leave her for 40+ hours a week? Well the answer was, I couldn’t. I needed more time with her, so that’s exactly what I did. I was fortunate that we could financially swing one income for a bit and I could take the time I need to figure this out.
The first six months with Sienna were amazing. We shopped, went to nice lunches, took long walks through Lincoln Park, and did mommy and me exercise classes. It was so much fun. I felt as if I was on a permanent vacation with my little best friend. It was around seven months that I started to miss working, and everything that came with it. Working is obviously not what everyone wants to do in life. Often it is more of a must. Though, it adds quality to life and keeps you developing as a human being, as an adult, as an interesting person. I began to miss the daily human interaction and challenges. I missed getting dressed in nice clothes and sitting drinking my coffee while reading the news. I missed making to do lists and working to accomplish them in one day. I missed the routine and the new people I consistently met. Most of all, I missed having an income.
The decision of whether to go back to work was a gray area for me. For some women it is very black and white. I have friends that are extremely confident in their decision to work rather than be a stay at home mom. While I have other friends that are extremely confident they don't want to work and being home with their kids everyday is where they are supposed to be. For me, I understand and can relate to both sides, which makes the decision extremely hard.
In the end, going back to work won, so I began my search. I started interviewing to see what was out there. Because I didn't want to leave Sienna full time, I searched for a career that I was passionate about. I knew that if I was forced to be somewhere and didn't want to be, I would hate the job.
Simultaneously, I began my search for a nanny. It was my first time hiring a nanny so I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted, but I assumed I would figure it out as the position progressed. After interviewing six nannies, I found one that I felt was right (or so I thought). All of her references checked out well and she had a calm, sincere presence with Sienna. One credential she lacked was that her CPR certification was seven years expired. I was surprised by this. I figured most nannies would be up to date on such an important safety factor. I told her that if she wanted the job, she needed to get re-certified and I would pay for it, she agreed.
My overall experience with this nanny I would define as just fine. It wasn't bad, however it wasn't great. And great was what I was looking for in the caretaker of my child. If great was 100%, this nanny always only got to 80%. An example….she was supposed to start work at 9:00am. To me, this means standing in my house with your coat and shoes off ready to work at 9:00am. This nanny never once arrived at my house before 9:05AM and was never ready to work until 9:10am. To her, this was acceptable.
Another example is that she would always put it on me to come up with daily activities and food ideas for Sienna. Two things I expected to be part of a nannies requirements. There was always plenty of food in the house that she could make meals with. I wanted her to look in my pantry and fridge and create something nutritious that Sienna would eat without me having to think about it. Instead, every night before she came I would have to prepare meals for the next day. And for the activities, I wanted her to progressively know what to do with Sienna for each age she was at. I was a first time mom, I had no idea what age appropriate activities were best for her. I then had to research activities and explain them to the nanny so that she could do them with Sienna. I expected a nanny to know things like this? Nannies are supposed to make your life easier, these were two things I didn't want to have to spend time on.
I most valuable thing I learned from having a nanny is that communication is crucial. There were many circumstances where communication could have improved our relationship. This nanny was 80% at communicating. Because I was a first time mom, I wanted to know EVERYTHING. I wanted to know how many times Sienna went to the bathroom that day, what she ate, how long her nap was, what her mood was like that day, etc. I left a pad of paper out for the nanny to write all of this information down at the end of the day, but it rarely ever got done.
After speaking with a lot of my friends who also had nannies, it seemed that my concerns were not that out of the ordinary. How could this be? Why were so many nannies only working at 80%? Why wasn’t the goal and the expectation 100%? We are talking about our children, everything should be the best. I realized it could be so much better. Why were these standards so low for the most important thing in our lives? Why not take the extra step and make it amazing? Both the parents and the nannies would benefit.
Shortly thereafter, while pregnant with my second child, Swade Milos Stern, I had lunch with an old colleague, Cindy Kahn. She was already in the process of developing a nanny training school to improve the childcare system. Her passion for this came about during the time she lived in London when she realized how valuable her trained English nannies were to the success and happiness of her family. I was so excited when I heard this. I was about to have two children that I needed care for. Months later, we started this partnership to help educate caregivers and become the new standard of childcare, NOUNOU LLC (nounouco.com) and will officially launch in February 2019.