One of the advantages of living in Indonesia is being able to hire a nanny for your children. Expats, however, sometimes imagine nannies to be a cheery “Mary Poppins” lady with tactical child-minding powers and a skillset to cure all childhood issues. The reality of a nanny in Indonesia may be far from this foreign perception. Skills like first aid, child discipline, and childhood play are not always a part of the package. Becoming a nanny in Indonesia requires no specific vocational training or work experience.
WHAT IS A NANNY?
Nannies are usually young girls (around 15 years onwards) from a village outside of Jakarta who are withdrawn from schooling by their parents in order to earn extra income. These girls may be from large families and have grown up surrounded by babies, but their child caring skills rarely go beyond this. Even the nannies from agencies are not given formal training other than a basic course of how to change a diaper. There are of course the highly sought after “expat nannies” who have spent years working with expat families, but most of their experience is gained on the job or by attending courses funded by their employers.
With this information at hand, the first thing you need to determine before you begin your nanny search is what tasks she will perform and what her role will be in your family. It is important to be clear about this. Will she be expected to discipline your child? If so, how and to what extent? What are her hours and core duties? How much one-on-one time do you want her to have with your child? Should she encourage independent play or is she expected to be a constant shadow? What boundaries will you set for her?
When I had my third child, I searched for a nanny to help me with the basic tasks of feeding a newborn baby and putting him to sleep. I interviewed a fantastic nanny who was very interactive with my two older children, reading books and having fun conversations with them. However, her skillset didn’t match my requirements. Being a hands-on parent, I felt that having her around would interfere with my parenting style. What I needed at that
time was an extra pair of hands to help with the logistics of a newborn baby and nothing more.
SO WHERE DO YOU FIND A NANNY IN INDONESIA?
It is usually through networking and referrals. Facebook expat pages such as Jakarta Mom’s Support Group and the Upper Crust Catering mailing distribution list are popular places to search for available nannies. Associations such as BWA and ANZA also list nannies. However, the most common place to find a nanny is by simply asking around. I found my nanny by approaching another nanny in my condominium block. She had a friend who needed a job because her employer was about to leave. Agencies are also great for instant finds however the contact details of these agencies are generally gained by networking. It is difficult to find an official website for nanny agencies and they usually don’t cater for families that don’t speak Indonesian.
THE INTERVIEW PROCESS
Once you’ve lined up some potential candidates, it’s best to do the reference checks first. Ask the candidate’s previous employer for her salary; working hours, responsibilities, ages of children, work attitude, and any negative occurrences whilst under their employment. Then, conduct telephone interviews with your shortlisted candidates. Be very clear on the phone that you do not want to meet her for an interview unless she agrees to the terms of her new employment. This will cut back on a lot of wasted time interviewing candidates, only to find out that they can’t work for you (for whatever reason). Detail the specific working hours, living arrangements, salary range, start
date and how long you want them to work with you. Tell each candidate the ages of your children, what she will be doing and how things operate in your house. Ask her if she is comfortable with these key points before you arrange to meet up.
KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER DURING THE FACE-TO-FACE INTERVIEW
• Research and discuss with friends and acquaintances what to expect from a nanny arrangement before you interview.
• Do not be vague or brief. Go into detail.
• Ask the nanny to repeat what you said in her own words so that you know you both understand.
• Ask her what she did for her previous employers with specific examples.
• Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to detail exactly what you want, even if it’s more than what she did in the past. Some expats are new to this process and feel guilty for being direct. You are not being bossy or demanding.
• Don’t say things like “I’m an easy employer.” “You can do whatever you want” or “whatever you did with your last family is fine.” Or “You can start and finish any time you want.” This level of vagueness can confuse the nanny. It will most likely scare her into giving you an answer that she thinks you want to hear, rather than the truth.
• Bear in mind that she may be extremely nervous. Indonesians culturally don’t like to boast about their own skills and can be very modest and shy about what they are good at.
• The nanny may say yes to everything you ask, nod and giggle. Therefore, interviews work better if they’re interactive. I suggest you ask her to hold your crying baby while you go to the bathroom. Or play Lego with your two-year-old. In one interview, I asked a nanny to help make bread with me. This tested if she was able to follow instructions, read measurements and whether she washed her hands.
• Request a trial period where either party can cancel the contract with no repercussions.
• Note down vaccination history, health checks, previous training courses attended and if she is willing to do more courses in the future.
Finally, when I am hiring a nanny, the most crucial characteristic for me is that she actually likes children. This skill cannot be faked and is easy to identify through body language and behaviour. If this box is ticked, everything else seems to fall directly into place for us.
This article was originally printed and written for Indonesia Expat Magazine