Wednesday 21 April 2021

Child’s play: The lowdown on nannies in the Netherlands

Photo: Depositphotos.com

If coping with children, home schooling and doing your job all at the same time is getting too much, you might have been thinking about bringing in the professionals. Here’s what you need to know!

‘I’ve been a nanny for most of my working life, and people are often curious and ask me questions about aspects of the job,’ says Darla Duggan, who has been a live-out nanny for 20 years. ‘Prospective nannies want to know what the job and pay are like, while parents ask me how they can find a good nanny to take care of their children.’

Here is a list of the most common questions she gets asked, and the answers.

What is the job like?
I’ve worked as a professional live-out nanny for 20 years now, both in the US in the past and here in the Netherlands. My background is in art – I have a fine arts bachelor degree from the Kansas City Art Institute – and in my 20s I gave private art lessons to children out of my studio, as well as working as a professional nanny.

I have always enjoyed working with children. They make me laugh, and I can be myself on the job. It’s an active job and a busy one, and when the click is good, the rapport you develop with the parents and being one-on-one with your nanny kids is very fulfilling. The bond can last a lifetime!

What about the pay?
Working as a professional nanny in the Netherlands has not always been a smooth ride. Sometimes it’s hard to find families who want to pay a living wage and ‘nanny’ as a profession is not as well-known.

We are most often paid hourly, but sometimes in the Netherlands, professional nannies are salaried. I’ve seen nannies paid anywhere from around €12 – €25 an hour. Of course, that depends on experience, what the pay expectation is from the nanny, and what families are willing to pay.

Photo: Depositphotos.com

So what is the difference between being a nanny and an au pair?
I often have to explain that, no, I’m not an au pair and I’m not a babysitter, this is my career. I’ve been doing it for 20 years so the experience I bring is not comparable to that of an au pair or a babysitter. Also my roles on the job often extend to house manager and private chef duties and, regarding my working hours, it’s important I remain flexible for the families.

An au pair is usually a younger woman from another country with a one-year contract to work for one family, with whom she resides. A babysitter, or ‘mother’s help’ is often someone in their late teens or early twenties who is working for families to earn extra money alongside their studies.

Sometimes professional nannies live with the families, in their home or in an apart lodging on the same property. Occasionally, a family also arranges living quarters for the nanny nearby their home. I’ve always only worked as a live-out nanny.

Does that mean you have training as a professional nanny?
Yes. I am what is called a geregistreerde gastouder which basically means I’m registered with the government to work as a nanny in the Netherlands. To get qualified I had to undergo training and take exams. My first aid certificate, for example, is updated every two years with theory and practical exams.

What are the advantages for parents to hire a nanny?
Since I’m registered, it also means that the parents can receive financial subsidies from the government for each hour I work and for each child under secondary school age. It’s a special benefit of which not many expats are aware. But if you have more than one or two younger children, it’s especially advantageous to hire a professional nanny to work in your home.

Photo: Depositphotos.com

In this case the family and nanny must work through what are called gastouder bureaus, which help create the contract between the two parties and act as a middle agency to ensure the family receives the governmental subsidies. The local health board (GGD) inspects the home and interviews the nanny at the same time.

The interview must be in Dutch and all geregistreerde gastouders must speak a good level of Dutch. This makes sense, both for insurance and because the nanny can find herself in different situations in which it’s important to understand and speak the local language.

Are there any perks to the job? Any downsides?
I love to have a job where I’m active, not sitting behind a computer all day. I also love to work with children. They say that a day without laughter is a day not truly lived, and with children I laugh at least once a day.

The work is also emotionally rewarding in that you get to have a positive impact on children and you are helping the parents out. Another bonus is my paid vacation time, as I really love to travel. That amounts to anywhere from four to eight weeks per year here in the Netherlands.

A couple of times I have started a job and discovered it wasn’t really a good match for me. Every now and then you come across cold parents or children who are not nice to you. That is never fun.  And some families tack on house cleaner to your duties. If that is not what you want to do as a nanny, you shouldn’t have to do this!

Luckily I’ve had a wonderful click with most all the families I’ve worked for.

Photo: Depositphotos.com

How do you find a reputable agency?
There are two agencies I would recommend, both of which are ‘fighting the good fight’ to help ensure nannies receive a proper salary and working hours and which really go the extra mile to match the right nannies with families: Gortz & Crown and Holgate Nannies.

There are also websites you can use to find nanny work or a nanny in the Netherlands. When I first arrived here 12 years ago, I used greataupair.com to find a nanny job. It is not only a site for au pairs as the name suggests, but also is used for professional nannies, personal assistants, senior care providers, tutors, pet sitters, etc.

Later, I found one of my favourite families to work for ever on care.com. I should also mention Napp Community. Although it is mostly used by babysitters, I respect the work the founder, Loviisa Vahavuori is doing to help match expats/expat families together.

Nothing, however, beats personal recommendations, so ask at work or in your social circles if anyone can recommend an agency or a website which can help you find a good nanny.

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