Headed back to work after maternity leave? If you’re looking for in-home assistance, finding the ideal person to care for your child, whether you call them a babysitter, nanny or caregiver, can be a daunting task. Unfortunately, Mary Poppins isn’t going to just appear at your doorstep. But with careful research, recommendations and referrals, you’ll find someone close. Here are a few tips from someone who’s been there.


Start early. You don’t want to feel rushed into finding someone who’s not a perfect fit for you and your family. Whether this means in the final months of your pregnancy or right after your little one is born is up to you. There’s enough going on during this period, and waiting until a few weeks before you’re headed back to work will put unnecessary stress on everyone.


Cast the net widely: let your friends and family know you are looking to hire someone. If you haven’t yet joined a neighborhood parent email group or taken a mommy & me class; do! One of the best places to find babysitter and nanny referrals are in these groups. Enlisting the help of an agency is always an option, but it’s an expensive one and not necessary unless you’re completely coming up empty on referrals.


Once you’ve found a few candidates to consider, meet them in person, in your home. If you’re lucky (as we were), you’ll know if the person is a fit as soon as they walk through the door. But in the meantime, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and always require referrals from previous employers. And for your part, be real. This person will be in your home at least 5 days a week, so they’ll learn soon enough if the house isn’t always immaculate.


When you’ve narrowed down your search, consider a trial run for a few days while you’re still at home. Observe from a distance and see for yourself how she blends in with your family. Then, put it in writing. It’s important to have some kind of agreement on paper between the two of you, especially on items like salary, vacation days, sick leave and start/end time requirements.


Sure, Mary Poppins is fiction. But finding someone close to your fictionalized ideal doesn’t have to be a mystery with careful research and time on your side. The peace of mind you’ll discover from finding someone amazing to care for your child will make it all worthwhile. Good luck!