How To Choose a Helper
New to the concept of hiring a helper? Yvonne Heavyside of The Family Zone shares some essential tips to help you find the right helper for your family.
The first thing you need to establish is what kind of helper you are looking for. Would you prefer someone who has masses of experience caring for children, or do you want someone with little or no experience, but can be trained to do things to your own preferences? There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Experienced or Inexperienced
Some mums feel that they can only have confidence in experienced helpers. The helper will be able to use her past experience in caring for every eventuality. However, this can sometimes feel threatening to the new Mum who may prefer things done in a different way but feel she must defer to the helpers wider experience. Sometimes, in these situations, the parents end up feeling resentful or undermined by the experienced helper, feeling that the child is not their own
On the other hand an inexperienced helper will require a lot of training. It is not always easy to include every possible scenario and so there are bound to be occasions when the helper has to make decisions about things which you have not discussed with them. The ideal helper to care for your baby is probably a mixture of the two extremes; some experience or training in child care but open and receptive to your requirements.
What To Look For
1. Chemistry = Compatibility
The most important thing is that you like the helper. Remember, especially if she lives in, you will be seeing a lot of her, so it’s almost like choosing a flat mate. Secondly, if you have older children, their response is also worth noting.
2. Word of mouth
Check thoroughly all references and speak to her last employer. Ask if she could specifically recommend her to care for a baby. This is very important as you must feel confident to leave the baby alone with the helper. Ideally the best way of employing a helper is on the recommendation of a friend or neighbour but this is not always possible.
3. Be thorough
It is vital that you are thorough in the interview and consider the key issues that make for a successful employer-employee relationship. Assess her confidence and use of English. Ask yourself “Could this lady demand a Dr’s appointment if my baby is sick, or give directions to the ambulance service?” If you are not likely to be leaving the baby alone with the helper this is less important but if you plan to return to work, then these skills are essential. Is she able to use her initiative and work independently? If you have already had your baby see how she relates to the baby or toddler. Be wary of over gushing behaviour. Look for warmth, calmness and confidence. Is she confident enough to question if she does not understand instructions? Would she be prepared to make her own suggestions?
4. Let them speak
Offer the helper the opportunity to ask you questions. If they are about the baby this shows that she has an interest in him/her. Remember that the helper does not need to know everything immediately about care of your baby. You can train her gradually or send her on a course like the one organised by The Family Zone called ‘Helpers:Child Care, First Aid & CPR’. The 11-hour course will ensure your baby gets the right care and will be looked after during an emergency. The class is held in a real home to make all safety scenarios as realistic as possible.
The most important thing is that she is prepared to learn and care for your baby to your requirements. However, it is also important that you (the employer) encourage the helper to be open about the baby and listen to her observations or suggestions. Mutual respect and teamwork will ultimately benefit all.
Yvonne Heavyside has been instrumental in setting up the first courses for Domestic Helper training ever available in Hong Kong. She has been teaching these courses for 15 years and has perfected them over time after invaluable feedback from hundreds of mothers.