Whether out of economic necessity or personal and professional drive -- or a combination of both -- more and more couples, and singles, with young children, work outside the home these days.
There are a variety of reasons why these parents, and guardians as well, require and request, from time to time, help raising/safeguarding kids at home.
Such situations pose the all-important question: What do people do about caring for a new baby, and the family's other children, when they must either work or are not as available as they'd like?
The answer for many parents and others is live-in, live-out, part-time, full-time and specialty nannies -- all of whom have become, in one way or another, an indispensable feature of the work-home landscape.
Nannies aren't a new idea, of course; they've been around for centuries, to supervise, guide and help rear kids, first in the homes of history's rich and famous. Now, they've become staples of many everyday homes.
At the Philadelphia Nanny Network (www.nannyagency.com ), Wendy Sachs, the agency's president and founder, as well as being co-president of the International Nanny Association (www.nanny.org ), in Houston, said, "It's guestimated there are nannies working in more than 1 million American homes today."
Sachs' company has been in business for 25 years; that's longer, she claimed, than any other similar business in the Greater Philadelphia area and longer than many nationally.
"A number of other agencies have come and gone in 25 years. As a result of being in the field for that long, we have a variety of people, with a variety of training and backgrounds, something that becomes evident to our clients in the screening process," she said, adding her agency "serves the community at large and has thousands of clients, mostly in the Delaware Valley but also in Northern New Jersey, New York City and its suburbs," as well as Connecticut.
Among the newest agencies that supply nannies to working professionals, business owners and others in Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania, and in Delaware, is the American Domestic Agency, based in Wilmington (www.americandomestic.com ).
"We place all types of nannies, including long-term nannies on a full- and part-time basis, live-in and live-out nannies, temporary nannies for emergency care or as a backup to day care; night nannies to assist new moms and moms of multiples, and mothers' helpers for stay-at-home moms, who need an extra pair of hands -- and even special-needs nannies," said Melissa McIntire, co-founder of the company that opened in 2002.
"We also place nannies who are willing to do housekeeping while older children are attending school."
Families and others look for a variety of nannies for a variety of reasons, Sachs said. "It could be to help a full-time working mom or that a new mother needs help with her infant, so there is night care from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. because the more sleep, the more rest the mother gets, the sooner she'll be back on her feet after giving birth.
"Or it may be that we'll see families on a part-time basis, when they need help occasionally for a number of reasons, such as when a parent who hadn't been working returns to the work force."
Added Sachs: "There are specialty nannies who care for special-needs children, nannies who provide after-school care, and those who offer a family management focus, for example, when kids are teenagers."
In placing its nannies, the overwhelming majority of whom are women, she continued, the agency's philosophy of care is simple: always doing what's best for children in the safe, familiar environment of their own homes. "Some of our nannies have years of on-the-job experience; others have formal education; some have gone through specific nanny training; some were teachers," Sachs said.
McIntire talked about competent, quality nanny care. "The most common issue we hear about is lack of communication between the family and the nanny. When either party doesn't feel comfortable communicating with the other, the relationship may suffer.
"It is important that families tell their nanny to come to them with any issues and that they're understanding when she does."
Nannies may be found also at: www.enannysource.com , an online database.