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In Search of Mary Poppins

Some moms opt for child care in their own homes

By Anne Straub

Sarah Endert laughs when she remembers her attitude before her twins were born.

“I didn’t think we would need help,” said Endert, now mother and full-time attendant to five-month-old Hilton James and Vaughn Estelle.

Her mother and mother-in-law each took a turn helping during the early weeks and proved her wrong. “You get addicted to the help that you have,” Endert said, noting the relentless nature of caring for twins. “It’s constant. You’re back and forth between the two of them until they’re in bed. And that’s only until the next feeding,” she said.

The cavalry arrived for Endert and her husband, Mark, in the form of Kaylee Clover, a 21-year-old nursing student placed with the Enderts through South Florida Nannies and Housekeepers.

Clover arrives at the Enderts’ Merritt Island home at about 7 a.m. and stays until about 3 p.m. “The first thing I do is sleep as long as I can. I think I can be a better mom if I’m rested,” Sarah Endert said. The help has proved invaluable, considering the overwhelming task of raising twins. “I can’t even cook dinner. Just unloading a dishwasher is a feat,” she said.

The nanny accompanies mom and babies on doctor visits and helps care for the children at home.

That “at home” part is a key advantage many parents cite when explaining why they chose a nanny over other child-care options. There’s no schlepping supplies from one place to another, no waking a sleeping child to get to the center so the parent can be at work on time, no worries about exposure to sick children in a group setting.

Kevin LaCroix, a charter pilot, is looking for a nanny to live in his home and care for his 7-year-old daughter when his job takes him out of town. He travels about five days a month, and has been relying on other families in his Rockledge neighborhood to have Chase over during his trips. He’d rather hire a nanny and use neighbors as a back-up plan.

“I would like someone to care for my daughter in her own house,” he said.

Lindsey Brooker shares that feeling. “It was just so great to know she was here with all her toys, all her diapers, the formula,” said Brooker, who employed a nanny for her daughter Madelyn. Now 4 years old, Madelyn attends full-day preschool. Brooker and her husband, Chuck, are looking for a nanny for their three-month-old son, Jacob.

Brooker teaches baton in after-school programs, so she needs someone from 1 to 4 p.m. every school day. The schedule worked well for Madelyn’s nannies, who were also students and attended community college classes in the mornings before work.

“They would graduate and move on to bigger and better things,” said Brooker, who lives in Viera. But not before becoming part of the Brooker family. One former nanny has asked Madelyn to serve as flower girl in her wedding.

That’s the type of connection that families look for in a nanny, and that nannies enjoy as well.

“I really love kids,” said Clover, who has worked as a nanny for other families before taking the job with the Enderts. She prefers the arrangement to the option of working in a day-care center and interacting with more children. “You get to know the kids a lot better. It’s so cool to teach them new things – you see their brains working,” she said.

That one-on-one attention doesn’t come cheap, but parents who prefer nannies believe the convenience and other benefits are worth the price.

The going rate for nannies is edging up from $10 an hour to $11 an hour, said Jodi Jackson, Central Florida coordinator for South Florida Nannies and Housekeepers. The company screens potential nannies and matches them to families looking for at-home help.

Brooker found an efficiency advantage in hiring an individual rather than trying to fit into an institution. When she investigated day-care options for Jacob, she often found that she was expected to pay for a full week of care, even when she only needed a few hours a day.

She’s starting to put out the word that she’s looking for someone and plans to post fliers at community colleges. “Hopefully, just the perfect person will walk through my door,” she said.