The other night, I was talking over with Tom the changes that are coming my way in reference to my job. I will save that for next week, because it’s not the point of this post.
The point is that we ended up discussing very briefly something that we have discussed at length on other occasions, which is this: well-meaning and very sweet friends (whom I will give the benefit of the doubt and say do this without realizing it) who say things that make me feel looked down on for being a nanny.
Now, I give them the benefit of the doubt because I know them well enough to know that they love me and wouldn’t want to hurt my feelings. Or, for some people, I give them the benefit of the doubt because I just met them and they seem nice and like they don’t mean to be insulting.
But sometimes, when I hear people saying the things they say to me, I want to ring their necks.
Shall we explore a few?
1. “You still babysitting?”
I don’t babysit.
I used to babysit for pocket cash for 7 years, so I feel I would know the difference. Babysitting is when you go to someone’s place, on occassion, and watch their kid for a few hours, usually when they have a date or some other short function to attend.
Webster defines it as “to care for children during the usually short absence of the parents.”
Nannying is not for a short absence. The parents aren’t running out for a movie or for a party. They are working hard at their professions. All day. And I step into that role to care for their child while they are gone.
That means that oftentimes, I am the first person that the child sees when they wake up and the only one caring for them for 90% of their waking (and listening out during 100% of their napping) hours during the work week. That’s not because the parents I work for don’t want to be doing that- it’s because both the parents need to provide for their families and still want their children to receive quality care from someone while they have to be at work.
2. “What do you DO all day?”
Well, I work. What do YOU do all day?
I mean, sometimes it’s so funny to me the way people ask that. I’m not the only one who gets that question and feels like I’m being told that I don’t actually do anything, by the way. Just ask any stay at home mom or dad.
It’s funny how so few other professions are asked to give an itemized list of their job duties in order to prove that they are not, indeed, twiddling their thumbs instead of being productive during the day.
But let’s do it anyway. Here are a few things that I do with the boys as their nanny:
-Get child dressed.
-Allow child to attempt feeding themselves because they need to learn.
-Clean up child covered in food.
-Clean up food from every surface in what feels like a 10 foot radius.
-Teach sign language.
-Teach some words in Spanish.
-Practice counting, colors, shapes, etc.
-Stay in the house and listen to monitor for however long they need to nap.
-Go to pool.
-Go to park.
-Go on walks.
-Go play with other kids.
-Document child’s discoveries and adventures via photos.
-Document child’s discoveries and adventures via videos (usually on my phone).
-Send parents pictures of child during the day so they don’t miss them so much.
-Deal with temper tantrums.
-Go back to teaching manners.
-Hold hands and walk at snail’s pace so child can improve balance skills.
-Contract whatever illness child is carrying.
(This comes with added benefits of:
A. Coming to work anyway unless you’re puking because you don’t want to cause the parents to miss work.
B. Having a sick and miserable feeling child to care for while you feel sick and miserable yourself.
C. Not being paid if the other family doesn’t want you to come over because you are sick and might infect their child. And you get it, so you understand, but it still doesn’t change the fact that no work=no pay.)
-Play with toys designed to entertain someone under the age of 2.
-Watch educational videos designed to entertain and teach someone under the age of 2.
-Actually engage in playing, not just sitting there watching.
-Helping out with dishes, laundry, etc.
-Do all of this with a loving attitude, patience, and, as often as you can, a smile on your face.
Now, I should clarify. I LOVE my job. I know that list might not sound like it, but that’s not the case. It’s just an honest, and not even comprehensive, list of some of the things that any good nanny will do. And that’s just for little kids. Older kids might require attendance at practices, games, PTA meetings, etc.
And to those that say, “yeah, well my mom did all that AND worked,” I beg to differ. If she was working a different job, that means that someone else was doing the child care while she worked, whether it was a preschool, a daycare, a nanny, a grandparent, or a spouse. Not that working and parenting isn’t commendable. It is. And it’s just as hard, maybe harder for those parents who really want nothing more than to be at home with their child but need to be working. But still, it’s not the same, so she did not, in fact, “do all that AND work.”
3. “Well, at least you can get some downtime, and you can do your errands.”
I’ll readily admit that this job comes with certain perks. If I am extremely tired because I’m sick or have been up late for some reason, I can take a nap while the child naps, and on occasion, I do.
I mean, if you get the chance to sleep when you’re tired or do some other thing without a child around, you do it during their nap. Because, guess what? If I just need a break, I have an upset stomach, or I need to step out to make a phone call (I get better reception outside at both houses where I work), there is NO ONE ELSE there to step in for me. Not even for five minutes. It’s me and the kiddo.
So that means using the bathroom with the door open or bringing the child to the bathroom with me. Which, in turn, means washing my hands with my neck twisted to make sure nothing gets sent on a trip down the toilet.
And that means that there are no breaks once the babe is awake.
And if you need to make a call, the person on the other end can expect half your attention and lots of noise on your end because little kids are loud and require constant supervision.
As for errands, I can run them if I need to, but that includes bringing a little one along for the trip, which means that:
A.I am the only non-parent I know who has a carseat (or two) in my car at all times, along with crackers, diapers, wipes, toys, and a stroller. I don’t mind that because it’s very convenient.
B. People will constantly assume you are a parent. I don’t really mind that either, but I do often wonder what the other people think happened to my genes. I mean, I have dark hair, dark eyes, and an olive complexion. Both the kids I watch are blonde-haired, blue-eyed boys.
C. Couponing with a child in tow is almost impossible (for me, anyway). I have to really pay attention to what I’m buying and what I have coupons for, and that can make for a long shopping trip. I also need to pay attention to whomever is with me because, well, that’s my job. And also because they like balloons, which I’m starting to think grocery stores put on every aisle just to screw with people who bring young children to the store. And they want to hold the items I plan to buy. Oh, and to hurl those items onto the floor or onto the eggs, or wherever seems best at the time.
4. “Well, I am doing X activity, if it makes you feel any better.”
Well, no, it doesn’t make me feel better that your son is an 8th year senior at whatever college he attends or that you are in a job you don’t think anyone would want.
Because I don’t think I need to “feel better” about what I do for a living. I work hard, and a family has a better life because of it. I love the kids I take care of, and the parents know that. They often tell me how much of a difference it makes knowing that if they can’t be home with their child, they know that they are leaving them with someone who genuinely cares for them, loves them, and wants to invest in them.
And comparing it to whatever you consider the most embarrassing part of your life does NOT make me feel better. It makes me feel like you think I should feel as bad about my job as you do about whatever you’re ashamed of, but that you want me to know that we’re in it together.
I know you mean well, but please stop assuming that people who nanny only do it as a last resort. It’s true that it’s not what I thought I would be doing. And yes, I used to worry about that. But I chose to leave the jobs I planned on having behind for very good reasons, and I have come to realize how much value there is in what I do for these families.
So thanks anyway, but I don’t need to “feel better” about that.
However, I will admit that I get a certain amount of twisted pleasure now that I expect this to happen. That is because I know that most of the people who say that are aware that I worked my booty off in high school, got into the college of my choice, graduated with a degree and a minor, and that the last thing they expect me to say when they ask me what I’m doing now is “nannying.” It almost makes up for the sympathy in their voices when I see the look of confusion cross their faces as they struggle to respond.
5. “You sure blog a lot more now that you are nannying. You have a lot more time on your hands now, huh?”
Suffice it to say that you would probably do that too if the only person you were with all day couldn’t talk. And that if I am blogging during my work hours, it’s during naptime.
Blogging has become something of an outlet for me, not to mention a challenge. I enjoy seeing if I can get a post out every day. I don’t alway manage it. But the benefit of feeling like I have contact with adults when I am, in actuality, spending 40-50 hours a week with 1.5-year-olds, is worth the time it takes to blog on a regular basis.
So there you have it. Five of the most common insults that people almost never realize are offensive to me or to many others out there who invest so much of their time into bringing up the next generation.
Here’s to hoping that these social faux pas are avoided in the future.