Are we a dying breed? The nannies that care for your children almost as much as you do? I spent many years after the age of 25 ashamed to admit that I’m a full-time nanny. Yes, one often treats this as a gap-year job, and it remains a highly undervalued title. Why? After all, we aren’t entrusted with a diamond-laced watch or the family dog but your tiny human.
People often overlook the commitment required for this position. There’s misunderstanding about the communication necessary to maintain an effective parent-nanny relationship. Boundaries are essential, now more than ever before. Good understanding between the nanny and the parent is often the secret to a successful match. We feel strongly, but we also care deeply.
Here are some thoughts from a nanny who has decided to “speak up.”
1. We also need a schedule to get us through the day
Just because ours is not an office job doesn’t mean we don’t need a schedule. We understand that family life is a bit of a rollercoaster, and most days, things simply don’t go according to plan, even the meticulously prepared one. As a rule of thumb, though, we can perform best when we have a rough idea of the daily schedule.
2. No, we aren’t part of the family
A statement often heard but as far from the truth as can be is “you are part of the family.” No, we aren’t. We have our own families. This is our job, and if we are to take it seriously, we’d like to be treated accordingly. Of course, we will be attending birthdays, weddings, and events of all kinds, but we will be on the job. We’ll have significant responsibilities and won’t join in toasting the bride because we are working for the family. We aren’t part of it.
3. Privacy is paramount
When one works within the confines of a family, personal boundaries inevitably cross. This isn’t intentional; it’s part of the game. When you are in an office environment, you are unlikely to see your boss in their pajamas at 6 am, sleep-deprived, banging on the coffee machine to hasten the release of magic liquid. We respect your privacy. Honestly, we don’t care much for your Star Wars pajamas, anyway; we simply appreciate having a good level of communication and understanding.
We’re most likely awake as well (yearning for that caffeine fix) due to a child’s need. Trust me when I say that when we are in your personal space, it’s just as uncomfortable for us. It’s part of the little things one doesn’t always ponder. It happens more often than we think, and healthy boundaries make it okay.
4. Don’t take it too personally when your child “picks” us
We do get attached to the children and enjoy it when they “need” us. It’s not personal. We can never replace the parents, but now and then, we like it when the child chooses us. It makes us feel like we’re doing alright.
Magazines telling you how you should raise your child are filled with articles and advice. Sometimes being “picked” by the kid is confirmation that we’re still on the right track. Nothing more.
5. There’s value in being valued
Knowing that we fulfill a purpose helps us excel at what we do. Being employed by a working family tells us indirectly that we serve a need. We know that being on time for work is imperative and these little things make us feel valued. We don’t associate the position of a nanny with that of any entertainment or public service role. The service we provide is of a unique kind and simple acknowledgment of this is more than enough.
6. Live-in nannies understand the privilege but also deserve a break
Live-in doesn’t mean we’re on 24/7 duty unless this is stated in the contract for any specific reason. Just because we are always there doesn’t make us part of the family either. If a live-in position is part of the arrangement, we respect your home and understand the privilege. That said, we’d like our employers not to confuse living in for an invitation into our lives.
7. We are all human and far from perfect
We secretly love being called Mary Poppins, but we also get tired. Sometimes, events in our lives influence our mood. Given the job’s personal nature, we strive to put our best foot forward. Still, we are only human and have “off” days, too, no matter how well we try to hide it.
8. We have lives, too
We go out, have drinks, go to bed at 4 am, have sex, wear yesterday’s jeans, and update our Instagram with “about last night.” We also have our dry-cleaning delivered and hire cleaning services. We do all these normal things, and we don’t want to connect with you on social media platforms.
9. Courtesy opens all doors
Sometimes, a simple “thank you” goes a long way. It can make or break one’s day. These words are more powerful in the childcare industry than anyone can comprehend.
10. Constant criticism isn’t productive
Only ever bringing up the one mistake we made versus all the tasks we accomplished with flying colors isn’t motivational. Yes, we will make mistakes, and yes, we are aware we should ask and not assume. Sometimes we forget to pack an extra pair of socks and being made aware of this omission is only fair. We have thick skins; we can take it. Having that extra pair of socks would have been better. We’ll learn from these mistakes and avoid them in the future.
11. It hurts to be told we’re not parents
If we don’t have children of our own, which is often the case, what we know comes from our past experiences, either with other families or our own family members, such as nieces and nephews. Even though we know a tad more than the average childless lawyer/economist/entrepreneur, please understand that a polite guide is more helpful than you may realize. Saying something like, “You’ll know when you’re a parent one day” is more harmful than helpful. We know this, and such direct pronouncements are very discouraging.
12. Our friends are moms, too
They vent about their days in our company, and we share stories with them because, frankly, they’re the only other people in town who will truly understand what we do for a living. We appreciate our encounters with other moms at the kindergarten, but often feel patronized when, in reality, we look up to these women and aspire to be just like them some day.
For all you parents out there with nannies, it’s confession time. Have you stepped on your nanny’s toes in any ways as described above. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.