I love my work. I truly do. I believe caring for children and families is my calling. But I have been through a lot over the years. I’ve worked with some fantastic families and I’ve also worked with a couple of families who didn’t appreciate or acknowledge my hard work. I have been in the childcare industry for half of my life now (wow, I feel old) and the most debated issue that always seems to come up, whether I’m at the library with the kids or speaking with other nannies, is the difference between a nanny and a babysitter and the lack of respect we sometimes receive for choosing our profession.
When I first started what is now my career, I was 14 years old and just a babysitter. I must admit, that’s what I thought everyone in the industry was called. But then I went to college with the intention of becoming a teacher. I spent 5 years working towards something I didn’t really want. If I had listened to my heart, I would have spent that money on certifications and trainings. All through college I had numerous jobs, from a style consultant at the mall to telecommunications. I even interned at the N.C. General Assembly for a senator one summer. But I always seemed to gravitate back to childcare. I’ve worked in day care centers, been both a part-time and full-time nanny and I’ve also been a tutor. Nothing fulfilled me more than being with kids and helping them develop and learn. So a few years ago I decided I wanted to be a Career Nanny. Now, to the average person that sounds insane. Why would you want to spend your life caring for other people’s children? Besides, that’s not real work. I’ve never heard these words personally, but I get the looks and stares sometimes. And the fact that I could pass for a teenager doesn’t help at all. But realistically, nannies are teachers that work both inside and outside a home setting. We just don’t have to deal with all the politics and paperwork. I chose (yes, chose) this profession and it is real work.
The statement that a babysitter and a nanny are the same simply isn’t true. These terms should not, at any time, be used interchangeably. The main differences between a nanny and a babysitter are based upon education, experience and duties. A babysitter may be needed occasionally for after school care, evenings or date nights. They are only expected to care for the children and perhaps prepare a quick meal and put them to bed. But a nanny provides a multitude of services not only for the children, but for the entire family. These services can include but are not limited to childcare, housework, cooking, errands, pet care, carpool & driving to various activities and homework help. Nannies usually have an extensive background in childcare, advanced training and may be highly educated as well. There are more college-educated nannies in the field now than there used to be, most of them coming from other fields. We also continue our education with trainings & workshops and make sure we keep up with the latest certications. On top of all of this, nannies provide a very personal aspect to their charges and families. We are counselors, nurses, friends, confidants, body guards and some people even refer to us as second moms or dads. Never aiming to take the place of the parents, but special aides to the families we care so dearly about.
Nannies are also employees. We have a work agreement and get paid a salary. We get sick/vacation days and yes, we have to pay taxes. Some nannies even get incentives and perks such as a nanny vehicle, credit cards, health insurance, gym memberships and access to summer homes. And you do what for a living? Right…. :-) But it’s not about the extras. It’s about having a passion for what we do. Most nannies wouldn’t do it if they didn’t absolutely love the job. Truth be told, it can be exhausting. But the children we care for are like our own. We invest time into them and we see the pay offs and rewards each and every day. That is enough for us.
As a nanny, every day is a new challenge because you never know what can happen. You have to be prepared to expect the unexpected and be able to handle it quickly, calmly and most importantly, safely. When you hear comments like, “How can someone pay that much money for a babysitter?” it can be a bit disheartening. But each one of us knows exactly how much we are worth. We don’t have to prove anything to strangers. It would be nice to be taken as seriously as a doctor or lawyer though.
I am currently searching for a new family to work with after the new year. This will be my 7th family in nearly 6 years. I began my nanny career right when the “bubble burst” and the economic turmoil began in America, so I was not prepared to change families so many times. Every family has different circumstances. I was let go in some instances and other families I chose to leave because they didn’t meet my personal standards and expectations. Again, every nanny knows their worth and I definitely know mine now.
I am a nanny. I offer a wide range of services to the families I work with from potty training to registering the kids for activites and arranging play dates. I invest my time and effort to make sure that the children I care for are mentally, emotionally and socially well-rounded and the parents are secure in knowing that someone like me is there when they can’t be. I am also a mother. A mother who has the privelege of bringing my son to work with me. Until recently, he was with me every day. He now goes to preschool part time. The thought of leaving him with someone was scary at first, but when I thought about it, I realized that I am in that same position. I am the trusted person that cares for Baby N when her mom and dad leave each day.
So why is there so much stigma around our profession? Why don’t people respect what we do? Maybe because they simply aren’t educated. I have read a few articles and heard so many stories in the last few months from different nannies. Their awful encounters with strangers and even family members is hurtful to hear. We give virtually hugs and support each other in our online groups. It is difficult enough to work for a family that may not appreciate all that you do, but not being respected by others who have no clue what we go through each day is annoying and dare I say ignorant. If you are not a nanny and you are reading this, I hope I opened your eyes even a little bit. If you are a parent looking to hire someone, be careful not to make the mistake of asking for a nanny if you really need a babysitter. If you are a nanny and you are reading this, know that I appreciate you. Keep up the good work! Babysitters are great, but please refer to me as a nanny. We are special.
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