It would be a rare fool who would come around here and have the nerve to admit to thinking that stay at home moms have it easy. Or that their position is cushy, not a “real job,” or a pursuit only for the simple minded. Instead, people eagerly talk about how difficult parenthood is, and how much respect mothers deserve, but rarely get.
I’m here to enlighten you about childcare workers, because I want to say the same thing about us; Being a nanny is hard work. I am currently a full time, live-in nanny, but most of what I say will eventually apply whether you have an occasional baby-sitter, a daycare center, or whatever.
How much do you think about your babysitter? Oh, sure, you made sure of who she isn’t; your crazy neighbor that may or may not be plotting to kidnap your baby, or that creep who used to stalk you on the Internet. You worry that your kids are in good hands everyday. But admit it, you think relatively little about someone who is spending up to a full work week or more, with your kid.
I mean, they’re “just” the baby-sitter. They’re not really part of your parenting. They’re not part of your family. You don’t want them in your “happily ever after” story. Right?
The person “watching” your kids doesn’t get to just “watch,” and while I admit I’m occasionally tempted to sit on the little girl I nanny, and have even done so once or twice until she got wise and farted on me and I ran away, my job is not at all about sitting on babies.
And being a nanny is hard.
I’m not trying to compare being a nanny to parenting. I don’t imagine myself to understand what parenting is like. Much more often than not, my job leaves me in awe, of parents. You guys are very warped, amazing, sick, sick, wonderful people.
What I do is clearly not nearly so real, so big, so meaningful, or so hard. It’s… worse. Why?
1. We get all of the bad, and none of the good. I get barfed on, screamed at, and spend hours developing a headache while preparing a dinner I have a sneaking suspicion little people will refuse to eat. But at the end of the day, when the little guy has just learned to read aloud on his own, you, the parent, scoop him onto your lap, receive his kisses, and beam with pride. “He gets it from my side,” you think, “it’s because I’ve been reading to him since he was born” then you snuggle down with your baby while I smile weakly, cross “reading “ off my mental list of things I’m partly responsible for were it not a success, and then awkwardly excuse myself to go check my voicemail and resume my personal life.
Sure, you might think, but at the end of the day, you also don’t have to worry about the children’s education, saving account, general well being… I never said I did. I, believe it or not, have my own little life, education, saving account, family, and health to worry about. But I’m probably still worrying about your child’s. Because…
2. Yes, I’m getting paid. But plain and simple, childcare is not something that is done for money. No one goes into teaching, day-caring, or any child-related job for the money. It is, necessarily, an extremely expensive job, emotionally. If it’s not emotionally draining for your kid’s nanny, she’s doing it wrong. Trust me. In fact, drive home right now to check on them. If I didn’t bend over backwards to love and empathize with the kids I work with every day, I would have snapped the cutesy SpongeBob underwear that I have to wash and fold, right over their snot nosed faces, in the worlds biggest wedgie, and quit on the spot- a LOOONG time ago. Which leads me to,
3. Who do I dump to? You, hopefully, have your spouse for support and commiseration. I could call my friends and say, “Johnny missed the potty three times today and now my shirt is ruined” and listen to them snore, or I could call you and say, “Your kid is being a brat today” and get fired. Both options sort of suck. It’s a weird position to be in, especially because…
4. It’s true you’re the only person who really knows your kid. No one wants to take that away from you. Except… could you fill me in a little more? I know it’s your personal life, but I’m working in the dark here. Let’s say your kid has been treating me like I’m the root of all childhood ills all day, and I punish them. Or even just stop being Fun Nanny and start being Sad Luna. I think it’s for no reason. And then I find out it’s because they over heard you and your husband’s violent argument and threats of divorce the night before. Fine. But ideally, I should have some idea of what’s going on with these kids that I’m still getting to know. Just sayin’. So, in summary,
5. There’s no communication or clear boundaries. I have tons of responsibility, and ridiculously little power or control. No matter how hard I try, when it’s wrong it’s my fault, when it’s right it’s your success. The one time I screw something up, you’re all over it. But when I did 40,000 other things right and went the extra mile, you were way to distracted to notice. And what kind of person really messes up something that’s important to a child’s well being? A moron if it’s me, a human if it’s a parent.
I’m caught in the middle, a bit of a scapegoat, and never get backed up for enforcing your ever changing rules. I’m expected on a daily basis to pull off the things even you can’t get your kids to do. I’m an invasion of your privacy when I’m around, and you’re an invasion of mine when you think “live-in” means that I can’t even poo without being called back. If your kids love me, I’m undermining your parenting. If they hate me, I must be horrible.
But it’s not your fault, and it’s not mine. It’s natural, it’s the nature of the beast, it’s unavoidable and totally tolerable. But worst of all? I’m a 21 year old feminist, and sometimes I think I care way to much if some random middle aged couple is going to notice that I buffed their stupid granite counter tops to a perfect shine, and that’s just sick.