Having spent a lot of time as a devoted nanny, I can speak to the oddly bizarre aspects of the profession that are pretty nanny-specific. It’s a job with significant emotional attachment–you play a role in childrearing, and yet you go home at the end of the day. You’re certainly part of the family, but only up to a point. There are power dynamics to contend, the relationship between the parents, their parenting style, and then the wild, unpredictable grab of how children can behave on any given day. It’s a weird line to walk, and definitely leads nannies into some awkward situations.
1. You get a pretty close view of someone’s personal life nannying for his or her children.
Being a nanny means spending a lot of time in someone’s house, and you have unimagined access to their lives. Whether that means accidentally finding the sex toy drawer while looking for diaper cream, walking in on a parent in the bathroom, or having your charge say “Mommy and Daddy made lots of noises in the bedroom last night” while grinning like a future serial killer, boundaries will be crossed. It will be uncomfortable.
2. There’s that awkward issue of discipline.
When it came to nannying, I had a pretty firm rule that regardless of what kind of discipline they had going in their house, I wasn’t going to dole out any physical punishment like swatting or spanking. But there’s a lot more controversy to discipline than just whether or not you believe in spanking–nannies are in the precarious position of being like Parents Lite. You don’t have the same sway as parents, but your charge will inevitably exhibit some bad behavior around you. How you get control of the situation and handle it can be awkward and uncomfortable.
3. This kid is so fucking annoying and this is not even my child.
Look. Kids suck. Kids are the worst. I was the worst, you were the worst, and your child is the worst. The upside for parents it that these horrifying little vile creatures are their own creations, and despite how annoying they are, the undying love of a parent tends to outweigh the fact that your kid is a snotty, ill-behaved little prick. Nannies don’t have the benefit of thinking they’d take a bullet or lie down in traffic for their charges. The annoyances aren’t tempered by a heart full of parent love.
4. You spend a lot of time panicking to make sure the kid isn’t dead.
The sleep thing is the worst ever. My mother told me that for the first few nights of my life, she checked me every twenty minutes to make sure I was was still alive, and then she figured I was fine and moved on. When I nannied two infants, I would crawl into their room every fifteen minutes of nap time and check for rising tummies to make sure I hadn’t somehow killed someone else’s child. The fear that they would die on my watch never, ever went away.
5. Jeez, this parenting style sucks.
Being a nanny might mean adapting to a parenting style that makes zero sense to you. Your bosses might tell you that you can’t ever not be touching the children, or that they should never be disciplined, or that they are responsible for making their own meals without your help (but also they need to eat vegetables). Every parents has his or her unique style that you may or may not agree with, but somehow you have to figure out where you fit in, even if you hate it.
6. You’ll bond with the parent against the kid. The child is the enemy.
When I nannied, one of the moms I worked for occasionally needed to vent to me about how hard parenting is (which I am more than sympathetic to), and we’d bond over our common enemy: their child. Of course, you have to walk a fine line of joining in the gripe session without actually saying anything bad about the kid, which is how I ended up saying “of the terrors I’ve nannied for, your kid is the least horrible. By far.”
7. Wow, I really love this child.
I was always (perhaps naively) surprised by how much I fell for those little terrors. I remember once one of my charges got a nose bleed, which I get all the time. He was so scared of the blood and crying and I ended up covered in his blood (better than poop, I always say), trying to comfort him and stop the bleeding at the same time. I am pretty sure my heart broke during what ended up being a half hour ordeal, because I just wanted him to stop being scared.
8. Do you grow extra arms as a mom? I cannot maneuver this fucking stroller.
I am a college student. Why am I carrying two diaper bags, a baby Bjorn, a stroller, my backpack, two children, and my dignity?
9. How will this thing remember me?
If you nannied young children–as I did–you might wonder where you’ll end up fitting into these kids lives. I nannied two babies for almost a year before moving away, and I saw them five days a week–far more than I saw anyone else. These non verbal shit machines were huge parts of my life–I started when they were tiny four month olds. But they were too young to remember me, which is a bizarre concept. I saw them naked, crying, puking, changed their diapers, and sang countless songs to them when they flipped out, and one day they’ll see a picture of me and be like “who the hell is that teenager changing my diaper?”
10. Yo, can I get that IUD?
While nannying can be an absolute joy, there is simply no better birth control than being exposed to and responsible for small children. Shut those fallopian tubes down.