By my estimation, I have changed a small landfill’s worth of diapers in the past three years. I’ve been projectile vomited on twice (by two different kids, but bananas both times – I don’t eat bananas anymore). I’ve found smears of snot, spit, and shit on my clothes long after I’ve left for the day, and I’ve picked enough boogers out of little boy noses to scar me for life. I’ve measured out thousands of bottles of various sizes and incredibly specific temperatures; I’ve made hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; I’ve kissed more “owies” than I can count. This week marks my three year anniversary as a nanny, and in my biased opinion, it’s the most wonderful job on earth.
I help raise other peoples’ children for a living. It sounds strange to say, but that’s the best way to describe what a nanny is. That being said, I do not try to take the place of the parents while I’m with their children; I have no interest in acting as their stand-in or changing the way the kids grow up. The parents are the true superheroes, both in my eyes and the eyes of the children I take care of; I am merely a very, very lucky sidekick. I’m not there in the middle of the night when inconsolable babies refuse to sleep; I am not responsible for the roof over their heads or the clothes or the carseats or the cribs. I love the children to an extent I could never explain, but at the end of the day, I am earning a paycheck. My job is to keep these children safe; I provide a fresh set of eyes and a different perspective; I arrive each morning well rested, and I leave each evening completely exhausted, with dirty clothes and a full and happy heart. Raising children isn’t easy, and there are definitely days when I have to hide in a closet or a bathroom for a moment in order to take a few deep breaths in the middle of a rough day. However, at the end of the day, every day, I go home happy. Satisfied with the day, satisfied with myself, and so damn grateful to have so much responsibility. It is such an honor for me to know that my bosses trust me with the most important things in their lives, and I do my best to honor that.
I never intended to be a nanny. I babysat here and there as a teenager, just like every other teenage girl, but I became a nanny by accident. What was only supposed to be a summer job turned into three years, three cities, and three different families. I have played a big and an important part in raising five different children, four boys and one girl, who have ranged in age from six months to six years old. I have helped raise five children, but none of them are biologically mine.
I have a college degree. When I graduated, I intended to either continue on to graduate school, or find a job in the medical field. I had vague ideas of both, and was never particularly committed to either. I suppose that’s why I was so easily swayed into becoming a nanny; I loved that first summer with my two toddler boys, and I realized I’d much rather be spending my days with them than in a classroom or a cubicle. However, this isn’t to say that I’m not motivated or challenged at my job. I still have goals, and I feel an incredible amount of responsibility to make sure the children aren’t just safe, but happy and thriving. I have had many, many moments when I’ve been disappointed in myself for not handling a situation the best possible way; I go home and lay in bed and think about how to be a better nanny. I push myself to be as good as I can be, just like anyone should in his or her work.
I have a much different type of job than the majority of my friends, who live in the corporate world. I don’t have coworkers and I don’t have a dress code. The rules are few and the responsibility is great. I have no idea how to use LinkedIn, I don’t spend my days on gchat, and instead of listening to my ipod while at work, I sing along to Raffi. My version of an office party is an evening drink with my bosses at the kitchen table. Networking consists of talking to the moms on the playground or at the bus stop. I routinely have food thrown in my face and sticky hands clutching my legs; I receive more kisses on a daily basis than would ever be acceptable at an office.
That being said, this is still my profession. Being a nanny is a real job, and it is how I make a living. My job is important, and it deserves respect. I constantly find that people are curious about my job, which is wonderful, but that curiosity almost always turns into accidental disrespect. People are consistently surprised that I am paid a salary, including paid vacation. I would go as far as to say that every person I’ve ever told that to has been surprised. I am a pretty transparent person and will happily tell anyone who asks what my salary is. However, I don’t think it’s an appropriate question to ask, and I know I am asked that question way more often than my corporate world friends are. It isn’t that it upsets me necessarily, I just find it interesting. Having never been a mother, I can’t understand how it feels to be a stay at home mom, but I have a feeling it’s similar. On the surface people act as though they have the utmost respect for what you do, but there’s a stigma attached to taking care of children in that way. I have been told “I could never do what you do!” countless times, and I’ve been told how important my job is, but there’s an undertone that I’m not using my degree properly.
At the end of the day, those opinions are largely unimportant. All that matters to me is that the kids I spend my days with are safe and happy, and their parents think I am doing a good job, and I hit the pillow each night feeling as though I put in a good, full, hard day of work. I am so, so incredibly lucky to have the job I do, and I’m not just saying that. I get to have fun for a living. I get to watch babies turn into toddlers. I get to hear first words and see first steps, hug them and squeeze them and love them as much as I possibly can. It’s a beautiful job because it forces me to look at the world with new eyes each and every day, and that is worth the dirty diapers and projectile vomit any day of the week.