Let me start by saying that I am not a parent. I have never been a parent, and I might not ever be a parent. I’d love to have kids someday, but if I never do, then I never do. I’m at peace with my feelings on parenting and I don’t try to pretend I know more than parents as a group do about children. But I do have to say that it’s really weird to be lumped into a parenting group because of my profession.
I have a unique perspective that most childless people don’t have. I deal with children every day, full-time, but I don’t have any of my own. I know a lot about how to soothe a baby, how to feed a child, what kinds of age-appropriate activities are good for toddlers, how to get a ten-year-old to tell you what’s wrong. I’ve fallen into the “parenting rabbit hole” – and it’s strange, because I’m still nothing like the other men and women I talk to about unique problems related to parenting.
My other childless friends probably think I’m boring. I talk volubly about Glo-Worm and her latest developments, about Professor and Piglet and how well they learn, about Diva and Footballer and the oddities of twins. I complain sometimes about annoying things the kids do, or about a problem I’m having trouble solving. I talk about how much I love and miss the kids I work with. I laud the awesome properties of Early Years Centres and talk about the people I meet there. In short, I speak Mommy. But I’m not a Mommy, so it’s weird for people to listen to me, knowing that I can “turn it off” when I go home from work.
I’m not stupid enough to think that all of this nannying experience is going to prepare me for parenting. I’m not stupid enough to think that all kids are the same, or that the methods I use now are going to work with kids of my own. I also am not stupid enough to blindly try to give advice to people without knowing their situation or children – though I used to be. In my younger days, I probably gave a lot of stupid advice. Chalk one up to experience!
I think everyone has a moment of “Wow, I am really in my work bubble and no one else understands me”. But for me, it’s my work bubble that people totally get – they just don’t get why I, personally, understand some of what they go through. A lot of people have a weird view on nannies – we’re supposed to be aloof, professional, childcare experts but never overly familiar. But I think those people forget just how much you can fall in love with a child, how much you can care about them and their well-being.
I’m not a parent, yet. I don’t understand everything about parenting, by far. But I kind of like being in the parent rabbit hole – because I feel less alone in my job. I’ve made a lot of great parent friends through my work, and I like that eventually, once they get to know me, they accept me as someone else working in the trenches alongside them. I’m just not the same as they are.
I was reading Salon and found an article called . Interested, I clicked on it – and read a really honest and inspiring story from a woman who uses babysitters as part of her “global village” – you know, the one that’s supposed to help raise your child. She’s a single mother with a passel of kids, and she went from micro-managing her babysitters to allowing them to help her. In turn, she relaxed and was able to get more of her own identity back, and not just be “Mom” all the time.
I really enjoyed this because I provide similar services to people I work for. I’ve been the sitter that’s been over while they read or study upstairs for their Masters assignments, or want to get some writing time in. I’ve taken kids out to the park while they cleaned the house or tried to get some office work done. I’ve done the babysitting while they’re still at home, and I honestly don’t mind it.
When parents who do want a break from their kids stay hands-off, it works out extremely well for all involved. When they don’t, they create an uncomfortable situation that makes it hard for me to do my job, and keeps their kids constantly trying to get to them, knowing their parents are there in the house. I tried to look after some children while their mother was home, but their mother kept coming downstairs every five minutes because she “heard the baby cry”. If you don’t let me handle things myself, you’re not going to get the time you need to do what you need to do – and I’m not going to want to come back and be micromanaged by you again.
I am proud to provide a great service to families that I’m with. I am the regular babysitter for a number of families, Diva and Footballer to name one, and it’s great that the kids know me and love me. I love being greeted at the door by happy faces and knowing that it’ll be a good time, even if it’s just an hour before bedtime, because we enjoy each other so much. I don’t consider wanting a babysitter to look after things while you get some me-time in selfish or worthy of judgement. We all need a break. That’s what nannies and babysitters are for.
Do you employ babysitters? What do you think about this article?
When I was five, I told my kindergarten teacher that I could read stories, and I did it.
When I was 8, I told my third-grade teacher that I could write stories, and I did it.
When I was 12, I told my friend at the time that I could write poetry, and I did it.
When I was 23, I told my best friend that I would be a published author someday . . . and I did it.
I published my first book today. I’m a published author. I did it through Amazon’s Kindle publisher, which may not make exactly as real as having a publishing house pick it up, but it’s real to me. My book is called , and right now it’s on Kindle only. Soon, though, I plan to make it into a print book. Soon, I’ll be able to hold it in my hands physically instead of just on my iPhone or Kindle screen.
My friend Anne at the says that writing is like gestating a baby for nine months and doing all the work to bring your child, your creation, into the world, only to discover that you’ve birthed a kitten instead of a baby. And writing is like that. I didn’t think that my first book would be an anthology of poetry and essays. I thought I’d be the novel that I was working on for years during university. I thought it’d be picked up by a publisher and given to the world that way.
Break for Beauty‘s title is taken from my third-grade teacher’s favourite exercise. We would sit, quietly, while she played music or showed us a picture of something beautiful. Then she would command us to write. Spelling and grammar meant nothing. The only thing that mattered was to break from the world and focus on beauty. To paint what we saw with words.
My first profession was writing. Before I became a nanny, before I worked in an office, before I went into marketing – my first profession was writing. I didn’t become a writer through this exercise – I have always been a writer. It’s in my blood. I’m a storyteller – I’m a poet – I know when to break for beauty.
So here’s my basket of kittens. They’re not what I expected to present to the world right now. They’re not what I expected to express when I was writing. But they’re mine, my kittens that I nurtured and raised and coaxed from their hiding places. They’re grey and brown and striped and orange. And I’m sending them out into the world.
I’ve published my first book. I can’t believe it.
(Cover by )
When I was little, I had a lot of different babysitters that looked after us, because my parents went to work. We went to their homes, or they came to us. There were a lot of negative experiences for me, but there are a few sitters who have really stood out to me, and they were the ones that made me want to be a babysitter and a nanny when I got old enough. They were women that were caring, creative, and understanding. They’d sit with me on the grass and look at clouds. I could tell them anything. They were like a best friend and a caregiver all rolled into one.
Nicole was a young girl, probably around 13, who looked after my sister and me when we lived in British Columbia. She used to play My Little Ponies and Barbies with us, elaborate games that would go on for days. We looked forward to her coming because we knew we’d act out the next installment in our toy soap opera. Helen was a lady in Brockville that we went to when my mother went to work. She made the best crafts – I learned how to make friendship bracelets with her, and she would have brand-new craft kits she would open just for us. Julie would take us to the park all the time and chase us around and play games of house with us. And Crystal would let us watch movies that we normally weren’t allowed to watch when my parents went out at night.
As a nanny, I try to emulate all of these women who were engaged, creative and careful to always look at it from a child’s point of view. They made every day special, and we looked forward to them coming over. They would read us stories, cuddle us if we were upset or scared, and you could tell they really loved their work. I am honoured to be among those ladies, and I wonder where they are now – I would love to tell them in person how I feel.
I know several ladies now who join the ranks of the really great babysitters we all remember. J is a homeschooling mama who also runs an alternative preschool for kids in her area. She’s amazing – creative, always thinking ahead, and taking her kids out to amazing places. Her photography is outstanding and her ideas out of this world. A is an international nanny with a thousand stories – some of which I hope she will share on this blog! And O works with an agency and has stories galore, good and bad, to tell about the families she meets and the kids she’s with.
Happy Nanny Appreciation Week to all nannies and caregivers – without you to pave the way, nannies like me would not strive to be as good as we hope to be! I’m proud that I’m in the profession with you awesome ladies! And check out this on how to appreciate the caregivers in your life – this is a blog I’ve recently discovered and it’s great!
I’ve been hearing a lot about the advent of “the woman-child” lately. Urban Dictionary, that wondrous source online, defines it as a woman who is above the age of 25, lives at home, and “whines a lot”. One of the writers at Jezebel decided to explore this phenomenon more thoroughly, and full of mockery and derision towards these women who “clearly” have no sense of responsibility or know what it’s like to truly be a real adult.
The inner feminist in me is enraged. Outwardly, I’m eyerolling. Because honestly, what’s so bad about being a “woman-child” anyway?
By the standards of society, states the article, I, myself, am a woman-child. Why? Because I’m single, childless, and give into the many pleasures in my life. I like to go out to coffee shops and write. I like to hang around with friends, read books, and watch TV. I collect My Little Ponies (okay, that one is definitely a childish thing to do – but who is it hurting, really?). I like artists like Katy Perry and Carly Rae Jepsen. I’ve been known to dance around my house wearing only a towel, singing at the top of my lungs to these songs. I own cats. I like to sleep in late on Saturdays and Sundays. I am a woman-child.
I accept it – but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I work a full-time job and take care of children. I am responsible, pay my bills on time, and give to charities when I can. So my fridge may not always be full and I eat take-out a lot – so do many so-called adults with children. I like the pleasures in life. So do many adults with children. I resent being infantilized because I’m childless and single. And I resent being mocked because of it, too.
Also, why is it one or the other? I worry about global warming, the latest US or Canadian election, nuclear war. I read the Financial Post and I look at economic trends. I can hold my own in any conversation about any “grown-up” topic, because I watch the news like any other adult. People who enjoy traditionally childish things can still also enjoy a lot of adult pleasures. I enjoy many kinds of wine. I enjoy nice restaurants. I definitely love shopping and I love a rousing debate (just ask my friends!).
So, Jezebel writers, don’t you think that this is just another way to run women down, to make us feel inferior, to make us feel less-than? For a site that touts feminism, I was amazed to see this article. I don’t see a thing wrong with what anyone does with their lives, childish or not. I don’t see a thing wrong with my My Little Pony collection, my collection of children’s books and movies that I keep for nostalgia’s sake and because yes, I still enjoy them, or the fact that I like to sleep in late on Sundays. Maybe it’s because you, personally, miss those times in your life now that you have kids? But that’s okay – why can’t you rediscover them with your children? Why do you need to call other women “children” in order to feel better about yourself?
I’m so tired of the judgement. I’m tired of women running each other down. Who cares what people’s hobbies are or what they enjoy? If you don’t like it, I direct you to mind your own business, or check out a . We women-children can look after ourselves, thanks.