Wednesday, October 31, 2012

So You Think You Can Nanny? Part 3: Perks, Pluses and Positives

So the last couple posts I've been harping about how hard this job is- the crazy kids, out of touch parents, jam packed days, etc. But today I'd like to tell you about all the awesomeness that is my job!

Birthday Desserts
When I'm asked what I do, I often get a response something like, "Wow. How do you do that? I could never handle something so crazy like that everyday. Do you actually like it?" And I'm always telling people how much I love it and I wouldn't choose to do anything else! I was inspired to write this today because my "family" reminded me how great my job is and how much they appreciate me. Last Thursday was my birthday (26 yikes!) and they were awesome enough to give me the day off! So instead, Wednesday we had a special little afternoon to celebrate. Mom and I picked up the kids from school together then we took A and S with us to a nice little lunch at a cute cafe near White Rock Lake- I had a yummy salad and we all shared chocolate bread pudding with ice cream AND banana pudding for dessert! Then they surprised me with a gift certificate for a massage- such a thoughtful present! We went down to the lake and fed the ducks and then headed home. It's great to be reminded that you're appreciated and loved :)

So, in the spirit of this great day... here are 10 reasons why my job is GREAT!

1. Work Environment- Every day I drive 15 minutes up the tollway to the very wealthy North Dallas area. I pull into the gated neighborhood and drive down the streets lined with custom landscaping and multimillion dollar homes. I spend most of my days in a huge house with very high ceilings, walls of windows and marble floors. They have a formal living room, kid's room, laundry room, formal dining room, family room, casual dining area, gourmet kitchen, enormous master bedroom with equally huge bathroom, office, guest room, gym and yard with a pool. Keep in mind the furniture is top of the line, mostly modern leather, there's a flat screen in every room and it's basically your average million dollar home. So my work environment doesn't suck.I can't promise that all nanny family homes will be as awesome, but I figure if you can afford to have someone else watch your kids, you already have a nice place to raise them.

This is my boss, in my office.

2. Dress Code- I don't really have one. Most days I wear "work out clothes." Something like running shorts and a t-shirt, or yoga pants and a hoodie, with tennis shoes. On days where I know we have something to do, like take Baby A to the Little Gym or go out to lunch (like today), I'll wear what I call "real clothes" which are usually jeans and a shirt (other than a t-shirt), with sandals or flats. I set a kind of rule for myself that if I'm going to be in public with the kids, I'll look presentable. Otherwise I'm pretty much a roll out of bed and go to work without makeup kinda gal.

3. Freebies- Food is a big one. I am welcome to anything in their pantry and fridge, which is usually pretty good considering I do most of the grocery shopping (or at least make the lists) and the cooking. It helps save on our grocery bill when,most days, I don't have to eat lunch or dinner at home. I get a lot of "hand-me-downs" as well. For instance, we now have 2 top of the line air purifiers in our home that we never would have bought for ourselves. They got new ones, so we got the old ones. I have also received a super cool flashlight/industrial tazer thingy, that B got for his wife but she didn't want it so now it's by my bed when I'm home alone at night. I also just got offered a very nice road bike. Again, she got a new one so I get the old one (which has basically nothing wrong with it).

4. Days Off- Most days and weeks I have a pretty set schedule. However, they are also very flexible and understanding when I need a few hours off or even a whole day. For instance, we found out about a funeral out of town semi- last minute and they figured out a way that I could have the next day off so we could travel. I also (actually just today) had issues with our electricity and they were cool enough to let me leave and meet the guy, and it ended up taking forever so she was fine giving me the rest of the afternoon off. Granted, when I do get unplanned time off like this, they are either not working so they can watch the kids or they find someone else (usually grandparents) to take over. I don't know many other jobs that you can text your boss and ask to not come back in, and they just be cool with it. 
5. Bonuses- I have received very generous holiday and birthday bonuses and gifts. Either in the form of cash or nice gifts (like my massage gift certificate).

6. Fun- I get to do all kinds of fun stuff with the kids. We go to playgrounds and parks, JumpStreet, the Indoor Safari Park, roller skating, play places at the malls, shopping, meals out, and just about anything else toddler age kids think is fun. But, I guess you have to find doing that stuff better than sitting in an office, to consider it a plus. 
Playing with S at JumpStreet

7. Experiences- What other job pays for you to go on vacation, and also pays you to be there? I'm sure there are some, but none I can think of. I have been to Dubai. The family went, and took me with them. I worked and got paid but I also had an all expenses paid 5 star DUBAI vacation. And that, I can honestly say, would never happen to me any other way. They have also considered bringing me with them on vacations to Cancun, Africa and on cruises. I'll let ya'll know if those happen too!
Jumerai Beach, Dubai from my 5 star hotel balcony

8. Rewarding- It's an incredibly rewarding job and it all shows when you work so hard at teaching a child something as simple as colors or numbers, and one day they can do it all on their own. Baby A told me "A-woo" when I put her down for a nap the other day. And that is her way of saying "I love you." I kiss her cheek and tell her, "I love you, cookie. Sweet dreams," everyday. And the other day she finally said it to me first, she finally knew what she was saying. She is also recognizing colors, says tons of animal names and sounds and knows the names of everyone in her family. These are things I have taught her, and I can see it right in front of me every day.

9. Take Home Pay- Okay, this one I can definitely not guarantee for everyone. But I get paid half of my salary through their business and the rest is cash. I also get any overtime in cash. So what? Big deal? Let me break it down for you: my weekly income is $540.Every other week I get the full amount and the rest I get a direct deposit of $457.62. That $82.38 is nearly an entire electric bill for a month for our house. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind paying taxes, but it sure helps not to sometimes. Oh, also I usually take home around $60 extra a week for overtime or whatever, which adds up nicely too. It all just depends on what kind of agreement/arrangements you and your boss decide on. This way just happens to work well for both ends.

10. Hours- My hours are awesome. They used to not be anything special, was usually 8:30/9:30-5:30/6:30 when baby was still a baby. But now that both kiddos are in school all morning, I don't go in until 11:30! Example (this week): M 11:30-10:30pm (their date night), T 11:30-7, W 11:30-6, Th 11:30-7:30, F 11:30-6:30. This type of schedule works fabulously for me because I am so not a morning person. I sleep in till 9:30ish most days then get up and usually take care of whatever errands or house junk needs to get done, then head in to get the kids. I do get off a little later than the average person but it works fine for us because the hubby likes to go to the gym after work (or he's traveling for work so he's not even here) so we usually get home around the same time in the evenings. 

So there ya have it, folks. The glamorous life of a Dallas nanny. Really, it's not all that spectacular, I mean I don't get a free Benz or make big bucks. But for me, it's a really great place to be considering I love kids and hate offices. 

How could you not love seeing something this cute everyday?!?!
 Happy Halloween Everyone :) 


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

So you think you can nanny? Part 2: The Daily Grind

Sorry I haven't posted in quite a while! I've been crazy busy with numerous other projects (which will surely be discussed in future posts). So let's get down to business...

Refresher: I'm a full-time nanny (I'm actually attempting to write this as the baby naps and her big brother is at his weekly sports class at the Little Gym). Every weekday I have the pleasure of spending my time with an adorable 1 1/2 year old girl and a 4 year old boy. They are so fun but also an enormous handful! I leave every day completely drained, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

So what's a normal day like here in nannyville? It may seem like all fun and games but it's not. Truely.

Just let me give you a little taste...

For the first year and a half I worked with them, only the boy S went to school, from 8am -11:45am. So I would have baby A from the time I got to work (usually 8:30 am) until we went and picked up S at 11:45. However, now that both kids are in school in the morning my schedule has shifted a bit. I do all the same things but just a little later in the day.

So here's the run down of a pretty regular day (this is a basic schedule for any given day of the week, I'll talk about the extras later):
  • 11:30am- get to work
  • read notes from mom for the day (check down below I'll write out an example)
  • put together a small snack for the kids- usually a few pieces of fruit or cheese, or if I'm feeling nice I'll take them some pretzels or something more fun than fruit.
  • jump in the car and head down the street (only about 5 minutes) to get the kids
  • 11:45- pick up S from the benches he's waiting on outside, then go and get baby A from her classroom
  • load up the kids in the car and head back home
  • 12- get home, everyone takes off their shoes and I attempt to get both kids to go potty (baby A is beginning potty training so she's more difficult)
  • We will usually play or lately we've been watching a few minutes of an Elmo DVD because A has become obsessed (she will literally bring me the remote and ask for Elmo).
  • 12:30- lunch time! I make their lunches and mine if I'm hungry. 
  • They're generally pretty easy to feed (unless A is feeling especially picky, in which case sometimes I try multiple things until she actually eats something). S usually eats a pb&j, fruit and yogurt. I can usually get A to eat cheese of some type, fruit and yogurt. We mix it up sometimes with some other staple favorites like veggie hotdogs, chick'n nuggets, or burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, noodles and always different kinds of fruit.
  • 1/1:30- they're usually finished eating and I try to get them to participate in the clean up. Otherwise, I clean up whatever mess we've left from lunch and they play.
  • Attempt at potty time again, unless A has already had an accident in which case it's clean up her and her high chair time. 
  • 2pm- Baby A's nap time! 
  • I generally turn on a movie or Nick Jr. for S to watch while I'm putting the baby to bed. I make her a cup of milk, put on her sleep sack and we read a book. She's usually pretty good about going to bed so when she's done with her milk I can sing her a song and put her in her crib without much fussing from her.
  • When A is asleep is when I get any kind of "free time." I try to finish up anything left for me on the daily notes (basically my chores). Afterward I can usually get some personal things done while S has his "relax time" and watches his movie. Such is what I'm doing right now. Checking emails, paying bills, updating my Etsy, Ebay and blog and maybe doing some online shopping if I'm lucky. However, this free time is quiet rare and usually only comes in the form of about 30 minutes to myself.
  • 4pm- Baby A wakes up! She almost always naps for 2 hours (almost exactly).
  • Then it's potty time again and/or clean up any nap time accidents.
  • She usually asks for Elmo again, and I'll put it on for her while I'm doing any clean up or other stuff.
  • I'll fix the kids a snack (usually cheese and crackers or some fruit) and generally they have some activity to go to in the afternoon, so we'll get ready for that.
  • If they don't have a planned activity we find something fun to do. Lately because the weather has been so nice we like to play outside, go to the park, or go to the play area at the mall. I try to get them out of the house and running around at least once during the day.
  • 5/6pm-It's either dinner or bath time.
  • A few days a week I make dinner for the family, so the kids like to wait to eat with their parents. Otherwise we figure out what dinner is going to be (similar stuff to lunch usually), I'll fix it for them and they are pretty good about eating on their own so I can get any last minute things done.
  • If they aren't eating with me, then I try to give them a bath instead. This is one of the more taxing jobs of the day. They like to take baths together so I start the water in the tub, get them undressed, S gets in his side of the tub and I put Baby A in her little tub (inside the big tub). 
  • I wash both of their hair and scrub down their dirty little bodies. I try to get Baby A finished and out first, because S likes to "make fights" with his dinos and other tub toys. 
  • So I'll pull baby out, dry her off and attempt to get her into her pj's. However, it tends to be more like, I take her out and she tries to immediately run and play. So she's often a moving target to get her dried off, lotioned, diapered and dressed. She likes to play in mommy's closet and look at herself in the mirror, so this is usually my opportunity to get her ready. 
  • All this happens while S is screaming and making dinosaur fight noises that echo in the bathroom. There is generally NOT more than a tiny moment of silence in any given day.
  • Then I have to convince S to get out of the tub, get him dried, lotioned and into his pajamas, which is also a struggle because he never wants to get out, and he like to play around in the closet naked also.
  • 6:30- make sure all my "tasks" are done for the day, finish anything up and keep the kids busy until mom and dad get home. 
  • 6:45- I generally head home about 15 minutes late. 
So that's what a basic schedule looks like. But here's the real meat of it all...

Monday- S has TaeKwonDo at 4pm and unless a parent is available, I have to make sure that A gets to bed early enough that she will wake up, we can be ready and heading out the door at 3:30.
(Mondays are a relatively easy day because mom is not working and likes to be involved, she takes him to and from class and likes to eat lunch with the kids.)
Tuesday- S has piano class at 3pm and just like Monday I have to make sure A goes down for her nap early enough. (Sometimes grandma/pa or their dad will be able to come and take him or stay with baby while I take him.)
Wednesday- S has Little Gym at 1:30 and TaeKwonDo at 4pm. So the same situation applies, unless a parent is available. Otherwise, I have to budget our time well and make sure everyone gets where they need to be.
Thursday- S has swimming lesson at 3:30 at the house and A has her little gym class at 4. Generally Grandma/pa will come to the house around 3 and stay while I take A to class. It's a bit more difficult to work out sometimes because I have to be in the class with her, so I can't just drop her off like her brother.
Friday- (generally the most busy day for me because help isn't available) S has TaeKwonDo class at 4 and soccer practice at 5pm. For this to work, A has to be napping by at least 1:30. I have to have everything and anything that could possibly be needed packed and ready to go. We go straight from class to soccer practice at his school. Baby A and I stay there and usually have a snack and play, then we all head home.We try to get home as close to 6 as possible and I either feed or bathe them.

Once a week:
  • Roll trash bins out to curb and bring back in the next day
  • Do A's laundry and change her crib sheet
  • Do S's laundry along with towels or misc. dirty stuff
  • Make a trip to the grocery 
  • Sanitize all kitchen and bathroom counters, doorknobs, phones, remotes, light switches, etc. 
  • I stay until 10:30 one night a week (for their date night)- that adds dinner, bath and bed time to my schedule for that night
  • Load/unload dishwasher
  • Wash and put away any other dishes
  • Feed kids
  • Bathe kids
  • Keep house tidy- aka clean up after kids
  • Bring in mail and receive any packages
When needed:
  • Take out kitchen trash and recycling
  • Empty diaper genie
  • Wash any dirty clothing from potty training
  • Restock diapers, wipes, etc.
  • Cook meals for family
  • Run errands such as getting gas, supplies from Walgreens, etc.
  • Any other cleaning or organizing job to keep the household running smoothly
Example of my daily notes from J (mom) for today- Wednesday:
  • Dishwasher is clean (this means I put away clean dishes and load it with any dirty dishes)
  • Please pick up kids at 11:45
  • Please sterilize kitchen sponges (in a bowl of water in microwave for 10 minutes)
  • I will need to you take S to Little Gym at 1:30 but I will pick him up
  • No need for dinner tonight, we are going to eat at my parent's house
Today was a pretty basic, easy day because their mom was available to help. Everyday is a lot of the same but also can be very different and difficult. That's one thing that makes this job so rewarding.

So... you've read into my daily grind and still think you can do this...
  1. You have to remember that at any given time 2 children are wanting your attention. It is a constant, LOUD battle between them and me. It is extremely difficult to get anything else (laundry, dishes, etc.) when you have 2 young children that you need to be in the same room with. 
  2. You can't simply tell them to behave and go fold a load of laundry or wash dishes. It takes a lot of patience and planning to get everything done in a single day, let alone the spare hour you might get to yourself.
  3. Just because there is time between major daily activities like eating and sleeping, doesn't mean that it is free time. If the kids are awake, I play with them. If they are asleep I make sure all my other responsibilities are taken care of before I tend to personal stuff. That's not to say that there aren't people who just turn the TV on and oops forgot to get the dishes done. I'm sure there are, but that's not how I operate and that's not how a good nanny should. You have to remember that this is a job, the parents are your boss, and you must live up to what they expect. Like any job, you can't slack off and expect to be treated like you're doing just fine. Like any job, you have to have a good employee/boss relationship otherwise your lives will be miserable, and you must hold up your end of the bargain.
  4. Just because the majority of my day is spent playing, doesn't mean that it's not exhausting. It is. Really. And maybe the playing part isn't so much the hard part as is all the other aspects of watching children- it's constant. Nonstop. You can't turn your brain off and check out for a break. It means you are keeping a constant watch on them, keeping them safe, teaching them, correcting them, breaking up fights, reminding them to go to the bathroom, changing dirty diapers/underwear, keeping them fed and happy and about a million other things- all at once.  
  5.  EVERYTHING is a struggle. It may seem like all I do is make lunch and drive the kids around but I'm telling you, EVERY SINGLE THING is more difficult because kids are involved. It takes twice as long to complete a task- just imagine it taking 30 minutes every time you put your shoes on and got in the car. With kids, it does. Because of their ages, S and A are difficult in their own ways. Both want to be independent but also still need help with a lot of things. S has figured out how to use excuses like "I'm tired" to try to get out of things, so generally getting him motivated is a battle and he needs to be asked about 5 times to get something done. A has been very independent from the beginning, which in the long run I hope becomes a good thing. However, right now it just means that she wants to do everything herself and I often cause problems when trying to help. She is extremely strong willed and has become very sensitive and temperamental lately (she's got the terrible 2's a little early). If something is not perfect, it often results in a tantrum, which can vary from a little crying to completely losing it- screaming and crying and kicking and rolling on the floor. So patience and persistence are key. They are must have qualities for a good nanny or you'll have a miserable time. 
Being a nanny is difficult. Tiring, exasperating, trying, frustrating, irritating, loud, crazy, challenging, irrational, and nonstop are just a few words I'd used to describe my job.

But so are- rewarding, loving, caring, fun, laughs, inspiring, magic, love, sweet, smiles, hugs, fabulous, and exciting. And the positives far outweigh the negatives in my book.

For all the tears and no's- there are a million more hugs and smiles.

I wouldn't have it any other way :)

And this is why I wouldn't trade for any other job in the world... I mean, what's not to love about this outfit she put together all by herself :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

So you think you can nanny? Part 1: Common Misconceptions

Hola Amigos! 

Sorry I haven't posted in a while- my grandmother is sick so I'm back and forth between Dallas and Ft. Worth, I've been helping my aunt clear out her home and sell things on eBay (suzannesellsstuff), selling things on eBay for myself and my mom (lek0032) AND building up our Etsy store (LovelyByLindsey). 
Oh, and working a full time job and trying to have a normal marriage and social life. Being this busy has been pretty crazy, but I'm enjoying it all (especially the crafting and making money part).

So because I've been so busy I haven't had much time to experiment or do much new crafting. But what I have been doing is working. A lot! And even though I've been busting my butt, I am constantly reminded how much I love my job! I was also recently asked all about being a nanny (by the checkout lady at Sam's) and it got me thinking that I should let people in on the whole nanny thing... so here ya'll go....

Part 1: of what I'm sure will be many nanny information posts...

Common misconceptions:
#1: It's a piece of cake- false. Being a nanny is very hard work. There is not a day that goes by where I don't go home tired. Especially when I've had both kids, and they are active the majority of the day. Generally the only kind of break I get is while the baby naps, and now that's generally from 1-3pm. However, during that time I am either doing something with S (playing, crafts, a movie, etc.) or finishing my other duties, like laundry or dishes. This leads me to...

#2: It's all fun and games- false. It is a big responsibility and hard work. Yes, I spend the major part of my day playing with the kids which is very fun, but I also do a lot of other things as well. Which includes caring for them, keeping them safe and happy, feeding them and educating them, as well as household duties (more on my daily duties later). It's you who are responsible for other lives. People with children understand what I mean, it is a constant effort. You can't (especially with little ones) just let them do their thing while you do yours. It is all eyes on kids all the time. One wrong step and they hit their head on a table, climb on a chair or on a counter, try to go outside on their own, eat something off the floor or get into dad's electronics and break a pricey remote (yes, that actually happened). It's all on you. You are the caregiver. I'm sure y'all understand the idea but you have to remember that you are the one they rely on for guidance, safety, boundaries, fun and food. This job also requires you to strike a balance between your own ideas, instincts and style with those of the family. So this bring up my next point...

#3: You're free to do it your way and/or It's the parent's way or the highway- false. It's all about balance. If/when you find a family you connect with, it is extremely important to discuss their AND YOUR parenting style. Even if they seem like cool people, they probably don't jive with you on every aspect. One of my biggest fears getting into this business was being hired by spankers. If you have child development education then there's no doubt you have read the research about spanking. There are all sides to this and I'm not going to do into it but, I'm not okay with it. This is just one example of something extreme that you need to be aware of. It's best if you can discuss these things before you start, so that you aren't caught off guard. I was fortunate enough to have a very easy going family which I get along amazingly with. However, they are pretty relaxed discipline wise, which caught me off guard the first few times S talked back to me (in front of his parents), had something thrown at me, or S threw a tantrum. They didn't have many rules or consequences in place, which has been a struggle. However, I ended up having a chat with mom (and S afterward) and they actually agree with me and often let me take the lead on dealing with issues. Just an example- please and thank you were not used by S. His usual was constantly "i want" or even "i need" ice cream. Or would simply demand things, and they would give it to him for fear of his explosive tantrums otherwise. This had to change. My mother used to use the idea that she couldn't even hear us unless we were nice, kind and respectful (and used proper English). So I've implemented this system, explaining to S that my ears can't hear bossy or whiny kids, they only like to hear polite kids who use their manners. With a lot of work (and backup from parents) he's gotten much better. Now if we could only teach baby to ask with words instead of whine (haha she's only 18 months so it'll be a while). This is just one example but hopefully it helps y'all to understand that working as a team with the parents is crucial. You don't want to get fired for putting a kid in a corner but you also don't want to feel pressured to do things you aren't okay with. 

#4: If you live in a city (or are hired by a rich family) you are guaranteed to make big bucks- False. Your pay is an agreement between you and your employers. Often nannies who are hired through a service make a little higher pay (at least here in Dallas) but it's a catch 22 because there are also other things involved with not being employed directly by the family. For me, I used the websites and to get my resume out there. I posted everything about myself, payed the small fee to have a background check run and posted, and then began applying for jobs. These sites work both ways, employers can search for you and you can search for and apply to jobs. For me, this was perfect. I had some interviews (you can often tell after the first interview if that family might work, and I had a lot that weren't very hopeful) and after A LOT of applying, I found my family! Another feature of the site is that you can display your preferred income, and employers can post what they prefer to pay. So in the beginning I was making about what anyone would simply babysitting these days ($10) with the expectation that it will go up over certain periods of time. I realize now that with my qualifications, I was low balled, and excepted a low income because I was desperate (which has been very nicely modified as of today). There are many different families and nannies in all kinds of financial situations. It is up to you to tell them what you expect. Do the research- see what others are making in your area, check with local agencies to see what they make and what their fees are (it is often more expensive for families to go through agencies because there are fees for the service, which is why lots of families use online job sites), ask the family how you will be paid (I am on payroll for half and am paid cash for the other half), and consider all other monetary issues that could be involved. You might want to treat it like you would any other job- will you pay taxes? are you going to be paid weekly/monthly? are you paid hourly or salary? All of these things, plus about a million more, are involved in figuring out how much money you will actually be taking home. For me, the benefits of being paid a little less, but in cash, works well for my situation. I also have lots of other perks afforded to me, that don't exist in other jobs generally, that make up for being paid a smaller hourly wage. The family provides food, paid holidays and vacation time, flexible but guaranteed hours, and I have access to everything in the home (gym, pool, kitchen, internet, TV, etc.) if I have time to use it. They are also rather generous with holiday bonuses and birthday gifts, and I have gone on a few paid vacations (Dubai!) with them. So it's all a matter of working out details and finding what the best option for you may be. Be open with employers about your expectations and come to an agreement that includes what works well for them. There are all kinds of people out there that need nannies, you are bound to find the right financial aspect of the job if you keep looking. 

So hopefully this helps. These are the most common things I get asked about, people comment on, that I hear, or that I have found to be true through my personal experience.

If you read through this and it seems daunting, it is. Don't be fooled by the fabulous (haha). It may be a seemingly awesome job, but it's not for everyone. If you think you can handle all of the above then go forward with it. There's no harm in having interviews or even taking a job and trying it. For those of us who do it, it's the most amazingly rewarding job and I wouldn't trade it for anything else (except to be a mother myself). But for many, like my husband and ALL my girlfriends, they would never even consider doing this job, especially after hearing some of my horror stories.

But we must remember to take the good with the bad- all the laughs, hugs and fun are pretty good at outweighing the poopy diapers and occasional tantrum :) 

And days like these make it all worthwhile...

Have a lovely week!