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 Care.com and Sittercity.com 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!