As a child, I never really grew up thinking I was meant to be a mother. I loved helping the younger kids at my daycare, and by the time I was in high school, I was already babysitting. It didn’t become apparent to me that I had a gift with kids, until I had several parents tell me. Now, ten years later, I’m still a nanny. I’ve had other jobs here and there, but I somehow manage to find my way back to this one “profession” I really excel in.
Nannying is basically like getting paid to practice being a mom
I’ve worked with several families, and every family is different. Just when I think I know children enough, I’m humbled when I have a day where nothing goes as planned, I’m exhausted, and I have poop or vomit on me. At least I can give the kids back to their parents at the end of the day, and sleep undisturbed in my own bed in my own house. I jokingly tell my friends that it’s the best type of birth control. I love kids, but I do not need them permanently in my life right now.
Nannying helps cure my “baby fever”
Being surrounded by kids has gifted me with life lessons that I cherish. Ultimately, it’s the kids who are my greatest teacher. They have taught me so much. You don’t have to be a nanny to learn from kids, but I’ll save you the amount of energy I’ve expended over the years and share some snippets of gems I’ve learned.
Lessons From Being A Nanny
Truly live in the present moment, because time doesn’t matter.
Children don’t have a concept of time. Just imagine what it’s like not being so attached to time in our “go go go” society. When my brain is thinking about what I’m going to cook the kids for lunch or what time I should put the baby to sleep, I completely detach from the now. Then, I look over at a 3-year-old girl engrossed in playing teacher with her dolls. Nothing else matters to her besides what she’s doing in that moment. One of the most liberating things I’ve learned is just to let go of your thoughts and truly BE.
Make everything fun, especially while you’re working.
Kids love to play, so much so that they’d rather be playing than sleeping and working. Yet most adults I know would rather be sleeping, rather than working or playing. Children learn through play. And the best way to challenge them is by utilizing this and making everything fun. Part of my job includes playing with kids, so I can safely say I get paid to play. And even when I’m not playing, I still bring a sense of fun and playfulness to my other work responsibilities. It makes time go by quicker, unless I’ve forgotten about time since I was having so much fun playing!
Routines come from a place of love.
When I worked with a family of a child on the autism spectrum, I realized how crucial maintaining routines was. Loads of kids have fought against routine, without realizing how much they benefitted from a structure in their day. Routines aren’t meant to be super strict and boring. They can ebb and flow with whatever life decides to throw at you. The main thing though, is that having some structure, even as an adult, provides comfort and stability in a seemingly hectic world. Plus it means less unexpected crying and tantrums.
Be open and curious. Always ask questions.
There seems to be a misconception that kids who always ask questions are annoying. The questions I get asked by children is one of the highlights of my job. It’s never annoyed me. I love that their little brains are firing up just trying to make sense of the world. Kids aren’t afraid to be inquisitive and ask questions without a filter. One of my favorite questions was when I was driving and this 8-year-old girl I was nannying asked me, “Paige, where do all the sidewalks end?” I didn’t have an answer, only an admiration for such a thought-provoking question at that age!
Don’t underestimate the power of “kind words.”
I’m a huge believer in establishing the habits of saying “please” and “thank you.” Even when I forget to say it myself, I’ll be corrected by the very kids I’m trying to teach. I remind myself to thank the kids for using their “kind words” so that they can learn kindness includes what we say and how we talk. From my experience, kids are really good at listening and absorbing someone’s tone of voice. They’ll know if you’re angry, even if you don’t vocalize it. Modeling for them compassionate and non-violent language is great practice for when it comes to my own personal relationships.
Big emotions just need more love and space.
Whenever a child is having a hard time processing an emotion, I give them some extra attention. Getting upset with them does nothing proactive. Same goes for getting upset with yourself over something. Crying is totally okay, and I know it’s an alert for some needed space to process, and love to heal. I take this to heart with my own self-care, just as if I was talking to my inner child too.
When in doubt, listen.
Kids LOVE attention, and sometimes it’s the simply things that matter. Listening to them requires patience, but that is a virtue even I’m still practicing. When’s the last time you paused and gave a child your undivided attention? Have you ever listened to the stories kids tell? Their imagination is truly abundant, and the stories I’ve heard from them could fill a whole book! If I ever run out of ideas for activities, I’ll ask kids to tell me a story. Then I’ll just sit and listen.
Also by Paige: Here’s What Happened When I Did A Dopamine Detox—And Why You Might Try It, Too
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Photo: GR3Z via Flickr