It’s Not All Mary Poppins

A professional question

Any career nannies reading this? Not temporary or part-time nannies, not nannies who are doing this until they graduate, or until they buy their first house or whatever, but people who have been a nanny for at least five years, and — this is the important part — intend to be at it another 15 or 20 years from now.

I know a few nannies. Being professional childcare providers, we tend to meet up routinely, in the park, at playgroups, in community centres. When we meet, we talk, and, as with any group who share a profession, we often end up talking shop.

And when we do, I am always left wondering: Why would anyone choose to be a career nanny?

Oh, wait. That sounds horribly judgmental. It’s not meant that way at all. This is an utterly sincere question. I am not being sarcastic, I am not belittling the profession. I know that there are women who do choose career nannying, and I am honestly, genuinely curious.

I can certainly see doing it while you’re a student, making your way through university or college. I can see doing it when you’re living in an apartment. I can see doing it for a specific season of your life. None of the women I know want to be career nannies. They are all in transition from one thing to another, and nannying fits the employment bill — for now.

Which makes sense to me. Because I always wonder… when you have a home of your own, when you have an established life of your own — as opposed to the transitory nature of life as a student, betwixt your education and your future — why would you be a nanny?

And again, I know, if you are a career nanny, that question is going to sound so awful. It’s just that when I talk to nannies, you see, the downsides seem to overwhelm the upsides to such an overwhelming degree, I wonder why you’d do it once you had options. Even if, like me, you want to make childcare your life’s work: why as a nanny?

When I talk to nannies, I hear about:
- parents who hover in the background, over-riding your decisions
- parent who come home from work, and ask you to stick around so they can… what? … putz around doing not much of anything, to hear the nannies talk
- parental micro-managing
- having to do housekeeping as well a childcare (beyond cleaning up after the children)
- not getting sick pay
- not getting paid if they cancel on you
- parents who come home later than agreed (and don’t pay overtime)

The list goes on. Though I would never ask directly about finances (to me, that’s bad manners), I do wonder about pay. It stands to reason I can make significantly more caring for five children than a nanny can caring for one or two.

Autonomy. I have lots. Ditto privacy.

The downsides of my kind of childcare? It’s in my home, so the mess is in my home. But then again, it’s in my home. I have no commute — and on a bleak and frigid February morning, that counts for a lot. Isolation — but nannies suffer that to the same degree. In fact, I can’t think of any other disadvantages of my profession that aren’t shared by nannies… but nannies seem to suffer quite a few negatives that I don’t share, or suffer to a much lesser degree.

I have four or five families, so if I lose one family, it’s not the end of the world. It’s significant, of course, but it’s not my entire income stream.

I think the biggest benefit, to me, is psychological. When I care for a child in my home, I am my own boss, and (most of the time!) all parties understand this. Parents, it seems to me, are much more likely to view their nanny as their employee, and, because they know they are the nanny’s sole source of income, there is a tendency to abuse their role. (My apologies to all the marvellous, considerate, nanny-employing parents out there. I know there are lots of you, and this post is NOT directed at you. I don’t want this aspect to be the focus of the post. I am only reporting what I hear — and I recognize it’s from only one half of the equation.)

I’m curious. Any career nannies reading this? Have I got it entirely wrong? Is there a big piece of the puzzle I’m missing?

What are the advantages to being a career nanny? Why did you choose it? Why are you happy to continue in the profession?

May 4, 2010 Posted by | controversy | , , | 17 Comments

   

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