Saturday, February 03, 2007

What your Nanny/Babysitter Does and Doesn't Do

1) He/She probably does love your child. They won't do anything that they believe will hurt your child.
2) She/He probably does go online, make phone calls, listen to the radio or maybe even watch TV while she/he is "On the Clock". Good ones do this when the bambino is napping. They do this because it keeps them from going crazy. You are a parent, and you should (hopefully) understand the insanity that sets in when you haven't related to another grownup in days.
3) He/she keeps their eye out for things to do with your child that will be interesting and developmentally appropriate, but they don't plan the day's activities like a school teacher would. Yes, yes, your child is their job, but maybe a better way to wrap you brain around it is to say that they are being paid to be the mother for a little while. (This may be an unpopular thing to say, especially given the whole row going on between Meridith and Melissa right now. But still...) This is more true of nannies than daycare providers, perhaps, because nannies may have to clean the house, do the laundry, and get the groceries in addition to raising a baby, as opposed to raising a baby, and another baby, and another baby.... The point remains, watching children involves a lot of actually watching children. Watching children play, watching children eat, watching children play some more. The caregiver does provide stimulation, food and a running commentary (for the littlest folks), but this watching is more in the form of continual glances than a hawk-like stare.
When you're at home with your child do you say "And now we're going to play this:" and do you hover over them and put yourself in their every exploration? I assume that your child's day is a string of explorations undertaken with you in the wings, and that games or songs the two of you do together are strung in the mix randomly and naturally. And while you're hanging out to make sure she doesn't eat the dog or try to climb out the window, your mind wanders. You find something to do until she needs you, because otherwise your brain would go numb. Your nanny is no different from you in this regard.
4) Being a Nanny is akin to being a mother, but it is most like being a Single Mother. No one is there to get the door for you if you're in the middle of a diaper change, watch the baby while you pee, pick up the groceries for you on their way home. They're running your house for you by themselves. Most single moms are doing all this with no money, so a Nanny gets a break there because you are providing the cash, but emotionally it is very similar. It can be stressful and lonely. This is why some Nannies want to talk about themselves when you come home- she has been The Provider all day, and she's ready to switch modes. One would hope she doesn't take this to extremes, that she understands your priority is (rightfully) the child and gives you those juicy details first and freely. But given half a chance she'll probably tell you more than you ever wanted to know about her digestive system or her cats because she needs to talk to somebody about something other than Goodnight Moon and Cheerios.

I wrote this with Nannies/Babysitters in mind, more than Childcare Center Providers. It's a different world when your job is raising 8 children. It is all children all the time, but you are working with other grownups, which helps. You don't have to worry about shopping with children or cleaning the house with children, because you do all that when they leave (generally). And if you want to pee there's someone else to give you a break. You still get sick of Goodnight Moon and Cheerios, but you have coworkers to be sick with. It's hard, but it's different.

I don't know what possessed me to write this. I guess I'm bothered by the stuff I've read lately about parents expecting more of their babysitter than they do of themselves. Probably because you pay a nanny but don't pay a Mom. I can see that. Still. I have been a single mom, a nanny, a daycare provider, a married mom, a working mom and a stay at home mom, and to those who grouse about the humanity of their nanny, I say "Get Over It".

going to get less grumpy,

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