What I Learned From Being A Nanny

I wish I could have coaxed a giant moth to land on a baby's forehead. Rest assured, no baby foreheads were vandalized in the making of this post. I just thought it was a funny picture.

So unless you've been hiding in a cave chanting hymns and making wine with Gregorian monks for the past half-year, you're probably aware of the fact that I was a nanny for the past 7 or so months. How this came to be was rather random. Of course, my entire transition to the PNW was completely unexpected, so I guess it makes sense in the end by not making sense at all. But when you consider the fact that I was a history major with a minor in professional writing, it makes NO SENSE.

Story of my life^^

I had a friend who was working as a live-in nanny for a couple in the Cap Hill neighborhood of Seattle, and she suggested that I put an ad up on craigslist to be a nanny (or more appropriately, a "manny"). Two things struck me immediately. One, I had never been a nanny nor had I ever thought to be, and two - what kind of sketch people look for nannies on a site like craigslist?
The best sketch people, that's who.

I worked at a camp for mentally/physically handicapped individuals for a summer in 2009. We fed them, bathed them, changed their depends if they wore them, and basically took care of most of their needs. I also was an intern for my church's youth group for over a year and served as a junior high/high school camp counselor for 5 consecutive summers. I was an RA for a couple of years at my university as well. And most importantly, I have an adorable niece and nephew:

So I figured with all that random experience, I might be able to land a job.

Within a week, I had been contacted by five different families. One of them needed me to be a night sitter, another wanted me to hang out with their fifteen year-old autistic son. All of them sounded wonderful, but I ended up going with the first family that contacted me. They had an adorable little girl who was almost 2 years old at the time. After my interview, they asked her which person she wanted to play with the most and she reportedly responded by saying my name.

I was lucky.

Now I could go on and on about how wonderful of an experience I had, about how great the kid was, how much fun it was, etc. However I would like to pinpoint a few crucial things that stood out to me over the duration of my employment with the family.

First of all (and perhaps most glaring), I realized that I was probably a dumb kid. I know I was quiet and my family likes to joke that in my youth I had a head that was far too big for my body, which was clearly a result of my overly developed brain. Other than that my early years are a mystery to me. But I don't doubt that I was nowhere near as brilliant as the little girl I watched. She started potty training the week I was hired when I'm sure I didn't escape diapers until the other side of 3 or so. She recognized letters, could count to 13, instantly identified a number of top 40 songs on the radio (and knew the words), and she had a tremendous memory. On top of that, there was this park we often frequented that had a mini rock wall feature in the playground and she could climb up it by herself. So yeah, she was pretty much cooler than me in every way and probably still is. If my two-year old self picked a fight with her she would embarrass me in front of the whole nursery.

I also learned that I may not be able to force whoever I end up marrying to enjoy the things I enjoy, but I can force my kid to take on the finer things in life, according to me. Which means that yes, I will make them choose a life of pain by forcing them to look like this:

Oh man, I can't wait. The little girl I cared for is being raised to be a Packers fan and she already has plenty of yellow and green paraphernalia. My kid will drown in oceans of orange and black merchandise, becoming a target for dumb Steelers fans and the questioning eye of other parents. To which I'd respond: Get out of my tragedy and go raise your kid to like the Broncos or Cowboys.

Kids are also fascinated by anything. Sometimes we would go for walks and we wouldn't be able to get to a place very quickly (a park or something similar) because she would stop and pick up a rock or a leaf and become immensely intrigued by it. Nothing else existed for those moments except whatever she cradled between her little fingers, including me. Oftentimes I would have to get her to throw the object away because she would be way too focused on it; other times she would insist on carrying it, which was fine by me. On some occasions we would pass up the park entirely to stand on a bridge and throw leaves into the creek to tease the ducks into thinking it was food. Anytime we went to the beach she would stand on the shore and toss pebbles into the waves as if it was an Olympic sport. Maybe to her it was.

By far the most important thing I learned from being a nanny is that when your occupation dictates that 98% of your time and energy is put into taking care of someone else and focusing primarily on their needs, you are constantly being humbled. Every day was a reminder that my problems didn't matter all that much, if at all - and there was a time when I hadn't the slightest notion that those problems existed. Life was as simple as the way a pebble fit into your tiny hand as you flung it into the cold waters of the Puget Sound, or how fast you could go down a slide on your stomach. 

I'll admit, there were a few days when I often wondered how the heck I got myself into that place. Sometimes it was a healthy pontification, as I recall with mirth the silly songs and hand motions I performed at many a story time session. Other times it was more negative, as in "What am I doing here? Why did I go to college again?" To be fair, I'm sure everyone utters the same sentences no matter what their occupation is. I will forever have the feeling that I could be doing something more enjoyable when I don't focus on the joy of what I am doing in the here and now.

Those days were few and far between, but they still happened. After a short period, my selfishness would disappear because I realized that I was caring for and loving someone I never would have gotten the opportunity to had I not made myself uncomfortable by choosing to do the unpredictable. My insecurities and fears of the future were hard to focus on when I would be watching Sesame Street or carrying a two year-old on my shoulders through the paths of the Seattle Zoo. There was nothing better at the moment and there couldn't have been anything better. I wish I had been able to recognize that every chance I had...when I had it.

I'm unemployed and far from finishing the whole nanny thing. It's hilarious, interesting, frustrating, and exciting - not to mention completely out of my character. While it may seem strange and not exactly the type of work I had ever envisioned myself doing, I have no regrets about the half-year I spent doing it. It's a new year and I hope to find another family that was as awesome as the one I worked for before.

Chances are, I won't. But here's to hoping for it.

Cheers everyone.



At the moment, I'm all by myself in a house while Taylor Swift's Red plays on vinyl. I've successfully drowned out her whining by plugging in my headphones to listen to this:

That's kind of a thousand times better. Also, for anyone that likes Eisley (which should be everyone everywhere ever), one of the Dupree sisters has her own project called Sucre which is fantastic. Look it up.

Still reading The Art Of Racing In The Rain and guess what, it's starting to get sad. Dog owners beware.

As far as excitement goes, I possess very little for football since you know, every team I like was eliminated. That's what I get for cheering for the underdogs. Whatever. There's still the NBA and....I don't know, golf?

That about covers it.

1 comment:

  1. great job Jordan! by the way, The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of my all-time favorite books, and I am a cat fan. It is poignant and sad, and makes you think about your life more than you care to. Enjoy! This was funny and enjoyable to read - you really have a gift. I miss your mug! :)