Happy National Nanny Recognition Week. It is a week of celebrating in the nanny community. Last year I wrote a blog post about what NNRW means to me. I love celebrating nanny care. It has been a great career for me and the community of nannies means quite a great deal to me.
But NNRW is also a great opportunity for us and I am not sure we are doing enough to capitalize on it. The nanny industry as a whole has changed immensely in the past few years. Big sites like Care.com have increased not only our visibility but also have made having a nanny something that even more families desire. There are more and more nannies across the U.S., and not just in the big East and West coast cities where they have been for decades. It is not uncommon to find families looking for nannies in cities like St. Louis, Cincinnati and Dallas. It is not only for the ultra wealthy families anymore either. Certainly, having a nanny is more expensive than other forms of child care, but more and more upper middle class families see the benefit and decide to make the sacrifice necessary.
Which brings me to my point. This week- National Nanny Recognition Week- should be about showcasing NANNY care. And in my opinion- there are many many benefits we do not share enough about nanny care. Here are just a few.
There is loads of research about secure attachments in young children. Attachment theory states that children who have a trusted bond with their caregiver who is responsive to their needs will develop a more secure sense of self. There is further evidence that secure attachments in the early years also impacts behaviors such as risk-taking, relationship building skills and even cognitive outcomes. Nanny care, at its best, will provide the environment where secure attachments flourish. Nannies love their kids and are responsive to their needs in a way that is not always possible in a center where the ratio of infants to caregivers can be as high as 5 to 1.
2. Individualized care
Nanny care is the most individualized kind of child care. You want your child to use cloth diapers or be fed a vegetarian diet? Nannies can provide this. If a parent dreams of a fun filled, pressure free, play based environment, nannies can provide this. Maybe you are dreaming of an outdoor education curriculum for your 4 year old, again a nanny can do this.
3. Support of the WHOLE family
Nannies are there to work with parents and support them. Most parents do not appreciate being told how to parent, however, it is nice for parents to have another, less emotional, more experienced and educated opinion when it comes to making tough choices in parenting. And let's not forget the day to day support of having someone who will do a load of laundry, start dinner or run an errand for you. Parents who have nannies can come home at the end of the day instead of rushing to a center to pick up kids. Nannies take on tasks like changing over seasonal clothes and organizing playrooms leaving working parents more time to actually have fun with their kids.
4. The Village Effect
"It takes a village to raise a child" is an African proverb made famous by Hillary Clinton's book. But the proverb holds true. Children benefit from having people in their life who will advocate for them, educate them, challenge them, provide boundaries for them and most of all love them. In days past, we had large extended families or even close knit neighborhoods. Nannies become a part of that child's family. They love them and care for them in a way that is hard to describe but easy to see in action. Nannies provide another perspective. They often stay in touch long after their period of care ends and can impact a child's life in ways that we are not always able to see. A mom once explained it to me this way.
I am always so uptight trying to get everything right on the weekends. We planned a trip to the museum and got there promptly at 9 am to find that the museum didn't open until 10. I started to freak out inside my head, not knowing what to say to my daughter. What would we do? What a disaster!
This week while we celebrate each other we need to celebrate nanny care as a whole. We need to loudly proclaim that nanny care is amazing and a great choice for families. We need to proudly recognize the benefits of having a nanny in your life.
These are just a few of my favorite benefits to nanny care. What are yours?
Are you leaving a job anytime soon? Or will you ever leave?
Here is a great idea for a going away present for the kids. Make a series of letters for them. Label the envelopes so that they know when to open.
Label one - open when you miss me
Inside put a letter with a picture of you- include a happy memory or some other personal message
Label one- open when you are bored
Inside put a word search or list of riddles
Label one- open when you feel discouraged
Inside you could put a quote that inspires you or a story about a time in the kid’s past where they achieved something spectacular
Open this when you feel lonely
Inside put a letter about the first time you met the child
Open this when you feel very proud
Inside put a photo of you hugging the child or a congratulatory message
Open this when you are going on a trip
Inside put some questions on a sheet of paper for them to fill out and mail to you about their trip
Open this when you are feeling scared
Inside put a few ideas for being brave or about a time you were brave yourself.
Open this when you graduate high school
Open this when you get married
Open this when you ...
The best part of this gift is that it can be changed to fit whatever circumstances that you are in with your family. Younger kids can get letters that are aimed at them that a parent might read. Older kids get personal messages.
You could even use this gift for occasions like the birth of a new baby, the holidays, or big life events. You can personalize it to make it make sense for the relationship you have with the kids and the occasion as well as the personality of the family.
I have spent many years of my professional life working towards building a nanny community. I am not alone! Most nannies crave a community as we work in so much isolation from other adults and our jobs are not easily understood by our families, friends or outsiders.
Community means different things to different people of course. And lately I have come to the conclusion that we nannies- we want it all but as a group sometimes we are unwilling to give. Let me tell you what I mean.
We all want to feel included. Like we belong and are accepted for who we are. I certainly want to feel that way! But the other side of that is that we have to accept others. We have to include those with whom we disagree. We have to accept those nannies who WE might not consider nannies. I think instead of finding ways to distinguish ourselves from others we need to find things we have in common. We have to agree that professional or unprofessional, career or “just for now”, babysitter or nanny, someone doing the job belongs in our community.
We want to feel supported. We want to feel like there are others who are lifting us up. That our community is standing behind us- not attacking us. Well that means we have to stop working at telling each other what is wrong and work to understand those with whom we seem to have nothing in common. This works both ways. Ask yourself this question- when you see a nanny and have the reaction “I wouldn’t do that” do you let the judgmental part of you take over. Or do you stop to work to understand why they might be on their phone instead of playing with the baby? Do you sit next to them and model appropriate behavior all the while being nice to them?
We want to be invited. We want to feel others are reaching out to us. Let’s face it. When we disagree with that nanny who wears appropriate clothes to work, it is hard to invite them into your life. But inviting those who are different enriches our community. It means putting yourself out there too. It means leaving your comfort level and trying to talk to new people, to join in the discussion. For some who have been treated badly in the past, putting yourself out there is the hardest part of being in a community. But I promise that it is hard to be invited in if people don’t know you WANT to join.
We want to have standards. We want there to be an accepted code of behavior. We want to be highly regarded. Again, the responsibility to our community means we have to work to set those standards. If we can’t seem to work together as a community- then we will never get there. We will never be able to set standards that outsiders will accept means getting rid of the US vs. THEM mentality that sadly still exists in this profession. The first step in getting to a place where we can set standards is finding a way to listen to each other. To have mutual respect for each other. To forgive others who have perhaps done you wrong.
It is not easy to be in a community. It means taking care of the least of us, finding the value in each voice. It means being patient and kind and passionate and working hard. It means putting yourself out there, taking risks and joining in.
The beauty of nannies is that we care about each other. We are passionate about our profession.