Zen and the art of nannying

I am more than just a nanny.

I am also the household manager. The to-do list keeper. The person who waits at the house when the cable guy is coming or when furniture is being delivered. The product researcher to find the best prices or best stores. The grocery shopper, the person in charge of making sure there’s healthy food in the house.  But more importantly, I am also an honorary member of the family I work for.

I’m a nanny for a nine-year-old with a 45-year-old single dad, and I’m a live-in, which means that I am there pretty much 24/7 to help out when needed. I’m 22, so my in-between age has provided some entertaining encounters with other people trying to figure out what the dynamic is between the three of us.

I just started this job a month ago. It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this, but it’s starting to get more comfortable. There weren’t many resources to help prepare me either, since only 19% of childcare workers are reported to work for private residences. What makes this job particularly interesting is that nannies come from all walks of life (for example, this family’s former nanny is a senior citizen) so families are able to pick and choose based on the age level they feel fits their children. At first I wasn’t sure where the boundaries were living with an unfamiliar family that also happens to employ me.

Before I moved here, I had a “Nanny Diaries” picture in my head of how things would be. I knew the father was pretty high up at work  (he told me to feel free to Google him) and he’d be working a lot and traveling a lot, so I thought it would be mostly me and the kid. But he’s around as much as possible, and it’s obvious that his daughter is his world.

Her mom isn’t in the picture very often and I don’t know a whole lot about her, but I have gotten a few insights here and there. The topic of mom is one of the few aspects that isn’t completely out in the open and shared with me, and one of the few times that I actually remember that I’m an outsider to this family.

I definitely did not expect to be integrated into the family as much as I am, though. My opinion is requested – and valued – when it comes to furniture, clothing, decorative decisions, other purchases, and slowly but surely, parenting decisions. I eat dinner (at restaurants and at home) with the family, I go on outings with the family, and I go out shopping with the family. They pretty much assume and allow for the fact that unless I don’t want to, I’ll be going with them.

There’s a part in The Nanny Diaries where Annie comments that while in living in and studying another culture, you are bound to change it.

I didn’t think it would really be like that in this situation, but it definitely is. I’m not just here in the background observing another family’s life and quietly helping out. I’m thrown into it, I’m a part of it and I influence it. I matter to this family. It makes for an entirely new dynamic that I’m still trying figure out, but I’m enjoying feeling so welcome by a family… that’s employing me.

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