Monday, October 4, 2010
Nannying can be a strange job. Odd hours, difficult clients (especially when they're teething!) and exposure to an awful lot of bodily fluids. That's a breeze for me, but I find that for some reason when I'm out and about with my charges, strangers get... weird. Does anyone else get this, or am I a strangeness magnet? Here's a few examples:
* For going on two years when my previous charge (we'll call him Spud) was between the ages of two and four, a Belarusian woman took a fondness to him and tried to engage him in chat at the bus stop before we went to collect his brothers from school. She had almost no English, so any chat we had usually ended up as a subtle game of charades while Spud hid from her behind me. This happened three days out of every week for two years. Her English never got any better. I learned three Belarusian phrases before I gave up.
* While out with the twins I look after now, the girl twin got a bit upset while we were wandering around a shop waiting for a Mommy and Me group to start.I picked her up and held her across my chest for a few minutes until she calmed down. After about ten minutes or so, a shop employee came over and told me that someone had complained about me breastfeeding(!) in the shop and I couldn't do it there. After I pointed out that it was illegal to remove someone for breastfeeding, I remembered to point out that she isn't mine and I wasn't breastfeeding her. I have big breasts and she did snuggle into them when I picked her up, but I don't know how anybody could have thought I was feeding her.
* Every person who comments on the twins as I go past them says some variation of 'you have your hands full there!' On average I hear it at least three times a day.
* A couple of people have said that Spud or the twins looks just like me. I think it's only because we all have chubby cheeks. Seriously, they look nothing like me.
* On the train with the twins, I was singing 'Morningtown Ride' to them (you know, 'cos we were on a train) when a woman interrupted me and spent the rest of the journey talking about all her favourite bands from the sixties. I just kept nodding and trying to amuse the babies, she didn't seem to notice.
* With another set of children (ages five, two and seven months) we were waiting for a tram after a trip to the museum when a man who was so drunk he could barely stand up (and judging by the marks on his arms, also a frequent heroin abuser) lurched over and tried to engage the five-year-old in conversation. When I politely dissuaded the man from getting any closer he insisted on giving the child a chocolate bar he got from God only knows where. After he was gone I threw it in the bin and had to listen to the child whine about it all the way home. As far as he was concerned, a nice stranger gave him something nice and his mean nanny couldn't have that.
* With the same three children, an elderly man stopped me walking back from the school, called my charges 'the best three men in the country' and gave them a handful of notes to spend on treats. I tried to say we couldn't accept the money, but that started the five year old crying and he wouldn't take no for an answer.
* When Spud was less than a year old, I was walking him in the buggy when a teenager flying by on a bike suddenly shouted 'Stupid baby!' and was away before I could properly react. I think he may have had Tourette's.
* Now that the twins are crawling, they tend to wander off in two different directions. At a recent toddler group I was in the middle of changing the boy's diaper when I heard his sister's distinctive cry from across the room. I was elbow-deep in poo and couldn't leave the boy half-naked on the changing mat, so I quickly finished up and ran to find her. There were a couple of mothers looking around for whoever was meant to be minding her (and some of them looked pretty mad) but when they saw I had two pre-walkers they changed their tune and actually apologized to me (!) for not keeping an eye on her.
* Women who don't immediately twig that I'm a nanny assume I'm a teenage mother (I'm 27, I look 17) so they either take pity on me and strike up a conversation about how hard it it raising children, or I get ignored altogether. Bus drivers, on the other hand, and other men I come across in the line of work either flirt with me or treat me like their daughter. Teenage girls just look terrified to see me out and about with twins in a double buggy.
So, is it just me? Or do other nannies have strangers behave strangely around them?