Monday

Gracious Me Academy's Anna Minter weighs in on being a nanny!

I am very excited to weigh in on the subject of being a nanny. In 1980, when my sons were 1 month, 14 months, and 3 ½, I left a very promising career with AT&T (complete with bountiful benefits) to stay home and become a nanny. Armed with various crafts, audio story and song cassettes, toys, educational workbooks, and miniature furniture, I felt prepared and excited for my new venture. Our outside yard looked like a park with a huge slide and clubhouse/ tree house and sandbox. I had been to night school for early childhood development classes, I am bi-lingual, I am patient and loving, I was CPR trained and my home was certified. I was ready to start accepting new charges or was I? Did I mention that I was only 23 years of age when I started?

Our home was situated on an acre just outside of Los Angeles, north of Burbank, Ca. The rural landscape provided a perfect setting for farm animals and lots of healthy children’s activities. In no time, I had 10 children in my home (8 in diapers)I might have been over my certification limit at various times.I didn’t know how to say no (besides the money was great) I recruited a friend to assist. Life was great for the first few months.

Within the first 6 months my friend abandoned ship, my husband helped when he could. Without so much as two words I accepted an acquaintance to join forces. Without a proper background check and training, she proved to be more trouble than help. She stated bossing ME around and called in sick and wanted me to continue to pay her on days she did not show up. Soon I was on my own again. I couldn’t quit because first, I truly did not want to leave my children with anyone but me, second, I had made an investment into equipment, third, I was making money, and most important to me, I was no quitter. My reputation was building and I did not have to advertise for new enrollees, so I braved on.

Truth be told, it was extremely difficult. I persevered for 5 years, until I literally had a nervous breakdown. I went to my Dr. because I was losing so much weight and my hair was falling out. He told me my stress level was out of control.

In hindsight here is what I learned: My children were suffering because I would get to them last they were on the bottom of the totem pole. No one was coming to pick up my kids, so I was just keeping them busy until all the other children’s needs were met and their parents came. By the time the last child was wiped clean, packed-up and retrived, I was too exhausted to give the proper nurturing to my own children. I had not set limits for space, I put babies in my children’s cribs and in spite of cleanliness (I had hired a part time-housekeeper) we had contracted head lice, including me. I shut down for 2 weeks and took the furniture out shaved my sons’ heads and cut my hair. Every day we were disinfecting toys and washing loads of laundry. Weekends were spent getting ready for the upcoming week. Parents did not have the understanding for my workload. They often came late or did not show up for care most times not even calling and I had not set limits for them to pay on days missed.

What I learned is that many parents had their own guilt about leaving their children in someone else’s care. Pretty soon the good cop, bad cop game would start-up. Parents wanted to play best friend with their children and wanted me to hold the line of strict discipline. My best foot forward, I opted to error on the side of patience and nurture so that the children would feel love and security in my care. But it all came at a cost. Rearing our own children is challenging enough, adding a house full of other children started causing resentment. We were limited as to where we could go and often missed out on family fun during the week even weekends due to kid overload. I was burning out.

After 5 years of working as a Nanny, I took the advice of my doctor and resigned. I can honestly say, in good conscience, parents and children alike were saddened that I could no longer continue. But, here’s the thing, no one seemed to fully appreciate all the work and care that went into rearing their children in their absence. This added insult to injury.

All in all I learned so much caring for children. I gained skills and pulled on my gift and strength of patience. 5 years later I would become an elementary school, kindergarten teacher. Fast-forward to today and I have now retired from teaching. The ironic thing, I have been considering returning to the nanny field. This time I do not have children of my own to contend with.

Taking the skills I learned as a nanny helped me greatly in the classroom. But the greatest take away was the interpersonal skills I refined as a nanny. Dealing with parents and children alike gave me the idea to write children’s books with an emphasis on manners. As educators, we work to help mold the little ones. Why not take advantage of the fact that we have their attention and the opportunity to touch their hearts. What a noble opportunity. In our current cultural climate, it’s nice to know that people still care about modeling kindness and making a difference.

For what it's worth, here are my words of wisdom to you: remember to keep your own “oxygen mask” on for self-care and self-respect because you are doing a notable and very worthy job. You’ll need every ounce of self-preservation in order to give out; you can’t give what you don’t have. I had to learn this the hard way. I do appreciate your choice to nurture and from one who worked “in the trenches” Thank you!

©2017 Anna Minter - GraciousMeAcademy

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