This Winter’s Games

Let’s play a game called “Will My Nanny Kids Have a Normal School Day Today?”  Since school resumed after winter break, there have been 13 school cancellations and 8 2-hour delays.  I think the weather is winning.

Let’s play another game called “Who is Going to Get Sick at Work?”  In a super-fun twist, we’ll include the dogs in this game.  So far I’m winning over my bosses because I’ve only had to clean up dog vomit once and I’ve only dealt with part of the fevers.

Either way, these games are starting to wear me out.


Expanding my “Art”

I’ve exploring other forms of stick-figure drawings beyond my usual Microsoft Paint medium.  I’m now doing commissioned crayon drawings for a certain toddler:

DSCN2414

The toddler helped with this drawing.


On the Bright Side. . .

I’m a nanny.  I chase after a toddler, corral grade school children, and try to help keep the household afloat.  I cook, I clean, and I occasionally receive a face-full of snot from a dog or a baby.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful for my job.  I work for a good family and my employers have provided generously for me.  However, there are some days when I can’t shake the feeling that I’m not living up to my potential.  It’s my mostly my pride speaking because someone has to care for the children, and I’m not so wonderful that I’m above changing a dirty diaper or playing “knock down the block tower” over and over and over again.  Still, I have to resign myself that I feel a bit of embarrassment when I run into a high school classmate and I tell them that I’m “just a nanny”.

On the bright side:  Despite the firm warnings from high school and college career counselors that I would have to have a professional wardrobe someday, I still get to wear jeans to work every day.  I showed them!

jeans

Do you work a job where you don’t have to dress professionally?  Does this job meet your career expectations?

 


5-Day Weekend Acomin’

One of my bosses told me yesterday that she is officially taking Monday and Tuesday next week off (she mentioned the possibility a few weeks ago).  Naturally, this means I have Monday and Tuesday off as well.  This also means that because I have weekends and Wednesdays off, I get a 5-day weekend.  It will be a much needed break for my boss, the kids, and me since our work schedules have been long and busy since I started work at the end of July (although both my bosses’ work schedules have been longer and busier than mine, so  I can’t complain. . .too much).

When I told my husband that I officially have Monday and Tuesday off, he just sighed and said, “Well, we just can’t win when it comes to vacation time.”  That’s true–it always seems like when one of us has too much free time, the other doesn’t have enough.  However, I merrily told him that I have big plans for my 5-day weekend.

Despite my awesome schedule of working two days and then having a day or two off, I’m always exhausted by the time I get to that day off (something I always forget about when making plans).  I’ll have a long list of things to accomplish during my free time, but all I really seem to do is this:

tiredConsequently, this 5-day weekend is going to be filled with all the little things that have piled up/never got accomplished when I started work.  Activities include:

  • Writing articles for upcoming newsletter
  • Reading for upcoming book club meeting
  • Updating car registration/driver’s license
  • Finding a new doctor
  • Going to the dentist
  • Patching clothes
  • Finishing unpacking/repacking boxes from our move
  • Cleaning off my desk
  • Tidying up the junk I have strewn around the house
  • Writing all the blog posts I have floating around my head
  • Writing/sending out update letters to our support congregations

Okay, so that list is technically what I wish I would find the motivation to do this weekend.  This is probably what I’ll actually do:

procrasination


Mistaken Identity

It wasn’t more than two months ago that people informed me that I didn’t look any older than 13.  However, now that I consistently care for 2 grade schoolers and a baby at work, I find myself often mistaken for the children’s mother.  This always leads to a feeling of awkwardness when people ask about “my children” at the store or the school secretary informs the teachers that “their mom” is here to pick them up.  Do I hastily correct their assumption or do I just ignore the innocuous error?

Even more awkward is when people compliment me on the baby’s looks.  You see, Baby has everything needed for adorableness:  Chubby cheeks, curly hair, and a gregarious grin.  Obviously, I have nothing to do with these attributes.  So, when people say, “Oh, he’s so cute!”, I find myself responding with something like this:

i know, right

As Baby’s nanny, I can objectively agree that he is a cute baby because I have no parental bias.  However, it suddenly struck me the other day that if I was Baby’s mom, then I would have something to do with his looks.  Consequently, if people think I’m Baby’s mother, my response might seem a bit vain–like I was responding with, “I know, his father and I gave him some awesome genes!”  Now I’m hyper-aware of the words that leave my mouth when I have the children with me.  This leads to lots of stammering and long, unasked for explanations about how I’m a nanny.

Fortunately, I’ve come up with a solution:

i am nanny

 

That should take out all the ambiguity of my social interactions.  However, my arm may get tired carrying around a sign all day.

Have you ever been mistaken for another child’s parent?  What do you do in those situations?

 


This Move is Like a New Pair of Running Shoes

This move has been an unusual experience.  I’m not sure how often people move back to a town only a year after moving far away, but this is the first time for me.  My husband and I created an even more unusual moving circumstance by returning to the same house and same jobs (my husband’s job is to go to school so he can graduate 🙂 ).  We even decided to continue worshiping at my husband’s former field work church this year.  Consequently, there is a sense of familiarity in our daily activities.

Of course, nothing stays the same, even for “only” a year.  Our house more or less remained the same, although there has been some touch ups here and there.  The two older farm cats are still hanging around, but our kittens from last year are gone.  My nanny family has an additional child now, so now I spend my days juggling the needs of two grade schoolers and a baby.  My husband’s field work church even has a new pastor now.  Of course, many of our friends are gone either on their calls or on vicarage.  So while our daily activities seem familiar, there are just enough differences to add a nuance of befuddlement.

I told my husband the other day that this move is like buying a new pair of running shoes in the same brand as trying new shoesyour old pair:  You know they will eventually be comfortable but they still need to be broken in.  For me, some of these changes will rub for a few weeks until I can get use to the differences. . . at least that is my hope.          


The Age Gap

Most of my life, my age has been underestimated.  Growing up, my sister and I were often mistaken for twins (I’m two years older than she is).  I once confused one of my co-workers in college by telling her I was going to be a senior.  I meant a senior in college, she thought I meant a senior in high school.  Last year I was often mistaken for my employers’ daughter instead of their nanny.  Likewise, an older lady tried to charge me a children’s admission to a corn maze two autumns ago.  You had to be 12 or younger to get the children’s admission–I was 23.

I have found there is a correlation between how old a person is and how young they guess I am.  I was bored enough today to draw you a graph:age graphFor the most part, people in their 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s will generally place me at least in my lower 20’s.  However, as we start looking at people in their 50’s, my estimated age starts dropping.  Ask people in their 60’s or older and suddenly I’m a young teenager again.  I’m not exaggerating–when my husband and I went to visit one of our support congregations, several older women told me that they thought I was 13.

My parents always tell me that someday I’ll appreciate looking younger than my age but it can still be frustrating now to have people assume I am a child when I graduated from college and got married almost 3 years ago.  Due to this frustration, I have started devising ways of making myself look older.

1.  Wear fancier clothing.

fancy clothes

I’m supposed to be wearing a suit. . .

The problem with this plan is that either I’m a) running around after children or b) lounging around my house.  Neither option is a big motivator to try to wear nice things.  Either way, I’m prone to ruin the clothes.

2.  Grow a beard.

beard

Having a beard helps my husband look older.  When I suggested this plan to him, he just told me that it probably wouldn’t have the effect I intended.

3.  Wear clothing that announces my age.

30874_452652244837_6007522_n

When I was growing up, my mom would make my siblings and me a shirt every year that said “I am [insert age].”  However, something tells me that wearing a shirt announcing that I am 5 isn’t the same as wearing shirt that announces I am 25.

4.  Steal someone’s baby because babies always make you look older.

stealing baby

Haha, just kidding about the stealing part–I know enough people with babies that I’m sure someone would let me borrow their child (well, maybe they won’t after seeing this picture. . .).

5.  Dye my hair gray.

hair

Just to really confuse people.

Do you look young for your age?  What do you do try to make yourself look older?


Introvert Monday: Keeping Sane as an Introverted Nanny

introverts and children

Aside from the chirping birds outside and the fridge humming, my boss’s house is quiet.  I lounge in the armchair as I wait for the children to awake, rotating between gazing out the window and reading.  I soak up the solitude and silence now because I know that once the kids are up, it will be hours before I experience quiet again.  I glance at the clock.  7:55, I should really wake them up, I think to myself.  In less than 10 minutes, I have the kids seated at the table to eat breakfast.  They quickly shake the slow sleepiness of the night and move into the high energy of the day.  Before I know it, they are happily talking over one another and wrestling in the living room.

It’s loud.  It’s chaotic.  It’s everything that the introvert in me tries to avoid.  Why am I doing this job again?

Believe it or not, I do actually like children.  They’re funny and enthusiastic, and I enjoy teaching and helping them.  While I didn’t go to college to become a nanny, there are certainly other professions I could have pursued to help pay the bills while my husband is in seminary.  Nannying has simply worked out to be the best option for me for the time being.  Consequently, I find myself in conflict with two parts of me:  One who enjoys the world of children and the one who thrives in a world of structure and calm.   Obviously, both parts need to compromise with one another in order for me to keep my sanity.  The two biggest helps I have found in balancing my life as an introverted nanny are quiet zones and quiet time.

Quiet Zones

I am acutely sensitive to noise.  The inevitable roar of a large crowd makes me cringe and I have to put my dress watch in my jewelry box so I can’t hear it ticking at night.  When by myself, I often choose to do my hobbies in silence rather than turning on the radio or television.

However, children are noisy creatures.  Whether it’s by increasing their volume during play or making odd, unconscious sounds during quiet activities, kids suck the silence out of any situation.  That’s just the way they are.  I realize it would be unfair of me to expect them to keep their play quiet.

To find a compromise between my preference for quiet and the needs of my nanny children, I try to ignore the reasonable noises they make.  Sounds like a happily raised voiced or an occasional burst of loud bangs or crashes should be tolerated.  However, if they start getting rowdy or continue a loud noise for several minutes to the point where I can feel my nerves tingling, I give them choices.  Either they can switch to a different activity or go play somewhere else, like the basement or outside, where they can make all the noise they want.  Sometimes they choose to find a different activity, sometimes they choose to go elsewhere, and sometimes I wind up choosing for them to go elsewhere after they have been already warned to keep the noise down.  Usually they sulk for the first few minutes after I choose for them, but soon they are happily being noisy again in a place where they won’t get into trouble.  After a few minutes of quiet for myself (often I’m doing something like cleaning the kitchen), I’ll go and join them, able to participate another round of loud, rowdy play.

Quiet Time

Like a stay-at-home-mom, I don’t have a real break .  Since I am the only adult in the house, so I can’t punch out for an hour and tell the kids to leave me alone. This can make for a very long day.  Consequently, finding some sort of reprieve from childcare duties for at least an hour after lunch is vital for me to keep functioning at my best (or at least keep me from become a blubbering mass before a parent comes home).

Naps are a useful way of making quiet time.  Ideally, you tuck the child in and they’ll sleep for a couple of hours.  Of course, no child likes taking naps, especially as they get older.  This means some compromises maybe  needed to create a quiet time in the house.   For kids not yet in kindergarten, sometimes I put them in bed with a couple of books to look at (sometimes they’ll even fall asleep reading!).  For older children with their own bedroom, I’ll let them play with quiet toys in their room.  This year I have permission to show a movie for the older kids while the younger child naps.  While this isn’t as the quietest option, it still gives me a chance to drink a cup of coffee and stare off into space for awhile.

This quiet time can be good for children as well as introverted nannies, even extroverted children.  Marti Olsen Laney, Psy. D., explains in her book The Introvert Advantage, “Many extroverted children don’t want to miss out on anything, which can really be exhausting for parents, even extroverted parents.  Schedule quiet time even if your children don’t want to slow down [. . .] Even every extroverted children can do too much.  They need opportunities to practice introverting,” (pg. 148-149).  Just like children need adults to help them understand how their bodies need healthy foods and when their bodies are telling them to use the bathroom, they also need adults help to teach them that their bodies need rest.

Preparing for the Future

While nannying isn’t exactly the same as parenting, there are some things that overlap.   Consequently, I feel that learning how to handle my days as an introverted nanny will help me when I become an introverted mother.  Of course, this could be an overconfident delusion, but one can always dream.

What tips do you have for other introverted nannies?  Do introverted parents have any survival tactics they would like to share?

Here’s another nifty list of how to handle being an introverted parent: http://creatingafairhaven.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/10-survival-tips-for-introverted-parents/.  I’m not saying that I would implement every rule she has created, but I admire her for realizing that she needs to care for her introverted nature in order for her to function as a mother. 


Why I Hate Shopping at Walmart: The Great Chalk Search

Sidewalk chalk is something that falls into my “Amazingly Cheap, Not Messy, and Fun” toy category.  What’s not to like about it (well, besides when i love chalkthe dog eats a piece and proceeds to drool pink slobber over everyone)?  It’s fun for toddlers and children, and you can make games like hopscotch.  Consequently, chalk is something I feel should be in every family’s toy collection.  Since my current nanny family’s sidewalk chalk had gone missing over the weekend, I decided to buy some more at Walmart.  Little did I know that I was at the beginning The Great Chalk Search.

When I arrived at Walmart on my work day, I easily found the first few toiletries on the list.  I felt optimistic that I could get the shopping done quickly as I headed to the toy aisles to look for chalk.  However, I could only find one type of chalk in the seasonal toy aisle–a stupid package that had the chalk stick in 3 or 4 different colors so that you can draw in rainbow colors.  All I wanted was some plain, single colored chalk.

stupid chalk

Puzzled, I wandered over to the outdoor toy section.  There wasn’t any chalk among the bicycle helmets and baseball mitts.  I then wandered over to the seasonal items section.  Again, no chalk mingled in with the picnic supplies and pool toys.  Starting to feel frustrated by my lack of success in finding simple sidewalk chalk, I (finally) found an employee to ask.  She replied, “I’m pretty sure that it’s in the toy section.  If not, it should be with the seasonal items.  Or the garden supplies.”

“Are you sure?”  I asked incredulously.  After all, I had already checked the toy aisle and seasonal items.  On the other hand, I did have a tendency to not find items nestled in the rows and rows of stuff.

“Yeah, I think so,”  the employee said.

Gritting my teeth, I pushed the cart back to the toy aisle.  I then proceeded to walk down all four sections of the toys.  Not only was there still no chalk, I realized that the toy section’s organization made absolutely no sense!  Toy groupings didn’t match, some toys were found in multiple locations, and giant, expensive toys easily overpowered basic, cheap toys.  The perfectionist in me started feeling twitchy.

toboggans

Seriously, they were still selling toboggans. Never mind the fact I couldn’t find a hat to buy in March when I lost my good one, at least I can buy a sled at the end of May!

I gave up on the toy aisle and went to the gardening section.  Once again, I walked down all the sections–still no chalk to be found.  Now starting to clench my jaw with annoyance, I walked back to the seasonal items section to check every aisle.  I could find pool noodles, lighter fluid, and giant bubble wands but not a single piece of chalk.

Really, I should have given up at this point.  But I wanted to have chalk when I  played outside with my nanny kids and I didn’t want to disappoint the toddler who so sweetly asked me last week, “Iaeij e sojiea calk?” (that’s in toddler-ese.  The translation is, ” May I play with chalk?”).  Plus, it was  ridiculous  that I couldn’t find something as basic as sidewalk chalk.

By this point, I was rapidly becoming less annoyed and more flustered.  I had now wasted 15 minutes in Walmart–15 minutes that I was getting paid to work–looking for sidewalk chalk.  I had already asked for help.  I wanted that chalk!  Trying to cling to my dignity and not throw an adult sized tantrum under the florescent lights, I headed to the last section I could think of that would have sidewalk chalk–the office supplies (not to be confused with the craft section.  I had checked that aisle the week before for sidewalk chalk).

temper tantrum

I found the children’s art supplies in the office section.  I carefully scanned the various colored writing instruments.  There, nestled among the colored pencils and markers, was a solitary pack of sidewalk chalk.

crayons

It wasn’t what I really wanted since it only had 5 pieces.  However, I knew at that point, after spending nearly 20 minutes searching aisle after aisle for simple sidewalk chalk, that I should just grab it and get out.  Of course,  I still had the entire grocery section of my shopping list to complete.

And that’s how I wound up shopping at Walmart in a flustered, unfocused haze–which I’m sure was the layout designers plan to begin with.

CEOs


Where Do Nannies Fit In?

When I made the jump from daycare worker to nanny, I entered an occupation of hazy definitions.  Nanny duties vary from family to family, so it’s difficult to create a specific job description for a nanny.  However, I have noticed that there are two main impressions of what a nanny job is:  Glorified babysitter or Pseudo-parent.  While babysitters can certainly get tough gigs and it’s nice to get acknowledged by other parents that my job has validity, neither impression is accurately explains how a nanny functions within her* employer’s household.

I am not a glorified teenage babysitter.  Since I work consistently within my employers’ households, I have much more influence on their children’s behavior.  Because of my constant presence in the home, I also have to be prepared to handle some terrible behaviors that can come out of children.  Even the best behaved children have bad days, meaning I will eventually have to deal with a terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad day and all the naughtiness, tantrums, and tears that come with it (admittedly, sometimes the tears are on my end).

But what about babysitters who care for children in their homes several days a week?  While these babysitters can certainly have a lasting influence on a child’s upbringing, there is another aspect of my duties that sets my job apart–assisting the daily running of my employers’ household.  In both of my nanny jobs, I have helped with chores like laundry, dishes, vacuuming, cooking, and shopping (and then I come to my home and do it all again.  Or realize that I have to do it all again–whether or not I actually complete my household chores is debatable).  Likewise, I have also been responsible for getting the children to and from school, taking them to practices and playdates, and driving them to an occasional hair appointment.  There is no calling the parents to come home when children fall ill.  Of course, what’s a nanny job without nursing a sick kid every once in awhile?  Once I can convey to people what my job entails, they begin to realize how much responsibility I have within my employers’ homes.  However, sometimes this leads to the comment that it’s work like a stay-at-home mom (or dad) would have.

I don’t necessarily disagree with the fact that I do many tasks that a SAHM would preform.  However, I am not these children’s mother.  At the end of the day, I go to my childless home and take a break from the chaotic world of children.  Likewise, I always eventually leave my job and a good parent would never, ever leave their children behind like I did last summer, will again this summer, and again the summer after this.  Consequently, I don’t want the children I care for to see me as a third parent–it would lead to abandonment issues.

For the most part, I don’t think the children in my care see me as a parent.  Arrivals make this evident.  When I come into the house, it’s a very mellow occasion.  I might get a smile and hello, and on a really good day I might get dragged into whatever project they are working on, but that’s all.  When mom or dad comes home, there is a dash to the door with joyful shouts of “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!” or “Daddy’s home!  Daddy’s home!”  And really, it makes me glad to see these kids reserve this outpouring of affection for their parents.

But where does this leave me as a nanny?  I work in someone else’s household and help raise their children.  I have many anecdotes about the joys and frustration of child rearing and household managing, but it’s hard to find a support system for my work.  I’m not a daycare worker or teacher, I’m not a mother.  And when I see a blog post on the internet about how hard it can be to be a parent or a Facebook status lauding teachers for their hard work, I’m never sure whether I can truly relate to the post or not.  It can get lonely in this nanny-career limbo.  So this morning I googled “nanny blogs.”  I found a wonderful blog about being a nanny and all the joys and complications that come with it.  Perhaps this is where I can find my working niche!

What similarities and differences do you think exist between babysitters and nannies?  How about between parents and nannies?

*I realize that men can be nannies as well, but it is a profession primarily dominated by women.  For the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to nannies in feminine forms.