National Nanny Recognition Week: A Time for Validation & Appreciation

Photo courtesy of  Flickr Creative Commons.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

 It’s National Nanny Recognition Week again, and it’s time to take a moment to pat ourselves and our fellow nannies on the back. We can talk about ways to “drop hints” to your nanny family or discuss all the ways we rock as nannies, but I thought it would be more fun to share a story about why I chose to be a career nanny - and what it took to finally help me recognize the important work I do.

I was 20, and working full time for a family with one little girl. At the time, she was just over a year old and I had been with her since she was 3 weeks old. Not only was she my first ever infant charge, but she was my first full-time kiddo. I had spent the first few months totally at a loss, not sure how much spit up was normal, or if I should freak out over a new rash on her legs.

I left my house at 6:30am to be at her house by 7am. I’d arrive tired, hungry, and would immediately walk to the coffee pot her parents started just for me. She wouldn’t wake up until about 7:15-7:30 and those 15 minutes were the calm before the storm, and my goodness that child was a storm! From the moment she woke up, she was either all over the toys, smearing food on herself, or screaming at the top of her lungs for one reason or another.

I thought I was failing at this “job.” I figured I would be fired within a few months, once her parents realized that I had no idea what I was doing. To be clear, I knew how to feed, change, bathe, and love a child. But I had no idea how to handle every aspect of her life.

What time should she nap? Should I take her to that playdate? What do I do if she hurts herself climbing all over? How do I tell her “no” without damaging her curiosity?

 But after a year with this little girl, we had our routine down. We knew how the other worked and we were buddies. I knew what she wanted when she cried (usually) and I knew when she was too tired to try new words in Spanish. I felt horrible when she caught a virus, so I spent my days covered in baby puke because I wanted to comfort her. I found new music classes to try out at the rec center and I found new detergent when her soft skin broke out in hives over her parent’s detergent. I would answer those late-night texts from her parents wondering where “Blue Blankie” was.

In short, I loved that little girl.

One day, on a regular trip to the library, I was playing with the little one by the train table. A mom there asked how old she was and of course complimented her cuteness. “She looks just like you!” she said, and I laughed. “,” I said, “I’m her nanny, not her mom.” The lady was slightly embarrassed and apologized. But then she said something I’ll never forget:

"You’re taking care of that little girl like you’re invested in her.”

I was immediately on the verge of tears because I had never thought about it like that. I knew that I worried about the right amount of “good fats” in her diet, and the amount of sleep she was getting. I knew that I had purchased flashcards and learned baby sign language so I could help her develop language. I knew that I tried to let her explore her surroundings without buffering her too much, knowing she needed to learn through experience. And I knew that the day would come when I’d have to pick the best darn preschool in the area so she would be ready for kindergarten.

That’s when I realized this wasn’t a job; this was something way more important than that. That is when I realized I would be a career nanny for as long as I could do it. It was my “job” to be invested in the children I cared for, and to do everything in my power to keep them safe, happy, and healthy.

Sometimes, an entire week for nanny recognition can be great for gaining awareness of our careers and the work we do. But sometimes it’s a way to reflect on our own awesomeness and share our story with other nannies. For me, National Nanny Recognition Week is a time for me to recognize my own efforts, to reflect on what I’ve given to these kids and how this career has made my life so fulfilling and beautiful.

Whatever way you choose to celebrate NNRW, I hope you get a moment to take a deep breath, look around you, and realize the difference you’re making in a little person’s life - and in the world!