7 Ways to Fight Isolation and Build Your Nanny Network
Being a nanny isn't always easy. Working in somebody else's home with only the company of children all day can leave a nanny feeling isolated. I remember my first few months on the job with my current family. As much as I loved spending time with the baby, the days felt long and lonely. I used to keep the television on in the background just to hear adult voices. Each day as soon as my MomBoss got home, I would talk her ear off until she would finally almost have to kick me out of the house. She wasn’t the only one to see how eager I was to talk to another human grownup. When I got home I would share every single detail of my day with my husband just to get in some much-desired adult conversation. But even though my audience was attentive, I could tell they simply didn’t understand my experience or what it was like to spend all day, every day, with someone else’s child. I felt unconnected and at times alone. During those early days of my nannying career, that feeling of isolation created a frustrating imbalance in my life.
Fast forward five years. Isolation doesn’t bother me anymore. I now belong to an amazing community of nannies who help to make my days, while sometimes long, anything but lonely. Nowadays I consider many of these fellow nannies among my closest friends. Because of my nanny network my workweek is filled with play dates, outings, road trips, and adventures. And while I can still find myself being too chatty with MomBoss and my husband I have definitely found a better balance in life, both professionally and personally. I owe it all to the outstanding nannies I have come to be friends with who share in the everyday laughs, successes, and struggles that come with such a unique job.
It takes a fellow nanny to understand the unique challenges of this profession. Having a support system of likeminded nannies who really get what you’re going through will help you beat that miserable feeling of isolation and find deeper personal satisfaction with your job.
Here are a few pointers for building your own professional nanny network.
Make the First Move
If you’re on the hunt for a new nanny crew, consider initiating the conversation. Classes, schools, and kid hot spots like the museum, zoo, and pool are great places to meet other caregivers. Put on a smile, introduce yourself, and see where the conversation takes you. If it goes well you can exchange information, and if not pretend you have to leave and get the heck out of there.
Have an Agency Do the Dirty Work
If striking up a conversation is too intimidating consider a less direct approach. Contact your local nanny agency to find out if there are any nannies in your neighborhood who care for charges in the same age group. If you didn't use an agency or there aren't any agencies in your immediate area, ask your employers if they would mind letting friends and colleagues know about the awesome nanny they have caring for their kids and that you are interested in setting up some play dates with other nannies to nurture the kids' social life (as well as yours). Remember to be friendly and positive!
Weekly Nanny Play Date Group
Spontaneous play dates are a lot of fun, but meeting up with other nannies on a regular basis is even better. Scheduled weekly play dates offer nannies and their charges the opportunity to develop ongoing relationships with others in their community. After all, we are creatures of habit, and a weekly play date is one habit worth picking up! Check with local agencies or click around on www.meetup.com to find out if there are any organized play dates near you, and if there aren’t, start one! Send out a weekly email to your nanny friends and organize local play dates at the museum, the park, or even a road trip to visit the zoo or circus. Simply letting everyone know where you'll be and when can motivate people to join you. If arranging activities online, be sure to use privacy settings to keep your charges and yourself safe.
Join a Local Support Group
Local support groups are a great place to meet other nannies. While some areas and agencies offer support groups, many do not. Support groups may be harder to come by than say a playdate group but they are well worth the extra effort! Local agencies are a great place to begin your search and you may also find great support groups on www.meetup.com. If you are one of the lucky few to have an established group in your area, congratulations! If you’re not so lucky, never fear; online communities like Nanny Care Tribe on Facebook can be a great resource too. There is a new online directory where nannies can opt to post their name and location in hopes of connecting with other nannies in their area. What a great place to start! You just may meet enough nannies to start your own support group.
Get Down to Business
Take a cue from businesspeople and order yourself some business cards and get on LinkedIn. I know what you’re thinking: only professionals need these tools. News flash! Nannies are professionals! Business cards are a great way to share your contact information in an attractive and efficient way. You can select from a variety of designs of free or inexpensive business cards at www.vistaprint.com. Keep some in your wallet as well as the diaper bag and don't be afraid to give some small bundles to your employers and friends to share. You never know when you’ll make a new connection! And if you haven’t been on LinkedIn, consider setting up an account and searching for other professional nannies in your area. Be sure to maintain a complete up-to-date profile.
Think Outside the Box
None of the previously mentioned ideas working for you? Great! Get those creative juices flowing and create your own nanny network centered around the things you love to do most. For me that thing is drinking so I chose to start up a local Nanny Happy Hour. I love getting together with my nanny friends at local establishments and sharing drinks, laughs, conversations, and usually cheese curds. Happy Hour isn't for everyone so take what you are passionate about, make a commitment to sharing it with other nannies, and make it happen! Love reading? Start a book club! It could focus on books related to childcare or even children's literature! Love volunteering? Start a service group! Clean up parks, volunteer at local kid hot spots, or read stories to kids at the children's hospital. Have a love for learning? Start an education group! Find online and local trainings to share with other nannies and take the classes together, complete with discussion groups! The possibilities really are endless.
Surround Yourself with the Best
Building a network of nannies can produce a huge impact in maintaining a positive and healthy work environment as well as one's overall happiness and quality of life. It is important when developing my professional network that I be particular about the people I allow to influence my job and my reputation. When seeking out nannies for my network I pay careful attention to professionalism. I seek to surround myself with nannies who possess admirable qualities and will serve as inspiration through positivity and enthusiasm, who will, in short, help me to become a better nanny. Chronic complainers, textaholics, and run-of-the-mill sourpusses need not apply to my inner circle!
It doesn't matter what approach you take to build your network. What is important is that you are connecting with other nanny professionals in your area. I would be lost without my network of nannies and my wish is that every nanny can be a part of something so wonderful. Happy networking!