Joanne Barrow, 2013 Nanny of the Year, on the Key to Success
Nanny Magazine is getting up close and personal with Joanne Barrow, the 2013 Nanny of the Year as proclaimed by the International Nanny Association (INA). The Nanny of the Year title comes with a tremendous amount of prestige, so let’s see how the crown has been treating Jo.
Nanny Magazine (NM): Tell us a little about yourself.
Joanne Barrow (JB): I’m a 43-year-old British import. I was born and raised just south of London and moved to the United States in 1991 where I’ve lived and worked as a nanny up and down the East Coast ever since. I finally became a U.S. citizen in June of 2013.
NM: What has your career path been like?
JB: Nannying has to be one of the most gratifying careers you can choose. For me it’s bought over 20 years of diversity, challenge, growth, love, and immense personal satisfaction watching my charges grow up. It’s truly an honor to have played even a small role in each child’s development. Nannying is important and meaningful work to me.
NM: Tell us a random fact about you?
JB:I don’t have a middle name. None of my charges have ever believed that. They think I have one, don’t like it, and therefore won’t tell them what it is!
NM: How do you feel about professionalism on the job?
JB: It’s so important that nannies portray professionalism at all times. We need to live and act as role models on and off duty if we want to gain respect as professionals. I feel, generally speaking, that maintaining that regard is one of the biggest challenges we face as nannies. Unfortunately the designation just doesn’t carry the same level of respect here as it does in Europe.
NM: What are the responsibilities of being Nanny of the Year?
JB: There are several key responsibilities before and after conference such as familiarity of the recommended practices for nannies, agencies, and business owners, knowledge of the INA credential exam, and the ability to express the benefits of belonging to INA. When speaking publically, the Nanny of the Year represents all nannies and not just her own personal views. It’s important to maintain the highest professional manner at all times.
NM: Why do you feel you were selected as Nanny of the Year?
JB: I think my career has been really diverse and interesting. I’ve taken on some challenging posts in the hopes of bringing balance and positive change to each family and I think I’ve been successful in helping them reach those goals. I’ve maintained lasting relationships with all the families I’ve worked with, too, which has been important to me and to the children. The Nanny of the Year is a person who serves as an example of the best kind of nanny and represents a positive role model for the industry and association. I feel I share the award with so many other dedicated nannies but still it was a very special honor to be recognized by the INA and was definitely a major highlight in my career.
NM: What have been your biggest accomplishments as Nanny of the Year?
JB: I feel they’re yet to come. Being Nanny of the Year will leave its mark on the rest of my career. It’s an ongoing honor that I’ll always carry with me. Remembering that I’ll always have this year alleviates the pressure I put on myself to accomplish something more by the end of it. That was advice given to me by the very first Nanny of the Year, Glenda Propst, that I’ve really held onto. I just go to work every day and give my all the way I always have. I suppose I’d say that continues to be my greatest accomplishment. I’m really proud of what I do.
NM: When does your tenure as Nanny of the Year end?
JB: INA will name their new Nanny of the Year at the annual conference in Los Angeles in March 2014.
NM: What perks have come along with the title?
JB: People are really curious when they hear that I’m the Nanny of the Year. They’re always interested to hear about it and it’s fun to share the story of how it came to be. So many people I speak with have a story of their own about a great nanny they would nominate if they knew Nanny of the Year existed. We need to find more ways to get the word out. Since receiving the title, I’ve been given opportunities to interview with several magazines and websites, which has been fun and a great way to let people know more about INA. I even received a call from an LA production company recently to talk about the possibility of a TV show! Crazy!
NM: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
JB: You learn a lot when you do something for 23 years. They say “5000 hours makes you an expert”. I’m interested in finding ways to pass my experience on to others looking to take the nanny role to the highest level, guiding those who wish to make nannying their professional career choice. I see myself teaching in some capacity. I think I’d really enjoy that.
NM: How many charges do you work for now?
JB: Two. An 11-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy. We’ve just entered the whole new world of middle school.
NM: Where are you located?
JB: The family I work with live in Rye, NY. When I’m not with them, I’m at home in Valley Cottage, NY.
NM: What is your favorite thing about your job?
JB: I love the diversity of any given day. You can be a meticulous planner and organizer but when a three year old just doesn’t want to cooperate with the plan, you have no choice but to adapt. The kids keep me flexible and remind me not to take myself too seriously.
NM: Have you ever worked for a terrible family?
JB: Luckily no, though I’ve heard some terrible stories and they often start out with a nanny feeling taken advantage of. It’s a common complaint to hear; “First my responsibilities were for childcare only and now I seem to be the chief cook and bottle washer! Errands and duties are added every day to the point where I don’t even have time anymore to do the job I was hired for!” A work agreement may not eliminate all the problems that can come up, but it provides a reference point to go back to if you feel the family is forgetting your primary role.
NM: What advice do you have for aspiring Nanny of the Year nominees?
JB: I’d encourage anyone who loves what they do and is making an impact to go for it. The hardest part can be bringing it to the attention of those who’ll nominate you, but I encourage you to take the leap, be confident, and ask. My nominators were thrilled to be given the opportunity and wrote me wonderful letters that really supported my application.
NM: What's the strangest thing you've ever found in your pocket after a long day on the job?
JB: I think it would have to be a bird, but it was in my car, not my pocket. It had flown into the kitchen window earlier that day, broken its neck, and consequently died for all to see. The poor kids were so sad about it that I suggested we bury it, but I meant the next day! When I got in my car to drive home that night it was in a shoebox on the passenger seat. Yikes!
NM: What is the funniest joke you've heard a kid tell you in your 23 years of nannying?
JB: Kid: Knock knock. Me: Who’s there? Kid: Potato head Me: Potato head who? Kid: Potato head Daddy.
Okay, okay, so you may have needed to be there but the funny part wasn’t the joke (obviously), but the shy, introverted four-year-old boy who told it. He thought it was the most hilarious thing he’d ever said and fell about in genuine hysterics every time he told it. Even though he’s in his twenties now we’ve never forgotten how it bought him out of his quiet little shell. It was adorable!
NM: Media tends to portray nannies in a negative light. You see headlines like "Nanny Suffocated Child!" and "Husband Runs Away with Nanny!" If you could create your own nanny-related headline, what would it be?
JB:“Professional Nanny Helps Busy Family Achieve a Balanced Life and Maintain Happy, Healthy, Grounded Children.”
NM: Moving on from a family you love always hurts. What do you do to cheer yourself up after that last goodbye?
JB: I plan a visit within a few weeks. It gives us all something to look forward to and eases the sense that moving on is final. With Skype and FaceTime, it’s easier than ever to stay connected, but I absolutely do miss them. Leaving’s always been tough.
NM: Would you rather care for toddler-aged triplets or a teenager?
JB: Both come with their fair share of excitement but I’m probably more drawn to the toddlers. It’s my favorite age to work with because they’re discovering something new every single moment and that’s just a blast to watch and be a part of. Teenagers require less playtime and more chauffeuring. I’d rather be finger painting than sitting behind the steering wheel.