Being a nanny isn’t an easy gig, but the best part about it is you can give the kids back at the end of the day.
Last week’s report of the woman who killed two of the three children she was ”mummy” to have instilled fear in the hearts of all those who have a nanny, particularly those in New York.
When I was 20 I boarded a big jet plane to work as a nanny in New York. It was before, during and after the Sept 11 attacks so the immigrations laws weren’t so restrictive back then. I was allowed to stay for 3 months legally – but ended up living there on and off for three or so years.
As a nanny you are an instant mother to kids you’ve never meet before. And not having a background in childcare or teaching (I studied media, communications and journalism in fact) I found it quite challenging at times.
I managed to get the first two kids I cared for onside reasonably quickly by acting funny and making them laugh, but from memory it was bloody hard work trying to negotiate with a 2 and 4-year-old.
But I knew that at 6.45pm I would be relinquished of my duties and then I was out the door, to the gym, visits friends, shopping or hiding out in my room, hoping they wouldn’t come and find me.
Don’t get me wrong I loved those kids but it’s only now as a mother that I can see the HUGE responsibility bestowed upon me.
I had a fantastic network of friends who were nannies nearby, mostly other Kiwis, we had a reputation in the US for being some of the best workers and carers.
We also knew how to party hard and as often as we could. We were in New York and the world was our oyster!
That’s me on the left in a little red racy number – and two of my high school friends, who were also nannies in NY. They stayed and worked there for much longer, found gorgeous Irish men and married them and now have children of their own!
Life was just one big party really, but I still had to be mindful that Monday morning I was ”mum” again – and being a mum with a hangover ain’t pretty. ( I can speak from experience, in fact right now I’m suffering from a sore head after more than few reds with my BFF, totally worth it!).
The second family I worked for were just awesome, they had met late in life and left it too late to have children so they adopted Zachary. They loved him so much and wanted to spend every second they weren’t working with him.
As soon as they got home from work I was off duty no matter the time, this was not like my first nanny job where I was a mum from 6.45am to 6.46pm – regardless of who was home.
Everyone parents differently but I found it heartbreaking trying to explain to young kids they couldn’t go play with mummy because she was having ‘mummy time’.
But I bonded with Zack and Angel, the gorgeous golden retriever, and she pretty much became the other child I cared for and loved. Another very important life lesson learned here, owning a dog is pretty much the same as having a child, well responsibility wise.
Because he was an only child I played with him a lot when he wasn’t at school. But not because I was paid (very well) to – but because he was a smart cookie, cute and very loving.
I also cried for him when kids were mean to him at school because he was slightly eccentric, highly intelligent and never stopped talking about dinosaurs, of which he knew every one of their names and how to pronounce them at just 7 years old.
I started to realise what being a nanny was all about, I was partying less (no hang on that’s not true) – but I felt more connected to Zack and would have done anything for him.
And that is what being a nanny is all about.
Being there to protect a small, innocent, defenseless child – and I get the goosebumps when I even start to think about those poor babies that were hurt by the person they trusted the most after their parents, their nanny.
As a person I pride myself on being able to put myself in other people’s shoes, I think it makes me a better person.
However, since becoming a mother I make a point of NOT putting myself in the shoes of mums who have had something horrific happen to their children. I consider myself a pretty strong person but it’s not something I even want to fathom.
This is not to say my heart doesn’t break for them – it does – but I can’t take it on board, call it my coping mechanism.
As for all those nannies in New York, I really feel for them. Life’s about to get much harder for them, and for some maybe it should.
Then again I also feel for the mums who have to leave their babies with someone they think they know and hope they’ll be loved, cared for and made to laugh every day.
But how well can you really know someone?