What it Means to be a Nanny

Being a nanny means that I have time to sit down and write while eating pumpernickel bagels leftover from the third birthday party that happened last Sunday. It means I come to work to find that my “nanny family” bought me another gallon of orange juice even though they don’t drink orange juice because they noticed that I drank the other entire gallon, also leftover from the third birthday party that happened last Sunday. Being a nanny means that I get asked to go on vacations to Miami. I drive the family Mercedes, shop at Whole Foods, wear comfy clothes everyday, and I live in a big, beautiful house for 50+ hours a week. 

Being a nanny also means that, yes, I work 50+ hours a week. And by work, I really do mean work. I know the ins and outs of a family that is not mine. I unload dishwashers, make grocery lists, clean up gigantic playrooms five million times a day. I wash bottles and do laundry. I get thrown up on and pooped on and peed on and spit on. I get an occasional bite or scratch or kick or slap. I wipe away tears and sometimes I cause them by making a time-out happen because she threw her plate on the floor mid-way through dinner. I wrangle a three year old into her shorts while holding a baby who just spit up down my shirt and I wonder if pants are even a necessary part of her outfit today because I’m exhausted and it’s 9am. And school starts at 9am which means that we’re already late. 

Being a nanny means that I know everything about her tiny stuffed hippopotamus, thoughtfully named Hippo. I know that his mother is the polar bear (“Bear”) who got a band-aid stuck on his left paw last month, and his father fluctuates between Olaf the snowman and every other stuffed animal in the playroom. Hippo’s full name is Hippo Blotto. I know that I am, in fact, Hippo’s big sister and I am all too aware that he likes to be tucked in on his belly with his favorite blanket: the washcloth with the pink elephants (eff-uh-lents) on it. 

Being a nanny is such a strange job. It has relaxing moments (thank God for naptime), it has chaotic moments (see: wrangling a three year old into her shorts while holding a baby who just spit up down my shirt), and it has these strange, “other” moments. Like the moment you walk into work and everyone is lounging around in their pajamas and you feel like you are intruding but it’s actually your job. Or the moment you meet the grandparents and the aunts and the uncles and it’s literally a family reunion and you’re there, too. And it’s your job. It’s your job to be part of another family. You know the family recipes and the family drama, the pet peeves and the inside jokes, the passwords and dating histories and gossip and engagement stories. And you know the kids. 

You know those kids like the back of your hand. You know the difference between a sad cry and a scared cry, a mad shriek and a goofy shriek. You know that they’ll let you snip their nails if you give them three Teddy Grahams and you know that chocolate chip pancakes are their favorite. You know their top three favorite shows even though the list is different each week, and you’re the only one who can interpret when they get excited and start chatting away at the speed of light. You know she will throw up if she laughs too hard or coughs too much or has a stuffy nose. You know he’ll burst into tears if she starts singing too loud. You know she loves Panera mac 'n cheese and the only nutritious things she ever consumes are green smoothies from Whole Foods or apples doused in honey. You know his favorite baby food is peas. You laugh when she starts picking up words from people she encounters (“this is terribl-ed!” or “this is unacceptable!” are a couple of current favorites) and you cry when she doesn’t ask for Hippo at naptime or when she starts saying “five more minutes” instead of “five more mittens”. You beam when he rolls over for the first time. You know exactly what to say to stop the tears, exactly what to do when she melts down on the floor of Nordstrom because you don’t let her steal a hat. You go out to the bar on a Saturday night and find yourself talking about these babies like those moms who show you a thousand and one too many pictures of their kids after five too many cocktails. You know those kids and you love those kids and then you leave those kids when it’s time to move on. 

What a weird job, to fall in love with a family only to move on to a different family once you’ve outgrown each other. What a beautiful job, to protect these tiny hearts until they are old enough to take care of themselves. Being a nanny is learning to balance two lives - yours and theirs. It’s giving your all to something that isn’t yours. It’s teaching and learning and growing and it’s goodbye hugs and “one more book?” before naptime. It’s feeling proud when you see that fiery spark in her eye, even though it’s you she’s arguing with. It’s strangers seeing you in the grocery store and informing you that you’ve got your hands full as she refuses to get in the cart - “I'm a big girl now!”. It’s remembering throwing your puke-covered-shirt in the wash earlier that afternoon after having a knock-down-drag-out over naptime when people tell you how luxe your job is. It’s cuddles and I-love-yous and making grilled cheeses that get thrown on the floor. 

That’s life as a nanny, at least it is for me. And I love it. Except the bodily fluids. Could really do without that stuff. 

This piece was originally published on Love, Christie. Christie Martin has been nannying for five years. When she's not changing diapers or singing The Wheels on the Bus, you'll find her blogging about and taking photos of anything and everything. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she drinks too much coffee and listens to too much country music. You can follow her on instagram at _lovechristie_