I’m fascinated by Emily’s life. As a nanny currently caring for two little ones in Washington, D.C., her life sounds equal parts Nanny McPhee and The Pacifier: magical and incredibly nurturing, with a bit of danger thrown in. (She is potty-training one of her charges, after all, and they try to go stroller-free in the city as often as possible!)
After over two years with the same children, Emily’s job will soon come to an end. And, as you can imagine, this is going to be a difficult transition for all involved. Meeting them when they were just four months old, and working through all the day-to-day, minute-to-minute happenings with two babies who soon begin crawling and then become walking and talking toddlers, and then throw in naps and teaching all the words and trying to help them fall asleep and not miss their parents so much…oh, my. It’s a lot. I don’t know how she’s going to say goodbye!
This is a job that feels strangely like real life. As she explains it, she is not their parent but she is responsible for all the tiny routines that make up their childhood. And if she thinks too much about leaving them in the Fall, she cries. Oh, my. It’s a lot.
I really hope you love this tour through Emily’s day! I sure did. Welcome, Emily!
Hello there! I’m a 25 year old living and working in Washington, D.C. – the neighborhood of Petworth to be specific. Petworth is an up and coming neighborhood full of life long residents and young families, which is exactly what brings me to the area. I’m a full-time nanny for two two-year olds. And no, the answer to the most commonly asked question is that they are not in fact twins, just neighbors! We have what’s called a nanny share. I watch both kids at one house from 8:00 am until 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday. I’ve been with them since they were four months old, so it’s coming up on two years in July.
I don’t live with the families; I have my own basement studio apartment about a mile from their houses. This arrangement works really well for us as I’m close enough to walk to work and bump into them in the neighborhood on the weekends, but I have my own space and the children get special alone time with their parents.
Last year I lived with one of my very best friends and loved it, but the transition to living on my own has been really great. I’m an introvert and seriously cherish my alone time.
I wake up today and each morning around 6:30 am, which gives me time to do some quick yoga, watch the Today Show, and make a kale smoothie on my way out the door. As healthy as that sentence makes me sound, I’m far from it. The smoothie is pretty much the only vegetable intake I have each day. I’m working on that.
The walk to work is about 20 minutes. I fell out of the groove of walking during the winter – it was just too bitterly cold here – so I’m just now urging myself to start walking again. My biggest motivation is the extra time to listen to podcasts; I’m what you might call a podcast junky!
Right now I’m watching the kids at the little girl’s house every day. Online, I refer to her as Ladybug. I arrive at 7:45 and am always greeted by Ladybug running towards me to show me a book or a plastic piece of food from her kitchen. She turned two in late March and blows me away every day with her intelligence. Today she brags “Emmy! I eat the yogurt and Mommy eat the eggs!” as she waves her spoon around from her high chair. Ladybug’s mom and I get along really well, which is a huge blessing, and we chat for a few minutes each morning.
Ladybug has never had separation issues, so she happily hugs, kisses, and waves goodbye to her mom each day. I’ve worked very hard since they were tiny to remind both kids that mommies and daddies are at work but they come home at the end of every day. Throughout the day they’ll both turn to me and state very matter-of-fact-ly “Mommy and Daddy at work.”
The little boy (Stinkbug) usually arrives a bit later, closer to 8:30. He sometimes has a bit more trouble saying goodbye, but a quick reminder that Mommy will come back is all it takes for him to give her a hug and head off to his toys. This morning he greets me by yelling “Big squeeze!” as he runs to me, arms wide open.
One of my favorite parts of every day is the way in which Lady and Stink greet one another. They truly act like siblings and will hug each other hello in the morning and then get right to bickering over who gets to play with the orange car. We spend a lot of time practicing using gentle hands and kind words with one another.
By 9:00 I try to have our bags packed and shoes on, ready to head out the door. Lady is semi-potty trained so we spend a while trying to go, but today she refuses. I make a mental note to watch her water intake while we’re out and about, and throw two extra pairs of clothes in my already very full backpack. I’m a graduate student in the evening so my bag is full of papers, books, diapers, snack cups, and toys. It’s not unlike me to reach into my bag for my ID at a bar on a Saturday night and come back out with a pacifier.
We spend the hours between 9:00 and 11:30 traipsing all of D.C. We are within walking distance of the metro and the kids love riding the choo-choo, but today is particularly hot so we’re sticking closer to home. We are lucky to have our pick of five or six parks in the area, but we’re partial to the ones with swings. Lady likes to go high and flap her wings like a butterfly, while Stink is almost constantly pretending to be a race car. Our time at the park flies by, and Lady keeps her pants dry – a true miracle!
We make sure to be home every day by 11:30 to start lunches. Today, like every day, Lady eats buttered pasta noodles and a banana. If I’m lucky, she’ll also eat an orange. Stink loves mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, and pretty much any food you imagine a toddler loving. Lunch time means a little Netflix time. Today their choice is unanimous: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I have every Daniel episode memorized and would prefer to never hear it again, so I pop my headphones in and start another podcast while I begin cleaning up the house.
Noon means diaper changes, potty breaks, and a quick book or two. Then it’s off to naps. Lady has always been a champ and sleeps in her crib with no problem. All she needs is her pacifier and a specific set of animals and she’s good to go. Stink, on the other hand, has needed to be held to go to sleep since he was born. At first I dreaded this part of my day, but it truly became one of my all time favorites; our cuddles really brought us closer together. Just two weeks ago he couldn’t get comfortable with me in the bed and I left him to fall asleep on his own. He’s climbed into the bed alone every day since then, and while I relish the extra 20 minutes alone, it breaks my heart.
Naps last until 2:00 every day and until 3:00 if I’m super lucky. I spend the time catching up on blogs, social media, and homework. I’m in the Masters in Teaching program at American University, and I have classes two nights a week. I just finished my first full year and have another year of student teaching ahead of me. I hope to be teaching kindergarten next year.
Today was a semi-lucky day, Lady slept until 2:30 and Stink until 3:00. After naps we cuddle for a few minutes and then re-do the diaper and potty routine. Our day is full of a lot of tiny routines.
This afternoon we decide to walk to the park without our double stroller. I always think this will be a great idea, until we’re actually in the process. Stink is a speedy little guy and runs ahead, while Lady is truly the slowest walker I’ve ever encountered. The good news is they are both very good listeners and will stop and start when I tell them to. Teaching them to listen when we’re out and about was a huge priority of mine, as it was the only way to ensure they could have a bit of freedom while we’re out in the city. I know some think I should hold their hand or have them in a stroller 24/7, but that’s just not feasible. I’m proud of the independence they’ve both gained and the trust that we have in one another.
We finally arrive at the park and spend most of our time playing in the grassy field next to the fancy playground equipment. If it doesn’t have swings, Stink can’t be bothered with it. Plus, there is a plywood platform in the middle of the field that Lady loves to jump on and yell I DO A SHOW, EMMY! I DO A SHOW! while she twirls and sings Twinkle Twinkle.
Back at home, we wrap our day up by cleaning our toys and then head out to the front porch. The winter was so long and cold that we spend every spare minute outside that we can. Plus, the joy on their faces when they see their parents walking down the sidewalk towards them never gets old.
They’ve both reached a stage where they’ll happily tell me goodbye and “See ya lata!” at the end of the day. I’m proud of them and happy for their parents but honestly, I miss the days when they would cling to me at the end of each day. It’s always nice to feel needed.
Nannying is hard. It is without a doubt the most difficult job I’ve ever had and I honestly can’t imagine a job that will take more out of me emotionally – except my next job teaching! My job requires that I love the children in my care with all my heart. My job is to help to raise them, keep them safe, teach them day to day tasks like putting on their shoes and cleaning their toys, but also to help teach them how to be loving and generous and compassionate. I take my job incredibly seriously. I think I’m doing some of the most important work.
But, I’m not their parent. I don’t have the final say on how Lady and Stink are raised. I’m not in charge of when they stop using their pacifier or what they eat for lunch. So there is a careful balance I have to strike with their parents.
Overall, I’ve had a good experience with their families. I know they see how much their kids love me and how much I love them in return, and they respect that. But it is very easy to feel under-appreciated. I often feel like I put in a lot of the hard work with the kids with less of the reward. I have to leave this job in the Fall to student teach. The odds of Stink and Lady remembering me are very, very slim. My heart breaks just thinking of that. I hope to stay in touch with them after we’ve all moved on; it’s part of the reason I moved to this neighborhood. But once I’m off their parents’ payroll, they have no obligation to help me stay in touch with the kids. If I think too much about leaving them, I cry. A lot.
I think nannies often get a bad wrap on the internet. It’s rare for mommy blogs to post about great childcare experiences, I hear far more about the negative ones. It’s important to me that people know that I’m not just a babysitter, I try very hard to make sure I’m a third caregiver to these kids. I try my best to be an extension of their parents.
I found my job through Care.com, it was a fairly easy process, especially considering I did it from North Carolina before I moved up here. I would definitely recommend nannying to anyone who loves kids and needs a fairly flexible job. My only regrets are not standing up for myself a bit more when we were working out our contract. It can be really difficult to both act like a member of the nanny family and their employee at the same time. There is a very careful balance that needs to be found, and we’re not always great at it.
Because of the emotional attachment I’ve developed at work, I strive to create a separate life for myself once I leave each day.
By 6:15 I’m home and, lucky for me, I’ve got a week between my spring and summer classes, which means the evening is mine for the taking. Tonight I decide to be social and I change clothes then quickly head over to the metro. I spend a few minutes debating whether or not I can pull off a romper and decide to wear it regardless.
My friends and I have a drink or two at a great Greek place and call it an early night. Getting around D.C. is really easy but does take more time than you’d imagine. I typically allot myself at least 30 minutes to get anywhere, even if it’s only one metro stop away. You just never know.
I’m home by 9:30 which is good because I like to be in bed by 10 at the latest. Lights out is 10:30 and I like to read a few pages beforehand. Tonight I’m reading Lena Dunham’s book, Not That Kind of Girl.
When I roll over to fall asleep my thoughts usually drift towards gratefulness. If I’m being honest, it’s not easy to be a single 25 year old, surrounded by families all day, and surrounded by friends in my free time who are about to be or are already married. I feel lonely often, even though I have an amazing network of people around me. The best way to combat those feelings is always to remind myself that I’m living in my favorite city in the country, doing work that makes my heart so happy, and that I have wonderful, loving people around me.
My life is really very beautiful.
This made me laugh: “It’s not unlike me to reach into my bag for my ID at a bar on a Saturday night and come back out with a pacifier.” Thank you, Emily! For those of us who’ve hired and relied on nannies at some point in our careers, and those of us who wonder what that would be like, this was incredibly eye-opening.
The thoughts and milestones she shares on her blog are touching; they rival any baby book out there! So Emily’s need to emotionally detach as soon as her work day ends seemed as though it would be super difficult. But if you think about it, this detachment is actually quite common among those who find it crucial to leave the office at the office, right? I’m sure there are lots of readers who separate their personal and professional lives. Are you one of them?
And yet, the thought of Stink not remembering the girl who held him until he fell asleep is really heartbreaking.