I Was a Main Line Nanny

Parenting from a non-mom's perspective

Few outsiders see the inner workings of a family’s personal life the way a nanny does. I have been a nanny to kids from infants to teens and everywhere in between, working part-time as I was taking college classes that I scheduled so I could be on call when my families needed me most. Nannying is one of the most demanding jobs I can imagine. Every day is a different adventure that requires a boatload of duties in addition to providing basic child care. 

Though they varied day to day and depended greatly on the age of my charges, my nanny tasks included after-school carpooling and coming up with engaging kids’ activities — themed crafts and games, hide-and-seek, board games and playing outside or in the park when weather permitted. Household chores consisted of everything from washing and folding laundry to doing the dishes, cleaning up after the kids and making or picking up dinner. The scope of the job meant hours added to my schedule nearly every week. Not that I’m complaining; I knew what I was signing up for. 

Becoming a nanny was a natural extension of the baby-sitting I’d done and enjoyed for many years. Like most nannies, I found my families via word of mouth, through a friend of my sister’s or a mom I knew whose coworker was looking for help. The number of jobs I got this way is proof that once you have some experience and references, you’re in the nanny network and are good as gold. Moms on the search for a nanny should mention they’re in the market to everyone they know; it shouldn’t take long before they get a recommendation or lead.

The going rate when I was nannying on the Main Line, starting in 2009, ranged between $10 and $15 an hour, depending on the size of the family and what I was required to do. If the job consisted of a lot of driving I was paid $15 an hour to compensate for gas.

Being a nanny was like having another family, and I grew to love each child I cared for as if they were my own. Even better, I still have a relationship with every one of the moms I’ve worked for. Despite tense portrayals of the mom/nanny dynamic in books and movies, in reality these successful, hard-working women genuinely wanted the same success for me. Which only makes sense — I was caring for their children, and my doing well meant the kids were happy and safe. Forging a strong relationship with the parents you nanny for gives you a sense of who they are and how best to deliver what they expect from you.

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Parenting from a nanny's perspective

Peek during hide-and-seek

Six years ago, I was potty-training one of my charges with a sticker chart. Every sticker represented a successful potty session; earning two to three stickers by the end of the day meant 
a reward of a Hershey Kiss. One day, during a game of hide-and-seek, I found the crafty potty-trainee in the closet, covered in Hershey Kisses from head to toe. Turns out, she knew exactly where her treats were hidden. Luckily, despite a mass intake of chocolate, my little friend didn’t get sick and her parents found the escapade hilarious. After that, I realized that peeking during hide-and-seek is usually in a grownup’s best interest.

Know when to split the difference. 

About four years ago, I was working for a family with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old, a huge age gap as far as gross-motor skills are concerned. The 5-year-old wanted to learn to ride a two-wheeler while the 2-year-old needed to be supervised on a push bike. Obviously, I couldn’t leave the 2-year-old unattended, so I had to figure out how to manage both my time and focus. Whenever the kids’ parents were at home — after work or on days off — I devoted myself solely to the 5-year-old. She loved the personal attention and gratifyingly called this her “special time” with me.

Learn to laugh together.

When I was working for a family with two older boys, one in high school and the other in middle school — ages where having a nanny is decidedly uncool — we developed a back-and-forth where we could lightly tease one another. They would often mock me about my music taste and my cautious driving, so in retribution I would pick them up from school and blast Katy Perry from my car. Though it may have been embarrassing, I know they secretly loved the fun friendship we formed over the two years I was their nanny. It made them more comfortable to be around me — which in turn made the experience that much more rewarding for me. 

MK co-op intern Allison Kenney is a marketing major at Drexel University.

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