You’re not REALLY a parent: a nanny’s perspective

Guest post by Kate (the super-nanny)

It’s true. I am not really a parent. I hear it all the time as I walk by and push my stroller with the two 19-month-olds in tow. We go to play dates and lunches, do crafts and sing songs. Most of all? We enjoy our days together as I work hard to create good little humans that will hopefully become good big humans.

So if I’m not a parent, you may be asking what I am talking about being with two 19-month-old kids all day. (Besides being that creepy woman walking the mall singing songs that no grown person should know…) I am a nanny. I hope to be a parent fairly soon, but for now I am what I call a “daytime parent stand-in”. I am educated in child development and have worked with kids since I was a kid myself. Here’s my story for the day…

I nanny for two children of separate families, both of which are currently 19 months old. I have been with them since they were 4 months old and I love every day of my work. Yes, there are days where I imagine the beach I will be on during my honeymoon and begin to drool, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love my work.

My job description includes: fostering the mental, emotional and social growth of each child while taking every precaution to protect their safety and well being. What does that sound like to you?

So tell me why I walk into a play date and upon finding I am the nanny of these two beautiful little people every single mom I have ever come into contact with says something along the lines of “Oh…of course YOU wouldn’t REALLY understand. After all, you’re just the nanny.”

JUST THE NANNY? Well, excuse me…I didn’t realize that because I don’t have to get up every few hours to feed a child (just yet) or that because I get to pass off a child at the end of my day, I was any less of a caregiver to this child as you are to yours.

(And don’t mention the tattoo! “You have a tattoo and you are a nanny? Do they know?” Yes, I do and yes I am and yes…they do. My tattoo has nothing to do with my ability to work with and care for children!)

While I realize I have no blood connection to this child, I would be just as devastated to see them in a cast on Monday morning as you would be to see a cut on their arm when you walked in at 5pm. I am still doing all the jobs you do while you are gone. And honestly speaking…don’t you WANT someone to treat your child as if they were as important and good as their own while you can’t be there?

It really amazes me to think about the thought processes behind the “YOU’RE JUST THE….” comments. I really don’t get it. Again, I understand I am not a parent, but I also understand that I go through teething and nightmares and picky eater issues all the same. I may not have them 24/7, but (beware of controversial comment here) neither do you unless you are a stay at home mom and your children aren’t currently in school. I still worry and wonder and work hard to find a new song so I only have to sing ‘ring around the rosie’ 50 times a day as opposed to 100.

Where I think the real stigma comes from is the two nanny urban legends every mother would naturally fear at some point:

  1. the nanny & the husband scenario
  2. the nanny being loved more than/being considered closer than the mom

Let me tell you, most of the time those urban legends just don’t happen. I want my job because I love working with kids. I can guarantee that no matter what I do or say with these kids all day, they will never (nor would I want them to ever) think of me as mom, and just for the record I have never personally known a nanny to look for a job with intentions of finding a man nor have I ever known a nanny to do anything inappropriate with someone’s partner.

I hope all parents will try to work past the “you’re just the’s” and work towards making relationships with the local nannies and caregivers. The “you’re just the” comments make us feel as bad as you feel when a doctor tells you they can’t give you information about a loved one because you’re “just the fiance/girlfriend/etc”. We love to help! We make great babysitters! We love to have play dates! Most of all we love to connect and get the kids active, and besides…I am sure I could use some adult talk time just as much as you could. But for now…

I am Nanny. A step up from the cool years-older-sister, a step down from Mommy, and exactly a daytime parent stand-in. If Mommy is a superhero, Nanny is her sidekick.

Comments on You’re not REALLY a parent: a nanny’s perspective

  1. Holla from another nanny! I totally hear you on the "you're just the nanny" front — that extended to being ostracized by the "real moms" at the playground and school. So lame. Being at odds with some of the parents values was a bit challenging as well. The kids I sat for were in a very competitive, conservative, "tough love" kind of household, and I'm much more liberal and touchy-feely. The kids had a lot of internal struggles about being biracial, and I tried to address it with sensitivity and positivity while not contradicting what they were told by their parents. Well, except for when I let the girls wear their hair out of braids, which they were never allowed to do at home — even when they were sleeping.

    • REALLY..oh my goodness…why the braids thing? lol that's just so odd to me. But yeah, the "you're just a nanny" thing gets old pretty fast. :-/ SORRY it took me til today to answer. We were all super cranky yesterday. Sweet nap time at this point….thank goodness.

      • Well, the mom's hair was chemically relaxed, and the dad was white. The girls were told to wait until they could get their hair 'fixed'. There were some very serious body-image issues foisted on the kids, even the youngest one, who was only three when I started. The five year old girl was on a diet! I reeeeaaallly had to bit my tongue quite a bit, and slip in some body/race positive comments when we were alone together.

  2. Man I feel you! I just started as a nanny for 3 adorable school aged children and I get a few of the "Oh.. The nanny" looks when I take them out to the park, or to appointments and whatnot. Stay strong! Nannie Powa!

  3. What strikes me as odd is that some people apparently feel comfortable thinking that nannies have little expertise on kids. Of course you have to know your place, but I would certainly hope that nannies are as good as a mommy-substitute as possible. While they lack the obvious parent-kid connection, they are professionals and are oftentimes better trained at parenting than most parents themselves. Otherwise you could just pick any random person off the street and have them watch your kids, which would be very disturbing.
    Of course it's all just insecurity of the parents; Moms (and other caregivers) can be quite mean to each other because they need to validate themselves.

    • I agree on the validation stand point. It sickens me when I start hearing parents say things like "Well MY kid started kicking the ball around when he was three…we're training up for the olympics." "Oh well MY kid started tat two so…" UGH…just enjoy them!

  4. I loved this post! I am not yet a mommy and have never been a nanny, but I see the nanny as a very important part to any working parent's life. Saying "just the nanny" is so unapreciative of the person who cares and loves your little one. If I have to be a working mom I could concentrate on my job better knowing that my child was being cared for and loved by a great person while I couldn't be there. I went to daycare and it was fun, but I think a nanny would have been great.

  5. I am a mother of three and i have had many nanny's while i was working and i consider the nanny's job just as important as the moms job. The nanny may not be blood related but they do our jobs for us when we can not be there and they go through just as much crap with our kids as we do. so saying "oh, your just the nanny" is derogatory and mean. 'Cause if it wasn't for the nanny's half the women in the world would actually have to spend time with there own flesh and blood.

  6. I love my baby's babysitter. She's more like a co-mom and I couldn't be more appreciative. Here's a dirty little secret – on weekends when I have my boy all day I sometimes find myself wondering how she can keep him occupied for the whole day and still have a smile on her face when I show up to get him. Child care is hard!

    I'm sorry you've run into so many of those rude, judgemental moms who don't think before they speak – they're everywhere, and they do it to other "real" moms too! I think 65% of them just don't realize what they are saying, 25% are just mean, and the other 10% a giant hypocrits who don't live up to their own impossible standards and take it out on everyone else.

  7. It's awesome that you love your job! I went to be a nanny for a little boy I had babysat as a teenager since he was two months — he was three at the time, and I had just turned eighteen. I was living with a friend (the mom), and while I loved them both, it was not for me.

    I really admire people who manage to nanny/daycare fulltime. I love my son, and I love kids, but teaching other people's kids was not for me.

    Rock on! =D<3

  8. Regarding the "stigmas," I think people have either a really antiquated view of nannies (as was my case, below), or….have been watching too much late-nite TV (as Kate mentions).

    I was a nanny in Manhattan while finishing up grad school, and got surprised reactions because I was not a particular race, because I was fairly young, was in grad school, and was a nanny. People (I guess???) expected to see someone older and of a different race.

    We come in all shapes and sizes, people!! And what does it matter anyway? All the nannies I encountered, at least, were great at their jobs.

    I would think it *incredibly* rude if someone gave YOU, bystander, a strange look at Your job because you were or were not a particular race or age….why is it ok to do with nannies?? It's NOT.

    Despite this, I really loved my time as nanny, and hoped I was able to contribute to the well-being of a fantastic 4-yr-old boy.

  9. Those obtuse "just the" folks are everywhere. I encountered them working in childcare, and wouldn't you know it, I hear from them as a mom, too! Back when I was a teen mom living with my parents, I even heard it in a different form as "oh, so I guess you're more like a sister…" I like to think that these people just don't realize how hurtful and short-sighted this is, but I know that there are also some people out there who just need to disrespect other people to settle with themselves.

  10. Ugh. Makes me furious that anyone would start a sentence with "You're just a _____". I'm a stay at home mama (who hates being told "I'm just a homemaker") who would kill to have a cool sidekick like you to share the childcare work with! Child raisin' is a challenging business, and my hat's off to anyone who loves kids enough to undertake it – no matter what the hours 🙂

  11. I hear ya! I am "just the stepmother" and people continuously think this doesn't make me a parent. I am expecting my first baby and people feel the need to tell me all the horror stories of parenting (with that ridiculously patronizing attitude like they are teaching me something) as though I don't have a clue. I used to nanny two babies and I currently parent two teenagers so I think I *maybe* have an idea what I'm doing, thank you very much.

    • seriously why DO people do that? I COULD NOT STAND that when I was pregnant. I mean there I was becoming a mom for the first time and dealing with my sometimes uncomfortable pregnancy and constant worries of what will happen once the baby gets here and EVERYONE wanted to add to that stress. To totally counteract how often this happens, whenever I get into a conversation with someone who is expecting I purposefully tell them ONLY the wonderful things about being a parent.

  12. I wasn't a nanny, but as a Daycare provider, I had the exact same problem with people thinking I didn't know anything about children because I didn't have any. It's really very frustrating. Sometimes I wanted to scream. I may not have had biological children, but I had 10-12 little ones that were my responsibility– often whom I spent more time with than their parents did! I dealt with all the same issues their parents did, issues some parents never had to deal with, AND there was less I could do about it.

  13. I was a nanny for a short time, and these sorts of comments from other people (and even the parents I worked for!) were what caused it to be a very short-lived career. Also, the sentiment started bleeding over to the children who were in elementary school. Their parents would only be home on the weekends but any time myself or the other nanny would tell the children it was time for bed, etc, we’d get the, “You’re just the nanny we don’t need to listen to you,” line. Very very frustrating job and I give mad props to those who stick with it.

  14. I'm not a nanny. I'm a parent, but I have to say that I have major respect for a hard working nanny! In fact, my best friend was a nanny for years and a lot of my parenting style or ideas come from watching her as a nanny. I made a commitment back then to be a stay at home mom after watching her raise someone else's kids. I couldn't believe how little the parents were involved and was shocked at how often they had to reach out to my friend, the nanny, during her off work hours for help. I take my daughter to many social activities and do my best to make any nannies feel as welcome as any parent.

  15. I was a nanny for 15 years and I remember those feelings. Of moms not bothering to even look me in the eye, much less say hello to me at school pickup. But I do have to say that I have some different feelings since having my daughter a year ago. For me, at least, there really is a huge difference. It’s not the sleep deprivation or the other “hard” parts of being a mom that change you. It’s that this child is your flesh and blood. That their every waking moment is precious to you. Their snot isn’t gross, their poop not such a big deal, and their every cry a stab right in your heart. Other people’s children crying still provokes little emotional reaction for me, but my own? Positively breaks my heart! There are some families I worked for where I felt that the parents had children as an accessory and weren’t really very invested in their daily life. And I did feel like a stand-in parent rather than a caregiver. And all of the times I thought that the mother was too high strung about leaving her child alone with me for the first time?? Holy shit, I totally get it now. In fact I’m freaking out about leaving my daughter with a neighbor (mom) so that we can go out for my birthday on Friday. It’s so hard to hand your child over to a stranger, no matter how nice and wonderful they are, and I get that now.

    • We're definitely not saying that it's the same — it's just the derision, the "less than" status that full-time caregivers get from "real" moms. I also think that being a parent has GOT to be totally different, but not because of the "flesh and blood" thing; lots of adoptive or stepparents have those same very deep connections that you describe.

  16. I am right there with you sister… I am not a nanny, but I am a step mom, and some how this makes every effort I make towards my step daughter less significant. Because when I make the macaroni and cheese its less emotional than when bio mom does it…. Give me a break.

    And I would like to put it this way… How many of the moms out there had to go through an interview to get responsibility of a child? I am betting it was just the adoptive ones…. And did you have to go through an interview to get responsibility of your charges? Yes, yes you did… Are nannies expected to have education, and experience? Yes, they are.. Moms arent held to these same requirements when they get pregnant.

  17. A lot of people don't realize us child care providers often spend more waking hours with the children than their own parents do. We sweat and worry when they spike a fever just as much as mom and dad do. We rejoice when they take those first wobbly steps. We cheer when they go on the potty for the first time. We come running just as fast when we hear that frightening "thump" followed by wails. We might not have given birth, but then neither do adoptive parents-are they any less than biological parents?

  18. Well said! I hope if this work from home/mom thing doesn't work out for me I can find a nanny just as caring as you to take care of this little one growing inside me!

  19. I enjoyed reading your post. I am a nanny and have been for 12+ years. The last 5 years my title went from nanny to Mom and nanny. I have the great fortune of taking my own child to work with me. So, I haven't been expereincing the "you're just the …" comments. Besides, anyone who has seen me with anyone of 'my kids', I call them that because that is the way that I love and care about them, knows that I am way more than a nanny to the children in my care. Those mean Mommies, the ones who try and exclude you from the Mommy group because you are 'only' the nanny, are insecure and jealous. I'm sure they wish they had the freedom and flexibility that you provise your employers, or they are intimidated by the fact that you probably handle children far better than thay do. In any case, be proud of being the nanny. I am, and I love what I do each and everyday.

  20. I was applying for a job as an assistant teacher, and under "Previous jobs in childcare" I wrote that i had 8 years experience as an afternoon/evening nanny. When I got to my interview, the woman had the nerve to say "Your previous child care experience is lacking…you put here that you used to baby-sit, but every 20-something year old applicant has that on their resume…"

    OH.MY.GOD. That is NOT the same thing! Baby-sitters watch the kids to make sure they don't drown in the toilet or set the house on fire while mom and dad go to dinner and a movie. NANNIES figure out how to get Peter to eat everything on his all-organic plate I just made. NANNIES know the quickest route to drama camp, ballet, karate, and soccer. NANNIES are the ones simultaneously helping with homework, getting Camden to turn down the volume on Go Diego Go, and hosing down the mud-covered dog. NANNIES refer to these children as "my boys".

  21. Thank you for posting this! As a nanny, I know those shoes well!

    I think we have one of the most interesting, strange, difficult, heartbreaking and wonderful jobs.
    I feel like I have parented so many children, but since I have none of my own, what do I know, right? Drives me a little crazy!

    So again, thanks for your post!

  22. Kuddos to all of you! I whole heartily agree that Nannies and teachers sometimes have the children more than their own parents. Most parents wouldn’t be able to even handle children if they actually had them 24/7.

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