Monday, April 25, 2011
Along with many other nannies and au pairs out there, I spend an extremely significant amount of time with my current charge. To be more specific, Maya, the sweetest and most adorable nine-month-old you will ever meet, is in my care Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., which is a total of 50 hours per week. We spend our days together filled with adventures at the zoo, fun-filled days at the children’s museum, and trips to various neighborhood coffee shops for music time. As if that weren’t enough to keep us busy, we also take a swim class twice a week and a baby sign language class once a week at the local community center. All of this time and interaction with one another has definitely formed a pretty amazing bond between the two of us. Nothing is better than walking into work every morning and being greeted by her crawling over to me, with her tiny arms raised into the air, almost begging to be picked up. What’s even better is that I am lucky enough to have the most wonderful mom boss who helps to foster the nanny-child connection and also believes that the bond her daughter and I have will have a tremendous impact on the other relationships she will form later on in life.
Throughout my years as a nanny, it is an honor to have been chosen by the families I have worked for to have such a great impact on the lives of their children. Next to their parents, it is my job and responsibility to provide these children with a sense of both emotional and physical security on a daily basis. I feel that because of this, it is my obligation to explain to parents during my interviews how important it is, for their children’s sake, to hire someone who will be in it for the long haul. What some nannies and even some parents don’t understand is that a sudden loss or change in caregivers can be a significant stressor for a child. When the child realizes that the attachment figure who was there to care for him when his parents were not able to can simply disappear, he may be more cautious in developing future relationships. My suggestion to both parents and nannies to prevent this from happening is to agree to work together for at least a year, if not more. This way it gives both the child and the nanny or au pair enough time to form a substantial bond, as well as the opportunity for them to create lasting memories together that the child will be able to draw upon once the caregiver is not an active part of his daily life.
Although I have addressed how difficult it can be for the children when a nanny has to leave her position with their family, it is also critical to note that this can be a very hard time for the adults involved as well. While I have been fortunate that all of my nanny positions have been for at least two years or more, I still see this career as being somewhat of a catch-22. Much like the children, I have become attached to and very fond of each and every child I have had the pleasure of caring for throughout the past nine years. It has been of the utmost importance for me to build both a nurturing and trusting relationship with them while also being mindful that all of these positions will eventually have an expiration date connected to them. When the time does come for this healthy codependent relationship to end, know that there are many fun and creative things you can do to help both the children and parents (and yourself) move forward once your position with them ends. Below are a few of my suggestions.
Create a photo album. Gather a few pictures that you have of the children and yourself together (take some if you don’t have any), and put them in a photo album for the children to always remember you by.
Create lasting memories. I have always made it a point to plan some sort of fun outing to do with the children I have cared for on my last day with the family. (Be sure to clear this with both mom and dad bosses.) This can be as simple as taking the children out to get ice cream or as elaborate as taking them to a local theme park for a day filled with fun food and rides.
Set up a future visit. If you live nearby, ask the parents if they wouldn’t mind setting up a time in the near future for you to come by and visit with the children. Not only will this help to alleviate the children’s temporary heartbreak of losing you as their nanny, but it will also give them something to look forward to. I have had the opportunity to go back and visit all of my previous charges and their parents and have also been lucky enough to babysit for each and every one of them on occasion!
In closing, I hope that I have given you a bit of insight about how important your role as a nanny or au pair is in the lives of the children you care for everyday, and how you can help to ease the transition when it is time for you to say your goodbyes. Always remember that your job is one of the most influential ones out there, and to take pride in the impact you are having on today’s future generation!
“A nanny shapes our children, in ways we will never know…they challenge and inspire them and prepare them as they grow.” –Anonymous