After graduating from university I was presented with two choices- attend a graduate school at one of my dream schools in New York or, apply to be a paralegal. I applied to be a paralegal and didn't hear word back from the agency. And while my dream school loved my application, funds weren't offered for me to attend the two-year program. So when I tell you I was lost, I literally felt like I could not be found.
The summer came and went and towards the end, a past employer and friend called me and asked my plans for the upcoming the school year. She needed someone to help pick-up and nanny her two boys. One was entering kindergarten and the other second grade. I've written about one of the two boys here and needless to say, my adventures with the two have inspired me to do so much more. I gladly agreed to nannying position and got to work. I've known the youngest since he dwelled in the womb and his older brother since he was two. So, even after graduating from high-school, university and living in Spain for a year, I would always make it a must to visit the family from time-to-time because I grew close to the kids. After agreeing to being with the boys, I was excited to get to work and start a new journey.
Being a Nanny
Like many jobs, being a nanny has its moments and no two days are the same. There's the after school pick-ups, snacks, dinners, bed-time, homework help, play dates, naughtiness, treats, reprimanding behaviors, teachings, soccer, tennis and even breaking up fights when situations get tense. And these are the responsibilities that have just come to mind for me. Still, experiencing each and everyone of these responsibilities makes me so grateful knowing that I have learned so much moving forward. And just as no two days are the same, you can say the same for every minute or even an hour. The kids can make you laugh one minute and later make you give the longest side-eye the next. I can recall some moments when I would tuck them into bed and my eyelids would suddenly become so heavy, the youngest would take his index finger and peel over my eyelids just to see if I was 'fake-sleeping'...that's what he called it anyway. Still, within these days, hours and minutes, caregivers are forced to take a couple of lessons into account that remains helpful and useful for other interactions and jobs ahead. I have to say...kids will teach you many things to take with you for jobs ahead.
These are my five that continue to help me today...
Having patience is key when interacting with people in any job you may encounter. I remember being taught this when caring for the boys day-after-day. And coming from a university setting where as a student, the only patience you are probably called to have is either waiting on your grades or waiting on that reply from your professor. While that's good practice and all, caring for kids calls for a new level of patience. And I think if you can reach this level, you can pretty much handle the intensity and ridiculousness of most, if not any, working colleagues. And no, I'm not saying it's justified to have the same amount of patience for a 30 year-old person as you do for a 5 year-old kid. That age gap is wide and there is no comparison. Still, caring for kids gives you a sense of understanding of where to apply your patience while also being firm on your word. Once you've got that and can incorporate it into your next job setting, you are at peace unfazed and unbothered by your colleagues.
2. Being crystal clear & making sure you are understood
When I write an essay for a particular subject, I normally, if not always, have a friend of a different study to read it and later ask if they understood the piece. I do this to make sure my essay is clear-as-day even to a foreign reader. And while I thought it be okay to try the same concept with kids, I was introduced to a rude awakening (that's a story for another day). Still, the same goes for kids. It's important to be crystal clear in what you say and to make sure they understand the rules. I remember giving the youngest one a rule to follow after homework and dinner were both finished. Before having him walk away, I would ask him to repeat what I had said and explain why it was important....except he never quite got to the second part of the question. "I don't remember" is how he would normally answer for the first couple of weeks. It goes to show that you could be crystal-clear, and still be misunderstood or just ignored in the end. Eh... Kids will be kids.
Still, even if it means for you to repeat yourself and make sure that the kids understand your rules, making this a habit with kids may seem tedious but it's important and helpful in the long-run. I was able to take this concept and apply it to the other jobs that proceeded afterwards. And while I did not blatantly ask my colleagues to repeat what I had said, I would ask them the next step they thought be best to take in oder to achieve the idea set forth. Just so I know my colleagues and I are on the same page.
So if a kid can understand what you've said, you have a good chance of being crystal clear for other working-collogues to understand what it is you want to get across...for the most part anyway.
3. Thinking on your feet
When dealing with kids you have to be quick on your feet. It's a must... Point Blank Period. I remember caring for the older brother of the two boys when I was in high school and being pretty lost for the first two weeks. I didn't know where the bus stop to his house was, and I wasn't sure if the limited bus would stop near his place. And make no mistake, kids will clock you and proceed to call you out if they know that you don't know what you are doing. I remember when he would ask "Do you know what you are doing?" This was for the first week. I recognized that I not only had to be quick, but I also had to understand that being perceived as an air-head from an eight-year old is not cool. Granted, not everyone is able to have a rapid way of thinking on the spot. Still, practice makes perfect. See what works and take note of the different situations you find yourself in when you are caring for kids. The situations will vary from time to time, but it's important to know that every situation will build your mental strength and give you an idea of how to attack different occurrences. I remember getting caught in the rain with no umbrella and using all sorts of clothing as an umbrella-look-alike (almost) as it rained. There was also that one time when the boys needed a table to do their work and there was no table on sight. That too is a story for another day, but the point is this...thinking on your feet requires speed and creativity. Later, transferring this talent towards other job is seen to be an advantage and even super-hero-like. It's true...I'm just saying.
Now, for many people the word compromising does not intermingle with kids. And while I see that, I do think an objection is called in some cases. Sometimes, time is of the essence and a compromise is needed from the caregiver to the kid...or even vise-versa. And no, don't get it twisted- comprising with a kid and bribing a kid are two different things. Mixing the two is dangerous and if you try and incorporate bribing in your other job settings, you won't get you far in that field. #facts.
For the most part my no is no. But even with kids you are going to have to compromise. And I would do it to the degree where they would do whatever it is that needed to get done, but with something that is appeasing to them. The same concept can be applied to any job. Any job. Sometimes you and a co-worker are going to have to come half-way, and you are going to have to do it in a manner of humility and persuasiveness. Be short and brief. Let them know why your compromise is beneficial to them and why it's inevitable for it to get done! I remember doing this with the kids I would nanny and their follow up questions only made me get better at it. The youngest had a favorite word- why. And answering that not only kept me on my toes, but it also instilled a sense of understanding when it came to negotiating and proposing something new to my working colleagues afterwards.
5. Learning from experience to move forward appropriately
Last but not least, memory is key when it comes to learning from mistakes. Remember when I said the eldest brother of the boys clocked me on my first week of babysitting him? (check out number three...it's there) Yeah...while that was a bit embarrassing, it served as an experience for me to take and learn from. The same goes for every single job. If something goes wrong once, take not of what is happening and learn from that mistake. While you may not know what should happen, you do know what should not happen. Tricky...I know. It's nerve racking and thought provoking, but it's a journey to learn constantly from.
So while everyday is not the same with kids, I guarantee you that they remember and are watching you to make sure you know what you are doing. And they won't hesitate to remind you of what happened in the past in regards to a similar situation. Learn and move forward.
Being a nanny is an amazing and rewarding position to take. I was still getting my feet wet in the 'real world' but the qualities learned from caring kids has taught me so much as I move forward.
What job has taught you qualities that you use today?