Zen and the art of nannying

This post is part of TNGG’s Family Theme Week

I am more than just a nanny.

I am also the household manager. The to-do list keeper. The person who waits at the house when the cable guy is coming or when furniture is being delivered. The product researcher to find the best prices or best stores. The grocery shopper, the person in charge of making sure there’s healthy food in the house.  But more importantly, I am also an honorary member of the family I work for.

I’m a nanny for a nine-year-old with a 45-year-old single dad, and I’m a live-in, which means that I am there pretty much 24/7 to help out when needed. I’m 22, so my in-between age has provided some entertaining encounters with other people trying to figure out what the dynamic is between the three of us.

I just started this job a month ago. It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this, but it’s starting to get more comfortable. There weren’t many resources to help prepare me either, since only 19% of childcare workers are reported to work for private residences. What makes this job particularly interesting is that nannies come from all walks of life (for example, this family’s former nanny is a senior citizen) so families are able to pick and choose based on the age level they feel fits their children. At first I wasn’t sure where the boundaries were living with an unfamiliar family that also happens to employ me.

Before I moved here, I had a “Nanny Diaries” picture in my head of how things would be. I knew the father was pretty high up at work  (he told me to feel free to Google him) and he’d be working a lot and traveling a lot, so I thought it would be mostly me and the kid. But he’s around as much as possible, and it’s obvious that his daughter is his world.

Her mom isn’t in the picture very often and I don’t know a whole lot about her, but I have gotten a few insights here and there. The topic of mom is one of the few aspects that isn’t completely out in the open and shared with me, and one of the few times that I actually remember that I’m an outsider to this family.

I definitely did not expect to be integrated into the family as much as I am, though. My opinion is requested – and valued – when it comes to furniture, clothing, decorative decisions, other purchases, and slowly but surely, parenting decisions. I eat dinner (at restaurants and at home) with the family, I go on outings with the family, and I go out shopping with the family. They pretty much assume and allow for the fact that unless I don’t want to, I’ll be going with them.

There’s a part in The Nanny Diaries where Annie comments that while in living in and studying another culture, you are bound to change it.

I didn’t think it would really be like that in this situation, but it definitely is. I’m not just here in the background observing another family’s life and quietly helping out. I’m thrown into it, I’m a part of it and I influence it. I matter to this family. It makes for an entirely new dynamic that I’m still trying figure out, but I’m enjoying feeling so welcome by a family… that’s employing me.

Photos: Merrilan

Amber Garner I'm a recent Nebraska grad with a degree in advertising, a mild case of OCD, a huge interest in publishing and quite a bit of experience in editing. In my free time, I am part photographer, writer, graphic designer, nomad & foodie. I have an interest in just about everything and I know I'm going to be a lifelong learner. Twitter: @amberlgarner

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6 Responses to “Zen and the art of nannying”

  1. Jessica

    This is really fascinating! It sounds like a really interesting dynamic, and I honestly never really thought of nannying as the way you described it. One thing I’m curious about is what your social life is like. Do you feel like you have the freedom to hang out with friends – perhaps even have them over to the house? Do you have set “vacation days?”

    • Amber Garner

      Right now I don’t have a social life exactly, because I just moved here and haven’t found a good way to meet anyone my age yet. If the dad is home, I can come and go as I please, and he’s told me if family or friends want to come visit they’re more than welcome to stay with us. My vacation days are pretty much any weekend, provided he’s in town and has no work obligations, and any time they take vacations I can generally either go with them or do my own thing. It’s dependent on their schedules, but I know way in advance so that’s pretty nice!

  2. Jess

    I was a nanny for 4 years while I went to school in Boston. I wasn’t a live-in, but I absolutely understand what it feels like to influence the family, and be an honorary part of that family. For me, a college student living away from her own home for the first time, I felt incredibly lucky to have a warm, loving family that accepted me (even though they drove me crazy from time to time– like any family should!). “The Nanny Diaries” is only one vision of what it can be like to be a nanny. The reality is much less glamorous and dramatic, and much more fun. I still send my kids birthday cards and talk to them on the phone, even though my nannying days are over and I’ve started a new career. Great article!

    • Amber Garner

      It definitely is nice since I don’t know anyone else in this town to at least feel comfortable enough around this family to hang out with them! But I do have moments where I get irritated with them, like anyone you spend a lot of time around. It’s definitely not like the Nanny Diaries at all, though sometimes it is frustrating.

  3. Angela Stefano

    When you have someone like that living with you and spending so much time with your family, it’s hard not to sort of “adopt” them, so to speak. I had a nanny growing up, from the time I was only months old until about 5th grade (both my parents worked, traveled for work, and I guess that’s what you did in Connecticut haha). She lived with us, and when we moved to Buffalo, my parents gave her the choice to come with us or stay — and she and her now husband came with us. They’ve been present at pretty much every important event in my life. To be honest, she and her family often feel closer to me than many of my relatives (she has a high school-aged daughter that’s like a sister to me).

    • Amber Garner

      It’s pretty crazy that a nanny was that big a part of your life for so long! I know this girl’s old nanny, who couldn’t move with them, has been her nanny since she was a baby so it’s a big adjustment with someone new. I think it’s kind of nice to have an outside little family like that because you get close with them like you do your family but you’re not forced to get along as it can sometimes feel with family.


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