26 Valuable Lessons I’ve Learned As a Nanny

Nannying is an interesting profession. It’s unique in the fact that many of the job tasks are just part of ordinary life – dishes, laundry, cooking, childcare. As a nanny, I’m living life right along with the family I work for. I have discovered more about myself by working intimately with children than I could have in any other field of employment. The lessons I’ve learned in my career far exceed what I can cover in one post, but on the eve of my 26th birthday (woohoo!), I’m sharing 26 of the lessons that have been the most valuable to me on my professional nannying journey. Here goes!

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  1. Ultimately, nannying is about trust.
  2. When it comes to children, always expect the unexpected.
  3. I won’t immediately be able to fix every problem I encounter on the job. Sometimes I won’t even know where to begin. And that’s ok.
  4. Nannying will bring all of your flaws to the surface. I may not want to admit that I can be a control-freak who hates a change of plans, but working with children has forced me to acknowledge that.
  5. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to childcare. All they really need is safety, respect, and a familiar routine. The smaller details are not worth sweating over.
  6. Kids aren’t motivated by empty phrases like, “good job!” When giving praise, be specific.
  7. Kids are natural experimenters. They’re hard-wired to test the limits. It’s why they are so inclined to play! Keep this in mind when setting expectations.
  8. Transition phases (moving from one activity to another) are usually the toughest part of a child’s day. Focus on making those go smoothly, and half the battle is already won.
  9. I don’t have to go to great lengths to give my charges a magical childhood, I just have to live in the moment with them. Chances are, they won’t remember when I planned elaborate learning activities for them, but they’ll remember when we baked cupcakes and I let them lick the frosting off the spoon.
  10. I don’t have to put on a brave face for my charges when I’m sad. Kids are not frightened by honest emotions. In fact, they are usually the first to catch on and provide comfort.
  11. When a child is upset, the best thing I can do for him is to get down on his level and look him in eye. Children respond better when they feel respected.
  12. My charges will face harsh realities. They will experience failing at something, they will lose someone they care about, a classmate will bully them on the playground. I can’t shelter them from that, but I show them I believe in their resilience.
  13. Kids need to make a mess every now and then. They take in the world through their senses. Messes are how they learn. Processed with VSCO with tk preset
  14. Kids always tell the truth. When my charge says, “I love you,” she means it. When she says my hair looks crazy and points out a “boo boo” (codeword for pimple) on my chin, she means that, too.
  15. Convincing a toddler learning her numbers that there is no “eleventeen” is an uphill battle.
  16. People will always have a variety of opinions on my choice of career. The only opinion I need to entertain is my own.
  17. When interviewing with a family, consider whether you could handle being in a stressful situation with them.
  18. Negotiating rates and benefits on my own is a challenging process, but it can always be handled with tact and grace.
  19. Experience and credentials can come in handy on the job hunt, but authenticity is far more important. My nanny family isn’t going to form a connection with my experience. They are going to form a connection with me.
  20. Good nanny and employer communication takes practice. It takes at least a year to really get to know each other’s preferences and quirks. Give each other grace in the meantime.
  21. When I see my bosses rocking at parenting, I need to tell them! Parenting is hard, and a little affirmation can go a very long way.
  22. Taking care of myself is not self-indulgent, it is necessary. The family I work for deserves a nanny who is rested and energized.
  23. Develop friendships with other nannies. Facebook groups, local meet-ups, and even a trip to the playground will bring you in contact with nannies. Approach them! Be intentional. There are times I’ve needed a listening ear that only another nanny could provide.
  24. Make friends outside of nannying, too. It’s too easy for me to get hung up on the challenges specific to my profession, but every job has its own setbacks. Having friends in other career fields helps me keep perspective.
  25. That parent I see squeezing a stroller through a crowded coffee shop? They aren’t trying to get on my nerves, they just need a well-deserved coffee. I will never know how much they’ve sacrificed to keep the little person in that stroller happy.
  26. Laughter really is the best medicine. Children provide it in abundance.

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