The Nanny: a child’s advocate, a parents’ ally
If you are wondering why I started We Nurture, helping parents & nannies create great collaborations, keep on reading!
Chapter 1. Nannying as a fieldwork experience
Studying anthropology I learned how profoundly different the world is perceived from different perspectives. For example, a man’s perspective and a man’s challenges in life differ from that of a woman. A child’s view is completely different again, not to mention that of a nanny. Though parents, nannies and children inhabit the same space, their experiences are profoundly different.
“Naturally, because that is the way I am schooled, nannying became fieldwork for me.”
Years ago, while applying for PhD programs, I started nannying. I had a lot of experience in childcare already (I’d helped my mother who worked in daycare on numerous occasions since I was 10 and became a babysitter as a teenager), but it would be the first time I’d take on the responsibility to take care of 4 children after their school hours, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Naturally, because that is the way I am schooled, nannying became fieldwork for me. I learned from the parents I worked with, I learned from the contacts I made on the schoolyard, the talks with the teachers. I learned from the things that went well and the struggles of the children, the parents and my own.
university Chapter 2. Nannying as a career
I loved being a nanny. I read every parenting book on the shelf and did little experiments with the children: teaching them how to play independently, how to calm down after a complete meltdown, how to enjoy eating vegetables, etc.
“The parents I worked with had great respect for me and never neglected to show their appreciation of my work. But I saw it was different for many other nannies.”
The parents I worked with had great respect for me and never neglected to show their appreciation of my work. But I saw it was different for many other nannies.
I met professional nannies and cleaners who became nannies when children were born. I met au-pairs, young part-time nannies who were also university students, older nannies and nannies from other parts of the world. Some of them struggled to connect with the parents they worked for. They felt unseen and unheard. I heard their contempt in phrases like: “the only reason I’m still here is because of the children,” and “I make all this effort to get them to listen to me, but on Monday after they’ve been with their parents all weekend, I have to start all over again”. As you can imagine, this resulted in less than ideal working relationships with the parents.
Even for those nannies that are happy in their families, there are things that can be improved: One of the downsides of nannying I found is that it can be a lonely job. You may go an entire day without speaking to an adult, especially if you have to stay inside with a sick child for example. Since you don’t have any direct colleagues, there also isn’t a system in place in which you can ask fellow nannies for advice or exchange resources to continue your professional development. If there is one field that has seen a plenty of exciting developments over the last couple of years, then it would be the field of childrearing. How do you know you are staying up to date?
Chapter 3. We Nurture was born
Out of my nanny fieldwork learnings We Nurture was born. Because I see a future in which parenting is an enjoyable, manageable part of the life of working parents. I see a future where parents, especially mothers, don’t suffer from guilt or worry because they know their children are in capable hands. I see happy children, that enjoy an upbringing that follows their parents vision, whether they are physically present or not.
“I see a future in which parenting is an enjoyable, manageable part of the life of working parents. I see a big role for nannies in creating this future.”
I see a big role for nannies in creating this future. I see knowledgeable nannies that enjoy their work because of the clarity they get from the leadership of the parents. The nannies too show leadership in their work. They are confident that they know how to deal with everyday situations with the children. They know their strengths and weaknesses. In this vision nannies and parents know each other well and communicate well together. The nannies ask for feedback, to avoid the build up of tensions. They are part of a community of professional nannies that continue to develop their professionality. They can always count on this community for advice. With every new phase of life the children enter, the nannies learn more.
I see nannies that are the children’s advocates, as well as the parents’ allies. The nannies work with the parents. They follow the lead of the parents as well as offer their expertise when relevant to help build them up in their role as parents. Input of a knowledgeable nanny is highly relevant to parents, because they don’t just know children, they know their children.
We Nurture is the company that helps this vision come into fruition. It’s the company I’m building because I didn’t get the PhD position I (thought I) wanted. I feel very grateful for that.
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