For the past 3 summers, I have worked 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. This year, I woke up around 6:30 a.m. so I can work out before arriving at work at 8. Then, I worked until 5 or 5:30, sometimes without even a lunch break. During the day I managed a small, but unruly team of three. Each day I trained them with the authority of a drill sergeant, served as their personal chef, chauffeur, and maid, nursed their minor injuries (results of occupational hazards), and occasionally even worked as an event planner. Despite their lack of common sense, this team was also capable of performing astonishing acts of kindness, using impressive creativity, and inventing comedy too pure for this world; although, it’s true that almost all of my conversations involved either barking orders or making jokes only a five-year-old would find funny. Luckily that works for me, because one of the people on my team is a five-year old, and the other two are his brother and sister, eight and four respectively.
Yes, I am a nanny, not an intern at Wells Fargo or a prestigious medical research facility like some of my fellow rising college sophomores. Some may wonder, what possible experience can be gained from simply watching kids all day? All we nannies do is go to the pool, drive our kids around to their camps and classes, and sometimes take them on outings to museums and parks and playgrounds, right? I’m not going to lie, there are some great perks to nannying, the pool being one of them, but what we’re really being paid to do is keep our kids alive and happy. Keeping them alive is easy, as long as they have oxygen and stay out of oncoming traffic, we’re pretty much covered. However, this whole “getting them to like you” thing is deceivingly difficult to achieve considering that kids are the most unreasonable population on the planet.
What most people don’t realize is that the real dirt and grit of nannying has taught me skills that are essential to the modern workplace. For instance, I need to be ready to assist and entertain my team throughout the entire day. I’ve learned how to stay awake, engaged, and energized for a full 9 hours while I work. Along with this physical capacity, I also have to maintain the highest degree of patience and composure no matter what bullshit the kids pull. When a four-year-old starts screaming because she can’t get her shoes on, you can’t just yell at her to suck it up or ignore her until she figures it out. As a nanny, I need to understand other people’s frustration and care for them rather than shove their shoes on their feet so we can leave.
I’d argue that one’s composure is not truly tested until they have to convince a bawling child that no, they cannot not take off their pants in public. I’ve practiced patience when the kids take what feels like years to put on their swimsuits or months to buckle a seat belt. My empathy and compassion has improved ten-fold and can be applied to any group I do not understand, something this world needs a little more of right now. We nannies have to be creative problem-solvers or else find a new job. Solving problems as trivial as finding a child’s shoe might seem insignificant compared to learning how to invest a billionaire’s fortune or how to operate on a living human’s brain, but a problem is a problem. My friends are helping people manage their money and fix their bodies, and I am raising children so that they can do equally important things in their future.
One day, I will use all of these skills and more as a valuable employee at whatever company allows me to reach my potential and fulfill my creative instincts. I’ve learned that meaningful work shouldn’t be centered around punctuality and completing a list of tasks. Life is too short to live without the play and freedom that only kids know. If I am ever less happy in a future career than I have been for the past three summers, then I know that I need to find something else to pay the bills.
Cover Photo: Claire Hubley