How long have you been working with kids?
In a way, I started doing child care when I was pretty young by helping my family with my two younger brothers, which is probably why I’ve always had an interest in child development. I looked after children when I was in university, then continued as a nanny abroad for around 5 years. I then began to work as a teaching assistant in London as I wanted to get to know the UK educational system, and worked my way up to a classroom teacher for 4 more years.
Why did you choose to become a nanny?
I’ve always been interested in children’s development. I think what children give to you is very powerful—they are always full of love, they are very innocent, and not judgemental at all. I think I’ve just always loved that, and have always had an interest in helping children in their development and becoming better little ones, as well as helping their families.
How does what else you do in life connect to your child care work?
I always love going to museums and reading about child development. This has helped me a lot in terms of providing better childcare. I also think it’s important to be present even when you’re not working. So if there’s a family event that you’re invited to, or birthdays or even a day trip, it’s nice to go if you have the time and it can improve your relationship with the family and the child.
When you’re not taking care of kids, what would we find you doing?
I’m big into dancing. I love Latin social dancing, particularly Salsa. I also like hiking and traveling and spending time with people who make you feel positive such as family and friends.
What does your interview process typically look like?
I like to have a phone call with the family, to get to know them, but more so to schedule an actual in-person meeting with them where I can go to their house before starting any job. I like to have some information about the children, especially in terms of their age, so I can prepare and know the stage that the child is at. I tend to be adaptable when it comes to meeting with the family, and follow their direction from – some like to talk first, some like for you to lead the interview. I think the most important thing when you are being interviewed is showing that the child is going to be the main focus. I always try to connect and engage with the child first and then ask questions to the parents to get to know them more, expectations, routines, family needs, etc.
That’s what families need the most: to feel you care about them, about their needs, and about their child above anything.
Tell us about your process of getting to know a new family and the children.
I will always schedule 1-2 times to go to the family’s home first. I believe the home is the best setting where I get the most information. I try to blend a bit into their routine and what they expect from me. I think spending some time alone with the child is important so I can see how comfortable the child is with people they are not used to, what their personality is like, how they communicate or bond with me. It’s also important to get some time doing an activity with the parents that the child enjoys and that I’ll eventually do by myself with the kid. It’s a nice way to get to know the family before I start working, since this is not like an office job—I will be caring for a little person who will be in my hands. That’s what families need the most: to feel you care about them, about their needs, and about their child above anything.
Have you ever disagreed with a parenting decision, and how did you overcome it?
I have disagreed once. The parent had a different vision for how the routine should be for the day with the child. We tried it out and I felt that it wasn’t working for the child so I gave the parent my honest opinion. I explained that I understood her point of view and got why she wanted it in a certain way, but that I thought we could achieve the same thing in a different way. The parent did not agree or take it very well. I think it’s a matter of communicating and understanding the needs of the family and giving your opinion, but at the end of the day it’s their child and you’re in their family. It’s important to get to a middle point, but if you can’t, you need to do what the family wants.
What’s your advice to sitters when you need to have a difficult conversation with a family?
First, listen to what they have to say. Let them know that you understand their position and say that you may have a different opinion about it. But at the end of the day, it’s their child and you should respect and understand their circumstances. Explain you would like to get to the point where you both agree to something. Show them the respect of being the parents, and them having the last decision.
What’s the most important thing for a healthy caregiver/family relationship?Communication. Communicating is so important. The moment you don’t agree with something, it’s not about what you prefer, it’s about the child. Supporting each other is key. It doesn’t work if it’s one side against the other because the child is everyone’s responsibility. And sometimes it doesn’t work out, and that’s totally normal. Each family and nanny is different. You can’t get on with everyone. I think nannies are typically very empathic, but at the end of the day you have to be honest with yourself and with the family too. It may not work, but if you’re communicative and open about that, it will make each party feel a lot better.
What’s something the kids in your care have taught you?
A lot of things, from the importance of building routines to being extra patient. Especially when I started out as a nanny, you have an idea of how the day is going to go and something unexpected happens which completely changes the plan, so you have to adapt. Children are always in different moods, but always spread love and have so much respect for you. That has always helped me out, they always have 100% faith in you.
What is the most challenging thing about being a nanny?
For me, it’s leaving a family. When you become a part of a family, and it’s time for you to leave, it’s really hard. You get so involved in their development and their everyday – the good and bad. When you have to leave, or the family doesn’t need you anymore, I get quite emotional because it’s hard. It’s not just a normal job.
What is the #1 misconception about being a nanny?
Some people – not all – feel like families with nannies only need them because they don’t want to deal with tantrums or spend time entertaining them. Some think it’s an easy job, and it’s not. I think the misconception happens because they don’t see behind the scenes of what is happening with their development and their growth, and how we are helping them. Lots of people don’t see the hard work that nannies do for the children.
If you could give parents one piece of advice, what would it be?
It’s really important to communicate with your child and to set routines. Some parents may get overwhelmed when their child is having a tantrum, or they are stressed because of work, and that’s totally understandable. But so many parents also don’t take the step to set routines because they think they’re hurting the children or think it’s an extra effort the children won’t make. I think children need them, and by having tantrums, they are asking for them. It helps them to start understanding the world around them to feel more secure because they know what to expect, and reduces their stress of not knowing what is going to happen next.
Would you recommend being a nanny to others? Why?
I would, and I would not. I don’t think that being a nanny or babysitter is for everyone. I would only recommend it if you really have a passion for children and you care about them. If you are able to give to others, then absolutely, yes. It’s so rewarding. Children rely on you, so you need to be caring but strong in order to help them throughout the day. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re just going for the money, or because you feel it’s an easy job – I don’t think it’s an easy job at all! With other jobs, you can have a bad day and you may be less productive, but it’s ok. But when you’re with a child and you’re not having a good day, you still need to give 100% and give them everything and try to have a normal day.
Are you involved in any nanny/meet-up groups?
Yes, back in London I was a part of a group where we would meet up and go to the park and museums together. I’m quite new to New York City so haven’t had a chance yet to be involved. It’s a good opportunity for the children and for the nannies to just have someone who you can ask questions to and give advice. Even when you have so much experience, every child is different and every family is different, you never know when you’re going to need some support. It’s also good to just give you some company and be around other people to not be so lonely – it’s so important.
Are there any types of courses/certifications you recommend other sitters/nannies to take?
First aid training is fundamental. Courses on how to engage with children- such as activities you can do, strategies, magic, etc. Read about child development because it’s so important at any stage of the child. It helps to get emotionally connected to the child and to understand them better. Sometimes it’s difficult when they’re going through a challenging phase and reading about can help you both.
What’s your favorite “kid” food/snack that you like to eat?
Fruit! And apple cinnamon rice cakes.
Favorite book to read with kids?
Winnie the Pooh and The Tiger Who Came to Tea
Current kid-related thing you’re obsessed with?
Books and building blocks.
Go-to rainy day activity?
Have an adventure in the house. One time I was babysitting we made up obstacles in the house and we pretended to be Mario and had a great time. Just be creative!
Favorite nickname a kid has given you?
One time I went back to visit a family I used to sit for a birthday party and they had a second child since I had left. 2 months after the birthday party, the mother called me and said that the younger child had asked for “the kind lady.”
If you had a magic wand, what would your 1 wish for childcare be?
I wish it was more valuable to everyone in the community. Childcare is so important, and one of the first places where we start to develop our future. It’s a shame that after so many years, we are still in the same position that child care just doesn’t seem as important as it actually is. Child care providers give so much to every single child. I think we’re working on it but I think that for the rest of the community it’s not seen as such.