We caught up with Sittercity nanny, Jessica, to hear about her journey of being a teacher and becoming a mom and a nanny.
How long have you been a Nanny?
I became a nanny in 2008. I was in Graduate School for a Masters in Teaching as I thought that was going to be my career path. I became a nanny for a beautiful baby boy who I met when he was 3 weeks old and I was with him for 2 years until I graduated. After that, I became a nanny again for a girl who had special needs over the summer while I was teaching 3rd grade. She had had a stroke and I was hired by her mother to tutor her every day—she is now in college getting her Ph.D.! I kept finding myself drawn to wanting to work in a home environment. I love cooking for my families and it gave me so much joy that I’m no longer teaching, but working full-time as a nanny. I may go back to teaching one day but right now I have a baby boy myself and I have a working situation where I can nanny and bring my child to work with me, which is important to me right now.
What made you choose to be a nanny over teaching?
It brings me a lot of joy without much stress. But mostly, it makes me a part of a family. I’m from a large family myself but we’re spread out all over the place. I’m used to being around a family all the time, and it’s something that brings me peace and I love the extra love and support.
What were the kinds of responsibilities that you’ve been tasked with?
With an infant, it was my job to both be highly responsive to him and build out the attachment period. With other jobs, such as a girl who had special needs, I was tasked with helping with speech therapy. My bachelor’s degree is in Speech-Language Pathology, which is part of the reason I was hired for that job. I would take her to speech therapy and then we would come home and we would continue therapy and I would help her with online courses and tutoring. With other families, such as the one I’m in now where I bring my son, I apply specific theories of parenting that I have been studying. One theory is called RIE, which is ‘respectful parenting.’ My job is to provide nurturing but to also foster independence. For example, you wouldn’t go up to a baby and pick them up from behind. Rather, you would approach the child and let them know you are about to pick them up.
How does your background help you to be a better nanny and care provider?
While I was in school I was doing Autism research and started working in an Autism center teaching classes. I had a lot of variety of children in my class: some children had autism, other children were highly gifted and quite a few English language learners. It was a difficult class but I was honored to teach it. With this class, I not only got to work with all types of children but also all types of parents. It really boils down to respect, and it goes back to respectful parenting. With all of these different kids, there is one thing in common and that is treating them with respect. If you treat them with respect they will respond. That really shaped who I am as a nanny and a parent today.
When you’re not taking care of kids, what would we find you doing?
I obsessively read. There’s still a lot to learn. Not only do I have my baby but I care for a child who is a year and a half older than my own baby. This makes for different stages of development so I study both stages in depth. I also love to cook and I’m always cooking even if no one asks me to!
Sittercity has been a good confidence boost in me saying you know what, I’m going to ask for what I want and hold out for the person and the job that is right for me.
What was the journey like to find a job that allowed you to bring your child to work you?
I was on a couple of sitter sites, and I did find a family that would allow me to bring my son, but they wanted to pay me less because of it. It was a lot of work, and I didn’t feel as though the pay was rewarding. I then found a family that was willing to pay me what I had asked for and I was their after-school sitter. But I was still looking for that “unicorn” job that was willing to see the benefits of having a baby around: it’s great socialization for the kids, an opportunity to model all kinds of things together, to teach compassion nurturing, and sharing. I finally found that family through Sittercity, so I had to give my notice to the first family as this job was now full-time. Sittercity has been a good confidence boost in me saying you know what, I’m going to ask for what I want and hold out for the person and the job that is right for me.
Is there anything that would make you say no when interviewing with a family?
Yes, there is a family that I had met through Sittercity and we did a meet and greet. I felt as though they were holding back, not being transparent, or withholding something from me. It was just a gut feeling that there would be something they would bring to light once I was hired. I also don’t typically sit for families where there is a man in the house and I have to be there – it’s just a personal thing that I don’t feel comfortable with.
What do you do that allows parents to know their children are in safe hands with you?
I take a lot of photographs and send them to the parents. I think this gives them peace of mind. There are other families where I let them know that I am fine with them putting up cameras in the home. My favorite families didn’t ever use cameras, they just trusted me because they would see my interactions. Another thing that is really important is to show up for those birthday parties, show up for no reason – go to their dance recital. Be a family member when you are not on the clock. It shows you truly care and it shows the family that you love their children.
When you’re with a new family, what’s your process of getting to know them?
With my new families, whether I am hired to be a nanny or babysitter, I schedule two days where I go and just hang out with them and work to form a bond with the kids while the parents are there. That way I don’t just show up and mom goes away and the kids are like “who’s this stranger?” With one family, I had a day and took the little girl out while the mom stayed home with the son. The next day I came over and took the son out, and came home and played a family game together. It really is just creating a bond to solidify quickly. I also don’t ask for pay when I do this because I think that shows I really do want to form a bond with the family. It’s a small risk to do it for free and you end up realizing it’s not a good fit – but luckily I’ve never had that experience.
Have you ever disagreed with a parenting decision and how did you overcome that?
Absolutely. Part of my parenting theory is to not let the child cry it out if they’re in the crib. There was a family that I had in the past that wanted me to let their child cry it out. So there was one time where I let them know that I let the child cry it out for maybe a minute and then I wanted to make sure that nothing was wrong. I was just honest with them about how I didn’t particularly follow it because it just really hurts me to hear babies crying for that long. They were fine with it, and didn’t become an issue where I was hindering his sleep process in any way in my mind or the parent’s mind. As it turns out the family was not a “cry it out family,” but they were hoping I was! To get through those types of situations you need to have completely open communication and also I had to tell them what I have learned and studied and had them tell me what they thought about it. I even shared books with them that really helped me and they shared books with me.
Each kid needs something different. You have to learn about the kid or student: learn what motivates them, what their interests are, and go from there.
What is something the kids in your care have taught you?
That they’re always way smarter than we think, and they’re all very different. The same thing is not going to work for every kid, or even for the same two kids such as a set of twins. Each kid needs something different. You have to learn about the kid or student: learn what motivates them, what their interests are, and go from there. They’ve taught me that each kid is going to be a new learning experience. As soon as I think I’ve got the hang of it – nope – you encounter a new situation.
How do you feel when being introduced as the nanny?
It’s interesting – there’s a family that I worked for who never introduced me as the nanny. They always introduced me as “the friend” and I was never sure why they did that: Were they ashamed? Were they worried about what I thought? So I asked the mom because you know, we are friends, but it felt like they were hiding the fact that they had a nanny and she was like… “I don’t know why I do that!” She couldn’t put it into words. Other families have introduced me as their babysitter which I think is weird because I felt like I was more like their nanny. I felt like the term babysitter was more for younger sitters and a nanny is more like “this is the job I chose” not the job I’m doing to make extra money.
What is the most challenging part of being a nanny?
Knowing where my authority should be at times, especially with grade-school aged children. The children I care for are not my children, but I am the one in charge. I don’t want them to feel like their time with me is me bossing them around, especially if they are in school all day, but at the same time my job is to make sure they stay safe and get whatever their parent’s wanted done accomplished. I have struggled with how I can exert my authority while still allowing the children to see me in a positive light. It’s a challenge.
Do you consider yourself to be a professional, why or why not?
I do, and I feel like I have the right to say that because of my educational background. That’s not to say that a nanny without any graduate experience is not a professional – that person is just as professional as me if you are dedicating your time to learning more and doing your own professional development.
If you could give parents one piece of advice, what would it be?
Respecting boundaries. To respect the babysitter’s boundaries, I think, takes character. I’ve had a family tell me they will be home at 4:30pm, so I make arrangements at 4:45pm, but then they show up at 5:15pm and don’t care that they were late and it was often. That’s just not respecting my boundaries.
If you could give sitters or nannies one piece of advice, what would it be?
This is in regards to babies only. Hired care providers might feel the need to constantly interact because they are getting paid, but really they need to constantly OBSERVE the baby as they explore and only intervene when it’s a safety issue. Reading books is the main interaction at the infant stage. Uninterrupted play is so important. If the baby’s ball rolled away, don’t fetch it but watch the baby go search for it. Also, babies can help with their care, including diapering. For example, ask them to lift up their legs; even if they can’t, it’s good practice so diaper changing is not something happening TO them but something they are participating in. This is all that I am applying from my readings from Visible Child and RIE. It works!
Would you recommend being a nanny to others?
I would absolutely recommend it to anybody, but especially to single mothers. It is so tough to be a single mom, and if you don’t want to be away from your kid what are you going to do? I was doing Instacart and Doordash and whatever I could do to keep my son with me until I found the right family to work with. As a single mom it’s really hard – I’m with my son 24/7 and I love doing it but it is hard to make money and be with your kid at the same time. This is definitely a way that you can do it. And don’t sell yourself short if you have a child and want to be a nanny. There are so many benefits of having multiple children together especially if the other family only has one child and is not getting socialization with other babies. I would recommend being a nanny to anyone but now that I’m a single mom it’s a godsend.
What is your favorite kid food/snack that you like to eat?
What’s your favorite book to read with kids?
Never Touch A Dinosaur
What’s your favorite movie to watch with kids?
I don’t watch movies but I love watching music videos so we can dance and sing.
What is your current kid-related thing that you’re obsessed with?
What is the current kid-related thing you never want to see or hear again?
Baby Shark, without a doubt!
What’s the most annoying thing a kid could do?
Pooping in the bathtub with babies. It’s happened to me 4 times in the past month!
What is your favorite rainy day activity?
Go out in the rain and play!
What is a favorite nickname a kid has given you?
My last name is Weber, and a kid started calling me Spidey Weber.
What is the most interesting reason a parent has needed you for children?
A parent was in town to shoot a movie and I was so fascinated.
What is your one wish for childcare?
For babysitters to not use their phones ever again while taking care of children.