We sat down with Trudy Jackson, a nanny on Sittercity, to talk about how she transitioned from having a career in counseling to becoming a nanny. Trudy has decades of experience in working with kids and families in many different settings. Nannies and sitters bring so much to the families they work with—and Trudy is a significant example of that.
Why did you sign up for Sittercity?
It’s been 8 or 9 years now. My relationship with children has always been special. I’ve raised my children and foster children. I went to nursing school and worked as a counselor for most of my career. That work spanned many areas: addiction, mental health, family and children, domestic violence, working homeless, at-risk adolescents and teens. It was very rewarding but it can also become very stressful always working with families in crisis. After I retired as a counselor I was looking for a way to supplement my income. My grandson was just born and I was looking after him full time. So it only made sense that I could watch a few other children as well.
Why do you enjoy caring for children?
I’ve always been interested in the care of people. I am a family person and I have a love and compassion for families that are in need of excellent childcare. Not co-dependent caretaking, but out of a genuine love of people and compassion. I was a single, working parent (and foster and adoptive), and I learned a lot through that process. So I have an understanding from sitting in all different seats. It became rewarding to receive feedback from parents, responses from children, and the changes that happened with the children in my care. I have such a huge extended family now! Some of the kids are in middle and high school now. Their families come over on holidays and it’s all turned into something bigger and better than I could’ve ever imagined. How God has given me a purpose to be of help to these families. And that’s why I continue to do it.
Being a counselor to so many different people has given me compassion, empathy, and sensitivity to children with special needs and the parents who care for them.
How has your career as a counselor influenced your role in child care?
Over my experiences and years, I have provided care for families of diverse backgrounds and cultures. Being a counselor to so many different people has given me compassion, empathy, and sensitivity to children with special needs and the parents who care for them.
How do you build trust with families?
During the initial phone interview, I make sure to ask a lot of questions. I’ve found that when I do that, it starts to put the parents more at ease. I ask about the child’s temperament, their diet, allergies, and any challenges. I ask them what exactly are your child care needs—not just the date and time. I believe that my ability to open up the conversation to be a two-way interview helps us figure out if it’s a good fit all around. It has to be a good fit for me in order to give proper care. I’m very honest about my limits as to avoid burnout and I think parents respect that. It’s also important to meet the child with their parents. Because when a parent sees that their child is comfortable around you, it lifts the weight of the world off of their shoulders.
What’s the most impactful relationship you’ve had with a family?
I started caring for a woman’s children who was new in town and a lot like me 20-30 years ago. She was a single mom, got her masters in counseling, and was looking to get her career started. I was able to watch her go from getting her first job and being new in the field, and then she became a Child Services Worker (which is stressful with long hours), and now she’s a Child Services Supervisor. I was able to provide her with the security of someone reliable and loving to take care of her kids. This allowed her to grow in her career to the point where she was able to rise to a high level in the counseling field she wouldn’t have otherwise. I became her “Georgia mother” since she didn’t have any family in the area.
Our ability to say, “I don’t think this will be a good fit” is the best thing we can do.
What’s some advice you would give to a sitter who is just starting out?
The first thing to do is to write down what your gifts are—write down what you’re good at, what you’re comfortable with, and what you’re not comfortable with. Identify what your stressors are so that when you’re interviewing with a family, you can walk away from something that isn’t good for you in the long run. It could be the hours, something specific about the child, what the family needs you to do. It’s better to know what those things are with you, so when they come up you can politely decline because they’re not a good fit. Our ability to say, “I don’t think this will be a good fit” is the best thing we can do.
Why have you continued to be a child care provider?
I never thought that I would be doing this nine years later. It was not on my radar. The relationships have kept me going. Relationships are the most valuable things. When people are entrusting you with the lives of their loved ones, their trust and encouragement goes a long way. I’ve seen this work as a continuation of my other career—it’s just a different platform. What I do is important. It’s life-changing and a lifeline for parents. That’s no different than me sitting in a chair in a counseling office or shelter when people’s lives are on the line. It’s not about what you do, but who you are. You bring your whole self to what you do.
Do you feel you have any limitations with your age?
I’ve never had someone not hire me because of my age. The only problem I’ve ever had is when I’m pressed to play on the floor with a child which is something I’ve chosen not to do. As a matter of fact, I’ve gotten more contacts because of my age. Families have communicated to me that they’ve had a hard time in the past few years with younger sitters who are constantly on their phones and they’re not engaging with children, or they call to cancel a lot last minute. So a lot of times, families have sought me out. A parent wants to not have to think about their child, and have their child be in the care of someone who is not distracted.
What’s your favorite “kid” food/snack that you like to eat?
Favorite Book to read with kids?
The “Dear God” series. All the kids love these books and I love teaching about Jesus and the Holy Spirit and how much he loves them. This is the center of who I am.
Favorite Movie to watch with kids?
All the Disney movies! We also enjoy going out to the movies because it’s a nice activity to do to get out of the house.
Current kid-related thing you’re obsessed with?
Twister, Bop-it and Children’s Family Feud. I also like to put on music and dance.
Current kid-related thing you never want to see/hear again?
The fidget spinners – those things can be flung so hard and fast and they can break a window or television screen!
Most annoying thing a kid could do?
Argue with another back and forth with another child endlessly.
Go-to rainy day activity?
Team games like UNO and old school board games – the kids love it. When I break out Twister, half of the kids don’t even know about it.
Favorite nickname a kid has given you?
Miss GiGi. My grandchildren call me GiGi, but I’m Miss GiGi to the kids and it’s just so cute.
Most interesting reason parents needed you for child care?
An actor had to be on a 16-hour set and they got the call last minute, and they had no clue what time they would be done.
What’s your one wish for child care?
If I could change anything I would change the parent’s requests to do things that is typically something a parent should do, but they don’t want to do it. For example, hiring someone and asking the caregiver to engage with the child in ways that they wouldn’t do on their own, simply because they don’t want to do it.