Caregiver Spotlight: 5 Questions with Uchechukwu
Uchechukwu (“UC”) has been a Professional Nanny & Household Manager for over 10 years, working with children of all age groups, multiples, and special needs. She is one of our most prolific writers on the Care.com community site. We grabbed a coffee to learn more about her, her caregiving wisdom, and what drives her to contribute.
1. Why did you get into caregiving?
I started caregiving when I was 12. A family friend gave me my first paid babysitting job, followed by a neighbor. They realized I was good with kids, so they referred me to the families in their circle. So, what started out as occasional babysitting turned into a recurring gig and that gig blossomed into my career.
One of the biggest reasons I do this work is because I just love working with children. I love being a part of their milestones—such as being a part of a baby’s development from cooing to speaking, crawling to walking and everything in between. Being able to enrich their lives enriches mine too.
2. Can you tell me about a family you've worked with who has really affected your life? What made them so great?
I have been with my employer for almost 6 years and they are like my family. I am lucky to have such a positive and beautiful connection with all of them: from the parents to the children down to grandparents on both sides of the family.
This is something a lot of caregivers and families don’t have, so I am aware and grateful of how fortunate I am. What makes this family so great is the fact that they have immense respect for me as a person and a professional; the feeling is mutual! There is no power tussle, negative energy or unreasonable expectations. We are all aware of what we are supposed to bring to this partnership and we do so with love, respect and each other’s well-being in mind. Also, I can talk to them about anything and they can talk to me about anything. There is no walking on eggshells around here! Essentially, knowing how much they value and support me drives me to be the best and give them the best as well.
3. What advice would you give other caregivers and families hoping for a relationship like yours?
You can do the background check, ask a million questions, and call the references, but that’s just the surface stuff. It doesn’t paint the full picture of who a person is or his or her abilities (and limitations) as a professional. It also doesn’t tell you how a family will be once you join the household. With that in mind, my number one advice is to trust yourself and follow your intuition- you know that feeling we tend to ignore. There is this “thing” I feel when I meet a family that I know I will connect well with or walk away from. It’s hard to put into words but it’s almost like finding the right partner. The few times I ignored that “thing” I felt, I was left disappointed. So, I can’t say it enough- listen to yourself, trust your judgment and follow your intuition!
Secondly, communicate freely and often. A lot of good can be achieved through honest dialogue, just like a lot of shortcomings can be avoided or fixed if both parties are able to sit down and speak freely in a respectful manner. Speaking of respect, my third advice is to build your partnership on a respectful foundation. Don’t settle for an arrangement that leaves you questioning your integrity, worth and sanity.
Finally, give your partnership a chance to develop organically and authentically. You can’t force the good stuff! And of course, be willing to put in the work. Don’t expect what you can’t give and remember that partnership can only thrive if all the parties involved are ALL IN.
4. You've written over 70 amazing responses to questions on this site. Why do you contribute?
I contribute because I love sharing knowledge and information with others and learning from them as well. I take my time when writing a response because I feel that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Therefore, if I’m going to put my two cents in, I must make sure that it is something that is informative and helpful. I really enjoy reading other people’s input as well because the varying opinions and ideas are a part of what makes the Care Community functional.
5. Ok, last question: What are your hopes and dreams for the caregiving industry?
I’m looking forward to the day society will recognize that caregivers are the thread that binds many families together. In simpler terms, they are a driving force in the economy and society. The fact that millions of parents would not be able to work outside their homes (or even step out briefly) without the support of caregivers show how valuable caregivers are! Such acknowledgement will be a step in the right direction.
Furthermore, I wish that more families will be educated on what caregiving is all about- from hiring practices, to the importance of providing benefits, the primary responsibilities of a caregiver and so on. Benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, etc. are unheard of in this field and this is partly due to lack of education, resources and support. It’s time to change that! The industry needs to establish some standards/boundaries because the “anything goes” model it’s been operating on is clearly not working.
Finally, I am equally eager to see more educative tools, resources and training made available for caregivers. One of the challenges facing the industry is the fact that anyone can wake up and take up caregiving. Lack of clear standards and training devalues the work of caregiving, which in turn devalues the industry. It’s hard enough to deal with families that believe caregivers don’t deserve much since they are “watching kids”. So, we need a respected structure and certification to say – listen world, caregivers are real professionals with value and worth. It’s important to have training/certification programs that can separate true professionals from average ones, redefine what childcare is all about and essentially, help caregivers excel in their jobs and earn good income as well.
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