8 common misconceptions about nannies that need to go
As a nanny, or even a day care worker or babysitter, you put in the work. You take care of your charges all day long and maybe even overnight and on weekends. But sometimes your hard work goes unrecognized (OK, a lot of the time), and other times people are ignorant or just downright disrespectful about all that you do as a professional caregiver.
Today, though, we’re going to talk about some of the biggest misconceptions about nannies out there, and what professional nannies have to say about them.
1. “Nannies are just glorified babysitters”
If you’re a nanny, you’ve undoubtedly cringed when someone calls you a babysitter. You may even interview with families who use the terms interchangeably or who want to call you a babysitter because they don’t want to pay nanny rates. For people who are not nannies, this may seem totally innocent, but there is an important reason for that “nanny” title — and the pay that it brings.
“We are trusted by the family to ensure their children are safe, well-fed, educated, physically active, clean and so much more,” says Amanda Poole, an experienced nanny working with Windsor House Nannies in Austin, Texas. “We also are trusted to guide the children down the right path throughout life. This is a huge amount of pressure for nannies. We are trained to deal with all types of situations, and in many ways, we take care of the whole family — not just the children.”
There are differences between a babysitter, who works with a family for a few hours a day or week, and a nanny who is committed to the care of a child and his or her family. So no, nannies aren’t the same as babysitters, and they have worked to deserve their title.
2. “Nannies shouldn’t get paid during naps”
Beatriz Flagoelle, a newborn care specialist, infant sleep specialist and postpartum doula from Aurora, Colorado, shares that she’s worked with families who don’t see why they need to pay during nap times or after the kids go to sleep. This, unfortunately, is not uncommon. Many nannies have heard some version of the refrain: “I refuse to pay for someone to hang out at my house while my kid sleeps.”
To this, Flagoelle says: “I am still there in case the kid wakes up. During naps, I also do the kids’ laundry, clean up after their lunch or prepare some activity. It also gives my brain a break so I will have a little extra patience/energy for when the kid wakes up.”
If you’re a nanny or babysitter whose employers want a discount for nap or bedtime, make sure to explain that it’s still your time and care they’re paying for.
3. “Men can’t be nannies”
For most of us, when we think about a nanny, we picture a female (and Mary Poppins probably comes to mind). But not all nannies self-identify as female — and some men love this line of work!
Danny Rosenthal, a male nanny from the Chicago area who goes by Danny J. Nanny, says it has been a challenge for him to get in the door as a nanny.
“In the beginning, I had interviews with families, and they would tell me, ‘You’re wonderful, but you’re a man,’” he says.
He said he was hurt the first time it happened, but he realized he had some work to do.
“Male nannies make up 1% of nannies,” Rosenthal says. “So, while it isn’t completely unheard of, it is not even close to being standard. It is a true hurdle to overcome.”
After applying to more positions, Rosenthal landed a family with a 2-year-old girl, 4-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl.
“The mother told me she was astounded to see her son blossom with a male presence, and she was happy for her children to see what a man can be — someone who cooks, cleans, tucks them in at night and reads stories, picks them up from school, attends their recitals, someone they can confide in, and so much more,” he says. “She told me that she would only hire male nannies in the future.”
Even as nannies and care providers, we need to stop thinking about gender; it prevents people who would love this work from even trying.
4. “You shouldn’t hire attractive nannies”
Ashley Prentice, a nanny in Austin, Texas, shares an uncomfortable truth: "[There is a] stereotype that nannies always sleep with their bosses, married or unmarried. I’ve also known nannies who didn’t get a job because the moms feel they’re too attractive, and they’re threatened by that.”
This is a reality that many nannies and even babysitters deal with, and that their friends and acquaintances bring up: “Has a dad ever hit on you? Have you ever had an affair with the dad?” These are real questions that I and other nannies have been asked, and the media isn’t helping.
“Just recently, country star Jana Kramer said on her podcast that she wouldn’t hire an attractive nanny because her husband would be tempted,” Prentice says. “She even said that women who hire attractive nannies are ‘just asking for something to happen.’”
This is mind-boggling for the women who commit their lives to caring for other people’s children and, as Prentice put it, “this stigma is really frustrating.”
To combat this serious PR problem, it helps to remind people that you’re a professional, and questions like this are only perpetuating a myth that you aren’t.
5. “Being a nanny isn’t a serious career choice”
“So, what are you doing with your life?” It’s a question Danielle Fogg, another veteran nanny from Austin, Texas, has been asked — and one that many nannies have heard.
When Fogg was asked the question, she was confused: “I thought I was a well-established 28-year-old with personal goals and an established career. They initially made me doubt myself and made me feel like what I was doing was not good enough.”
This is quite common and can be really frustrating and emotional for the people who are committed to caring for others.
Luckily, Fogg says, “I remembered why I do what I do and that being a nanny is an important job ... I love being a nanny. Someone is trusting you with their child. Yes, it has its challenges, but the outcome is rewarding. You get to see a child progress. From being able to cross the monkey bars to sounding out their first word. Those are precious and rewarding moments!"
6. “Nannying is so easy and glamorous”
Bridget McMullen, an experienced nanny who frequently travels with her charges, says she often hears: "Nannying seems so easy and glamorous!"
Anyone in the know about the work of nannying is probably laughing already.
"Yes, you might travel to exotic places, but you're in the hotel room most of the time and working super long hours!” McMullen says.
It’s not your vacation when you travel with a family, and in most cases, nannies work overtime while the parents are out and about. Glamorous? Not so much.
In regard to the sweeping statement that “nannying looks so easy,” McMullen adds that nannying is more than just one role.
“You're a nurse, a cook, a playmate!” she says. “Every day when a shift has ended, I have stains on my clothes, my hair is sweaty and I'm exhausted. That's how I know it was a successful day! Nanny life is challenging some days, rewarding on all days but never really easy or glamorous."
7. “Nannies just get to play all day”
Audrey Wright, a nanny working near Austin, Texas, has heard: "Nannying means playing all day.”
Boy, wouldn’t that be great? In reality, a nanny’s job isn’t so much about play as it is about making a child’s day successful.
“There is so much more that goes into it,” Wright says. “With certain activities, there is often planning and preparation involved, you're monitoring for safety and then cleaning up afterwards, all while trying to encourage a young one to help you! Throw the occasional tantrum on top of that, and it's oftentimes more work than it is play!”
And even when you’re trying to accommodate playtime, you’re also responsible for snacks, meals, diaper changes or potty time, laundry and more.
“The times where you get to just sit down and play are not as often as one might think,” Wright says.
Au pair Céline Jdz, who worked with a family in Chicago, agrees.
“People think au pairs just play with kids all day,” she says.
Instead, Jdz says she spent all day caring for four kids, including playtime, laundry, meals and bathtime.
As she puts it, “I wish being an au pair was just playing with the kids, but sometimes I didn’t even have time for that …”
8. “Nannies are too expensive”
Even the greenest of nannies know that people assume a nanny is automatically unaffordable. We see it all the time on social media: “Must be nice to afford a nanny” or “I’d never pay that much for child care.”
But as Deni Pearson, a former nanny in New York says: “Nannies are a long-term investment. [A nanny is] someone who will be in your kids' lives for a year or more on a regular basis.”
“When it comes to taking care of kids, anyone can benefit from having the extra help,” Pearson says. “In my experience, you can easily find a nanny to work within your budget. Most nannies are flexible, and you can adjust hours and responsibilities to get something affordable for you.”
Taryn Louis, who runs the “The Traveling Nanny” account on Instagram, also wants to debunk the myth that nannies are overpriced or too expensive.
“I find people who will pay me what I charge because I take this seriously,” says Louis. “I love caring for children and I’m good at it, so I feel confident enough to present a rate that is higher than minimum wage. There are people out there who will (and can) pay extra to have the comfort of knowing your child is safe in caring arms.”
She also adds a call to parents: “Parents, think about what you are paying the person who is protecting your most prized possession while you’re not around.”
There’s a reason nannies charge a living wage: They’re worth it.
Leave a comment
Create a free account with Care.com and join our community today.