I never want to have kids. I never have. But kids are still a big part of my life.
I came to nannying by accident. I needed a job and had tons of experience with my much younger sister. I love my sister, and I love the kids I’ve nannied for but I haven’t changed my mind about wanting my own.
So if you don’t love kids enough to sign your life away to one, but you still like them, or if you never decide to give nannying a whirl anyway, here are some tips.
Be kind. This is the most important thing you can do, and it requires very little of you.
If a kid does something that really annoys you, like talking incessantly in a high-pitched squirrel voice for longer than you thought would be possible for a human throat to withstand, just close your eyes, take a deep breath and go to a place in your mind where you are still 7 and think this same kind of thing is endlessly hilarious.
Then, just laugh along and offer to make the kid a snack. Remember: You get to go home at the end of the day. To your clean, quiet, child-free home.
Roll your eyes. It’s okay — sometimes you just need to.
Drive defensively. The last thing you need is for someone to T-bone you with someone else’s kid in the car. This is also a good general rule for life.
Ask questions. Ask them about what they’re reading, TV shows, video games. If you can remember what they said and ask them about it again a different day, you get a gold star. This also works for every human relationship.
If you happen to nanny for a kid who loves Monopoly, I’ve got nothing. You’re just going to have to suffer. Think of that child-free, Monopoly-free home you’ll eventually get to.
With the approval and financing of parents, take the kid(s) to all the places you want to go but feel weird going to as a lone adult. The science museum, a Pixar movie, the paint-your-own-pottery studio, the zoo and, if you’re in charge of a tween, lunch at Starbucks. This is another opportunity to vicariously enjoy the croissants and cake pops that would maybe probably set your gut on fire if you ate them.
No financing for fun excursions? Two words: The Library.
Listen. This can be entertaining in different ways depending on how old a kid is.
Babies who are just learning to talk have the cutest proud look on their chubby faces when they finally say a word that you — a language-capable adult — actually understand.
Older kids sometimes express really funny inaccurate ideas, like that the turn signal in the car turns itself on because it knows when you want to turn.
Middle school-aged kids are actually weirdly smart and insightful, which will make you feel like you were an idiot at their age. It’s an all-around good time.
Bring a book to work. You will probably have downtime. Use it to better yourself. The screen is waiting for you at home, where you don’t have to set a good example of limiting your screen time. Bonus: You’ll probably start to love reading again.
Enforce screen time rules. This is one of the worst parts of the job because you’ll get a lot of push-back. If you’re lucky, the kids are easily distracted or naturally obedient. If not, you have to threaten them with telling their parents, and then follow through. You’ll feel like a rat but it’s not that bad.
Get used to weird/gross smells. You'll likely encounter messy pets, diapers and/or milk that’s been left out for days.
When they ask for toast, slather butter on it. This makes the toast taste better than when their parents make it, and the kids will love you forever. This also allows you to vicariously indulge your love of dairy (when you end up eating the rest of their toast).
Wash your hands — a lot. You’ll get sick anyway, but why not minimize it?
Show up on time.
Revel in the silence of your own home at the end of the day. You made it! Good job.
It turns out that being a nanny is kind of the same thing as being a decent human. You don’t need to be a parental type to do it. Kids need all kinds of people to care about them, including child-free adults.