Whenever I tell a stranger what I do for work, their response is almost always the same — “Oh, okay.” — The end. People assume they know what I do and rarely ask follow-up questions. Unbeknownst to many, nannying is actually a very complex job. I am responsible for someone else’s children; I am responsible for someone else’s home; I carry someone else’s credit card in my wallet…
Nannying is highly misunderstood, but there are six areas in particular where people commonly misjudge the vocation of a nanny.
1. How a Nanny is Paid
Something that a lot of people, including some nannies, don’t know is that there are laws surrounding how household employees are to be paid. The Fair Labor Standards Act states that nannies must be paid hourly to ensure they are paid for every hour worked. It’s easy for a domestic worker to be taken advantage of, so the FLSA works toward eliminating an employer’s ability to do so.
The FLSA also determines fairness of pay, which is the federal minimum wage (or state minimum wage if higher) . However, most career nannies make far more than minimum wage.
Along with fair pay, nannies are also given benefits from their employers. Some employers offer the same benefits that a typical company would, like healthcare and 401Ks, but most likely a nanny will receive paid time off, paid holidays, and gas reimbursement.
Another common misconception is that nannies are paid in cash like a babysitter. For professional nannies, that isn’t the case. Nannies are paid through a payroll service that deducts taxes. Some people receive a physical check, while others have direct deposit.
2. What a Nanny Does
Every nanny’s job is a little bit different because what she does is based on her particular nanny-family’s needs. In general, a nanny is expected to care for the children and do light housekeeping, like wiping down surfaces, cleaning up toys, and vacuuming.
However, there are many cases in which a nanny does anything the parents would do if they were home. This can include, but is not limited to, family laundry, errands/grocery shopping, cleaning and organizing the home, meal planning and preparation, attending doctor’s appointments, and scheduling playdates. This type of nanny is typically called a Nanny Manager because they have all of the regular nanny duties along with managing the home.
In some instances, a nanny may take on more of a teacher role, where she educates the children more so than manages their schedules and the home. Many professional nannies hold a teaching license, and some have even taught in a school setting in the past. This qualifies them to homeschool, creating lesson plans, organizing field trips, and providing an education tailored to their individual students.
3. How a Nanny Finds Her Jobs
Families who do not need someone to extensively care for their home, will often let their nanny go once their children are all in school, so it is not uncommon for a nanny to have to search for a new family every few years. Websites like Care.com and Sittercity have recognized this trend, offering postings for hundreds, if not thousands, of nanny jobs. While websites can be a great way to find the perfect job, it is not the only avenue available.
In my experience, using a nanny agency has been incomparable. It requires minimal work on the nanny’s behalf, while they search for a good fit within their family pool. Their goal is to create matches that work for both the family and the nanny, while providing peace-of-mind from their vetted sources and background checks.
Granted, whether you are looking for a job on your own or with the help of an agency, it can sometimes take a while to find a good fit. In those instances, I have had people suggest I post an ad on church bulletins or at schools, pediatrician’s offices — you name it. Although anything could potentially be a helpful way of getting my resume out there, the likelihood of finding a family in search of a professional nanny through a church bulletin is slim. And, aside from finding a family, is the issue of fit, which is extremely important as someone who is in another family’s home more often than they are.
Professional caretakers and families are a community all of their own. There is an etiquette and a know-how in the world of high-end nannying that is foreign to the general public.
4. If Nannies Get a Lunch Break
I have actually had people ask me if and when I get my lunch break. I’m not sure if they thought the parents come home from their lunch break, or if another nanny comes for an hour a day, but just to clear this up, no, nannies do not get a lunch break. Yes, we are paid (and working) for the full 9…10…11+ hours that we are at work. We can likely take our nanny kids out to lunch if we want to meet up with a friend, but we cannot leave the children at home…alone…while we go out. There is no one else to care for them, even with robots becoming so much more humanlike these days.
5. The Difference Between a Nanny and a Babysitter
I would say the most common misunderstanding surrounding nannies is that the term babysitter is interchangeable. Not so. A nanny is not a babysitter and a babysitter is a not a nanny. They are not the same thing.
Let me clarify…
A babysitter is someone, usually a teenager, who watches children in the child’s home for a few hours while the parents are away. Sometimes this can be regularly scheduled, but it usually is not. Briefly, a nanny is, in most cases, an adult who cares for children for a full work-week (with the exception of part-time), with a regular schedule, agreement of pay, and job responsibilities far beyond entertaining the children. Quite often, both parties put their agreement in writing with a contract.
I know I’ve said it before, but nannying is a career, not just a job. We receive regular paychecks, benefits, and pay raises like anyone else.
6. Why a Person is a Nanny
More often than not, nannies fall into the position. There could be many reasons for this, but the reason they stay is almost always the same — they love it. I didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a nanny; I wanted to be an elementary school teacher, but after getting to experience both fields, I chose to become a career nanny. There seems to be this idea that nannies are either too lazy to get a real job, or couldn’t cut it in the professional world. I am not a nanny because I couldn’t do anything else. I am not a nanny because I don’t have technical skills or training. I am a nanny because I CHOOSE to be, and there is truly nothing else I would rather do.
When I became a summer nanny in college, I understood it wasn’t my career at the time. I never intended to continue after getting my teaching license, but I quickly realized I wanted to step into this unexpected role wholeheartedly. It became a full-time career for me soon after, but I didn’t have all of the knowledge I have now. I, too, didn’t fully grasp what I was getting myself into. I have learned quite a bit about the nanny community along the way, but still have a lot to learn. If nothing else, it’s important to realize that nannies work hard, care deeply, and love what they do.