So I just watched the Nanny Diaries. This won’t be a review so much as what my English Professor calls a “Development parallel.” That is to say, cause and effects that are similar.
I only babysat (regularly) once, it was for one family and I haven’t been employed in that way since.
I watched three children. In the beginning it was only two, but then the mom decided to pull her oldest out of school because she didn’t like her teacher, and to home-school her. So, me being home-schooled, she thought I’d be down with that. And I was. I was even willing to help the kid out. So far so good.
And trust me, if I’d seen the Nanny Diaries before that time, I would probably have thought it was exaggerated for comedic effect. I’m sure if you saw it you thought so, unless you’ve been in a long term babysitting position.
The only difference between being a babysitter and being a nanny is title and hours and you don’t live in the home.
The job was fine at first, I liked the kids, I put up with the temper of the baby, and I stayed calm.
Then I made the mistake of thinking corporal punishment was accepted in their house, the oldest told me it was, but it wasn’t. (I assume they told me the truth the second time but with them you never knew.) I know that will horrify someone, but when I grew up spanking was normal-ish and I never had a problem with it. Get over it people, not all of us had progressive parents.
Well, I realized my mistake (and I never actually spanked the kids just to clarify, I threatened it but thought better of it later.) But my fate was sealed.
Things went downhill from there. I really think my mistake had very little to do with it, but it started it. After that, I never knew what the expectations were.
I entered the employment with the understanding that housework would be appreciated but was not required, that I did not have to cook for the kids because the oldest liked doing it though of course I was to feed them. (They had stuff on hand naturally.)
I put the kids in time out when they sassed me and refused to do as I said (not corporal punishment right?) And then they told their mother on me. I’m sure claiming that it was unprovoked, but trust me, it wasn’t. I wasn’t locking them the garage for Pete’s sake, I made them sit in a comfy chair. Was that cruel? No! But their mom still wondered what my problem was.
Can you see where I’m going with this?
At fist the mom told the kids to respect me, but they continued to be disrespectful quite frequently. Especially the eldest one. The younger one never was a problem till her sister set the example.
Then it just got ridiculous. I’m going to list all the over the top things in the Nanny Diaries that actually happened to me:
- Getting spied on. No cameras here, no, actual people were at the house, no warning half the time. Completely strangers were just there, watching me and reporting back to the mom. Why? Because her little angels were saying I was dong such a bad job.
- Getting a consultant. I wasn’t told tot each the kids French. But I was subjected to a “training” to be a better babysitter. Training really meant I was being supervised and made to do the chores and cook meals. (Even though originally that wasn’t part of the deal. Something my employer conveniently forgot.) I was also put down in front of the kids constantly for not being a good enough babysitter.
- Having men around when I was alone with the kids. Yes, the men were relatives. But still, awkward. My dad didn’t like it either.
- Getting fired after I did everything my boss said but still didn’t meet some unclear standard. Of course, she didn’t call it firing, she just said she might need me later but for now someone else was taking over.
It drove me crazy. But honestly, I wish that was all in the movie I could relate to. Aside from my complaints, The Nanny Diaries actually shows a very real problem that caregivers like me have: Letting go.
Like Annie, I observed a lot about the kids that the parents were too busy or just chose not to notice. I noted how one of them didn’t get enough attention because the other two were louder and pushier, and how one needed to be treated with more firmness, and the eldest, though she was a pain, wasn’t a bad kid and if she’d been taught respect and shown some more gentle ways, she would have been exceptional.
Babysitters get involved because we can’t help it. If you don’t like kids to begin with you’ve got no business babysitting, and if you like kids you will learn to love them. It’s not hard, children are way more lovable then adults.
And babysitters, because we like kids, and especially if we like to mother them, will study the kids we watch and we will want to help them. It’s part of us.
And that’s why we don’t get along with the parents.
I suspect, secretly, the parents feel guilty that they even need us around, that’s why they keep firing and rehiring. but though it may sting to have your kids turn to someone other than you for comfort, if you can’t be there, then maybe the kids need that stability.
I have no wish to come down on working moms, or dads, nor do I think it can never work out being a babysitter, nanny, or Au pair, and their employer. There’s a delicate balance but it can be achieved. My grandma takes care of my cousins all week without becoming estranged from their parents.
but the truth is, it’s not easy. Often the best babysitters don’t last because the sad fact is the less involved ones make the parents a lot less uncomfortable.
I was no saint, but I cared. I expected that to mean something, it turns out it meant trouble. And it broke my heart to leave those kids. It’s something I haven’t really gotten over even now. To tell you the truth, like Annie, I’m kind of asking why. What was the point of loving them if I had to leave them? And is this kind of love even what kids need? Or do parents just need to be the ones who are there?
Again, not to come down on working parents, but I have to ask the honest question, what does my experience show?
I doubt I’ll ever get the letter from my former boss telling me I showed her something about her kids. I don’t think she wanted me to show her anything.
And I’m left hoping I changed something, just like Annie, but not knowing if I did. Not knowing if my love will mean anything to those kids once their older.
I never had a babysitter like me. I liked mine, but they only watched me a few times, and only once in a while. Not four days a week for two months or more.
I liked the job, but it costs you.
Those are my thoughts one that, sorry this ran so long but it was a memoir.
Until next time–Natasha.