11 July 2014


A week before I began my duties as a summer live-in nanny, I found myself in a small church I attended when I was younger. Small town churches have prayer time and, in the case of this church, a microphone was passed around the congregation of 100 or so people so that anyone who had a request worth mentioning would have the opportunity. After a few people had spoken, I raised my hand and took a turn at the mic.

“Next weekend I will begin a great opportunity to be a nanny for a dear friend of mine for the summer. Since I do not have any children of my own, I ask for wisdom…” I paused only because I was interrupted by laughter that filled the entire sanctuary. Why are you all laughing at me?! I wanted to shout. I had plenty of experience caring for children of all ages, including many who grew up in that church as I did. I was a nanny to a child of 7 and cared for infants from the time I was a teenager. I was trustworthy and confident and fun. Kids loved me. Why did they think I was about to endure a challenge unlike any I had ever known?

I went into my nanny gig with an open mind and a prayerful heart. I asked God for patience and the ability to do whatever my friends wanted for their child, whether or not I agreed with their tactics or reasoning. I can confidently tell you that I have learned more about life and little ones in 2.5 weeks than I have learned in any classroom or coffee shop chat.

I have learned that everyone’s parenting styles are vastly different but that each style has goals directed toward the betterment of the child. My friends and I have contrasting parenting philosophies, the greatest variance being that my friends actually have a child and my philosophies are all in my head. I may have childrearing experience, but only from a part-time perspective.

After three weeks, my mind still cannot comprehend being on call and responsible for every single aspect of a little person’s life every single day for the rest of my life. I know what I do each day: feed, educate, love on, play with, change, put to sleep. But when my friend comes home, I am more than willing to hand over the child, whether he is in a good mood or poor.

My first two weeks went like this:

Day 1: Realization – nothing I want to personally accomplish will get done. Ever.

Day 2: Praying to do what my friends say without questioning the methodology.

Day 3: I am caring for Mr. Crankypants today. I accept the fact that nothing I do will make him happy.

Day 4: Today I learned to feed myself with my left hand while feeding a sleepy baby a bottle with the right hand. OMG he fell asleep. Now, what can I do? I need to throw in a load of laundry, I want to clean the bathroom; it would be nice if I would sit and do the coursework I haven’t touched in more than two weeks, and I am really tired so, actually, I could use a nap. But naptime is inconsistent. It could be 30, 45 minutes…2 hours? How do I know how much time I have? What do I do?

Day 5: I will actually let a baby fall asleep in my arms if I know that is the only way to get him to fall asleep.

Day 6: Baby vomit looks exactly like dropping Mentos into Diet Coke. Also, slipcovers might actually be a good thing.

Day 7: I found my zen – a 6:45 a.m. run. Two 10-minute miles with only myself. No one else around. No crying baby. No time limit. Just the sidewalk and me and all of the morning commuters.

Day 8: Letting a baby cry for five minutes in order to teach him to try to sleep without being held is the longest five minutes I have experienced in a really long time, and this isn’t even my kid.

That was the day that I sent a text message to the baby’s mother. “Mom advice – he falls asleep everywhere except his crib…he drifts to sleep but fails to go all the way. If I pick him up, he zonks. Do you want him to sleep in the crib (which will require crying it out), or should I let him fall asleep in my arms?” By the time she texted back, “Let him sleep in your arms,” I had already grabbed him from his place of unrest.  

Nearing the end of week three, I have lost all self-worth. I have been peed on, vomited on, raspberried on, have picked nose boogies, have had my hands in poo and sat by and watched as pureed peas were spat upon half my body, including my slippers. I didn’t care much about my appearance after living in PNG but I now care even less. I shower at night because why would I put effort into making myself look and smell just a little bit decent when an entire day of mucus, slobber, bodily waste and general filth await?

And yet, something somewhere deep inside me still sees images of Paul and myself with a little somebody of our own someday. 

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