Ever since I could speak, I wanted to be a teacher. My favorite game to play was always “school.” Even though I started babysitting at the age of 12, I never considered that there would be a career in it. When it was time for college, I naturally majored in Education. I never dreamed that after all the time spent in the classroom, as both a student and a teacher that I would choose a career path doing something I did part-time just to pay the bills. Pursuing a teaching degree and working in day care has taught me a lot about children and there are many skills that I apply to being a nanny. However, there are many aspects of being a nanny that a degree in education cannot prepare you for. Here are some of the things that I have learned along the way:
1) A nanny is a valid and professional career choice, not to mention a rewarding and sometimes lucrative career, at that. You don’t necessarily need a college education to become a nanny, although I am happy for the experiences that I earned from college. To be a nanny you need to be professional, help children reach developmental milestones, and educated to teach and contribute to their intellectual well-being. If you choose to be a nanny, know your worth in terms of salary, value yourself as a nanny, and have a professional contract.
2) Utilize your resources. There are so many more resources available now than there were when I was starting out. Not only that, but they are far easier to find thanks to the internet. All you have to do is put “nanny” into your search engine and you are met with a list of websites, articles, agencies, groups and other resources, all having to do with nannies! There are many training courses offered online for nannies. The INA (International Nanny Association) offers a membership to nannies, as well as a basic skills test and a Nanny Credential Exam. There’s no law that says you HAVE to partake in these trainings and certifications to be a nanny, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Especially when nannies still have to fight to prove themselves as professionals in this day and age (the media not being much help). There are also websites designed to help you write up a nanny contract, find out about the going pay-rate in your area and information on how to pay taxes as a nanny. They are extremely beneficial to a first-time nanny—check them out!
3) Speaking of resources… The above has got you covered professionally, but what about personally? It’s been noted before that being a nanny can be an extremely isolating career…but it doesn’t have to be! It can be lonely spending 8 or more hours a day with a bunch of children, with no adults to talk to or bounce any issues off of, but I guarantee you that there are at LEAST 5 other nannies within a 10 mile radius of you. Use good ole’ Google to search for nanny organizations in your area. There are many Facebook groups dedicated to nannies worldwide! There are blogs written by other nannies and meet-up groups for local nannies. If, for some reason, you can’t find one in your area, start your own! It may take a while to get the word out, but I assure you it will open up doors to many nanny networks. They are great places to ask questions, talk about problems that you need help addressing and basically knowing that you are not alone! Some of my favorite sites are Nannypalooza, Nanny Transitions, Regarding Nannies, Nanny Trainings, Nanny Island, Networking Nanny, Be the Best Nanny Blog, Nanny Biz Reviews, Nanny Magazine, and of course SitterCycle!
4) Nannies are NOT considered self-employed. This is a common misconception, and one that I’ve made myself for YEARS! It wasn’t until I started connecting to all these nanny networks and utilizing the resources available that I realized I was so very wrong. Nannies are considered domestic workers and in turn, your employers are responsible for withholding your employment taxes. There are still many families who pay their nannies illegally, but the risks of doing that are very high for both the nanny and the employer. It can sound overwhelming, I know. I didn’t know where to start, but luckily there are resources for that as well! Breedlove and HomeWork Solutions are both great sites to help you and your employers set up a payroll. There are other sites to help you write up a contract as well, such as AtoZNannyContract.com.
5) Nannypalooza! I know this may be redundant, as I already touched upon nanny trainings, but I can’t say enough great things about Nannypalooza! It is a conference for nannies! Teachers have their Education Association conferences, but what do nannies have? Nothing…until Sue Downey co-founded Nannypalooza 9 years ago. It is an annual, 2-day conference that offers workshops to nannies to help them continue to learn and grow in their profession. I attended my very first conference in October of last year and I am so glad that I did! I learned so many new things that I immediately put into my practice as a nanny; and I made tons of new friends and memories, expanding my personal nanny network. I can’t discuss Nannypalooza without also discussing National Nanny Training Day. It was started in 2012 by Nanny Biz Reviews’ own Lora Brawley, and held annually during NAEYC’s Week of the Young Child. It’s another way for nannies to get the training they may want or need in order to stay professional and up to date in the educational nanny world! Search for a NNTD in your area or contact Lora to organize your own! These women, and many others in the business, have proven time and again to be valuable mentors to the nanny community.
I believe that with experience, common-sense, a little training and guidance, as well as the points I discussed above, anybody can be on their way to being a successful and professional nanny with a window of opportunities in front of them. So grab your umbrella future Mary Poppins and be on your way to discovering this new career you have chosen!
Amanda Dunyak attended Kean University for English Education with a minor in music, her other passion. Currently, she is a nanny working and residing on the New Jersey Shore. She has been a babysitter, nanny, and household manager for well over 20 different families throughout her career. She was also an instructional aide with special needs children, a teacher’s assistant, and a preschool teacher over the past 19 years, so childcare is in her blood. She is the owner and operator of Nanny Extraordinaire Child Care Services, LLC where she helps match up nannies and parents based on similar beliefs and personalities, helps with the interview and hiring process and sets nannies up for training to help them deal with the many situations they will face. She also has a blog for nannies called Diary of a Super Nanny and is an writer and Street Team Leader for Nanny Magazine. View Amanda’s posts here.