Thursday, 25 May 2017

Five Things I Learned from Nannying

Before getting married, I spent nine months as a live-in nanny for a family of eight kids. Among many things I learned there, five of the lessons I learned through this experience have taught me to be a better mom and stronger person today.

1. Not to take things personally

This was one of the most difficult things for me when I first started working there, specifically with the five-year-old boy. 

Among other things, he would chase me around saying, "bad Olivia," if I told him he could not do something, and for some reason, this was really difficult for me.

My mom advised me not to let anything the children said or did get to me, as they were not really doing it to hurt me, which helped me evaluate my relationship with this little boy in a more healthy way.
Children may say or do hurtful things, they are testing limits and determining how to have healthy social interactions. It is up to us to separate our emotions from their emotional responses, modeling kindness, and appropriate ways to handle disagreements. 
Which leads me to the next thing I learned.

2. Reacting with Love

I remember one particularly hard day when I was alone all day with six of the kids. By the end of the day, the house felt like a disaster, and I was exhausted. It ended with me literally sitting down in the middle of a minefield, as two little boys danced around me throwing plastic bags everywhere, and crying.

Once I had gotten over my self-pity, I was rocking the one-year-old to sleep, and I remember praying for help. I had an epiphany that the five-year-old just needed me to love him. 
When we were having challenging days, I began to make an effort to read more books with him, play more cops and robbers, let him sit on my lap and just talk to me. 
The more often I was able to respond this way to difficult days, the more healthy and happy our relationship became, and I can honestly say, he was one of the kids I ended up having the strongest relationship with.

Overall, my relationship with him taught me a lot about self-control, kindness, and love.

3. There is plenty of time in a day

Along with watching the children, I made many of the lunches and suppers, cleaned up the kitchen, did most of the laundry, helped to keep the house tidy, and helped with homeschooling. I changed many diapers, spoon-fed many meals, and helped with potty training.

However, I would say most of my time was spent doing the fun stuff: reading books and having dance parties. Snuggling little people while we watched movies, playing MadLibs and painting toenails. Playing imaginary games, making up plays, baking, jumping on the trampoline.

Many days, we did crafts or the kids would play dress-up with my wardrobe. And, as the family had newborn twins when I started, I spent a lot of time holding a baby. 
I learned there is more than enough time in a day to take that extra time to hold the kid that needed extra hugs, to have a good talk, to sing silly songs, to go on adventures. Plenty of time to clean up the extra mess made when the kids had freedom to bake and take the craft where they wanted. 
No, I was not super-nanny. There were days I could have been better, and times I could have been more patient or productive, but the good days seem to have outnumbered these.

4. Kids take ingenuity

The one-year-old would not eat: challenge accepted, this became a focus for me. He was afraid of water: challenge accepted, I encouraged him to play with water in the sink, wash his hands, and eventually, had him sitting in the bath.

The five-year-old was a challenge, as was getting kids to eat, and disciplining gently, kindly, and effectively, knowing they were not my own children and losing my temper would not be appropriate. 
I learned I could meet challenges as a roadblock, hitting my head against them until everyone was frustrated, or I could take a step back and try to see a creative solution. 
Being creative and observing, is a difficult and endless skill when it comes to children. I am really grateful I had a chance to care for children who were not my own, as I was forced to be even more gentle and thoughtful than I might have been with my own, because, as I mentioned above, it was not my place to be any less.

5. Just do that thing. Yeah, that thing you really do not feel like doing.

This was a life-changing thing for me to learn, and I still think about it every day.

In the house I nannied, which was quite large, they had an industrial-sized mop and bucket, and that day I had been asked to mop the upstairs. 

Although this was a lesson I had been practicing long before, that is one of the first times I remember thinking: just get it done now, no procrastinating, so that you can move on. 

This is how I have grown to approach tasks I do not feel like doing, and why I like to get my big chore of the day done first thing in the morning.
If I focus on completing what I feel least like doing first, I start out my day feeling accomplished and energized, instead of spending it dreading that task.
Learning this lesson has helped me to take control of my home and the tasks that need to be accomplished in order to have things running smoothly. It has also allowed the prepared environment to feel very natural for our home, as I am generally able to keep our spaces tidy, which has paved the way for my son to naturally learn to be tidy as well.

There we have it, five of the things I was taught while nannying. I think I am a better mom, and a stronger person, as a result of those nine challenging, and rewarding, months.

Have a great week,
Olivia Fischer

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