Monday, August 31, 2015

My 15 Minute Bedroom Decision... of the most relaxing ones I have ever made. 

Especially when it comes to the bedroom.
His bedroom.
In his bed. 
Even though his bed looks more like crib.
Well is a crib.
And he is the only one in it. 

When I started my new job with Roo one thing I really wanted to establish quickly was a good nap routine; which in return will hopefully help him establish good night time sleep for his parents. The first couple days I eased into it. Rocking him to almost sleep, going in a few times as he cried and fought sleep - to sooth him. Basically just letting him get used to me and our new routine (that is what I was telling myself anyways). 

Week 1 went great and I realized that Roo is a dynamite sleeper, like he absolutely loves his sleep. Like any baby he fought going to sleep with every fiber in him at first but once sleep consumed him he slept wonderfully! But somewhere in the middle of week 2 he started crying longer and harder before falling asleep. My little 5 month old started the game and I quickly needed to end it.

You all know the game, we have all done it once or twice in our life.
 Put baby down.
Baby spits out pacifier and starts crying.
We go in, put pacifier back in, and sing one more song.
Baby spits it out again and cries harder, this time we sooth baby - might even pick him up.
Then by some miracle we find the magic sleep spot, slowly, ever so gently put baby back in his crib, attempting to angle it just right so we can lay him down, while holding the pacifier still in his mouth, and hold our breathe in hopes he doesn't re-wake up. 

After 2 days of this game I needed it to stop. It wasn't healthy for Roo nor good for my sanity. Commence operation sleep training. I spent week 1 on the job rereading sections of a few sleep books* that I found helpful and focused on the sleep goals & habits pertaining to Roo's age group. The first day of training was a little rough. I remember tracking that he talked to himself for 15 minutes, fussed for 10 and cried for 5. Each nap that day he went down quicker and more quietly. 

Day 2 - morning nap he seemed to realize I wasn't coming in anymore and fought it pretty hard. This is when I found discovered my bedroom life saver  - the timer on my phone. Part of my hesitancy was I would hear Roo cry for a minute and start to question if I should try to re-sooth him or put his pacifier back in. My hesitancy and inconsistency during nap times for week 1 was causing a habit to form in which it told Roo that I would sooth him to sleep

Once I found my timer I started setting it for 15 minutes. 15 minutes of babbling, talking, or crying was not going to harm Roo in anyway, shape, or form. With video monitor in one hand and timer in the other I waited. 12 minutes after I sang Roo a song and laid him in his crib he was asleep. The few minutes before he zonked out were when he cried the hardest, but by this point he was already 1/2 asleep. If I had gone in there to sooth him it would have re-woken him up. 

Day 2 with timer again - 3 naps with timer set, each time he has fallen asleep before the 15 minute timer has gone off. I am now starting week 3 of setting a timer when I lay Roo down. Some days I turn the volume off if he is crying harder then others (I can still hear him muted through the ceiling and watch him on video). Other days he is out cold before 2 minutes goes by. Only once in the past 3 weeks has he fought sleep more then 15 minutes - and the grand total for that day was 20 minutes. He was extremely overtired by the time I laid him down that day. 

I share this with because it worked for Roo and me, not because it was a miracle drug or guaranteed to work in every situation. I believe works so well is that it allows me sometime to calm down and not feel the need to rush in to help him. It keeps me from feeling like a bad nanny who is letting her nanny-kid cry it out. Having a timer also allows Roo the freedom to figure out how to sooth himself to sleep so when he wakes 30 minutes into a nap he doesn't need me or a pacifier to sooth him back to sleep. It gives him the freedom to learn to sleep well and me the freedom to decide, after observing him, what he needs most after 15 minutes, me or more time to try to fall asleep.

If your nanny-kid is struggling to fall asleep for naps or in the middle of the night give a timer a shot. It may work or it may not. Either way it will help your sanity. It will give you 15 minutes to figure out what the baby needs instead of rushing into a room not fully paying attention to the fact that the baby may still be asleep while he is crying. 

*Side note: the older the child the harder it is to sleep train and the longer you may need to set a timer. Check out "Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child" by Marc Weissbluth, MD and "BabyWise" by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam. I use a combination of these two practices for my sleep training foundations. 

ceconner© 8.31.2015


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Me and My Real Job

Today started out like any other Tuesday morning, got up at 6:30am, on the road by 7:00am, chuckled at the man behind me shaving in his car as we inched onto the thruway. I arrive a few minutes early and walked in the door of my work place. I may not have a normal desk or cubical walls and my co-workers look a lot more like two 4-legged, wagging tail animals (because they are dogs) then zombie overtired people. Most mornings I am greeted with a welcoming hello from two loving parents and an adorable giggling baby boy, Roo.

But here I am at work.

At my real Job.

I am a Nanny.

Being a Nanny I have come in contact with a lot of assumptions about my job, a lot of people who have no clue what I do, people who admire what I do, and people who totally dis-credit what I do.This last one I can usually ignore but today is not one of those days I can ignore it. After putting Roo down for his nap I popped on Twitter for a quick peek and sadly came across this post:

Now I am not going to bash Ryan - because I don't know him. I don't even follow him on Twitter and honestly I can't stand when people use social media to say really dumb things that hurt and shame other people.

However, I am going to use this tweet as proof that there is complete ignorance in our society about my profession. Ryan's two big miss-assumptions are that all nannies are college students trying to pay their way through school and that being a nanny is not "a real job". Ryan has yet to state what qualifies as a real job. Honestly I don't really care what Ryan thinks, I don't know him, I will most likely never meet him, and the reality is he is a college student trying to get followers - to become famous so he can be president in 2036. He probably just wanted to post something "funny" and controversial to get a rise out of one of his friends. I am not worried about this guy, nor will I think much about him once I post this blog because he is doing what the average college male does for s**** and giggles. He even tweeted "this tweet was supposed to be a joke" - I don't know him, so I believe him, poor guy just pissed off a whole group of nannies for one poorly tweeted joke.

Still I do care about the mind-set that is behind this tweet and can't let it go. The thought behind this not so thoughtful tweet is 'that being a nanny isn't a legitimate profession, that there is something short term or undignified in taking care of someone's children.' Along with this goes the thought that all a nanny does a is lay around in their pajamas, watch Netflix when the kids nap, and lounge in the sun while the kids are at the park. Will you allow me to debunk some of these false assumptions?

All Nannies are Not College Students:
Some nannies start off being a nanny to pay their way through college, but a lot of them end up making a career out of it.Why? Because being a nanny can often show more promise in long term benefits (yes I mean healthcare, PTO, etc.) then whatever field that were studying in school. Other nannies find out that they really enjoy being with kids on a smaller scale rather than in a classroom. While some nannies find it the best way to stay at home with their children while helping a working mom out with childcare. I am 27 year old woman who didn't find my nanny career path until I was 24. I could point out hundreds of nannies well into their 20's & 30's who had made a GREAT career out of being a nanny. So when comments are made like this one, it implies that the 40 year old nanny playing tag with her nanny-kids at the park is doing a job she should have left after college, I get frustrated.

Being a Nanny Has it's Perks:
I will be the first on to admit that I LOVE the perks that come with my job as a nanny. Most of us don't have a uniform, we can dress comfortably each day - no business attire required. We get to fully enjoy each new season because our work can take us outdoors whenever the kids want. Each family and each nanny-job is slightly different in the perks that come with it. My last job I was a live-in so I was able to go to work in my pajamas and get dressed after starting the work day. My current job has one less child who is an incredible napper so I have more free hours to blog, write, or read during his nap times. Some nannies get to go on exotic vacations with their nanny-families, others get free health care, sick time, guaranteed hours, vacation time, over time, a nanny-car, or other benefits that pertain to their particular family. Those benefits should sound familiar to you, they come from the corporate world - paid holidays, PTO, company car, benefit packages, 401K? All jobs have their perks. By definition a nanny who has a paid position at a regular place of employment has a real job.

It's Physically Challenging:
Amidst all of the joys and perks that come with being a nanny there are challenges; not surprisingly since all careers and jobs have their down sides. Our challenges tend to come in pint size forms with wonderful bundles of joy that don't know how to fully communicate. Whether it is the 5 month old who is trying to fight off the much needed nap, the 3 year old who wants the green tractor not the red fire truck, or the mouthy teenager who wont respect the house rules - these little munchkins can turn on a dime. I, now, fondly remember the time in my past job when both Bear and Bug didn't want to leave the park. It was lunch time so they were hungry, slightly tired, and CRANKY - picking up both boys, our backpack, and their water bottles I carried two screaming kicking toddlers to the car. I used to end days after working with two toddlers by collapsing on my bed and enjoying the 5 minutes of silence until dinner. Tired. Beat. Usually puked or pooped on and so grateful for my job.

It's Emotionally Draining:
In one comment Ryan makes to me he states "stay at home mom's usually don't typically hire nannys. Because they are at home. Raising their children". I am not going to get into the working mom verses stay at home mom side of this, each parent and family has to decide what is best for them. What I am going to say is that I don't decide if a family decides to use a nanny or not. What I do decide is how I can help raise the next generation into kind, caring, and functioning members of society. I go into all the details of why I became a nanny here, but the brief version is I saw families struggling to make ends meet and provide quality child-care for their kids.

The decision to work alongside dual working families is one of the best decisions I have made, but also one of the emotionally hardest decisions I have made. To provide the best care I can for children I get emotionally attached to them, I love them. I care for each charge as if their were my own kid, knowing full well they aren't, that I don't have the final say in some of the bigger decisions in their lives. I work in a field where I would guess the average nanny-family relationship last about 3 years. Nannies spend years pouring love, life, energy, and encouragement into their charges and in the end have to walk away. 

Nannies also walk the fine line of being apart of a family and child's life providing daily needs and support in all areas of that child, while respecting their role as nanny and the parent's role as parent. Often times even in the best circumstances nannies and parents don't always see eye to eye on what is the best thing for the child. The nanny has to bite her tongue and do what the parents want even if she doesn't agree. It is hard to walk this line and balance in an environment that often is not conducive to yes or no answers.

Rule of Thumb - Being a Nanny Gets Harder:
This is a total generalization, but often the longer a nanny stays with a family the harder their job gets. A nanny often starts off with a family while the child is still an infant, meaning the basic tasks are feeding, changing, and sleep training of some sort. As the infant grows into a toddler the tasks become harder - potty training, teaching letters, words, manors, providing nutritious and balanced meals, most of which the toddler does their best to combat and oppose. As toddler becomes pre-schooler now add homework, pre-school drop offs, alongside of all the previously mentioned tasks. Being a nanny is rewarding but when it comes to daily tasks is rarely gets easier and most often gets more challenging. 

It's Is (in my Opinion) the Best Job Ever:
When I first moved out to Washington I left a career at a radio station, one that gave me raises every year, vacation time, the whole benefits package. I left behind wonderful co-workers, better friends and all my family to come out here for a nanny job. After a few weeks people asked me if I was missing my job back in NY my response was a derivative of "honestly no, even on my bad days I love having 2 bosses that need my help with deadlines that come in the form of naps and feedings instead of 5 bosses vying for their deadlines to be accomplished first". Sure there are things I miss about the corporate world; things like lunch breaks, actual conversations, and not smelling like a diaper factory at the end of the day. Yet when I think about how every day I get to wake up, hang out with, play with, and help shape Roo into the man that he will one day become I can't think of anything else I would rather do.

So please understand, Ryan or whoever else might say these things in jest, that when you make comments implying that being a nanny is not a real job you make it harder for us nannies to gain our footing in the professional field. As already one of the lowest paid industries we need all the support we can get. We need our profession to be taken seriously not just so we can support ourselves financially, but so that we can help raise and love on the next generation while their parents are at their real jobs to support the needs and dreams that these children are going to grow up to have.  So as a community of nannies back-lashes at you on twitter I hope you understand it is because you (probably in innocence and jest) degraded and devalued something that many of us have been fighting really hard to place value and professionalism on.

ceconner© 8.25.2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Best Decision I Ever Made...

...Before Taking a New Job!

Back in January, before I knew that I would be in search of a new job, my nannyfamily gave me the the month off in July so I could go back to NY to visit my family and friends. As the time grew closer I was on the fence about going to NY or taking the time to travel the west coast, but finally I decided that spending time with family was more important. As it ended up working out my last day of work with this nannyfamily would be the end of June. With my plans already made by that point I realized that July was going to bring me a month off with no work and a trip with nothing but relaxing on the docket.

Found this on the wall of Anderson's,
on of my all time favorite places to eat.
At first I was slightly worried about affording the time off. I had saved a bit of money but 5 weeks without a paycheck and no job yet lined up was kind of scary. A week before I left for my trip my mom ran into the owner of a pizza place I worked at in college, he told her if I needed a job for a few weeks to give him a call. So I did. It would be fun to have a little something to keep me busy a few shifts a week and make some extra cash. 

 The day of my flight arrived, I hopped on the plane with way too many overstuffed bags and an excitement for a month with no kids. It wasn't until I was sitting in my seat as the plane was taking off that I realized this was my first true vacation in 2 years. Don't get me wrong I have had time off and have traveled more times than I wish to count back to NY since moving but most of my trips back were packed with weddings, bridal showers, people to see, and things to do. I sat there relishing in the fact I had FIVE WEEKS to do whatever I wanted. 

As I look back of my "sabbatical" I have a hard time putting into words exactly how wonderful it was. July started off with a camping trip, re-uniting with friends and my first nannyfamily at a 3-Day country concert weekend. Between the concerts, the campfire, late night games, and a whole lot of laughter I couldn't have asked for a better time.

Niagara Falls 2015
Straight from there I headed out to a youth camp called SuperSumerNY (SSNY). I want to take a second delve into SSNY - what is it? It is a week long Christian* leadership camp for students 6th - 12th grade. Over my life I have attended a lot of camps and worked at even more. SSNY was by far the most spiritually impactful camp I have ever been involved in. As a leader I think I may have taken away more in that one week than I have in church the last 2 years. I can't say enough about my time there. If you have a student in middle or high school click this link to learn more about SSNY!

What is Niagara Falls without a Selfie?
After a week at SSNY headed to my parent's home for the rest of my sabbatical. For the next four weeks I did (or didn't do) whatever I wanted. I visited with friends and caught up on some much needed best friend time. My Dad took my out for several motorcycle rides where I fell back in love with the vast country and farm land. If you think NY is all cities go explore the the rest of the state. There were days hanging out with my sister and nieces, a quick trip from my brother and his family, and a last minute wedding with my other brother. My mom and I spent hours having 2 years worth of heart to hearts that just don't feel the same over the phone. The first night back at work at the pizza shop I realized just how "old" I was. For the first time in my life I truly felt out of place because of my age. But as time went on I began to enjoy getting to know my co-workers and even had a couple chances to be reminded that if nannying ever goes south I really do enjoy waitressing.

The rest of my time was spent reading my stand-by book series "Love Comes Softly", finally watching "Friends", and starting to re-watch "Army Wives". Above all I was letting my guard down and really relaxing. So much so that my body decided it needed to be sick twice in three weeks.

My last day in Buffalo my Mom and I went down to the river for a walk. The water was crystal clear blue, the grass was green, the trees in full bloom, and it was peaceful. I was at peace. I was ready to return to the rat-race of city life, to a new job which I was fully excited about, and to my home. More than anything I was grateful! Grateful for this time to decompress from the busy life of the past 2 years. Grateful for rekindled friendships with people that just know me. Grateful to know that whenever my time is up here in Seattle I would be okay, that there are friends and family, that love me and want me to come back to the rolling hills of NY.

One of the best parts of the trip, a long walk on the water with my Mom.

Until that time, I am happy.
Happy to be sitting at the kitchen counter with a cup of hot chocolate, a sleep machine murmuring in the baby monitor, and a job that is beyond delightful. I will ever be thankful for the ability to make the best decision of my nanny career yet - taking time off between jobs. This time allowed me a break between jobs to be refreshed and energized for the next family. I started work Monday morning ready and emotionally equipped for this new season. 

ceconner© 8.13.2015

*Editor Note: I try to keep my relationship with Christ off of this blog because this blog is meant to support and encourage nannies in their career, not separate us because of our religious views. However this camp had such an impact in my life that I can not talk about my summer without talking about that week. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

All the Agency Rage

  In early June when Ex-MomBoss and I had that final conversation, where she told me she decided to stay home with the boys, I didn't know a lot of what the future would hold.

The one thing that I did know was that I was going to use a Nanny Agency. 

In some ways I have been in the nanny field for many years. In other ways I am a newcomer to the dynamics that come with being a professional nanny. Every family that I have ever worked for has been either for a family that I had an acquaintance with or had a mutual friend that recommended the job. So going cold turkey and looking for a job with a family that I didn't know and didn't know me - it is something that I wanted to take to the professionals. 

That is where the agency comes in. 
They are the professionals. 

So what is a Nanny Agency?
An agency is a business that connects families looking for a nanny with nannies looking for a family. 
It can be a company as small as a one person team or a large company with dozen people on the team. The primary function of an agency is to connect a family and nanny together. A great agency will try to find a perfect match for nanny and family.

How Does it Work?
Knowing that I wanted to work with an agency I started the process of looking. Basic questions of how do I find an agency, which agency should I work with, and do I have to pay to work with an agency all ran through my mind. With a quick Google search the answers were pretty simple to find.

My first step was to go local – I looked into all the agencies in the Seattle area.
I looked at reviews from both families and nannies for each agency and the picked 4 that seemed like they would be a good fit and professional.

Each (Seattle) agency had an online application that needed to be filled out. Based on that online application the agency then got in touch with me (if I met their qualifications). Most of the qualifications were basic: 2 years as nanny, CPR/First aid certified, and a decent driving record.

From there it is a waiting game. As a general rule of thumb even if you fill out an online application always follow up with, at the very least, an email with an attached cover letter and resume. I filled out 4 online applications from Agencies A, B, C, & D. Sent 2 follow up emails on the ones that I wanted to work with most and let the waiting game begin.


What Happens Next (For Me Anyways)
The rest of this is my experience, not necessarily the norm for the process.

After emailing Agencies A & B I asked a fellow nanny and friend to email Agency B (she worked with them to get her current NannyFamily) - to get my name circulating. Within 4 days I heard from both of these agencies and had about a 15 minute "get to know you" phone conversation, both ending with setting up a time to come in and meet the person in charge of matching nanny/family. Sometime before the interview I needed to fill out part 2 of the application which each agency emailed me.

A week later I heard from Agency C but declined an interview and never heard from Agency D.

Application Part 2
 Each online application had the same basic questions asking for the Nanny's personal information, work experience, desired job details, salary, and several 'get to know the nanny' questions.

The 2nd part of the applications was more in-depth for both of the agencies I applied with.

Agency A's application went a little deeper than their online application, asking basic disciplinary style, describing different scenarios, and more about what the nanny wants in their potential nanny family.

Agency B had a deeper 2nd application in fact it had 4 parts to it. It asked 2 pages worth of get to know the nanny and parenting style type questions. It also included 2 different quizzes relating to parenting styles and personality - which both nanny and family takes.

Once this part of the application was completed it needed to be emailed back to the agency before the interview, including any references and recommendation letters.

In Person Interview
The day of my interviews arrived. I set them both up for the same day since I had to take a PTO day for them. Being nervous and an over planner I arrived 30 minutes early to the first interview, found a little cafe across the street and then headed over about 15 minutes before my interview slot time. I brought my cover letter, resume, application, references, and recommendation letters with me to both interviews. It was a little over kill, if I do another interview I will bring only the resume, references, and recommendation letters.

Agency A was my first interview - I walked into a well decorated office - greeted by a friendly receptionist and brought back to a meeting room. The lady I was to meet with was still with someone while I waited they asked me to fill out more paper work. About 5 minutes after my appointment time the interviewer came in - very friendly apologizing for running a little late. We sat down chatted some about what was on my application, my experience, what I was looking for, and when I was looking to start. I mentioned wanting to start work on August 10th due to a mini sabbatical I was taking.

After finishing the interview she asked me to touch base when I got back in town because they couldn't do any further interviews until I was in person. My hopes of finding a job by August 10th was not going to happen with this agency (since I was getting in town a few days before that date). They were not open to doing phone or Skype interviews with potential families for me.

With an hour to kill between interviews I headed over to where Agency B was, scoped out the place and then found another cafe to have breakfast at. I headed over about 10 minutes before the interview was greeted by the lady who was interviewing me - we sat down at her desk. She apologized for not having a chance to fully read over my application and we worked I way through it together. This interview had much more a professional vibe to it. I was able to ask more questions I had about taxes & pay, scheduling, what the going salary is for one of their nannies, and other business questions I had. The interviewer was very knowledgeable and made me feel very comfortable asking her questions.

At the end of the interview she gave me a small check list of things I needed to obtain before an interview could happen (driving record, CPR/first aid certs, etc). She informed me they would start matching me up with families and encouraged me that they would be able to find a match by August 10th. Phone and Skype interviews were encouraged. I left feeling excited about this agency, what they could offer me, and the prospect of finding a family that would be a great fit.


When all was said and done, I knew that using an agency was the right choice for me. Why?
Besides the simple fact of that it was easier to go through an agency than try to find jobs on my own, they are my advocate. A good agency understands the value of a good nanny. They fight for their nannies rights and professional treatment of their nannies. They know the going rate for each city, including variables that come with a job: number of kids, area, hours worked, etc. They encourage and educate families to treat a nanny as the employee they are; with respect, dignity, including benefits that most jobs offer.

A good agency does their research and in the process helps us as nannies to get the best possible job out there. If you are between jobs or not happy with your current one I would encourage you to take the few hours it will require - research the agencies within your area and see what can happen. Most likely it will mean higher pay with better benefits. If you don't feel you can be your own advocate let then an agency just might be what you need.

Editor's Note: I wrote this solely based on my experience. I haven't found many articles on the agency process, with that in mind I wanted to write something that might help nannies that are new to the experience - like I was. I am not advocating any one agency and realize their are some not great agencies to work with. It is your responsibility as a nanny to weed out that all out.

ceconner© 8.7.2015