Attention! Nannies are people too

I have worked in childcare for twenty years and have been a nanny for six. There is one feeling that you can guarantee when working with children and that is tiredness. You. Will. Be. Tired. Nannies especially so.

Nannies work long, unsociable hours, and often spend more time with the children than the parents do over the week. It is a demanding job which requires you to be on top of your game, you are taking responsibility for little lives after all. I often come across nannies doing extra hours on top of an already long day. In order to be the best nanny for your children you must take care of yourself first. Here are a few tips to ensure that you don’t burn out.

Be organised

Plan your days and weeks in advance as much as you can. Go to regular groups so that your children will be comfortable with their surroundings and everyone will be relaxed. If your children are easily adaptable then feel free to go wherever you please. I also find that batch cooking and freezing meals works really well and means that the children get lovely home cooked food without you having to cook every single day. You can certainly switch things up from time to time, a meal out or a picnic is always a real treat and hey – no cleaning up!

Keep it in check

Be wary of creeping chores and little favours. I manage my work household so that everything is tidy in the evening and am lucky enough to find it tidy in the mornings. I have known nannies to come to work faced with the weekend dishes. Daily tasks like loading and emptying the dishwasher, keeping surfaces clean and clear and washing up what you have used are expected. If you do an extra load of washing or tidy the family’s meal from the night before, mention it in a polite way and make the family aware of it. If, however, they start to intentionally leave washing to be done and stop tidying after themselves you need to sit them down and let them know that such tasks take away from the time that you spend with their children.

Room for one more

Many nannies are asked to take extra children during school holidays. Along with stay-at-home parents, some people view nannies as people who do nothing all day but play with the children. You have nothing better to do but look after extra children ‘as a favour’ (read unpaid). If you are offered payment but you refuse, the response is often “you’re getting paid aren’t you?” You must consider the maximum number of children you are happy to look after. Do you have enough resources to keep them entertained? Can you safely get out and about? Ask the parents if they would be comfortable looking after that many children. If they answer “no” then they should carefully consider your situation. Be firm in arguing your point and show that you value yourself and the service you provide.

Sleep glorious sleep

Go to bed early enough to ensure that you get plenty of rest. The average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep each night to function properly. Regularly getting less than the recommended amount of sleep can lead to a range of health implications including stress and depression. Under-sleeping by even one hour each night is equal to losing one whole night of sleep over a week. Now you have a good excuse for sleeping until 11am at the weekend.

Remember that it is OK to say no to babysitting. If like me you are a wreck without 6 hours sleep, think about whether your finish time will allow you to get home and get enough rest for the next day of work. I usually make acceptances for Thursday and Friday evenings as I will then have the weekend to recover. Can you tell I like (need) my sleep? If it is going to be a particularly late night then you can always ask to stay overnight if your family has a spare room and you feel comfortable doing that.

Over land or sea

It is important to consider travel time when searching for a nannying job. I know quite a few nannies who work the standard 10 hour shift only to commute up to 2 hours each way to work. That in turn leads to a 14 hour day away from your home. This can lead to issues with safety, especially alertness while driving.

Break away

Look after yourself during your work day. Take breaks to drink a cuppa and definitely rest once the children are asleep. I personally need around 20 minutes in complete silence to decompress after a hectic morning. Allow yourself time to eat lunch sitting down and to read a magazine or listen to some music before turning your attentions to preparing things for the afternoon. Drink lots of (non-alcoholic) fluid through the day, water, tea, squash are perfect choices and always take a drink for yourself when you are going out. Coffee and fizzy drinks are fine in moderation.

Food for thought

Eat a proper balanced meal, not just leftovers from the children. I am guilty of this and it only makes you feel rubbish and leads to snack temptation. If you are cooking healthy meals for the children then just make enough so that you can have some too. If you bring your own lunch to work then plan your lunches in advance so that you are not wandering the supermarket aisles picking up a meal deal, Haribo and a bag of donuts.

You got a friend

It is important to socialise during the day while you are working. Meet up with other nannies and parents. Have play dates, go to museums, parks, just make sure that you get out and meet people. Introducing yourself can be scary at first, especially if there is an obvious group of friends chatting away, but I think you’ll find that most people are warm and welcoming. If you see someone sat on their own at a group who is looking nervous, approach them and say hi, they may just need that little nudge to start interacting. That’s not to say that you have to go into full-on party entertainer mode – judge the situation and if the person wants to be left alone then let them be. Even I don’t want to be with other people all of the time. On these occasions a nice quiet walk around the park or a trip to the library will suffice.

Get your skates on

Exercise is important to boost your energy levels. Exercising regularly can also help improve the quality of your sleep. If you find that you are pushed for time in the day you can always take your children out and go for a brisk walk or jog. Older children can jog, cycle or scoot while younger children can go in a buggy. Outside of work you can join a gym, go swimming, go for a run, join a dance class… Just make sure that you start slowly and seek medical advice beforehand if you have any concerns.

And breathe…

Take the time each week to do something that you love, be it dance lessons, singing in a choir, going to the cinema or just hanging with friends. Make sure that your employers are aware that you have a commitment outside of work so that they are less likely to ask you to stay late or babysit on those days.

Find ways to unwind each day. Relaxation is vital to being a productive person. You may find meditation or yoga useful for clearing the mind and relaxing the body. Listening to your favourite piece of music can help you relax and will also evoke happy memories. Do whatever it is that you find relaxing. Don’t forego your own time to please others and most importantly, be kind to yourself.

Article by Delithea Denton 

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