We’re only a few weeks into the New Year and my Day-Sons are already reaching new milestones. Big Bear is now confident to ride rides at the Zoo (he’s going to be a ride champ at Disney World next month) and Little Bear is now old enough to sit down and play with Big Bear and me when we play trains. Then there is their nanny, who now knows exactly when it’s the right time in a conversation to introduce herself as the nanny.
If we’re somewhere like the doctor’s office or the emergency room, like the time Papa Bear and I had to rush Little Bear to the hospital when he was having an allergic reaction to salmon, I say immediately that I am the nanny. If someone at the park says “cute kid” or asks how old he is, I don’t feel the need to blurt out “I’m the nanny!” I’ve done this before and sometimes it catches people off guard. They don’t want to know anything about me, they want to know about the baby. “Thank you,” I usually say, “He’s 17 months.” If they stick around to talk more (which most people don’t) then I tell them that I’m the nanny. It usually comes up when people ask if he’s my only child. Why do people always ask me this question? I respond with “oh, I’m the nanny. He does have an older brother but he is in school right now and will be 4 next month.” If the conversation ends before it deems appropriate to say I’m the nanny, I smile and keep pushing the baby stroller, while Little Bear waves and says “bye” to them over and over.
It’s different with Big Bear. Besides the fact that we both have brown hair and brown eyes; people usually pick up pretty quickly that he isn’t my son. It’s just a guess, but I bet that it has something to do with Big Bear starting every sentence with “Rachel, Rachel, Rachel, Rachel” and not “mom, mom, mom, mom” that tells people I’m his caregiver. Who those people think I am, I could only guess. While Little Bear was in the hospital, Mama Bear told the front desk that I was her sister, making it easier for me to visit the baby. Why wouldn’t they think that we are related? We have a healthy relationship towards one another and most noticeably, I don’t wear a nanny uniform.
Being a nanny, I now know why so many nannies wear uniforms. For starters, your personal clothes don’t get ruined. I wear yoga pants and old or cheap t-shirts to work every day, because a day doesn’t go by that I’m not covered in milk (sometimes whole milk, sometimes almond milk, or sometimes both) or food, pee, boogers, snot, sand from that darn sandbox. You get the picture. These may be reasons why nannies chose to wear uniforms, but there are also reasons why employers ask their nannies to wear uniforms.
I didn’t understand why until I became a Coral Gables nanny. One of the main reasons is to distinguish the nanny from the mother. There is definitely a caste system with nannies in Miami, and many families, I feel, want people to know upfront that the person with their child is the nanny. While some families obviously don’t care about caste systems, others do. As a result, the caste system in Coral Gables usually keeps the nannies and the mother’s at the park segregated. It also creates Facebook groups where moms write about nannies at the park who don’t watch the children and it causes nannies to complain to each other about their employers. Its a never-ending cycle of one group complaining about the other.
“Omg, I thought you were his mom!” That’s the most popular response I get when I tell women at the park, Gymboree, wherever, that I’m not the mom and that I’m the nanny. Even stranger, depending on who I’m talking to or where I am, I alternate between telling people that I am the nanny and that I’m the babysitter.
I’m not entirely sure why I switch my answer, but I guess it’s better than living a crazy, double life where I tell people that I am the mom. Right?
When I meet someone new, not on the job, I always tell them that I am a nanny. I don’t tell them that I’m a full-time babysitter or that I’m just a babysitter. I usually say I’m a nanny to two little boys and that I have a blog that chronicles our adventures. But sometimes I tell moms I meet while on the job that I’m the babysitter, not the nanny, and I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it’s the way I read them that determines my answer. If I meet a group of really clicky moms that have no interest in getting to know me, sometimes I say I’m the babysitter. But if I meet moms that take the time to talk to me and seem interested in me, then I introduce myself as the nanny. Maybe since there is such a caste system with nannies in Miami that it is an insecurity of mine. Maybe I’m afraid that If I introduce myself as a nanny that they don’t think that I’m a woman with a bachelor’s degree who is finically independent. But maybe if they hear “babysitter” it won’t sound long-term and they’ll know that bigger things, career-wise, are ahead for me.
Often I end up asking myself, why do I care what I introduce myself as, and why do I change the answer from time-to-time? Is there even a difference between being a nanny and a full-time sitter? I don’t care at all when my Day-Family calls me their nanny, or when Big Bear says that his nanny is loco (which he often does because I often am), so why do I care when strangers call me a nanny?
When I was a part-time nanny in college, it felt cute to call myself a nanny. I was the girl with extra cash at the beach bars who spent her days at the San Jose Country Club with her chargers or at museums throughout Jacksonville. Maybe as an almost 28-year-old its sounding less cute, at least to me.
I guess all that matters, in the long run, is that Big Bear, Little Bear and everyone in the Bear House treats me like me, and never “just the nanny.” It takes a village to raise a family, especially when everyone in the village works hard, long hours. Everyone in the Bear House works together to raise these boys and we all try and helps each other out. If I have to take personal time for doctor appointments or all the weddings and bachelorette trips that I’ve been part of over the last two years, they are more than accommodating. It doesn’t matter what your career or job is, it is rare to find employers who want to see you succeed in life. I thank my lucky stars that I found mine, especially at this interim time I call myself a nanny.