November 23, 2009
Mary Poppins. Practically perfect in every way.
From Montessori Mama comes an excellent list of guidelines for Montessori teachers – I thought I’d adapt it to fit nannies, though much of it will be identical.
- Good health, both emotional and physical. A high-functioning immune system and a calm lifestyle are two of the biggest boons you can have working one-on-one with children. Children pick up much more than just germs from their caretakers – they can sense your own stress and feed off of it.
- Montessori Mama’s list says “Appears Attractive.” This seems kind of unnecessary to me, especially since my day involves getting covered in mess. I’m going to revise this to say “Appears child-ready.” This means both appears in clothes that aren’t overly revealing and also clothes that are appropriate to be worn all day with a young child. A suit and a blazer is as inappropriate as a miniskirt.
- Possesses ability to find order in chaos. Whatever “order” may mean. It can be as complex as re-organizing the playroom (which I do often and my Virgo nature shows itself when I start organizing… I can’t stop) or as simple as being able to figure out the order of operations in “be at door to let child in from bus drop-off, change dirty diaper, fix snack” when all three need to be done simultaneously.
- Is able to move at the speed of child. Lifting/hauling and ability to leap over baby gates in a single bound a total must.
- Speaks in a manner that models proper tone/speech pattern for hir charges.*
- Is neither too attached or detached from hir charges. I think this is actually the #1 Rule and the hardest part of nannying. It is easy to get so attached to the work family that they become just as important as our own families, which can become very tricky when it’s time to move on for whatever reason. While nanny is part of the household, it’s not healthy for nanny or children for the nanny to feel like part of the family (unless nanny is, of course, a family member). On the other end of the spectrum, maintaining a totally hands-off approach is counter productive to establishing a trusting relationship with one’s charges. It’s a constant balancing act to be fully emotionally available and present during the day and to be able to go home at night like you would from a “normal” job.
- Models proper manners and courteous behavior in all interactions with charges and families.
- Works with charges on their own level. Often, this means the floor. Willingness to spend the day crawling on the floor is a must. Have I mentioned that this job means getting dirty? Yeah, it totally involves some dirt. This is also where I mention a lot of squatting, kneeling down as communication with children ideally takes place at their own level, especially if the conversation is important.
- Provides children with activities that they feel involved with.
- Can adapt daily plans to fit all variables of sickness/health/good or bad weather.
- Respects the dignity and privacy of charges and their families.
- Responds to children’s physical, mental, and emotional needs. A good nanny will have developed a relationship close enough to be able to anticipate a child’s needs before they reach crisis levels. Knowing what cues a child gives when ze is hungry/tired/not feeling well before the obvious breakdown stage is invaluable for the health and sanity of all involved.
- Draws on community resources to enrich the daily schedule. This can be as simple as going to the library or as complex as joining/running a playgroup. I not only take Thing 2 to an art/music class, but I also take him with me when I need to run errands as the outer world is in and of itself a great adventure and he really loves just getting out and about. I’ve taken children to everything from the library down the street to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The greater the variety of experiences you’re able to provide, the more the child will be able to learn from hir environment.
- Keeps an environment consistent with that which has already been established by the parents. What young children need most is consistency. If you think that you want to have naptime at noon, but mom always starts it at 2… well, you’d better keep it at 2. It’s important in the first few weeks on the job to make sure everyone is on the same page and that your methods are mirroring those of the parents, even if it means doing things differently than you did with the last family you worked with. This is where it’s crucial to have a good fit between the nanny and the parents, not just between nanny and children. It’s so much easier if the nanny and parents have a similar educational philosophy to start with than if the nanny has to adapt to a completely different style.
- Leaves the house as clean, or cleaner, than it was when ze got there.
As for Montessori Mama’s additions to the list… I’m going to leave those identical because they all totally apply.
16.) Possesses a willingness to be thrown up on if the need arises
17.) Provides a shoulder to cry on for: all children, co-teachers and parents when needed
18.) Demonstrates an ability to think on hir feet, is very flexible
19.) Patience, patience and more patience
20.) Talented musically (well, LOVES to sing anyway)
21.) Peaceful conflict resolution EXPERT
22.) Capable of being yelled at, even hit by a child having a tantrum and remaining calm
23.) Will work for little pay and even less recognition from society
24.) Has genuine interest in learning about EVERYTHING
25.) Doesn’t mind repeating one’s self
26.) Did I say possesses amazing amounts of patience?
27.) Abilities include but are not limited to: unclogging toilets, pronouncing dead fish, shoveling snow, detangling jumpropes, organizing and maintaining peace and safety on a sledding hill, comforting hurt feelings, making playdough, finding lost mittens…oh there just isn’t enough space here.
* Not a typo. I’m a huge proponent of the gender-neutral pronouns ze/hir to indicate persons of unknown/either gender.