This is the first image that shows up in a google image search for “nanny.” Don’t let this be you.

For a less serious topic, I thought I’d tackle the most difficult sartorial aspect of my job: the plumber’s area. My job involves a lot of bending over and squatting. As in, I’m ALWAYS bending over and/or squatting. The worst part about this isn’t even the potential embarrassment, as I’m usually in the boys’ home, but the fact that it creates a DRAFT. A DRAFT DOWN MY BUTT. Now, I’m one of those people who “runs cold” (in fact, I run practically hypothermic), so this isn’t just inconvenient, it harshes my mellow to an obscene degree.

I currently have a work-uniform that breaks many laws of fashion, but I don’t really care. I view my work clothes as akin to scrubs for doctors: purely utilitarian. I have given up on trying to be cute, which I could kind of get away with with the Schmoops who were pretty benign in terms of mess and time spent chasing/carrying, but no more. The boys are rough, messy, and require every ounce of strength and energy I have. I can’t afford to spend one iota of that energy on getting dressed in the morning. So… I commit the sin of bib overalls. “Plumber’s Area” is pretty apt since I look like I’m going to get down to some hard labor on the construction site. I care not, I built entire cities out of blocks!

Yep. Waffle shirt, hoodie, overalls and red Mary Janes. (Mine are Dansko and super-comfy.) Inside the house, I even wear fuzzy slippers. Warm, cozy, and best of all: I can get painted on, barfed on, pooped on, and my clothes all just go right in the wash when I get home. (I carry a change of clothes in my car consisting of an extra shirt, yoga pants, and socks – yes, socks, you have no idea how quickly they get besmirched in the event of all out mess, especially where bodily fluids are concerned. I highly recommend ALL childcare workers have a change of clothes handy as both times I’ve been puked on, I didn’t have a spare set and ended up using a blanket as a skirt while my pants went through the wash.) My plumber’s area is protected and I have umpteen pockets for clean/dirty tissues, that thing that the child just gave me that he wants me to hold on to, chapstick, and a pen in case I have a SPARE MOMENT to write something down.

If you don’t want to go for the overalls, I recommend a long cardigan, which is a look that I rocked pretty much all last winter. I had to run around the city of Boston all day long with kids in tow, and this was my default back then.

Yeah, I really am “Red Sonika.” My closet palette is all earth tones with red (and the occasional pink) accessories. My winter coat is red. My purse is red. My wallet is red. My iPhone case is red. The staples of my wardrobe are grey, brown, and green, with hints of orange. I refuse to own anything blue or purple as going into “cool colors” isn’t my territory. Since making these arbitrary sartorial decisions, shopping is much easier and I don’t ever have to think very hard about “does this match?”

On my off days… I’m a little more fashionable in a very boho kind of way. I like to think of my style as “urban bohemian” – also very feminine with a few tomboy accents.

Since it is effin’ freezing out here most of the winter, all outfits are topped with one of my excellent coats. At least, I find them excellent as they are both a) warm and b) not totally butt ugly, a combo that is surprisingly hard to find. Don’t worry, my fur coat (which is more awesome than the one pictured) is totally fake. I like to refer to it as my “No Animals Were Harmed in The Making Of This Coat. Coat.”

And there you have it. Polyvore proof that I am one of the most sartorially boring, if also totally obsessive, human beings alive. But I am also WARM.

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Now you’ve got your good jeans on, you’ve set a date and time to meet the parents and the coffee shop and you’re getting prepared to answer the serious questions. Hooray!

I stressed this before, but it bears repeating: nanny interviews are not like other job interviews. You can not game them. There are no strategies to employ. There are no right answers (though I can think of some “wrong” ones off the top of my head). If asked what your weaknesses are, the right answer is NOT “I work too hard.” (My weaknesses? I’m stubborn and bossy. These actually DO come in handy as a nanny, but just about nowhere else. Yeah, it’s ok to say “Well, I’m bossy, but it helps in redirecting problem behaviors with kids.” but not… “I try too hard to make people happy!” These people are potentially trusting you with their children, you need to be HONEST.)

So, you need to come up with honest answers, without crossing the line into total oversharing weirdo answers. Yes, you’re still trying to create the best impression you can, and yes you want to tailor your answers to the situation so you don’t sound like a robot (though a robot nanny would be pretty badass),  but you’ve got to be 100% sincere about your answers. One of the first, and most important, things you’ll be asked about is your discipline strategy: if you’ve always handled discipline via time-out and the family indicates that they use re-direction… if you imply that “Oh yeah! I always re-direct!” you’re going to have shot yourself in the foot if you actually land the job and have to follow through on a totally unfamiliar discipline strategy.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about here and you’re not an Early Childhood professional, don’t worry. If you ARE looking to become a nanny – or a babysitter – or a preschool teacher – read up on discipline strategies ASAP. Know what the different tools are and the pluses and minuses. Know what the research indicates is most effective.  Know what is absolutely not effective in any situations. If you don’t have a lot of experience with discipline strategies, that’s ok, and tell the parents honestly that you feel that you would be most comfortable taking their lead and working with them to learn how THEY set and implement limits with their children. For me: I use a combo platter of positive re-inforcement and re-direction, which I could talk about endlessly, but the point is that I don’t use time-outs and that my limited experiences with families who use time-outs exclusively hasn’t been positive for anybody. The kids end up confused, the nanny ends up frustrated, and the parents are left with a mess. There are plenty of families using all sorts of disciplinary strategies, you WILL find one that you fit with. Recognize that if your answer sounds “wrong,” the solution isn’t to change it to what you think the parents want to hear, but to enjoy the rest of the interview, hope for the best, and keep looking for a family that you truly connect with.

The other biggie that you will surely be asked is your child-rearing philosophy. Again, you need to have one first. Read up if you don’t have direct experience. Research popular philosophies such as Montessori and Waldorf education. Think about your own childhood and values. You don’t have to have a fancy-pants answer for this, but you have to have an answer beyond “I think children should be reared!” Again, I could yammer on about my own child-rearing philosophy, but it boils down the idea that children learn best in situations where the education is organic and I try to create as many opportunities for learning as possible while making children feel comfortable in an atmosphere with positive re-inforcement, predictable scheduling, and consistent limits. (If none of these terms sound familiar to you – do more research!)  One interview “cheat-sheet” site says:

It is important for your answer to demonstrate a respect for the family’s child raising beliefs and values and the ability to be flexible in your child care approach according to this. A rigid personal philosophy can only lead to problems. Focus on how you are constantly learning about child-rearing.

I DISAGREE COMPLETELY. No, you should not be too rigid in your philosophy unless the children you’re caring for are your own, that’s true. On the other hand, if you have solid beliefs about child-rearing that you’ve developed through experience and education, you are selling yourself short if you pay lip-service to what you think the family wants to hear. Again, you are not trying to get ANY job, you are trying to get the job where you and the family “click.”

The last point I’d like to make is that by the end of the interview, the last major decision that you have to make is whether or not you’re willing to do housework and where you draw the line at “light” housework. This is fine to handle on a case by case basis, but understand that it’s the nature of life that if you agree to take on X amount of housework, there will come a day where you will be asked to do one extra chore. The best way to deal with this if you’re absolutely not ok with doing anything beyond normal child-clean-up is to hold the line firm that you don’t do housework. The other option, if you really connect with the family, is to suck it up and recognize that your ideal job involves sweeping a few more floors than you had planned. That’s totally up to you, but know ahead of time that you will eventually need to do more than what’s outlined and that’s not the family trying to take advantage of you – that’s the nature of life and having kids. Some day, mom won’t have time and there will be a huge mess. It’s just how it goes.

Try to have at least a bit of fun at your interviews. Let your enthusiasm for your work and your love of children show through. Do remember that you’re talking about serious stuff: the interviews I can look back on where I know that I “bombed” and I would like to go back and staple my own mouth shut were the ones where I tried so hard to create a connection with the parents that I made a joking comment that while not totally over the line, obviously did not help anything. There’s another one of my weaknesses: trying to use humor to compensate for my own flaws. Don’t force a connection that isn’t there. Be polite and amiable, but stop yourself before you start saying things that feel out of character or strained.

4nannies has an excellent run-down of questions that you should be prepared to answer. Yes, it’s overwhelming, but honestly, if you’re not prepared to be overwhelmed, Early Childhood work probably won’t be a good fit for you in the long term. I do absolutely 100% LOVE my job and wouldn’t want to do anything else, but I’m overwhelmed at least six times per day. (I’ve also done enough interviews that I could answer these questions in my sleep, and probably have from time to time.)

Jedi Nanny: Teething.

November 6, 2009

In desperation yesterday after a finished ice pop ended in more screaming, I stumbled upon my best idea perhaps ever: I gave Thing 2 an unopened Smooze Popsicle. (Link to a review of the Smooze which describes its actual food properties in a way consistent with my experience.)

smooze_fruit_ice_individual

As you can see, the Smooze is wedge shaped, which is wicked fun to chew on. We had poor luck with these over the summer because the shape is absolutely not conducive to being pushed up through the end when opened. They are very stubborn and don’t move, and further, small hands have a super hard time with it. Mostly, he would suck/chew on the ends and get the melted popsicle all over himself. So, when I gave him the Smooze yesterday, I imagined he would just chew on it and that would be the end of it.

His teeth are strong enough that he was able to punch a few holes in it while chewing on it, and was able to suck the juice out of it that way. I wasn’t worried about him chewing on the packaging because, as I said, that was pretty the extent of his interaction with it even when I gave it to him as a snack and not a tooth soother. So, he sucked the juice out of it gradually and was totally content to just chew on it…

… FOR AN HOUR.

This provided both of us with an hour free of tooth related screaming. He was really, really happy to just have something cold in his mouth and was actually less frustrated with sucking the juice out than he had been with trying to push up the ice over the summer.

Very, very lucky accident. I had simply been looking in the freezer for anything cold he could chew on, and didn’t find any more ice pops or even a teething ring. Poor guy was having a really hard time and I’m glad that this random solution worked out. I’ll definitely try it again if he has another bad day with his burgeoning teeth.