You’re a full-time nanny for a busy family with two-year-old twins and their four-year-old sibling. You are on overnight duty because both mom and dad are out of town. With both of the twins up sick all night, you only managed to get four hours of broken sleep. You’re running late for preschool drop-off and can’t wait until nap time for the twins so that you can close your eyes in hopes of snagging a few precious moments of sleep. Naptime comes, and just as you shut your eyes, the preschool calls. The four-year-old is sick and you need to wake the twins up and go get her. Just when you couldn’t be more exhausted and more looking forward to 4pm when your boss is due home, she calls to tell you her flight has been delayed.
And so goes the life of a nanny.
Burnout may not be the first word that comes to mind when thinking of nanny attributes, but the word can most definitely be present on the list.
Nannies are natural caretakers. They spend a majority of their day physically and emotionally caring for the children they watch. They change diapers, make meals, play peek-a-boo, referee sibling squawks, give baths, provide transportation, do laundry, and undertake all of the tasks, big and small, related to caring for the children.
For nannies to give of themselves completely, which is required to do the job well, they must care for themselves completely. When nannies care for themselves they are better able to prevent burnout and manage the everyday stress that comes along with being a nanny.
If you’re a nanny, it’s imperative that you care for yourself so that you can care for others. Make it a priority to:
Disconnect from Work. As hard as it is to do, you must try not to take your work home with you. Unlike an office job, where you can physically leave your work behind, much of a nanny’s work is emotional. It’s much harder to leave emotions than it is a briefcase at the door. Nannies should try to find ways to disconnect and decompress each day. Take up a hobby, like sewing or scrapbooking, learn to cook, join a book club, or go to the gym. You must give yourself opportunities to escape from your job. Doing so allows you to refresh and recharge your emotional batteries so you are able to go to work fully ready and prepared to emotionally invest in the children.
Be Proactive About Health. Nannies often work 10 to 12 hours or more per day. Unlike in traditional jobs where a lunch break is provided, nannies typically eat with the kids and eat what the kids are eating, or more accurately, what’s leftover. Make it a point to pack and prepare nutritious meals and snacks for yourself. Set aside time each day to go for a walk, either with the children or after your work day is done. Be sure to seek medical care when you’re feeling ill, rather than putting it off until you’re unable to get yourself to the doctor on your own. Make your health a priority. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others.
Connect with Others. Working as a nanny can be isolating. Make a point to connect with other nannies who can identify with the ups and downs of nanny work. Connect with other nannies in playgroups or nanny support groups. You may even wish to consider joining a professional organization like The International Nanny Association for resources, guidance, and support.
Get Enough Sleep. Nannies dread caring for a child that is overtired because they know it’s going to make for a long and tiring day. Overtired children are typically cranky, easily irritated, and unable to emotionally hold themselves together. The same is true for nannies. Be sure to get adequate rest so you are able to do your job well.
Find Ways to De-stress. A nanny’s work can be stressful. There’s a lot of pressure to ensure everyone is safe and well cared for and that the children’s physical, social, emotional, and intellectual needs are being met. It’s important to learn how to de-stress. Prayer, meditation, exercise, and getting together with friends provide opportunities to release stress and promote relaxation.
Caring for children is important work. While it’s often full of fun and games, it’s no child’s play. Nanny work is demanding and requires complete immersion into the job when you are on duty. The more you take care of yourself and meet your own needs, the better able you can care for the children and meet theirs.
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