I work as a nanny. People ask what I do and I say “oh, I nanny” as if I’m saying “oh, I mostly sit around painting by numbers” or “oh I don’t actually have a real job I just blow bubbles in the park”.
Now, if I wasn’t chained to the internalized misogyny, institutional undervaluing of women’s work, and disordered guilt that causes me to bow my head and blush at my definitely not real and possibly totally cop-out job – I would say this.
In the morning, I am a mother. I comfort the loneliness that is a prelude to all other loneliness my toddlers will experience in their lives. I teach the art of letting go, of understanding the people who love you will always come home at the end of the day.
At midday, I am a personal trainer. I teach my children they are strong, I teach how to climb without help and how to fall without breaking. I am an architect. I teach how wet sand makes better castles and how to make friends. I build and I let them stomp all over it. I teach how to rebuild.
At lunch, I am a nutritionist. I balance the demands of yuppie parents with the tastebuds of two year olds. I concoct equations of food groups and I demonstrate how to eat without smearing food all over one’s face and surroundings.
At nap time, I am a storyteller and a musician. I calm hysterics with the Beatles and soothe imaginations with Neil Gaiman and Oliver Jeffers.
By the afternoon I am all of these things all over again. By the afternoon I am a bodybuilder as I juggle two alternating under-ducks, I am a mediator as I manage conflicts and dissolving moods. I teach the joy of giving, the art of asking, the permission of letting go.
I am a sex educator. I name body parts and let them know it’s okay to touch your own body but not at the kitchen table. I teach consent. No, you can’t hit her in the head without asking, but you can pat your own head! Let’s all pat our own heads! You have to ask, even if you always hug her, even if yesterday you held hands. Ask, can I touch you? If she doesn’t say anything that doesn’t mean it’s okay. Wait for a happy yes.
By evening, I am patient. I reassure anxious parents. I accept blame. I say yes, tomorrow I will be better, tomorrow I will do all of this and more.
And when they ask what I do, I bow my head and say, “I just nanny”.