I spent this weekend attending my CAPPA training session for my labor doula certification. As I begin to meet more childbirth professional and listen to their reasons for entering the field, I am struck by how different my experience is from theirs. It seems that most childbirth educators and doulas come to the field after becoming mothers themselves, often after having a negative birth experience. They want to share their experience with other women or protect them from having a similar experience. But I have no birth experiences, negative or otherwise.
I fell into nannying over a decade ago, while I was in college studying political science and journalism. I had spent my high school years as the favorite neighborhood babysitter, so it seemed like a natural transition when I needed a full-time summer job to save for tuition. By my senior year, I was nannying full-time year round and taking classes around my work schedule. And when I graduated, just as the journalism market hit rock bottom, I decided to continue what I was doing and make a career of nannying.
In many ways, it’s been wonderful. I love working with infants and toddlers in their own home settings. My specialty is newborn care, and I really enjoy interacting with new parents and helping to build their skills, and more importantly, their confidence. For years, I have wanted to focus my services more on the childbearing year — pregnancy, birth and postpartum. But those jobs are by nature transitory and don’t make for stable, steady employment the way that long-term nannying does. So I’ve interspersed those positions with long-term nanny positions, working with a single family for 2-3 years at time.
There are hard parts of course — 50+ hour weeks for years on end have a way of wearing on you. Like many other service professionals, nannies tend to be overworked and underpaid. And of course, there is the leaving. When you spend years caring for a child, walking away at the end is heartbreaking. Especially if the decision to leave is not mutual, and the parents feel abandoned by the nanny’s resignation and become bitter. After one too many sad goodbyes, it’s not unusual for a nanny to decide it’s time to move on to a career that isn’t as emotionally draining. That’s part of the reason I decided to make a shift.
But the biggest reason is that after nearly a dozen years of helping to raise other people’s children, I’m ready to raise my own. C.S. and I are talking about starting a family of our within the next year or so, and I know that once I am a mother my focus will shift to my own family. I am very lucky that we have the financial ability for me to stay home once we have children, and that C.S. is supportive of my desire to do so.
I’m really looking forward to being a stay at home mom. But I know myself well enough to know that I need something else. I need educational and social stimulation outside of my role in the home. And this seems like the perfect opportunity to finally focus on the childbearing year. I can take on as many or as few clients as my schedule and interest level allows for, without worrying about having a steady stream of clients.
So for the next few months, while I continue to nanny for a lovely family with an incredibly sweet little boy, I’ll spend my free time studying and working towards my certifications while simultaneously preparing myself physically and mentally for my own pregnancy. I feel very lucky that as I prepare to help others with this major life event, I am also helping myself.