Confessions Of A Governess: Working For First-Time Parents Is A Nightmare

Confessions of a Governess is a Mommyish series from the perspective of someone who gets paid to watch other people’s children. Moms, take a deep breath.

I don’t charge more for working for first time parents, but it has occurred to me that I should.

Having thrown themselves at the mercy of every parenting book, every bit of advice, every wives’ tale, new parents are often times more work than the new infant. They have researched extensively on the exact portions of food to place on their little one’s spoon, how tight cloth diapers should be, or how may times the baby should be rocked before being placed in the bassinet.

Although well-intentioned, new parents tend to fixate on certain routinesas if a bottle at exactly 7:52 pm, precisely three spins of the mobile, and track seven on Enya’s album is the magical combination that ensures their baby’s restful night. All the while, they’re watching you to make sure that you comply with these voodoo parenting tactics, despite that a bottle at 8 pm and maybe some classical music will do just fine. They’re so sweet in their dedication, but lack of sleep, experience, and assurance leads them to odd conclusions about how exactly to handle their children because in all truthfulness, they just haven’t learned yet.

The nanny or babysitter is often in a precarious position when dealing with first-timers on the parenting track because even though they are parents, technically I’ve had more experience with children than they have had.

One mother I worked for confided in me that prior to giving birth to her son at age 33, she had not cared for a child in any capacity since she was 16 and babysitting herself in high school. Another told me that she was wary of hiring any childcare help in the first few months after her daughter was born. Her logic was that she didn’t want to feel judged by someone who knew more about caring for infants than she did.

I imagine that it must be difficult to insist on certain practices when holding the resume of someone whose childcare experience vastly predates your own — but believe me, that doesn’t stop some parents from trying. A mother I briefly worked for insisted that I pin her son’s diapers a specific way, even though I politely pointed out that they were backwards. She told me that since her son wasn’t resisting, perhaps he had grown to prefer them that way. Another couple I worked for kept purchasing new baby bottles because they complained of constant leaking. While the father complained about the quality of modern baby products, I fiddled with the bottles on my own (many of which I had used with other families). I soon realized that the family wasn’t applying the rubber nipple correctly, hence the milk would leak. When I shared this tidbit with them, they nodded but insisted on purchasing new bottles anyway.

Keeping to fantasy practices of cradling the baby over your left shoulder and not your right and stirring formula specifically eight times clockwise, no matter how ridiculous they seem, is something I always comply with. As their nanny, their babysitter, I’m there to enforce their efforts at parenting, not my own.

Occasionally though, there are the gems that are honest about being novices and are grateful for any help that they can get. On my first day with a new employer, a mother showed me a new baby sling that she had purchased for her nine week old son. As she placed him in the front pouch, I quickly ran to her back to fasten a strap that had forgotten about, as the baby would have fallen through otherwise. She thanked me profusely and said that she was still learning all the ins and outs of “this stuff,” and that if I ever saw anything that looked a little off to please tell her.

“I’d rather have it come from you than my mother-in-law,” she said.


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