I never really saw us as a "nanny" family. Sure, there was the summer of 2008, when my husband's nephew's soon-to-be wife watched our kids all day, every day, for the entire summer. But she was family, well, almost, and has truly become family since that experience. So I wouldn't really call her a nanny.
But then this fall we ran into a problem.
We missed the deadline for signing the girls up for Minneapolis KIDS, the before and after school program at their school. Lindsey made it in luckily, but Marissa only made it in for the afternoon -- the morning was booked solid and she was number 19 on the waiting list.
With their school day starting at 9:40 a.m, it wasn't possible for either of us to flex our workday enough to make this happen once our commutes were taken into account. And really, what were the chances that we would be able to find someone willing to drive to our house to watch our daughter for an hour and a half? Every day?
Well, it was our only option, so we had to give it a shot.
I placed an ad on SitterCity.com and emailed a boatload of other Lake Harriet parents, asking for recommendations or resources. I found out that a woman just a block from us runs a daycare out of her house -- who knew?! So that was definitely an option, but it would mean Marissa would have to catch the bus from her house to school.
No bus, Marissa insisted. Especially without a big sister along to help her. And really, Marissa had only recently graduated from a daycare setting where she was constantly surrounded by toddlers, I wasn't happy about putting her back into that kind of environment again.
We kept searching.
I had a couple of people bite on the ads, but once they realized it was only for an hour and a half, they weren't interested. We did get one occasional babysitter out of it for evenings and weekends, she is LOVELY. Seriously, what 29-year-old married chemist with a masters degree wants to babysit other people's children? This one does, she loves kids so much. I suspect that some day soon she'll be having her own, but she's having too much fun playing in the lab right now to take the time.
Finally I thought of Katie, a woman I had met in social media circles. We were first acquainted on Twitter, and then had met at a couple of local social media networking events. She is looking for full-time work but, like a lot of college grads, opportunities are few and far between right now. She had already babysat the girls a couple of times, and they loved her. I tweeted her.
"Katie, by chance are you taking babysitting jobs?"
"Yes I am." was the reply. And we went from there.
Katie comes to our house every morning a little before 8:00, and she drives Marissa to school about 9:15. We bought a booster seat for Katie's car so we didn't have to worry about remembering to put one in there from one of our cars every day. It gives her a steady job, but also lots of free time for applications and interviews.
We all love it.
Marissa gets special one-on-one time with an adult, something she has been deprived of moreso than Lindsey, being the second child. When we discovered two weeks into the school year that Marissa had gotten the "homework teacher," as other parents described her, homework was able to be done in the mornings, with Katie's supervision. And when she started lagging in reading skills, she got extra reading time with Katie.
But more than that, she just plain has fun. They play. They dance. They practice yoga. I find crazy, silly videos on the iPad that the two of them made together. (I would post one but don't want to embarrass Katie!)
All this time I always said that Katie babysat her. But Katie will tell you she is Marissa's nanny.
It has such connotations, doesn't it? Of wealth. Of parents too busy to bother raising their own children. Of privilege. Of spoiled children. At least, those are the connotations that have been associated in my head, thanks in part to television and the fact that I never knew anyone growing up who had a nanny.
But truly, she IS her nanny. She spends time with her every day. And now, when Marissa draws pictures of our family, there are five of us (okay, six including the dog, when she includes the dog.) Mommy, Daddy, Lindsey, Marissa, Katie and Dax (sometimes, not in the picture below).
And that's pretty cool.
P.S. If you want to read Katie's perspective on what it's like to be a nanny, she wrote a guest post just this past week on the blog Minnesota Joy. Check it out!