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Watching Other People’s Kids for a Living Is a Poop-Stained Nightmare

In 2011, Amy Poehler found herself at TIME 100 Gala, a dinner honoring what the magazine believed to be the most influential people of the year. She’d earned her spot. In the years leading up to it, she’d left a very successful stint at SNL to strike out on her own with Parks and Recreation, which after a first rocky season became a bonafide hit and a critical darling. In her speech at the dinner, she thanked Hillary Clinton and Lorne Michaels for the profound impact and influence the two had had on her life. Then she thanked Jackie Johnson and Dawa Chodon. From Trinidad and Tibet, respectively, the two are Poehler’s nannies. She thanked them for doing nothing short of coming to her house and helping her raise her children, and allowing her to have the career she was being honored for that night. Movingly, she spoke a truth many people know but seldom give voice to: Being a nanny is no small task. Good nannies like Johnson and Chodon, to quote Poehler, “are people who love your children as much as you do, and who inspire them and influence them.” Important stuff, for sure. It can also be a thankless, frustrating drag, as we found out when talked to a few in-home childcare providers. Here are the weirdest, worst, most deflating or unexpected parts of their jobs, and how they’d like to tell the parents they work for.

Potty Training Is Important

I work for a family with two kids: an eight-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl. I was making lunch the other day when I heard the boy scream my name from the bathroom upstairs, and I ran to make sure he was OK. I was relieved to find him free of open wounds but not thrilled about the reason he’d called. Somehow this eight-year-old boy missed the toilet by about three feet and was standing there, pantsless, pointing at a turd on the floor. All he had to say was “I missed,” and kept looking at me, then looking at the log like I was going to clean it up. I told him this was unfortunate but that he was a big boy and it was time for him to start cleaning up his own messes, and he flew into a rage: “MY MOM WOULD PICK IT UP! SHE’S GOING TO BE SO MAD AT YOU!” We went back and forth for a few minutes, but he ended up picking up and flushing the turd after I told him we could wait for her to get back to see who she’d be mad at. I told his mom when she got home, and she laughed and acted like it was totally normal for a kid that age to have “accidents.” Mmmk! – Raquel, 23

Mean Moms Gangs

I’m 20, but I’ve been told I look a lot younger. I nanny for a toddler on weekday mornings, and there’s this group of three evil stay-at-home moms who hang out at the park a few blocks away from her house. Whenever I take her there, they are awful to both of us. They think I’m some kind of slutty teen mom, so they shoo their kids away when she tries to play with them, and ask one another who they think her father is or whether I’m still in high school while I’m very much in earshot. I’ve never corrected them because, to be honest, they scare the shit out of me. Besides, I don’t think they’d be much nicer if they knew I was the help. – Lara, 20

No Go, Go, Go

Nothing drives me crazier than parents who work nine hours a day trying to plan out every minute of their child’s life while they’re gone. I used to work for a family who would leave me a detailed list of segmented activities that would take up every single minute of their day. Breakfast was exactly a half hour long, followed by exactly 45 minutes of piano practice, one hour of “playground games,” half an hour of reading out loud, another half hour of reading quietly, a half hour of board games, a half hour lunch, an hour of Lego time, and on and on. I get that it’s important to keep your kids on a schedule, but this was one step away from military school. Let your kids be spontaneous once in a while! – Kelly, 26*,* 2x”>*,* 2x”>*,* 2x”>

Illustration by Brandon Celi for VICE

TV Is Not the Enemy

I know this is probably an unpopular opinion, but I wish all parents would let their kids watch at least a little TV. I work for a family whose parents are really strict with TV. That sounds fine in theory, but these poor kids are teased by all their classmates and neighborhood friends about how little they know about popular shows and movies. I’m not saying kids should be able to watch hours of TV every day; I just feel bad that they can’t relate to most of the things other kids their age are talking about. Plus, it would be nice to have something for me to distract them with on rainy days when I’ve run through every other activity in their house. At least let them watch educational documentaries or take them to an appropriate movie once a month! – Leah, 25

Late? Pay Me

I’m sympathetic to last-minute schedule changes… up to a point. Being a working parent is hard, and sometimes you have to stay for that late meeting or whatever, but please keep me in the loop! It’s so annoying when a parent comes home an hour or two late without notice, acts like nothing’s wrong, and then pays me as though they were on time. If we have an agreed-on daily rate and you’re late, you need to pay me for the extra time I spent watching your kid. Please don’t make me ask for more money in these situations—it’s really awkward, and it makes me feel like you don’t value my time at all. – Hannah, 26

Laundry Service Is Not Part of the Service

I’m a child-care professional who spends all of my time focused on the kid I’m paid to be watching. I’m not a 1950s housewife for hire. Of course I clean up after I make lunch or dinner, and sometimes I’ll put away dishes or wipe down a client’s messy counters after I’ve put the kids to bed. But I’ve had a few not-so-great situations where parents have asked me to their laundry, vacuum, or dust while they’re out. Anyone who wants a maid should hire one, but that’s not my job. I have heard of people building cleaning into their contracts, but it’s really rude to spring a cleaning job on someone you hired specifically to take care of your children. – Maria, 30

Follow Caroline Thompson on Twitter.


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