Who are we? We are a world-changing family with the highest commitment to excellence in familyhood. We are two parents and one baby. We think he is the most excellent baby that has ever happened (despite our generally limited knowledge of babies.)
Who are you? You think our baby is the most excellent baby that has ever happened, too. You are a nanny, but you’re more than that. You’re an extension of us, the parents. You do exactly what we would do if we were with our baby, and not at our other jobs, which seem like just regular, mid-level knowledge-worker-type jobs, but are in fact the only two jobs in the world more important than the job of being our nanny (otherwise we’d just be our own nanny.)
So what do you do, as our nanny? You stare at our child in silent amazement for long stretches of time. You pitch your voice roughly three octaves higher than usual while repeating various sentences (e.g. Does Mom have a toucan? Does Mom have a toucan? DOES MOM HAVE A TOUCAN?!? Etc.) All for the baby, and the baby’s development into a well-rounded, brilliant child who was loved and stimulated as an infant.
Like us, you have a rudimentary (at best) understanding of babies’ cues regarding tiredness, hunger, and discomfort. You Google everything the baby does the first time he does it, without exception. You rule out devastating illnesses no more than three hours after Internet-diagnosing them. (And you Internet-diagnose several devastating illnesses a day.) You stare at your iPhone while holding the baby and then feel guilty about staring at your iPhone while holding the baby, even if (or especially if, on more thoughtful days) what you’re staring at on the iPhone is baby pictures. You know when to multitask, and when to focus, even if you don’t always do the one that’s called for in a given situation.
You often put down the iPhone to ‘be present’ with the baby until he does something cute enough to Instagram. You Instagram the baby and then check the iPhone every 30–90 seconds to see who has hearted it so far, simultaneously feeling terribly guilty about checking Instagram during the baby’s awake time — what if he is trying to catch your eye, and you’re looking at Instagram? Have you read the studies done with depressed mothers and their infants? Basically, a depressed mother acts like someone with an iPhone. We don’t even want to think about what a depressed mother with an iPhone is like. At any rate. You resolve not to look at your iPhone, or at least look at it only covertly, while the baby is awake. You fail at this resolution. You resolve again. You wonder daily how so many people turn out more or less OK, and also alive, having started as babies. You are a go-getter who manages to take the baby out for walk at least once every ten days. Or even every eight days. It is a whopping seven-fucking-teen degrees Fahrenheit outside, after all.
Experience: Entry-level, with prior history of snarky comments about other parents’ approaches to child-rearing, sometimes within earshot of said parents. The successful candidate will have spent some hours fantasizing about the Full House-esque lessons they will teach baby at age 4, 6, 13, 19, etc., and whispering long, impassioned motivational speeches (taken more or less verbatim from Friday Night Lights) in response to future scenarios involving baby’s discouragement, shame, courage, good-heartedness, etc., to him- or herself in the bathroom.
Compensation: Your face in the mirror is changing. Where once you appeared identifiably tired, hung over, sun-kissed, or well-rested, for example, you now have a head with skin and hair on it. The skin and hair are different from day to day.
You are in a battle for your own personality, your own memories of when you used to have lunch. What time do childless people have lunch, usually? Do they have lunch? On weekends? You will forget.
You are a cruise ship, and your baby is a passenger. What is the reward for being a cruise ship? What compensation does the cruise ship receive? Isn’t it different, and vast, for every voyage? We think so. Really, though, you’re also the captain of the cruise ship, as well as the on-board entertainment. Maybe it’s actually the house you live in, not you, that’s the cruise ship, come to think of it.
You will be paid handsomely in poorly chosen metaphors.
The baby is not the answer. You are not the question.
Some days, your main compensation is the knowledge that you didn’t say to anyone that you “never knew you could love someone this much.” Because that’s a really douchey and presumptuous thing to say, given the implication — that people who don’t have children are just loveless shells with endless supplies of free, meaningless time. You’re welcome.
You will be paid in self-righteousness.
Other days, you will be paid 100 smiles, each like a kiss from 100 tiny butterflies made of silk and butterfly-wing material (keratin?) Your face will hurt from smiling, that’s how fucking rewarding those days will be. Assuming you like having a painful face. We do.
There’s snow on the ground. Your former, childless self is on an ice floe, and your current, childful self are on another ice floe, and the two ice floes are going in mostly the same direction but sometimes they separate, and it’s a little weird, because suddenly you’re in the kids-only ice-floe section, and you’re like, look at that. Now I’m with the kiddie ice floes. Then your former, childless self comes back into view, and you’re like, oh, never mind.
Otherwise, day rate, TBD.
Katherine Perry is a writer and other things in Brooklyn.