The Nanny Diaries: Amateurs advise first-time babysitters


With a handsome salary, flexible hours, and a pool membership for the taking, at first glance, nannying sounds like a cakewalk. This nontraditional summer job provides teenagers with experience they can use for the rest of their lives. Instead, after what feels like hours of playing Candyland, children running around, and constant bickering, nannying isn’t always as easy as it was made out to be. Especially for first timers, mastering the art of child care seems impossible, leaving many novices wishing they had help from those with more experience. 

“When COVID hit, I started nannying for a family every weekday,” junior Aya Khayati said. “I was only a freshman, unable to drive, babysitting an 8- and 11-year-old every day.” As a first time nanny, Khayati was not sure what to expect. With extra time on her hands due to Zoom scheduling, Khayati picked up the gig hoping to make some money in her free time. What was in store for her, however, was not what she had anticipated.

“Being unable to drive was a challenge,” Khayati said. “To get them to leave the house, I’d always have to bribe them by walking to the Hy-Vee gas station every day.” Watching over two young boys proved a struggle for Khayati. Even with brothers herself, she had never been tasked with entertaining them. Out of touch with the age range, Khayati had a hard time connecting with them. 

“Going into it for the first time,” Khayati said, “I wish someone would have told me how to get kids on your good side. Summer days are long. It’s important to have an idea of local activities to keep kids entertained.” While Khayati will not be returning as a nanny, she hopes those who step up to the challenge this summer will be equipped with the advice.  “I started babysitting when I was 12 right after I completed the Red Cross babysitting training,” senior Maggie Rosenlof said. “Once I was able to drive, babysitting became nannying, and things got more serious.” Over the years, Rosenlof has watched kids of all ages, each with unique personalities. While Rosenlof generally enjoys the time she spends nannying, there have been challenging times along the way.

“The hardest things facing kids today is screen time,” Rosenlof said. “It’s so hard to get them off the iPad.” As access to technology has increased, Rosenlof notes how attached some children can be to their devices. As the summer sun looms bright in the sky providing the perfect weather for a pool day, Rosenlof admits how difficult it can be to get kids outdoors. “I tend to come up with games that don’t have to do with technology. I prefer distractions that will keep them away,” Rosenlof said. “Once they’re outside playing games like capture the flag or even drawing with sidewalk chalk, they’ll have more fun.”

Besides neighborhood happenings, Rosenlof scouts out activities in Omaha to keep them engaged and peak their interests. “Parks around Omaha are always a good option when you’re exhausted and want the kids to entertain themselves,” Rosenlof said. “Otherwise, Dundee and Aksarben have always been a favorite. The kids I nanny for don’t have a dog but love them, so we went to the dog park at Aksarben and they were able to throw balls and frisbees with the dogs there. This kept them entertained for a long time and was free.” 

One thing Rosenlof has learned, however, is that babysitting isn’t only about forming relationships with the kids, it’s a family affair. “I’ve learned that parents actually want to know how their children are behaving,” Rosenlof said. “You don’t have to lie to them and be like, ‘Your kids are perfect.’” While admitting children are misbehaving may seem to reflect poorly on nannying capabilities, parents know their children are not always angels. When it comes to challenging behaviors, disciplining kids is a better suited job for parents. 

As Rosenlof embarks on another summer nannying position, she emphasizes the importance of respect between children and their caregivers. “It’s always important that we both listen to each other,” Rosenlof said. “If they’re not listening to me, that’s when I tend to get upset. Become their friend, but also retain your position as the leader. It’s not fun when you’re bossy, but at the same time, being super friendly can lead to bad behaviors.”

Every day as a nanny presents a new challenge, but Rosenlof wouldn’t change her experiences for the world. Nannying presents a unique opportunity to learn how to take care of children while also making summer memories along the way.

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