Recently I started nannying part-time. While I was applying to different nanny jobs and talking to a few families, my past experience with children came up (obvi). The job I brought up the most was actually my first babysitting gig for a family of five (now 6) children in NC. ‘Babysitting’ is a somewhat of a strong word for this as I was only about 12 when I started working with them and the mom was there most of the time. Really I just hung out with them for one day a week throughout the course of a couple of years, helping watch the youngest girl.
However the reason I brought this experience up during my interviews (and why I’m writing about it now) is because I learned a lot; not only about childcare, but about life, relationships and family.
Big families aren’t really around as much anymore; or as Jim Gaffigan puts it:
BUT as I’m sure Jim Gaffigan and his five kids will vouch for, big families are also awesome. Here are some of the things I learned hanging out with a family of five kids.
A little chaos is not a bad thing.
As someone who talks a lot about finding and maintaining peace, this one may come as a surprise to you. However I really believe it. As much as I know I need time alone and quiet time, going to their house and experiencing the craziness was incredibly refreshing. Someone was almost always upset about something, visitors came and went, games were being played, messes being made and even if most were down for a nap, there was always something to do/clean/organize/fix. The thing about this chaos is that it completely takes you out of your head. You don’t have the opportunity to think about whatever upset you or why you’re feeling angry/sad/frustrated, you have to do. Forgetting yourself and your problems and just focusing on others is something I think we all need to do regularly for our own sake as much as for others.
A relationship isn’t just about the people in them.
I’m not a mathematician (I had to Google how to spell that so apparently I’m not a good speller either) but I do know that two is greater than one. What I love most about the idea of marriage is that the two of you are a team. You have a common goal that is not only improving and growing, but also service to others through your relationship. It isn’t just about helping each other (although that should come first) or the joy being together brings you, it’s about what you can give to others from a place of overflow that comes from your healthy relationship. The parents of this family embodied that perfectly: spending most of their time involved in the community and opening their home to others (like me). They were able to have an enormous impact on the town we lived in; an accomplishment I highly doubt either of them could have achieved on their own (as wonderful as they are individually). This is something that is so crucial to me and am very grateful to have witnessed from a young age.
A healthy marriage is possible.
The divorce rate is right now at all-time high. This not only affects the families torn apart, but also the community at large. As a generation, millennials have become commitment-phobes who put off marriage or treat it lightly instead of as a lifelong commitment. When I started babysitting with this family my parents had just divorced. Spending time with a couple that clearly loved each other and worked together toward a higher goal was one of the best things I could have asked for. Seeing the husband come home and kiss his wife while I exchanged an embarrassed look with their son and then hear him say, ‘Sorry, Miranda, I haven’t seen her all day’ gave me hope for marriage and relationships I don’t think I would have found otherwise. Of course I’m sure their marriage faced and still does face challenges, but the point is that being married longer than they haven’t and still pushing forward is an accomplishment I don’t know I would have believed possible if I hadn’t seen it firsthand.
Families have power.
This family did something that no person could do on their own. They provided a refuge and place of comfort for outsiders and reached out to people of all ages. There is something incredibly powerful about a family that is healthy enough as a unit that they are able to share with others. While someone can invite you into your home and you appreciate that, it isn’t the same as when you get the opportunity to spend time with a loving family; it is incredibly nourishing and life-giving.
PS: Does anyone remember Disney’s The Proud Family?!
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to share with this family. I won’t forget the lessons I learned from them and hope to carry these on in my own little tribe one day.