What's your experience as a nanny?
"I worked for six months as a nanny for a family with two deaf boys (ages 4 and 8) and a hearing daughter (11). It was right before I went to college. I handled a lot of caretaking activities. I used to pack their lunches and take them out to the park. We did a lot of together. It was fun because I built a relationship with the kids. I just loved the whole experience."
What was it like working with two children with special needs?
"I got to practice my American Sign Language. It's a valuable tool for working with kids, whether they're deaf or not. Kids just naturally learn visually before they learn a lot of their speaking skills…
The biggest challenge was conflict negotiation. Kids fight a lot… People say, "Oh, child care's so easy. You just take them out and watch them." But it's not. It's a lot more than that. When that single toy or that last M&M in the bag is the most important thing in their lives, you have to think of creative ways to make them think about it differently."
What training did you have?
"It was my first child care job, so there was a lot of learn-as-you-go. My mom did aerobics and had child care facilities available around the studio and I helped out. So, growing up, I had a lot of child care experience… I just kind of had to act like myself. To tell you the truth, there was no official training. I just tried to be responsible, show up on time, be a good role model, and keep the kids safe…
Since then (after college), I've been a teen center coordinator. We had a day care there, so I worked with kids from age 7-17, so I have a large amount of experience with kids. I also teach high school marching band."
As a nanny, is it easier to connect boys or girls?
"I definitely could play a little bit harder with the boys. I feel like they saw me as a mentor or a cool buddy—an "Uncle Zach" sort of thing. I definitely connected with them really well.
The daughter definitely looked up to me and gave me a lot of respect, and I connected with her, too. She was more of a helper with the other kids, translating sign language sometimes.
Personally, I haven't had the experience of not connecting with a female child. You just need the chance to do it. Once I get in there and kids realize I'm just a goofy guy, we connect—it doesn't matter what gender."
What's the advantage of hiring a male caregiver?
"Guys can play harder with the kids. They can be goofier and more fun. Kids want to be able to see eye-to-eye with you, but also see you as a leader, and I think guys are just more rough and authentic like that. They can have that kind of get-your-fingernails-dirty fun on the playground.
Guys also offer a little extra protection. There's a level of added safety, especially with a single mother or in the case of a father who travels a lot... Men can fill that raw need for a male role model and the rough-and-tumble aspect."
Is it harder to find child care jobs as a guy?
"I put together a good resume and cover letter. I've gotten about three or four responses back where people have said, 'Hey, Zach, you look like a really qualified nanny—you seem like a great fit. I'm sure somebody will find you in the future, but we're looking for a female.'
A lot of mothers and fathers have a stigma about a man watching a six-year-old daughter—he must be a bad person. I can see both sides of the fence, I really can, but I know my perspective and that's absurd—very small percentages of the population are criminals or like that. To have every guy make you feel uncomfortable is just kind of frustrating.
To put it in perspective, my wife is looking for work. She put up an ad for a part-time nanny job and she had an interview the very next day. I'm like, "Really? How is that possible?" It boggles my mind since I've been trying for a month now. It's tough."
Will you keep looking for a nanny job?
"To be honest, I just want to be around youth—that's my passion. I don't fit into the business environment where people are just really stale. That's where I'm at now and I don't fit in at all. I'm looking for somewhere where I can get out, have a flexible schedule, and have activities going on."