Some of us, moms, could not imagine working or having a life if there wasn’t for nannies. Babysitters. Au-pairs. “Help”. Call it how you want, but they are often life savers and sometimes even our ‘best friends’. We’ve all had them at one point or another – whether for a few date nights during the week, for couple of hours after school pick up or even full time, living in our houses as the “big sister”. Bottom line is they are valuable, precious, and come in need for some me-time, work time, or real necessity.
So while you leave your baby(ies) with the nanny at home while you head for a late night event or for a full work’s week, have you ever wondered what goes through her head every day? Is she happy, is she having fun with the kids, are they learning Mandarine, do they listen to her, do they have mini PJ parties while you’re away, does she get annoyed with them, is she content with your rules, etc etc.
Well, we definitely were curious. So we sat down with Sara Miku, who has been working as a nanny in The Netherlands for the past years. At only 24 years old, she “looks younger but feels older”, as she often puts it, and is happily engaged and slowly planning her wedding with fiance Senn.
So we shall ask her some fire questions and see what she feels about her role as a nanny, funny insights with the kiddos and what she has learnt for her future role as a mom.
“My future husband has a son from his previous relationship and he is 5 years old. It is quite challenging age but I know any age is difficult for parents apart. And of course for the new partners. At the end, it’s the child who suffers the most.”
You have worked as a babysitter in Holland (The Hague) over the past 3/4 years? What do you feel you will miss the most from this experience? And what will you miss the least?
My “career” as a babysitter started years ago with all of my siblings (I have 3 younger siblings, one brother and two step sisters). When I was 15 years old I took care of our neighbours’ kids. I always wanted to work with children, maybe as a teacher or psychologist because I believe children are our future and the fresh new generation. We give them our knowledge, we teach them, we raise them and in couple of years we can see the flowers we were watering. That’s my personal theory about working with children.
I worked in a kindergarten for some time (back in Slovakia) and now for 3 years I helped a lot of families around The Hague with their children and households.
I would say I’m more of a family support than a nanny. I bring kids to school, I pick them up, I do homework with them, attend school events, go to after school activities, arrange playdates, I do groceries & cook for them. I’m basically the “older sister”. I will definitely miss all of my children. Because working with kids is a mutual relationship, all the love and time you give them, they will return. There is a saying that only children and animals can give you so much love.
What I won’t miss at all are all the parents. (joke) In all of those years I met some nice and let’s say decent people, unfortunately, also lots of parents who treated me like a slave. We pay you as our employee, so we can do whatever we want. Of course I shouldn’t accept it, but it took me some time to build up my good name and the reputation I have now. In my first year I just babysat for anyone and for any money. I gained some more experience (I always say that we should never stop learning) and I worked really hard to become ‘the nanny’ that everybody wants to babysit their kids. Now I’m very picky. I know my value so I don’t negotiate with parents.
It is maybe hard to believe, but I only met one family that became very close to me, like a real family, they really helped me a lot. They paid my rent when I was in the hospital, they took me on holidays. We are still in touch, I’m planning to visit them in Spain soon. You won’t meet people like this every day, it’s a real pleasure and I will never forget what they have done for me.
How are babysitters seen by Dutch parents? A necessity, a commodity, a luxury?
Dutch parents aren’t really in favour of babysitters. Most of those I met thought it’s not necessary to have a babysitter and they would also treat you like that. Because Dutch people have their whole families here, the grandma can take over, or other family members…
I’m really the nanny for expats. People with no family here, no other options, but also rich people who think it’s necessary to have someone who helps them raise their kids and help with the household. I must say I can feel also lots of differences in culture. In some cultures, families with a certain status have a cleaning lady, nanny, chauffer and so on. They just take you as a necessity (because they are used to having people in their house working for them) With the Dutch, like the real Dutch families (not mixed relationship like Dutch mom and American father – that’s different) I immediately understood this relationship isn’t working for me. I will also explain why because I don’t want to generalise.
I am a very relationship-oriented person, I like to build the relationship, trust goes hand in hand, I am proud to be the support for children and their parents. I expect people to respect me for my experiences and education about children, and for the fact that I take care of THEIR children. (I seriously always think like JEZUS THIS IS YOUR KID – yo wake up parents.) I really don’t like parents who, for example, negotiate about my hourly wage. If they want to go out and just need someone to stay with their kids while they are asleep, they should call a high school student but not me. I never understood people who call me, say they really want me to be their babysitter because they got all these great recommendations on me, but they don’t agree on the price. I don’t have energy to explain it to parents sometimes. I just want to tell them….
“Dear Parents. You can’t come to the traveling agency and say you would like to go to Bahamas because you heard it’s amazing holidays there but mmmmmh, could I only maybe pay half the price?” (my brain stops working when a situations like this with parents happen)
I have started small, I worked sometimes even 7 days a week, I was always on my best behaviour and manners . I have years of experiences with different children, I have some additional education, certification and I have a long reference list from parents who were absolutely satisfied with me.
For Dutch parents, it is maybe too expensive, luxurious and many times unnecessary, but for expats who are looking for ‘the nanny’ they used to tell me: “Sara we are happy with you, our kids adore you, it is important for us they are happy, we can pay you what you asked for.”
All time favourite memory about the time spent as a nanny? The funniest one? The scarriest one?
This is a very difficult question because children can be very honest, so that is sometimes funny by itself. The way they express themselves. It amazes me every time. All my funny stories would make a long list, especially the children in (I call it) the ‘curious’ years, 2-5 years old. They can randomly ask you or do stuff you would have never expected. So you better be ready!
The scariest memories…
For me personally, taking care of your own child is a huge responsibility, now imagine how big is it to take care of other children. That is sometimes scary, anything can happen, at the playground, when we travel together, at the station, after school activities, even home. Just couple of weeks ago, one of the brothers I regularly take care of, he took the toilet refreshing spray and sprayed it to his eyes. The other day, I was cooking, trying to distract them so I told them: “Let’s play hide and seek!” (I was counting while cooking – nothing difficult, right) These two had an awesome idea, let’s hide, actually close the younger one into the suitcase. You can’t imagine my face when I couldn’t find him. I was panicking because they had never done it before.
So yes, there were some scary moments but luckily I never had to run to the hospital or call for a doctor. Unless, we don’t count….
BUT this situation was actually funny at the end.
I don’t remember the day anymore but I was supposed to go for a regular check-up with a 4 year old girl. That morning she didn’t feel good, but the parents sent her to school anyway (she was a great actor) and when the school called me at lunch time to pick her up, I knew there was something wrong. She ate her lunch and puked, she had a belly ache so I called the doctor explained him the whole situation, told him I’m getting on a taxi and heading to him.
Of course I took a plastic bag, sat both of us in the taxi and we drove to the doctor. On the way she puked one more time. (Super happy I had a bag) but when the driver stopped and we got out of the car, Amalia turned to me (I guess she wanted to say she doesn’t feel good) and puked again on my shoes. When we go to the waiting room, the doctor opened the door and said: “ Sooooooo which of you two is sick?”
I was like: “Obviously I’m the nanny!” The Doctor looked at us (super strange) and said: “Well, looking at your shoes, it’s not that obvious to me…”
It might not sound funny right now, but just imagine the situation…
Now thinking of the two brothers, they are currently 5 and 3 and half. I take care of them for 3 years now and they looooove to ask random questions like : “Sara, how sick are you right now? Because you look so pale!” (this was a moment when I came once completely without make-up)
“Sara, why do you have another house if you can just live here with us?” (typical question on Friday night when I put them to bed and give them goodbye hug and kiss because when they wake up I won’t be there)
The funniest situation I remember with them was once this conversation…
Brothers: “Sara? How does a tiny baby come to this world?”
Me: “They come out of mum’s belly (it was enough for them to know hahaha)
Brothers: “Okay so, is there a baby in your belly?
Me: “Nooo, not yet.”
Brothers: “ Is it going to come just like that? Any time? It still has to grow right”
Me: “Yes, it has to grow, but I don’t have one in my belly yet.”
Brothers: “ Is the time not right?”
Me: “ Yes, I need to prepare for the baby, buy clothes, stroller, food.”
Brothers: “ We just borrow you everything, you can invite the baby to your belly!”
I was laughing so hard… Since then, they are asking me when is the right time to invite the baby to my belly J
What is Dutch kids’ usual schedule throughout the day- what are their eating and sleeping routines? Are they picky, noisy, loud, spoilt? We need some dirty details!!
I can’t really generalise, because every single kid I have babysat was different. But I took care most of the time of expats kids from let’s say..a better financial ground.
I personally think that they are spoiled, but all in a different way. Some of them have too many toys (like one room in the house is full of toys), iPads, phones, TV, PlayStation and all kinds of technologies, more of the material stuff. Other children get the chance to travel on holidays every 3 months. That is luxury for me. I would say they generally have lots of activities, which is of course also due to the fact that the parents can afford it and I think that is better for the kids. They are learning how to interact in groups, they can build some passion for these activities, they are busy the whole week. I would bring kids to all kind of activities like football clubs, riding horses, cooking and arts club, playing tennis or different games at school. And of course language courses like Dutch, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, German and French. They have tutors for mathematics, biology, physics or even English grammar. I have one family that has maybe 5 different instruments at home. Their children go to piano, cello, drums, guitar, ukulele…
It’s great to keep them busy, when they come home, they are maybe tired and moody but they have nice memories, friends in all of these clubs and as I mentioned, it helps them build a passion for certain activities and also interact! INTERACTING is very important. Children are like a sponge, they are soaking everything in. (their parents’ behaviour and the language at home, what they experience at kindergarten and so on…) It starts at a very young age. They have the ability to learn fast, the ability to adapt quicker and they build their habits.
They learn how to share toys, understand other children, show empathy, express emotions. I always advice parents to find clubs, activities, just don’t feel bad if your child doesn’t spend every single afternoon at home.
What was one of your favorite activities with the kids? What do you do on rainy days (which are the majority of the days here haha), how did you keep them entertained?
All the children I have had always had so many activities. After we got home, I only had to cook dinner or warm up their food, make them eat, do homework, or get ready for the other day. Sometimes read some good night story or they could watch cartoons on tv. That’s pretty much it. On non-school days, for example when I come in the weekend, I know plenty of games, outside games but also indoors. At the end, I worked in the kindergarten, so there is plenty of inspiration… creative crafting, games targeting the child’s patience, games for involving different parts of brain. There are plenty of games out there to teach the children to build up certain skills.
The difficult part is sometimes to make them stay interacted for longer time. There are children who can play one game with me the whole afternoon, but there are also children who are obsessed with constantly changing the rules, games, they want to do all kinds of activities at once. That’s what I would say makes me special as a nanny. I really take the time to study the child, to know what he or she loves to do and support it, what he or she doesn’t like and teach them that in life we can’t always do only things we like. I have never shouted at any children, I have never lost my patience and I was always talking, talking and talking. For example, I used to take care of a boy diagnosed with ADHD. Maybe you might now think, that it’s just like taking care of other children, but trust me I had to learn about his behaviour, his good and bad days, how to help him in certain situations and of course… He taught me a lot! Especially how to be absolutely patient and how to stay as calm as possible ALWAYS.
Describe what goes through a nany’s mind on a regular work day. The hidden thoughts that you cannot say out loud…
OMG the hidden thoughts, my head is the busiest when I am with the kids! To be honest what I can’t tell them really, in the way I would say to my own children is OFF. When they do something and the parents are like : oh that’s fine while I just want to say NO THIS IS SO WRONG THIS ISN’T HOW YOU RAISE KIDS OMG.
Like seriously. There are many situations when I have too much going on in my head and I can’t say it. Especially to the parents, more than to the children. It is not that I can’t say it, but you know, sometimes we aren’t honest to our own friends either.
Many times, we do not realize that children are our own copies. They do what they see us doing home, they act how they see us adults, and in this case parents’ home act.
They speak the language the parents do and they will treat others the way we (parents) show them. I had a father, he was divorced (his wife left to Australia) and anytime I would come, he would have his Bluetooth headphones on and calling with his work! (which was fine because I was coming usually in the afternoon, picked up his small daughter from kindergarten, came home, spend with her 2-3 hours and when he was finished around 19:00, he would let me go home)
Talking on the phone isn’t a problem! (You might think…) but he was just using tooooooooo many vulgar words. At least I believe it was enough for his daughter to learn some.
One afternoon he asked me to stay longer and heat up the food from the fridge (pasta from the day before) for his daughter for dinner. I called her: “ The dinner is ready, wash your hands and I’m waiting for you in the kitchen.”
She came to the kitchen and I was shocked by what she told me: “Are you fucking kidding me? Did you just cook my dinner?” She looked at the pasta and she added : “Oh suck my …, this is disgusting!”
Her father came to the kitchen and I just told him, the vocabulary isn’t from me. Good Luck with explaining why she shouldn’t be using them…
5th and 8th question
Women here have SOOO many kids… Like at least 2/3. How is this possible, how do they manage it – both logistically and financially? Why do they have so many kids? How much do Dutch mums still work after having children and how does the system help working mothers? Do you think it is easy for women in Holland to have kids?
I will talk about these two questions together as they are kind of aligned.
I don’t think having 2 children is a lot here. I would love to have even 4. Even if I adopt them, for me the idea of having a family, raising a future generation and giving someone the opportunity to have a decent life (because not all children might be lucky, to have a loving mother or father, maybe not having a house or enough money for school…) that is the most beautiful idea and my life would be complete if I have children and a happy family.
Personally I have never had a family with more than 3 children, unless I don’t count organized playdates, when parents bring their children to one of the houses, they leave for lunch or dinner and all the work is up to me. (yes I do get crazy from 6 kids together running around the house and yelling – hahaha)
From what I have seen, I had families where the mothers are working their carriers like crazy, their children go to daycare, school, afterschool activities, they have me. I had families where the mothers are home, just too rich to work. The thing here is that I think financially it is manageable to have even 3 children, if the parents have a decent job, I mean why not.
What the bigger difference is between the stay-at-home and working moms are for example the kids who are ‘forced’ to go to this school settings and are having less problems with socialising. This is purely my experience, but the stay-at-home stay moms (and here we talk about the moms who just don’t give a shit about working from home, or having a busy social schedule, these women simply don’t have/ don’t want to work) they just pick up their kids, bring them home, cook for them, do some homework and that’s it. (trust me I had mothers like this) Not much of ‘the afterschool activities’ or ‘spending time at the playground’ kind of afternoon. These children are more spoiled by the option of having their mama always there, and they are simply less independent. I had several families where the moms were working and you know, I didn’t have to tell their kids 60 times to go and wash your hands before dinner. The daycare taught them so much, share your toys, help you friend, don’t throw the food around, tie your shoes… there is this whole list of differences, between the children who have stay-at-home mom and the ones who were from the scratch put in some setting, because the moms simply want to or have to work. I don’t want to generalise, but I have luckily babysat enough families to see the huge difference, especially regarding the impact on the children.
Were you ever glad that the kids you were looking after are not yours? Like when they threw temper tantrums in supermarkets, would you go “Wait until I tell your mom!”?
I know some of the children for years, so I would describe the relationship more like best friends, siblings, but I have never felt like mother. I was never sad they weren’t mine, because I’m excited about being pregnant, giving birth and experiencing the love for my own children. This is what I also teach all my kiddos, that I’m their right hand, someone they can always come to, talk to and I will always hug them and be there for them, but I will never replace their parents. I’m a nanny to children who were babies (couple of months) when I met them and for them, it is sometimes hard to understand who I am and what I am doing there. Children have their own world, they see their parents, family and friends and suddenly there is also this girl, always playing with them, feeding them, taking care of me, being there a lot but she isn’t the mother.
You would be surprised but I had this question from couple of children already. “Who are you actually for me?”
After this experience, do you think you are more ready to have your own?
I’m so ready for my own children. Especially after taking care of so many kiddos that weren’t mine. I see all this “mistakes” I wouldn’t do while raising children. But we all have our ways, I’m not judging anyone, I don’t want to have a robot home but when I have my own kids, we will have rules, they will say thank you and please and be respectful to others.
It was an amazing lecture, parents have different “tactics”, some of them just go with the flow, others have strict rules and routines. When you get the chance to experience so many different cultures and households, there is no way you don’t know what you want from life as a mother. From this perspective, ‘being like a mother’. I think I understood what I am going to allow my children, what will be prohibited, more discussed topics, approaches to situations….
I have to laugh, please ask me in 2-3 years when I have my own children IF WHAT IM SAYING WILL BE HAPPENING IN REALITY.