Thursday, September 10, 2009

Last Days of Summer

As you probably have guessed, the fact that you haven't heard from me in a long time means that I have been busy.

In the last month I have been to Indianapolis, Ohio, Northern Michigan, I have gotten certified in CPR and First Aid, I have finally gotten my American drivers license and most importantly - I found a job.

I am now a nanny. Maybe that's not something you expected but it works really well for me, especially since I only work two days a week (I am still hoping to get another job for one or two more days).
I started working as the nanny of a beautiful, well-behaved almost 3 year old little red headed girl three weeks ago and so far I enjoyed it more than any other job I have ever had (granted I haven't actually had a lot of jobs that I enjoyed).
It is amazing what having a job does to you. I am way more organized, motivated and I got more done in my Photography studies in these last three weeks than I have in the whole year before. I tell you guys - having a reason to get up in the morning completely changes your life!

I have been in the US for almost 11 month now and I finally feel integrated. I finally feel like this is my home. 

The decision to become a nanny didn't come naturally for me. In fact, when we first moved to the US a few friends asked us, I think jokingly, if I wanted to be their nanny since I used to be an AuPair 8 years ago. It was my first job in the Netherlands and I have to be honest with you - while I had a great time not having to worry about housing and food and I got to spend a lot of time hanging out with other AuPairs (I met some of my best friends that way) I didn't really enjoy it. I guess I kind of didn't like children that much and what I liked even less was working for families - in particular Dutch families who are famous for always feeling like they are paying you too much when really, they are paying you less than the minimum. 

But I grew up and I changed and I started liking children which was more surprising to me than anything. I still don't like ALL children but I like most children and I LOVE the little girl I am taking care off. If I could adopt her, I would. I like her that much. I hope the parents don't read this. I don't want them to think I want to steal their child. 

Anyway - when our friends (jokingly?) asked me if I'd be interested at all to be their nanny, I said "No, no way". I still don't think I would want to be a (paid) babysitter for friends (babysitting as an auntie is a different story), it would be awkward to get paid by your friends and it would be equally unpleasant to give or receive negative feedback. Well, maybe that would work for some people but I wouldn't like it. 

Also - I have to say - in Europe going from being a manager to being a nanny is something very embarrassing. In America this is much less of an issue since having no work usually means having no income. That's why you have people with PHDs working at Mac Donald's right now. In Europe you can usually afford to be unemployed for six month or a year because the government gives you enough money to comfortably live on which gives you enough time to keep looking for a job you really want. When I first moved here I just couldn't possibly imagine going back to something I did when I first started working. It would be like climbing down the career ladder.

So, why did I decide to become a nanny? Well, when I was having trouble finding a job, I made a list of things I want in a job. And nannying turned out to tick all the boxes.
Things I am looking for in a job:

*No drama
In my previous job I was managing six women. Three of these women were older than me. It was constant drama. There was always something going on: bitching, back stabbing, gossiping, people not doing their job, other people overdoing it with their job and being angry at people who didn't do their job ...
I was in this managing position for one year and I decided that this is not for me. Even when I wasn't the team leader there was constant drama. I had mild anxiety attacks and insomnia. I started knitting every evening for an hour to get my mind of all the drama. It worked. The winter of 2007/2008 I made four scarves.

*No customer service
After being an AuPair my first job was working for a telephone company as a call center agent. In the beginning I liked it, as crazy as it sounds but I like talking to people, I like solving problems and I am actually quite good at calming people down. Well, after six month I had had enough of being yelled at all day. Still, I stayed in the business of customer service and complaint handling for six years. The last three years I was working with stores though, which is a little more professional than talking to people who call in to complain that their phone bill is 2 cents more than last months, when really, they didn't call any more than the previous month!
Unfortunately I was working for a clothing manufacturer, providing to individual stores and I didn't know that at the time I started but people who work in Fashion are not necessarily the most reasonable crowd. 
I don't think a lot of people can stand working in customer service for six years, so I definitely have had it. I was overdue. Never again.

*Earning at least $10 an hour
You wouldn't believe it but most office jobs I looked at wanted to pay $8/hour! I used to earn a lot more. I am OK with not earning nearly as much as I used to but I am not OK with earning $5/hour after tax. Being a nanny pays more than these office jobs. It doesn't come with any benefits unfortunately (I does though if you are a full time nanny) but I heard that most part-time jobs in the US don't come with benefits. Oh and I will be paying tax on my earnings, in case you were wondering. I am a good immigrant. 

*No sitting around in an office all day
I really wanted a job I could be a bit active in. A few of my choices were mail woman (but you earn very, very little and you have to wear ugly, uncomfortable uniforms), bike courier (I had been thinking about this a lot but I am just too slow on my bike, especially compared to the crazy cyclists here) and dog walker/cat sitter (this was my number one contender until our cat sitter gave me six forms to sign, afraid I would sue her if something happened to one of the cats while we are gone - too much trouble, also you only earn about $8 per walk). As a nanny I get to be a bit active - we go for walks, we run around the apartment, playing tag - there is always something going on.

It turned out nannying full-filled all of these requirements - plus - when the girl naps and once I have done a bit of cleaning up - I get to study for an hour or two which is how I got so much studying done these past few weeks.
Luckily I realized that having a job you enjoy is much more important than the status a job comes with. 
I am probably not going to be a nanny for the rest of my life but until I finish my studies and until I am starting to get some business in as a photographer, I will be doing this. 
Because I chose to.