As I begin writing this, I have a feeling this may be just the first of a series of posts detailing my life behind the pen.
I currently live in the Canadian mountain resort Whistler. It’s a friendly ski village, and whenever I end up on a chairlift with a stranger, and they realize that I live here, conversation inevitably turns to what I do for a living.
‘So do you work for the mountain then?’ is the typical question. Whistler is full of Brits and Aussies, all working for minimum wage in the name of Whistler Blackcomb.
I shake my head. ‘No, actually I nanny!’ I reply with a smile, knowing I’m actually paid a wage worthy of the work I’m doing!
‘So how do you find that?’ they ask. And fifteen minutes later we get to the end of the chair, and I begrudgingly finish talking.
The same thing happened just this morning. I work for a nanny agency, babysitting for different families on a daily basis, and so with every day comes a new story … and the past weekend was particularly eventful. As I finished my most recent tale of mirth and woe, ‘you should write a book!’ was the response I got from the Californian tourists sat at my side.
‘Well actually ….’
I’ve often thought about penning a form of ‘Nanny Diaries’. That movie with Scarlett Johannsen is pretty spot on … if not, in some places, actually rather tame! And don’t worry, I haven’t ruled out the possibility … I just figure maybe it’s time to share some of my nanny tales in a less disguised fashion!
This isn’t fiction. This is the life which funds my fiction! I’m an unpublished author, a penniless artist. And so I do a job which pays the bills, without stemming my creativity. A job where I can spend large amounts of time at my laptop while children sleep, and which doesn’t leave me too mentally drained at the end of the day to put pen to paper.
I am a nanny. A babysitter. A house elf.
One of the above, depending on the family I’m working for.
For the most part the families are lovely, but when you’ve worked for close to 300 different families in an elite ski resort, you’re always gonna come across some characters.
‘Risa’ was one of such characters.
I babysat for her on Saturday. After explaining that I have worked full-time as a nanny for the past year and a half, and reassuring her that 18 month-olds are one of the age-groups with which I have the most extensive experience, she kindly took me on a tour of her apartment to identify which of the toys were for the 18 month-old, and which were for her 6 year-old (who would be out at ski lessons). Building blocks for the 18 month old … crossword puzzle, not for the 18 month old. Check. Got it!
Forty-five minutes later, and Risa was finally happy to hand him over. As her adorable young son yelped ‘Dora’ and pointed at the television, she made it clear that he ‘never watches television’. Yeah right! I interpreted the code – don’t watch television whilst looking after my son. I smiled brightly, knowing how much fun is to watch a 1 year old play with building blocks in a silent room, and obliged.
Fifteen minutes later, I and the one year-old are happily playing building blocks to a soundtrack of Glee tunes, care of my computer’s iTunes, when the front door beeps.
Risa swoops in, and asks me several passive-aggressive questions about what I’m listening to, remarks how much she likes Glee, and then informs me that the song playing (Glee doing Justin Bieber) was not suitably educational for her one year-old. Did I have any Beatles? (I’m even rolling my eyes as I type that comment!)
The mother heads back out. Unlike most Whistler parents, I’m not babysitting her son so that she can go out and ski. In fact, I have no idea why I was babysitting her son, because another ten minutes later she returned, and declared she would do her work from home. Sitting regally at the apartment table, she gave me a look to suggest I would no longer be playing Glee, or the Beatles, any more. ‘Shall I take him out for a walk?’ I suggested, desperately wanting to leave her eagle-like grip.
‘No, don’t. I love to hear and watch him playing while I work!’ she exclaimed. To which my response really ought to have been, ‘So why do you need me here?’ But I knew what her real answer was. ‘No don’t. I love to watch and judge you while I work!’ She may as well have grimaced.
I sat for an hour and a half at the woman’s feet, desperately trying to entertain a one-year old, who had zero interest in what I was doing!
At midday, I finally looked up from the floor.
‘What time does he normally take a nap?’ I asked gingerly, my throat sore from play-acting. (Children of one don’t normally need to be played ‘with’, in so much as you normally watch them play, and give them big smiles when they try to hand you something. Occasionally I might sing, or count aloud … however I realized this wasn’t what Risa was expecting me to do whilst playing at her feet, and so I had spent an hour and a half narrating play time to her unimpressed ears.)
‘Oh he doesn’t nap! He’s far too advanced!’ Came the reply.
Half an hour later when I put him in a stroller to finally escape on a walk outside, he fell straight asleep and remained that way for the rest of my shift!
Oh the life of the ‘starving artist’ !!