On nearly every nanny job interview, I’ve been asked how I feel about “light housekeeping.” And my reaction is always the same.
When I am a member in the space, caring for it becomes partly my responsibility. So while I won’t clean up after the child—if he dumps out a box of Legos then that’s his responsibility to pick them up—I have no problem keeping things organized and clean as part of a team, which includes the child. If we played with the Legos together, then I definitely would help clean them up but would expect him to help as well. When I do that, I model behavior I want the child to replicate, we experience how working together makes completing tasks easier and faster, and the child comes to understand expectations and his responsibilities.
As somebody who has taken the time to hone his craft of working with children, I feel disrespected if a parent asks me to perform the functions of a butler or a housekeeper. Everything I do leads back to the child developing skills or understanding reality. So if I serve him a snack he could have gotten himself or I clean up his messes, I’m missing opportunities to help him mature.
After working hard to inform the twin boys I worked with that my function was not to serve them, they became more self-sufficient. They got their own snack, set their place at the table, and cleaned up after themselves. After dinner, we worked as a highly efficient team to clean up, switching roles from night to night (sink duty, dryer, and miscellaneous, usually called “missa”).
Since they knew I was just “Mikey” and not the do-stuff-for-them fairy, our relationship shifted. Thing 1 would go to grab some cashews and ask me if I wanted some. Sometimes, I’d say, “I’m going to the kitchen, can I grab you something?” Or Thing 2 would help me clean up a mess I made. We were simply friends so we’d help each other out from time to time. That’s caring without dependence.