The Perks of Being a Babysitter

My cosmic twin has just posted something about her niece so I remember this article which has been sitting on my draft section for months. I’ve been nannying for almost 2 years now, hence the interest.

As an Anglophone looking for work in France with a French vocabulary consisting of around 400 words only, I considered babysitting as my best chance to save myself from being dependent. I have always in mind what Jean Jacques Rousseau has said in his Confessions which goes this way:

“As long as my purse contains money it secures my independence, and exempts me from the trouble of seeking other money, a trouble of which I have always had a perfect horror; and the dread of seeing the end of my independence, makes me proportionately unwilling to part with my money. The money that we possess is the instrument of liberty, that which we lack and strive to obtain is the instrument of slavery.” (I am trying to look a bit intellectual here so just ride on. His story interests me.)  

 Going back to the nanny thing, I became one officially after 2 weeks of hunting and 2 interviews. One lucky gurl. The kids are bilingual and their place was just a 5-min walk from mine. Then again, I’ve asked myself if I could do this. I did babysit my nephew when he was 1-2 years old while I was studying law. I was reading out loud law provisions to his delight. He loved listening to me and I’m not exaggerating.  

Enough for my 5-paragraph introduction and let’s go to the meat of this article. I am a bla-bla. I’m quite in the mood after hearing someone did a cool rap that I could relate to.

Here are some of the perks (not ranked):

Perk 1: Learn French and Make Friends

                                                                 Life at the park

            Its schedule is perfect if you are planning to take intensive French language classes during the day. Nannying usually starts at 16:30 when the school day ends because that’s the time that you will pick the kids up. Two hours a day is fine. Anyway, you can earn more during Wednesdays when the classes are only half-day and you’ll be taking care of them the whole afternoon. With only 1 hour of screen time, prepare to be the entertainer. The point is, you can do many things during the day.

            You’ll make a lot friends at the park. Parents and nannies of other kids. I met a girl from England and we became classmates and good friends. Then, I have to speak French a lot.

Perk 2: My bosses are artists
The family I worked with is cool. The mom is a film director and the dad is a musician/producer who has collaborated with Kelis, Kid Cudi and Imogen Heap and others.  I am a frustrated musician and so is my family in the Philippines by the way. En plus, my sister is a fan of Imogen Heap and we listened to Frou Frou back then too. Working for artists and being 2 degrees closer to the artists we listened to is a perk for us.

Old railroad at the 12eme Arrondissement
This is the first and only time that I brought their bag. We were moving from one side of the railway to the other so I picked their bags. I’m not their donkey and they know that.

Perk 4: Improved Negotiation Skills

When you are taking the bus with a 7-year old boy and a 3-year old girl, who are fighting over who’s gonna sit by the window with one of them crying and shouting to the annoyance of other passengers, you gotta do something aside from praying one Our Father and 2 Hail Marys. As the nanny, all eyes were on me, waiting for me to make the move.

Then there’s the Eureka! I counted the number of stations and divided it by 2. I was like, “Hey, this is not how it’s supposed to be. We’re gonna do this my way. There are 10 stations, first 5 stations you, Lulu, and you are gonna sit by the window since you’re there already. You boy, the next 5 stations.” I heard 2 reluctant OKs. I felt like I was Sandra Bullock in Speed. The monsieur beside us told me “bravo”. Everybody was on the verge of clapping their hands. And me the hero! I prefer “hero” because heroine is so drug-sounding.

The Parc floral de Paris located within the Bois de Vincennes in the 12th arrondissement of Paris.
The Parc floral de Paris located within the Bois de Vincennes in the 12th arrondissement of Paris.

Perk 5: Alertness boosted

            The kids I babysit know already the rules like when crossing the street, no playing with matches and sharp objects. I was quite ashamed when we were building some cardboard volcanoes. My two hands were loaded so I asked the then 5 year old boy to cut something with the scissors. He told me, “Uh-oh, I’m not allowed to hold the scissors…”

            However, they are still kids no matter how disciplined they are. I really have to be alert because there are two of them running in different directions at the park. Nannying has really enhanced my peripheral vision processing.

Perk 6: Can develop your storytelling skills

            Kids love storytelling. And if they have heard all the stories in their books at home, they would want to hear made-up stories as they called it. First two stories, it’s alright. After that, it will be quite draining. I ended up narrating the alamat ng pinya (legend of the pineapple) which explains why this fruit has several eyes. I’ve recounted also the race of the turtle and the monkey. Then, the story about the kabaw (water buffalo) and the cow and why the former has a tighter skin than the latter. And a lot more stories that I could no longer count.

 The best story however was about the importance of sleeping on time. It made me think of joining those impromptu story telling contests. My story was about a little girl named Dolly who doesn’t want to sleep. And of course, there’s always a fairy involved in my stories. It’s easier that way. After that, they said they will take care of their brain cells because I may have mentioned a lot of brain cells in there.

The Parc floral de Paris located within the Bois de Vincennes in the 12th arrondissement of Paris.
                                                      At the Parc floral de Paris 

Perk 7: The best way to understand the French people

      Filipinos are quite spontaneous. We’re not big fans of planning something several months ahead except weddings. We always leave a window open for any changes at the last minute. Well, now, it has changed a bit because of cheap flight promotions.

      So when I’ve interacted with French people, well, I’m married to one, this thing is always a hot topic. My spontaneity is annoying my spouse and his over- organization is annoying me. The D-day usually turns out smooth, but the planning was the stressful one. And there is no more room for surprises, good or bad.

Thanks to my babysitting career.  I’ve understand why they “planifient trop”. It is just through my reference frames though. No studies as basis. I’ve observed that as early as 3 years old, they are already sticking to the routine. Like at 4 pm is the snacks. After dinner is the pajama, followed by brushing of teeth, and then books before sleeping. There were times that I stayed with them until bedtime. The kids were the ones telling me the sequence.

There are also factors like the weather, the season and the schedule of holidays. In July and August, almost everyone goes on vacation, so they must really reserve the necessary elements, otherwise, it’s gonna cost them a lot more or they would have to abandon the plan by reason of unavailability.

Perk 8: Freebies to museums, cinemas and amusement places

Then there’s the school vacation. It’s the time to go to the cinema, museums and other amusement places. I’ve been to a lot of places that I could make a list of interesting places for kids. Of course, parents will take care of your part. And Paris is a very expensive place. 

At Cité des sciences et de l’industrie, La Villette, Paris
                                            At Cité des sciences et de l’industrie, La Villette, Paris



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