No matter what we do, what we do matters.
Meet Emily Watson. If you are a parent, you know that exquisite agony of trying to find the right person to raise your kids while you are at work during the day. I have met and interacted with a lot people in childcare over the years, and none have stood out more than the exceptional Emily Watson, who has been a devoted nanny to my friend’s children on our block. Now a Mom herself, Emily’s role has been to care for Hayden, 9 Wyatt, 7 and Emily, 4 who has Down Syndrome. Not only does Emily ensure that the kids are safe, fed, and where they need to be, but she infuses their day with fun, positivity and magic, all the while making sure that they are minding their manners and doing the right thing.
G: How did you know that you wanted to be a nanny?
E: I went to a small Christian college, and thought I was going to get a Missions degree. The first summer there, I was a counselor at a Christian summer camp and just fell in love with working with those kids. I found out that my college offered a camp ministry degree and was thrilled. But then I met my husband when we were really young, and it became clear early on that with both the compensation and being away at camp that marriage and that job were going to be complicated. So I finished my degree and we got married. My husband had to move to Chicago for school for one year, or so we thought it would be at the time. I just decided for that interim year that I would be a nanny while Caleb finished school. I had been a nanny before and thought this would just be for a year until we moved back home to Ohio. I found the job online, had a phone interview, and we clicked so quickly that I was offered the job and accepted before we had even met. I just knew the first time I met them that it was going to be great. We were only supposed to be here one year, but I loved my job so much that I stayed with this family for five years.
G: So when you started, Hayden was four, Wyatt was two, and Emily wasn’t even born yet. Five years later, they now have three kids, one with Down Syndrome who has special needs. Six months into the job you found out that Emily was coming along, and this family was really going to need you even more.
E: I was so excited to find out they were having another baby. At the time I thought I would help them out for about six months after Emily was born and then we would make our move back home to Ohio. But then when we found out that Emily had Down Syndrome. Then she was born prematurely and I kind of felt like I was in the trenches with them. And I knew I couldn’t leave this family. So Caleb and I had a long conversation to try to figure out how to stay in Chicago longer. I wanted to be here. So we figured it out so that we could stay here and I could do what I loved. Every year I kept saying that we might move, and then every year I just felt like I couldn’t leave them. I wasn’t ready. So now five years later here we are.
G: So have you been surprised at how attached you have become to the kids and the family?
E: I knew I was going to love them. I love all kids. But I was shocked that I love them as fully as I do. Even in the first couple of months, I just knew I loved them all so much. Once things happened with Emily, I was all on-deck. When I met Emily, I knew that my heart belonged to this family.
G: They were so lucky to have you during that time. When you found out that Emily was going to be born with special needs and would require different care or more appointments and things did that make you nervous?
E: No. In looking back, I probably should have been! But I loved her so much that I couldn’t wait to help her grow, and I was so excited to get to be a part of her journey. From the moment that they found out, I watched them balance it all and figure it out. I just knew that her story was going to impact not just the family, and me, but that she was going to make a difference to people. That her life was going to impact others, and I wanted to be a part of it. So I was fine with the therapy and appointments and all of that. It was just figuring it all out to help her grow. I learned so much through it all too. I now see the special gifts and love and pure joy that should be celebrated with these kids, and not feared. Every time she would progress the littlest bit, I was excited and proud to be a part of it.
G: Yes, you have been such a big part of Emily’s growth, and have ownership too in her successes. You are really raising these kids during the day, and it is such a special gift for parents when they find someone like you. You are parenting them. You are invaluable to that family because of your attitude about this responsibility.
E: Yeah, it wouldn’t work if all parties weren’t on the same page about that. And I help out in other ways too. Helping out with cooking and cleaning. I do some laundry. And now I am trying to get the boys to take ownership in helping out and doing their own chores. We do homework, dishes, pack lunches. I kind of do it all.
G: That is such a gift to parents. And now you are a parent! Baby Theo has come along this year, and he comes to work with you every day. It’s a lot right? What gets you through being a new Mom and then coming to work and being a “Mom” at work? What inspires you or motivates you?
E: Oh I have those days! And I tease the kids on some days and remind them that it’s a good thing that I love them! But then they grab my face and say something sweet and they fill my love tank for like a year. So it’s moments like that that get me through.
G: How has your perspective on what you do changed now that you have become a parent?
E: At first I thought I would struggle to love more than I was already loving on these kids. It was funny and cool to learn and realize how much deeper I could love when my own child was born. And then my perspective changed on how much they as parents love their kids in order to be able to work and provide the life they want for their kids. They trust me to be able to take care of their kids while they are at work all day. They are amazing. I never saw it that way. I now see that they are doing all that they do FOR their kids. Because they love them so much.
G:That’s why what you are doing is such an unbelievable gift. It’s invaluable to find someone you know is on the same page, and that the kids are safe and well taken care of.
E: Yeah I realize now how impossible it is for parents to be gone at work without having that. It just doesn’t work. And seeing how much, especially the younger kids, have grown, it’s been a gift to me too. I have so much joy sharing their successes. I never thought I would be a nanny for long. It’s been the most rewarding and fulfilling job. I couldn’t have imagined it.