As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.
This is Jada Rashawn's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
I am a black nanny for an affluent and well-known white family. As in, "signed-an-NDA-and-can't-discuss-them", well-known and affluent.
And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Admittedly, I never knew I would end up here. My first business was actually at the age of 9, back in Detroit, braiding the kids', and even some of the moms', hair in the neighborhood. For a while, everyone thought I was going to be a hairstylist, or a journalist because my mom said I talked a lot and I used to pretend I had my own television show. I thought I was Oprah, y'all!
We relocated to San Antonio when I was twelve, which is when I began helping my mom in the children's department at our church. We were that family HEAVILY involved in the church we attended, so most of the friends I made were friends from there.
Anyway, I didn't think anything of it at the time other than I was getting to sneak away from the long service my pastor preached, but watching my mom and how animated she was with the kids, really started planting the seed of caring for children in my head. She made it fun for the kids, and for herself. I ignored this path for a bit though because like so many of us, I was multi-passionate at an early age, and I never wanted to be boxed in. I loved doing hair, speaking, dancing, acting and even drawing. I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to do as I got older for that very reason.
I graduated high school, and enrolled in college for small business management, with a concentration in entrepreneurship. Soon, the childcare thing started to stick when I got my first job working at a day school while in college. I had a coworker who was offered a nanny position from one of the parents of the children in our class, and I'll never forget the way they presented the job opportunity to her. They pulled her to the side, and their body language just gave off the idea that they were about to offer her something big. And they did. Sis put in her two weeks' notice at work to become a private nanny. I was like, "Private nanny? The heck is that?" Only nanny I'd heard of was Nanny Fran.
So, I started doing my research on exactly what the nanny profession was all about, and I discovered this entire world. Nannies working for rich people, traveling all over the world and getting paid to play with their most prized possessions for a living.
Sounded easy, fun, and a bit exclusive too. I liked what I was seeing, and of course, I completely failed to acknowledge the actual work and not-so-glamorous side to the industry (but that's what we tend to do when we're just excited about something). I began to freelance as a babysitter for various families, and then slowly built up my experience to work with an agency where the big jobs worth "bragging" about were.
And eventually, I worked my way up to where I am now, a Nanny/Family Household Manager, which is a fancy way of saying I work very closely with the parents and the role requires me to make a ton of decisions on their behalf.
Do I love it? Abbbbbsolutely. And here's why:
OK, so there are many unspoken, frustrating misconceptions about black nannies...and rightfully so. Some people wonder why black women even want to work as nannies, especially for white families. There's been times where I've personally experienced racial encounters where once, while walking in a bourgeois neighborhood, I was surrounded by not 1, not 2, but FOUR police tahoes while walking my nanny kiddo—all because "I fit the definition of a suspicious pregnant woman walking with a stroller." #eyeroll (the nerve, I was not pregnant).
There's been times where I've been "promoted", but shortly afterward, I noticed a pay cut. Yes, you read that right.
And additionally, many assume that we aren't treated or compensated fairly, and to be honest with you, it's very true that tons of nannies get taken advantage of. But in my experience, that has been with both black and non-black nannies, due to not knowing how to advocate for themselves.
These are all experiences that I've had, lessons that I've learned, and now, information that I'll gladly share. And aside from loving my families and kids, these have all contributed to my passion of advancing the trade.
But Jada, don't you know that many white families prefer black nannies because of long-standing, racially-motivated traditions?
Yes, I know this, yes, I sense this. Movies such as The Help and Gone With the Wind often come to mind whenever a black person says they're a nanny (meanwhile….Mary Poppins flying in on an umbrella often come to mind for non-black nannies). Chile. Listen, for some, hiring a black nanny is simply their way of introducing culture to their children. They like the idea of a black woman caring for their children, for a number of reasons, yes, but also because we can have the conversation about race if it ever comes up. They know this rich life oftentimes creates a false reality of what the real world is like for everyday individuals, and in some way to them hiring a nanny who doesn't look like them is there way of introducing/exposing their children to that.
Make no mistake about it, I always tell potential employers, as well as clients, I'm not here to be someone's black history teacher.
I'm here to do a job and while those conversations will come up out of the curiosity of the child, their black nanny shouldn't be their only way of exposure to cultures and races different from them. Besides, I've had the opportunity to work for black families, white families, Native American families, as well as Asian families—same thing. Fortunately, the families I've worked for totally get that and the kids I've helped raise have a huge respect and appreciation for everyone of every background. So, my job is done there.
Over time, my job has afforded me so much abundance, which is all I could ever ask for. All of my experiences make up for the most rewarding, fulfilling career imaginable, and the good news is becoming a nanny is pretty simple once you have a good amount of experience—just two years will get you a position with decent pay and benefits. But as the industry continues to grow, the more experience and qualifications you have helps you immensely. Families want the best of the best for their children, so arrive packaged, and ready to work.
There's a few different routes you can take to land a position, which all have their pros and cons. You can go through a referral/friend, apply to various agencies, or even join an online website (much like a dating site) that allows you to create a profile and families to find and hire you directly. If you are just starting out with little to no experience, you'll want to take advantage of sitter sites and referrals to help establish you and build up your resume to prove you know how to care for and keep a child happy—and most importantly—alive (haha). I always recommend linking up with a really good agent. There weren't many agents in my area at the time early on in my career, and the ones I worked with got me fairly decent positions in the beginning, but they lacked advocacy and support for the nanny, so I created No Other Nanny, where I educate families on market rates, fair pay, etc. I introduce the information that is mostly discovered once you're in the industry. And what has taken me years and years to learn.
Ultimately, ladies, if you are interested in becoming a nanny, do iiiiit, sis. If you love children, and love working with them, I would highly recommend doing further research on this industry. Or let's have coffee and chat about it. #Nannylife can truly be a dope life when you discover how diverse it's become. I love it and thoroughly enjoy taking part in helping take it to the next level.
One precious, beautiful, loving, and amazing child at a time.
Jada is currently working on continuing to building her business and educate aspiring nannies all over the country. Follow her on Instagram @jadarashawn to keep up with her latest projects.
Feature image courtesy of Jada Rashawn