The summer after Logan resident Chelsey Gensel’s freshman year at Utah State University, she began feeling bored and restless. She wanted to see the world and have an adventure — but she needed to save some money for school too.
That’s when Gensel first thought she might like being a nanny.
“I got the idea in my head, and I couldn’t get it out,” she said.
The idea led her to begin nannying a few months later in Pennsylvania. Since then she’s also worked as a nanny in Logan and in New York, where she is now.
Amanda Sampson, another Logan resident, began working as a nanny at age 19 for similar reasons. That was in 1998, and she finished her last job just a few days ago. Being a nanny allowed Sampson to travel and experience life in several states on both the East and West coasts.
Gensel and Sampson have both worked as live-in and live-out nannies. While she worked in Logan, Gensel was employed by Sarah Kerley-Weeks, and provided the Weeks family with 17 hours of childcare each week in exchange for room and board.
Kerley-Weeks described the situation as ideal.
“It’s lovely to be able to go out on a date night, to a meeting, or just read a book, and know someone is taking care of my kids,” she said. In all, Kerley-Weeks has employed four different nannies, usually college students.
The most important, and perhaps most worrisome aspect of employing a nanny, Kerley-Weeks said, is choosing the right one. Kerley-Weeks said she often looks for someone who can offer her children something extra: dancing lessons for her daughter, for instance, or the ability to teach the kids another language.
When it comes down to it though, she said, the most important thing is that the nanny has a similar temperament and “just fits.”
Choosing an employer is equally important for a nanny. Gensel suggested finding a family situation that works for you, with hours you can agree on and clear expectations for the job requirements and privacy. Sampson said she always used an agency to help get a job. Families seeking to employ a nanny are vetted through the agency, so the nanny can be reasonably sure they aren’t getting into a bad situation.
Still, Sampson said, she’s had bad jobs. The key to avoiding them is to “ask all the questions,” and be bold about discussing everything from compensation to vacation time.
People who’ve never had real-life experiences can have very skewed perspectives about nannies, Sampson said.
“A lot of things have changed since ‘The Help,’” she said.
In real life, she asserts, the divorced father rarely falls madly in love with the nanny either, and nannies shouldn’t hold up Mary Poppins as a standard for performance. Nannying is a lot of fun, she said, but even when the nanny travels with the family, their sphere of responsibility will be largely child-related.
A great nanny is set apart from a mediocre nanny, Sampson said, by their love of children.
“Being a nanny is really rewarding,” she said, “but it is a lot of work. If you don’t really enjoy kids, you’re not going to like being a nanny.”
Gensel said that people tend to have a misconception that families with nannies are extremely well off financially, and often spend very little time and energy on their family, but this usually isn’t the case.
“There are all kinds of families and all kinds of jobs,” she said. “Mostly they are regular, average people who have resources to hire help. They’re always grateful and don’t take it for granted.”
One stereotype that seems to hold true, however, is that employers prefer to hire nannies from Utah. Sampson said this is because they assume the women in Utah have child care experience from growing up in large families, and are less likely to be partiers or bring home overnight guests.
“They feel like you’re going to be responsible, and you’re probably an upstanding citizen,” she said.
Sampson and Gensel both said their favorite part of their jobs was the feeling they got when they taught the children they worked with and were able to witness their growth and development. Their experiences nannying have had profound impacts on their lives.
Gensel, who was working toward a degree in journalism at USU, has since decided she might like to go back to school to study child psychology. Sampson, now a mother of three, said her experiences nannying exposed her to many different parenting and discipline styles that she’s been able to implement. She’s been able to see what works and what doesn’t, and picked up a few great Mom tips along the way.
“I learned that toothpaste gets stuff off of walls,” she said, laughing.
This article has been updated to correct the surname of Amanda Sampson. She was mistakenly referred to by her maiden name, Gibson, in an earlier version.