Written by Ashley Daniel
Ashley is the Co-Founder of Sweet Pea Connect. Ashley worked as a special needs nanny for two years in the Chicagoland area. You can read more about her on the "Home" page of this website.
My path to becoming a nanny was very much situational. I’d love to say this was something I always had an interest in doing but it really wasn’t. My first year out of undergrad I decided to make a 180 degree turn from a data researcher (my initial career choice) to a preschool teacher at a special needs school (something I had no prior experience with). Although I was initially shocked anyone would let me near a group of 2 year olds with minimal training, I quickly grew to love my kids and class. This love was unfortunately overshadowed by the frustration I felt passing along my class to a new teacher at the end of the school year. I wondered why I was trying so hard to form connections with these kids when in nine months I would have to start all over again. I grew to hate my job and was jealous of the nannies who seemed to be an integral part of the child’s life while having all this free time during school hours to do what they pleased.
I decided to give up the stress in the classroom to pursue this “cozy job.” I figured since I had the special needs experience in the classroom I might have a better chance of getting a special needs nanny position. My hypothesis was correct and after reaching out to several nanny agencies in the Chicagoland area, I received an interview with one focused on special needs nanny placement. Before I knew it, I was in a house in the suburbs talking with a family who had a little girl with a rare disorder. Although I knew nothing about the disorder and was terrified I would scar her forever with one mistake, the family saw something in me and trusted her life in my hands while they were at work.
It. Was. So. Difficult. I never knew how tricky it would be to not only ensure the well being of a child, but also keep her interested. After a few rocky weeks, we finally started to bond. At that point everything clicked and it just made sense that my priority in life was her health and well-being. This meant that when she had a crummy day, my attitude plummeted. If she had a fantastic day my heart filled to the brim. I became one of her biggest advocates. If a situation occurred at school, at one of her therapies, or out in the community that left a bad taste in my mouth I tried to diffuse the situation in the moment and then relayed the information to her family as soon as possible.
This confidence took time to form though. My first six months with the little girl I second guessed a lot of my actions. I felt the need to remain in constant contact the parents simply because I didn’t want to mess up. After six months my confidence skyrocketed and I knew my decisions were, for the most part, beneficial to her wellbeing. This didn’t mean all of our days were sunshine and rainbows. We had many difficult days. There were days I had to walk away for a few minutes because I was so fed up with her tantrums. But we also had phenomenal days, days where I realized how much she’d grown in the time I’d been working with her. Days where she’d come give me a kiss or do something silly to try to get me to laugh. Those days kept me coming every day for two years.
Truthfully my bond with her was so strong that I would’ve kept working with her for the rest of my life if I didn’t feel a need to do more with the community at large. I want other children like her to feel the love I know she felt from me. This is the main driving force behind the creation of Sweet Pea Connect. Every child deserves to have strong advocates and people who love them unconditionally. We hope to continue making positive impacts in our community by placing nannies who are able to do this with our amazing families.