Everything I Need To Know About Self-Care, I Learned From Being A Nanny

11 nanny-life necessities every adult should follow.

nanny reading to kids New Africa / Shutterstock

For parents and caregivers, the lesson of putting the oxygen mask on yourself first isn’t just a valuable tip for when the plane is going down; it’s vital for daily survival. By the time you realize you could use some air, it’s almost too late.

Here’s a good way to get a baseline to see if your self-care needs a tune-up:

What if, instead of the specific ways you parent your kids were replaced with the ways you care for yourself? Would you expect them to thrive?


RELATED: 5 Tips To Help You Develop A Solid Self-Care Plan

Having spent many years as a nanny- a really awesome one, I might add, I worked hard at refining my ability to do certain things like handle conflict, make the kids feel seen and heard, etc.

But when it comes down to it…

Everything I Know About Self-Care, I Learned From Being A Nanny

1. Emergency Snacks

Every nanny knows that it’s imperative to keep the children fed. A hangry child will not be cooperative, and frankly, that’s not even their fault.

It’s common for a diabetic to keep a juice box on hand in case of a blood-sugar drop, but anyone with a car or a purse should always have something on hand. It’s easy and it avoids getting thrown out of balance both chemically and emotionally.


Remember, the word “emergency” is debatable. My nanny kids utilized “emergency” snacks 3–4 days a week, because being picked up at 2:45 pm and having to wait seven minutes to get home is an emergency, and that’s okay.

2. One Project At A Time

One responsibility at my nanny job keeping things tidy. While I was encouraged not to do all the work myself, kids are not always helpful with keeping things orderly.

What always yielded the most success was doing one thing at a time.

RELATED: What Is Self-Care? 7 Ideas For How To Take Care Of Yourself Every Single Day

I understand the temptation to multitask your way through life, but I also have to call you out because you’re almost certainly not as good at multitasking as you think you are… Growing up in a chaotic home taught me that doing one thing at a time creates much more order than the alternative.


3. Sleep

At my last nanny job, I only had to handle a level 9 meltdown about twice a year. Every single one could be traced back to exhaustion.

Hopefully, as an adult, you can control your emotions enough not to throw a tantrum! But grown-ups are not that much different than kids. If you look closely at your friends and colleagues, I guarantee you a lot of unpleasant people would be nicer if they managed their rest better.

Sleep is an area most of us do not want to take responsibility for, but for most, positive change is possible! Little changes like shutting down electronic devices and leaving a social event at a reasonable hour can go a long way!

4. Hydration

If you have never had a four-year-old beg for water, you’re luckier than me; for some reason, a small mildly-thirsty child can give the impression that they’ve been walking through a desert all day.


You may not feel like desert-level dehydration is an issue you’ve been plagued with, but the small act of keeping yourself hydrated is actually a big deal! Someone who is dehydrated will think they’re hungry when they might just need water. Lack of hydration can cause headaches, and if any type of physical activity is taking place like a long walk or a team practice, not having a water bottle is a big problem.

5. Regular Meals

If you’re a grown-up, it’s your prerogative to have chips for dinner or a leftover cupcake for breakfast. But if my nanny parents came home at 8 pm after leaving their kids with me the whole day and they asked if the kids had dinner and I said, “No, but they had a snack,” I would not expect to keep my job. While every person might have different needs, eating regular meals at mostly-regular times is important for your health!

6. Have Fun Every Day

A healthy, balanced person finds a way to have fun every day.

Not all adults find the same things enjoyable. I have a lot of friends who enjoy hiking. For me, that’s torture.


It’s not practical to plan a trip to the theatre or a ball game, visit a club, or golf every single day. But yes, daily fun is vital and possible. “I don’t have time” is not a valid excuse- find 20 minutes for “recess” and see how your life transforms! While it’s ideal to have significant amounts of time to enjoy fun things, if I’m making mature choices I can make time to do 20 minutes of yoga, reading, or art on any given day.

7. Get A Hobby

Hobbies are important and there are two big reasons it’s important for kids to have at least one.

It’s great to learn how to become better at something over time. Having a hobby teaches you how to learn and grow
It’s important to have at least one activity that you truly enjoy

For an adult, there may be overlap in the sense that your only “hobby” sometimes becomes your work. If you’re getting the enjoyment factor, that’s fine, but if your big “hobby” was music and you’re lucky enough to have become Billie Eilish, it might be time to learn how to crochet as well. Hobbies are an important emotional outlet.


8. Friendship

Adults need playdates as much as kids. Did you ever have a season of your life when you just didn’t have a lot of friends and that had a major effect on you? Children and teens benefit from one on one time with peers, and adults are no different.

RELATED: Why Self-Care Is So Much More Than Nap Time & Bubble Bubbles

Yes, I know you’re busy. “Oh my gosh, I’m a mom- moms don’t have time for friends.” Well, it’s time to make time. This is one of the most neglected areas of life for many adults. If you have a spouse, they should NOT be the only one to have to bear the weight of every conversation they want or need to have.

Humans are social creatures and we process a lot of things by talking. Many adults also find therapy helpful, but regardless, friendship is not something that ends when you grow up and fill your life with obligations.


9. Exercise Should Be Fun!

My nanny kids attended ballet and jiu-jitsu class every week- can you imagine making little kids work out with dumbbells and a yoga mat? Most adults know it’s in their best interest to be active, so they drag themselves to the gym, even if they hate it.

But it’s not enough to get exercise, it’s important to get fun exercise. If you enjoy the treadmill or the bike, good on you, but if you really want to thrive, can we talk about how there are a thousand ways to be active and there’s probably something out there that you’d really enjoy?

Some things I really enjoy are hot yoga, kayaking, and dance classes. Some things I do to be sensible are workouts with dumbbells and taking walks. Finding at least one physical activity you enjoy can make a huge difference in your mental and physical health.


10. Have Healthy Daily Standards

Adults can so easily neglect their needs, and we all have different ideas about diets and nutrition, so it’s not about winning a contest. This specific foundation may not be your ideal, but as a sort of baseline, this is something I usually keep to with kids and it holds up for most adults as a bare minimum.

No matter what you’re serving, include a veggie with each meal, especially dinner. Make it one that you like- zucchini and carrots aren’t adding anything to your diet if they get fed to the dog or rot in your fridge before you cook them.

Enjoy the treats you love in moderation. You’re a grown up- if you want a cookie at 9 am, far be it for me to tell you otherwise. But look at the bigger picture and make your 1 pm snack an apple (or something healthy).

11. BE NICE — including to yourself

As a nanny, no matter what the priorities of the parents were, mine has always been to keep a pleasant and loving environment. I always expect and teach my nanny kids to be kind to others and themselves.


As an adult, any place I go, I expect the same, and I know it’s important to treat myself that way as well. No amount of self-care will help you enjoy a happy and harmonious life if you don’t make kindness a personal value.

Bonnie Sludikoff is an LA-based writer, performer, and activist. She founded That's What She Didn't Say, a campaign dedicated to creating healthy conversations about challenging subjects. You can follow her journey on Medium or Twitter.