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ON THE JOB

Nanny enjoys being part of the family

Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe

Karina McCarthy is a nanny for 2-year-old Micah Feldman. She says the job involves a long-term commitment to children’s development.

As a nanny, Karina McCarthy doesn’t have horror stories about dysfunctional families. But she does have her own tale of angst.

Once she accidentally locked a baby in the car after throwing her keys onto the seat, shutting the door, and having the car automatically lock. She called 911, as well as the baby’s mother, who, on arriving, rushed to comfort McCarthy, who was more distraught than the infant.

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“Needless to say, now I am very careful with my keys,’’ said McCarthy.

McCarthy, 22, of Providence, takes pride in her job, which she says is much more than being a baby sitter. It requires long-term commitment, as well as a role in the child’s social, emotional, and intellectual development, from potty training to language. “The best part of being a nanny,’’ McCarthy said, “is that you’re not an employee but part of a family’s life.’’

You went to school for occupational therapy, but then changed to early childhood development. Why?

Sometimes the best therapy is just knowing about children and working with them one-on-one. For example, I cared for a 2-year-old who had a speech and language delay. So I taught myself the basics of sign language and then helped him learn words like “eat,’’ “milk,’’ and “all done.’’ “Help’’ was an important sign that he often used.

You are an overnight infant care specialist. What is that?

I go into a family’s home from 9 or 10 at night until the early morning to help so sleep-deprived parents can rest. I stay in the baby’s room, feed or bring the baby to the mother, burp them, change diapers, and settle the baby back down.

What’s your own take on child rearing?

I have a naturalist philosophy; I try not to force children to do things they aren’t ready for. I believe in respecting infants and responding immediately to their needs. Nevertheless, a parent’s philosophy will always take precedence over mine.

How do you discipline kids?

If a child is whacking another kid with a block, you can’t reason with them, but instead set clear limits and expectations - “I won’t allow you to do that.’’ Discipline depends on the child and situation.

Do you keep in touch with other nannies?

I just had a nanny dinner - seven of us. Nannies don’t have co-workers to grumble about their day to, so these connections help. I also have playdates with my nanny friends.

Do you plan to have your own kids some day?

Honestly, I don’t know. I think it’s a struggle to raise children the way I want in this modern-day society.

Globe correspondent Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com
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