Monday Moxie: Yearbook Editor to Psychology to Nanny With A 10 Year Old Newsletter!
by Alice Shaffer
I have known Stephanie Felzenberg of Be The Best Nanny Newsletter for the past 10 years. I was excited when she agreed to have a little interview with me so I can share with you all the person behind the Be The Best Nanny Newsletter. Not only is she a professional nanny she has several hidden jobs in her past that I was aware of. I hope you enjoy getting to know Stephanie better and an appreciation for her love of editing and nannying over the past years to give the nanny industry Be The Best Nanny Newsletter.
1. How long have you been a nanny?
I started my first nanny job in 1993. I have nearly 17-years nanny experience.
2. Have you always wanted to be a nanny?
No, actually I studied psychology in college. After graduating with a bachelors degree I had various jobs including working for the NJ Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). One evening while working for DYFS I was threatened by a teenager who held a knife to my neck. That night I decided it was time to find another job. I accepted a nanny position as a way to make money while I looked for another job in my “career field.” My family and friends didn’t think it was a wise move to work as a domestic employee after having earned a degree in psychology. But, it was a great decision since being a nanny would become my passion. I love almost every aspect of the job including: cooking, playing, being creative, organizing, being a personal assistant, and inspiring and teaching children each day.
3. How has nannying changed since you first became a nanny?
I didn’t know about any nanny groups or nanny organizations in the 1990s. I didn’t even know other nannies in town. My local friends were au pairs, not nannies. Not everyone owned a computer or had access to the Internet when I started working as a nanny.
Now, most notably, the Internet is used by everyone. There are nanny web sites. There are plenty of nanny resources online and plenty of nanny agencies and groups to help find jobs, to make friends, and to gain support. Now, there are plenty of nannies working locally, along with au pairs. I think the American nanny is gaining a more professional image and recognition now than ever before. After six-years New York has finally passed the first Domestic Workers Rights bill into law (Tuesday, August 31, 2010) which will hopefully improve working conditions for nannies as well.
4. How old is Be the Best Nanny Newsletter (BTBN)?
I am in the tenth year publishing of Be the Best Nanny Newsletter .
5. I seem to remember BTBN as one of the first newsletters around, what helped you decide to start it up?
I earned a full-tuition scholarship working as the Managing Editor and Executive Editor of the student run yearbook in college. We were the first yearbook at my university to use a Macintosh computer and desktop publishing software to lay out the yearbook ourselves. No one had digital cameras or individual computers back then. We had one journalism lab on campus with only one Macintosh computer to share with the entire university. Students had to sign up to use the computers. I remember telling my yearbook faculty advisor, “Wouldn’t it be great to get a job in desktop publishing?” He told me I could do just that. But, as a Senior I wasn’t about to change my major from psychology to journalism in my last two semesters of school.
While working as a nanny I have always enjoyed reading magazines, newsletters, and childcare texts and publications. I realized I would repeat myself several times a day telling mothers and au pairs in town creative ideas I had read about. I figured it made more sense to write the ideas down and publish the ideas in a newsletter form, rather then constantly having to repeat myself verbally to others.
So, publishing BTBN literally allows me to combine my love of desktop publishing and writing that I learned in college, with the nanny career I cherish today.
6. Can you tell us your top articles you have done with BTBN?
I know what readers tell me they like. The two topics most discussed are misleading advertising of nanny web sites and salaries less than minimum wage posted on nanny web sites.
Misleading Ads on Nanny Web Sites There was an issue of the newsletter in which we discussed misleading advertising by some nanny web sites claiming they pre-screened their nannies. There is no possible way for nanny web sites to pre-screen nanny candidates in the same manner in which reputable nanny placement agencies do. Obviously, parents must screen all the nanny candidates on nanny web sites. I am happy that some nanny web sites agreed to remove the phrase “pre-screened nannies” from their advertising. You can click here to see an article from that series. There is an entire series available on the newsletter blog.
Jobs Under Minimum Wage Posted on Nanny Web Sites: Nannies still complain to me about the fact that nanny web sites allow parents to post jobs offering less than minimum wage, which is illegal. You can click here to see some of that discussion. . I still wonder, why do nanny web sites allow parents to post jobs offering less than minimum wage?
Christian Working for Muslim Family: I am thrilled that Melissa Silvester was willing to share her experience of working as a nanny for a lovely Muslim family this month. At a time when there is controversy about building a mosque in Manhattan, her experiences of sharing similar values, morals, and charity with her employers, are inspirational.
Cultural Differences Between Nanny and Family: I also loved our June 2009 issue of the newsletter that discussed a clinical study on cultural diversity of nannies and families. It is obvious that au pairs come to America in a cultural exchange program. But I think cultural diversity is an important aspect of the nanny career too. You can see a brief summary of that issue on our blog by clicking here.
When Angry Parents Confront Me About Holiday Bonuses:
In one of the articles, I simply suggested that in tough economic times parents should simply tell their nannies if they cannot afford a minimum of one weekly salary at annual holiday bonus time so that the nanny doesn’t think the smaller bonus is due to bad job performance. Some local mothers took me aside to argue that point that nannies can’t expect that much. I loved that! It proves it got them thinking!
7. How do you stay educated yourself as a nanny?
I learn the most from what readers of the newsletter share with me personally or in the BTBN polls or on the BTBN blog. I also love reading anything published about the care of children. I always love attending professional conferences and workshops too.
8. Do you go to nanny conferences? If so which ones and why? What do you take away from them?
I have attended International Nanny Association conferences and Nannypalooza conferences hosted by the National Association for Nanny Care. I love going to as many nanny conferences as I can afford. The only reason I may miss a nanny conference is simply due to expense. Attending conferences renews my passion for caring for children.
9. What do you enjoy the most about doing the BTBN?
Getting advice from other nannies, au pairs, nanny industry professionals, and child care experts. I really learn so much from other in-home child care providers who are really creative, patient, intelligent, and inspirational.
10. How can people find you on the internet?