Nebraska Grads Finding Work as Nannies

The Paulitz family and Bridgette Paulsen, their nanny, gather in the kitchen as the youngest girls begin homework. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, NET News)
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October 9, 2013 - 6:30am

Families needing an extra hand have often relied on nannies. In Nebraska, and across the country, more families now want those nannies to be college educated. A nanny with a degree is increasing becoming a popular commodity.

During a typical weekday afternoon in Omaha, the Paulitz girls get home from school at around 3:30.

They take turns telling their father, Kevin, about their day. The kitchen table is usually full of books, back packs, and daily handouts.

Paulitz does his best to manage the whirlwind his four adolescent girls create, but he admitted it’s difficult as a single father. His wife, Tara, died last year from breast cancer.

But he’s not raising his girls alone. Far from it. To help out around the house and with the girls, he hired Bridgette Paulsen, a professional nanny.

Photo by Ryan Robertson, NET News

Bridgette Paulsen (left) helps twins Catherine and Lilly Paulitz complete their homework for the day. Paulsen, who has an degree in elementary education, is a live-out nanny--meaning she lives in her own home, and is not with the family 24-hours a day. Pausen says she prefers her live-out status, because it offers her more free time to spend with her own family.

“Bridgette usually comes around noon. She’ll straighten up, do some dishes, do some laundry, that sort of thing, then at three o’clock she’ll go pick up the girls,” Paulitz said.

Once home from school, Paulsen helps settle the girls down and gets them started on their homework.

“If I have time, I’ll also have a snack ready. Catherine loves it when there’s a snack waiting when she comes home from school,” Paulsen said.

With snacks in hand, Paulsen sat down with the girls, ready to help them tackle the night’s homework. It’s a job requirement she’s equipped to handle.

“I have a degree in elementary education. I graduated from UNO three years ago,” Paulsen explained.

College educated nannies are a growing trend in the nanny industry.

According to the Nebraska Department of Labor, however, tracking the number of college graduates who become nannies is difficult. Nannies are often paid in cash, and the Department of Labor puts them in the “childcare worker” category, along with day care employees and other early childhood development positions.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Brauer

Jessica Brauer holds a Bachelors of Arts in English. She was a full time, live-out nanny for a Lincoln family. She cared for two boys, ages 3 and 7. Brauer no longer nannies, she is pursuing a second degree in music. However, in exchanges over e-mail, Brauer spoke about her time as a nanny:

"Nannying gives me the opportunity to develop a close relationship with the kids in the same sort of way I might as a parent. In the same vein, it was admittedly also kind of nice to be able to have lots of 'kid time' during the day, and then be able to go home and just enjoy some quiet time on my own," Brauer said.

Brauer said her employers were very kind and she never felt uncomfortable in approaching them as one might feel when approaching a boss in a traditional work enviroment.

Brauer said leaving her job as a nanny was the hardest part of her decision to pursue another degree. Because of that, she said if she doesn't land a job teaching music on the collegiate level, she is more than willing to return to nannying. "It's hard to imagine anything more rewarding," Brauer said.

But according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for child care workers is expected to increase 20 percent by 2020, and nannies with formal education will have the best job prospects. In Nebraska, that demand is already being felt.

“We have jobs in Omaha, Lincoln, as little a town as Neligh, Nebraska. So there’s jobs actually all over Nebraska,” Candi Wingate said.

Wingate is a native of Norfolk, in northeast Nebraska. When it comes to the nanny world, she’s an expert. She’s published two books on the subject. She owns Nannies of Nebraska, a full-service nanny placement agency. Wingate runs an international website dedicated to helping nannies find work. She even helped reality stars Jon and Kate Gosselin find a nanny for their eight children.

Wingate said when it comes to families looking for the right nanny; a candidate with a college degree is worth a look.

“They can actually use their major as they’re working as a nanny. For example, maybe you have a foreign language major; there are families out there that want their kids to speak a couple of different languages, so that is a perk to families, and you can be compensated for that as well,” Wingate said.

Bridgette Paulsen said nannying was a perfect way to put her education degree to work, and pay the bills at the same time. In a stagnant jobs market, she said that was no easy task.

“I did look for a teaching job, and I had a lot of trouble. A lot of my friends, too, that graduated ended up getting office jobs because they couldn’t find anything. That’s not for me,” Paulsen said.

Trading fax machines for washing machines, clients for kids, Paulsen works around 40 to 50 hours a week.  For that, she’s paid $600 a week, gets free health insurance, and has two weeks of vacation every year.

$600 a week comes out to $31,000 a year before taxes, slightly higher than the average starting salary for teachers in Nebraska, according to the National Education Association.

“It would be great to have a teaching job, I mean I went to school for it. I’m paying way too much money every month in student loans,” Paulsen said, “but at the same time I feel like some of the things I did learn in college completely equipped me for this position. And I am completely, honestly happy where I am right now.”

Photo by Ryan Robertson, NET News

Candi Wingate is a former nanny-turned-businesswoman. She nannied for a family in Texas after graduation from college, and then moved back to Norfolk. She purchased Nannies of Nebraska, and then created several websites aimed at connecting nannies and familes. Wingate said the demand for college-educated nannies is high.

Photo by Ryan Robertson, NET News

Heidi Thompson holds a political sciences degree from Coe College in Iowa. She has worked as a nanny in and around Washington D.C. This past summer, one family flew her to the east coast for two weeks to work as a full-time nanny.

Kevin Paulitz said he’s had several nannies in the past, even before losing his wife. Because of his past experiences, he said he knew Paulsen was the perfect hire for his household.

“It may sound a little bit snobbish because Tara and I were college educated and all that, but there was something different about somebody who was more mature and who kind of had been through more life experiences than the average girl had,” Paulitz said.

Life experience is one thing Heidi Thompson has plenty of. She holds a political science degree, taught English in Thailand for seven months, and was a copy editor in Guam for three months.

After Guam, Thompson found a job at an office in Washington D.C., but said office work wasn’t for her. So she turned to nannying, and found her qualifications were in high demand by east coast families.

“They’re looking for college educated. They’re looking for ‘I can hold down a job, I’m responsible, I’m going to be creative’—it’s like added value child-care, it’s not just put the kids in front of the television,” Thompson said.

Added value child care, something most parents would want for their children, but probably think they can’t afford. However, Candi Wingate said that might not be the case.

“The nanny myth is that nannies are only for the rich and famous. I think a lot of people have said, ‘Oh gosh, we could never afford a nanny,’ but that’s not necessarily true. If you have two or more kids in daycare, you can usually hire a nanny,” Wingate said.

And during a time when the U.S. Census Bureau says only 27 percent of college graduates are working in a career related to their field of study, Wingate said the nanny industry may be the perfect place for those with a higher education to find work.




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