What are your ambitions, besides babysitting?
I play guitar. And write. And I’d like to get into acting. I used to play at coffee shops by myself. But since I’ve been in New York, I’ve been in a creative slump. My first goal is eating, paying rent. I’d like to go to India. Sometimes I think I should start a daycare center. There are so few good ones. But I don’t have the money.
How do your parents feel about you being a babysitter?
They’re not surprised. I’ve always done stuff with kids, even when I was little. I have a sister who’s eleven years younger than me and my mom and dad both worked, so my older sister and I took care of my little sister a lot. This has been fun. I mean, I’m an adult, but I still like to play. And you totally see rewards from spending time with these kids. The other day I was at Willy Bee’s waiting for this little boy to arrive and checking the mail on my phone and all of a sudden I hear, “RYAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!” It made me so happy, that this kid likes me that much.
How many kids do you take care of now?
I have two four-year-olds. One kid that’s two and a half. And then I babysit off and on for other families. Another kid who just turned two. Another girl who’s four. Another boy who’s four and his brother, who’s, like, nineteen months. Those are the main ones. My usual age range is five months to five years. They’ve all come word of mouth. I don’t even know how they got my number. When I moved here in 2003, no one wanted a guy, so I wasn’t expecting much, but then it just exploded. So I’ve stuck with it.
Do you make a good living?
I do okay. But I have a lot of student loans and bills, so not great.
Do you find that you have a lot in common with the parents whose kids you watch?
Yes! It’s so weird. Where I’m from, I babysat kids and it was so different. That was probably the hardest thing when I moved here – getting used to families who weren’t insanely conservative and clashing with me on things. I’ve always been kind of paranoid, because when you don’t get along with parents, babysitting is a lot harder. But here, all the parents I deal with are so cool. They’re just trendy Williamsburg parents – really, really nice and sweet. It’s made my job so much easier.
Do you have the same musical taste?
Yes, totally. I went to a Regina Spektor concert and one of the parents whose kids I sit for was also there. I was all, “Hey!” It’s really cool. We also share morals. It’s good to be on the same page with parents when you’re watching their kids. I was the oddball out when I lived in Minnesota, because I was liberal.
Are parents more permissive here?
Yeah, I think that probably is true. Not all of the parents are, but definitely more so in the city than in Minnesota, where parents are really strict. Too strict, usually. I think it all comes out in the wash, though. I was just walking with a boy I was sitting for and we passed a girl from his class and he called, “Sadie! Sadie!” and when she walked by he said to me, “That was my girlfriend.” And I said, “Really? That’s cool.” And then he said, “My boyfriend’s Hayden.” His mother told me he came up to her once and said, “Mom! Someone at school told me I couldn’t marry Mori.” And his mother said, “That’s not true. You can marry anyone you want.”
photo courtesy Nicole Marie Polec
They wouldn’t say that in Minnesota.
Oh my God! No! It was just so nice to see a parent accepting her child for who he is. You see the kids here have so much more confidence. People my age from the Midwest have issues. At twenty-four, I feel like I’ve tackled most of them. But here, stuff is just accepted more by parents. And it’s really nice.
What’s your social life like? Do you have a girlfriend?
No, I don’t have a girlfriend, because I’m gay. That’s another thing. In Minnesota, if parents knew I was gay, I wouldn’t be babysitting their kids. Most of my parents now know and don’t care. I don’t ever talk to my kids about it, obviously, not that I think they would care, because they’re, like, four. But I’m still awkward about it, even though the families that do know are so great about it. Like, I’m really close to my ex-boyfriend and he’s in the hospital recovering from cancer and they ask me about him all the time. It’s really nice.
Do you have any babysitting horror stories?
I had this one little girl who’s three years old. She wanted to watch a movie. I don’t let my kids watch movies all that often. I’d rather be creative with them. But I was like, “Okay, you can watch it for ten or fifteen minutes.” So, we’re watching Little Bear or something like that. And she takes her shirt off and is in her underwear. That’s not unusual for little girls, but as a guy I feel like I have to be really careful. I have to be smart about things. And I said, “Okay, let’s put our clothes back on.” And she said, “No! I don’t wanna!” And then she took her underwear off and I was all, “Uhh . . .” Because I don’t want to make her think it’s bad to be naked, but I also want her to put her clothes back on. So I’m thinking, “Be clever, Ryan.” Nothing was working. And then she got up on the ledge of the couch and started humping it. I called up my friend Jamie, who’s a nanny for some girls up by Central Park, and I said, “What do I do?!” And she said, “Oh, my girls do that sometimes. They’re just curious and exploring.” And I said, “I know that. But I’m a male babysitter.” She said, “Just talk to her.” By now, the girl had moved up to the upper part of the couch and was really getting into it. And I said to her, “What are you doing?” And she said, “I don’t know, but I can’t stop!” I said, “Fair enough,” and I made sure she wasn’t going to fall off and I left the room. Eventually, she got down and put her clothes back on. When her mother came home, I told her what had happened. And her mother said, “Oh, she does that all the time!”
Do you play guitar for your kids?
I’d like to, but we’re always at the playground so it’s hard to lug a guitar around. We do a lot of coloring and playing pretend. The most popular game is Green Goblin, where I’m Green Goblin and run around chasing them. That’s their favorite. We draw with chalk on the sidewalk. A lot of kids are really into war games. We go through the trees and play Safari. They like to play Cats. One of the kids I have likes to put on acrobatic shows.
Do you notice that other nannies are less interactive?
You know what? Yes! In the summer, I’ll have eight four-year-olds hanging on me. And the other nannies are all sitting on the bench watching. I’m like, I’m doing your job for you.
You could report them to ISawYourNanny.
What’s that, a place you can tell on bad nannies? How funny. Yeah, I don’t think I’d be on there.
Photo Courtesy of Nicole Marie Polec