From Portland to San Francisco: Meet Katherine, A Part-Time Babysitter and Nanny

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Portland-native turned San Francisco-transplant Katherine describes childcare as her “absolute passion.”  She’s been a sitter and nanny on UrbanSitter for the past four years, using babysitting as a way to help her pay her way through college, and has done everything from overnight sitting jobs to traveling internationally with families. She’s worked with over 100 different families in the San Francisco Bay Area, and now nannies part-time for a family with a young daughter.

Katherine graduated from the University of San Francisco with a degree in Media Studies in June and recently joined the UrbanSitter corporate team as a summer intern! Here, she shares a little bit more about her life, time as a babysitter, and experience with UrbanSitter.

When did you first start babysitting?
I started working with kids in high school, as a mother’s helper and teaching Sunday school at my church. When I went into college I didn’t think childcare would be my passion as much as it is has become. I moved from Portland to San Francisco to attend USF, and didn’t start to babysit again until my sophomore year. And it just captured my heart. I was studying Media Studies at the time, and I added Child & Youth Studies as a minor.

How did you discover UrbanSitter?
I found all of my college babysitting jobs via UrbanSitter. I was in a Lyft one day, talking to my driver about my life. I didn’t know if my studies we’re taking me in the right direction, and the driver happened to tell me about UrbanSitter and I signed up. The first family that booked me hired me because I speak French, and from there on [UrbanSitter] felt like home. It felt really intimate and wasn’t a faceless, soulless retail job. It was the best thing, it was like coming home.

What has your experience been like as a sitter on UrbanSitter?
For a lot of college students, the opportunity to shape their own lives is not always afforded to them. So to have the resource of UrbanSitter has been confidence building in a lot of ways, it’s like being my own boss. And the families are so incredibly generous with me, beyond even words. I’ve been able to pay my way through college because of the families [I’ve met on UrbanSitter]. They’ve been so supportive of my college career, as far as working with my schedule, giving me advice, and just supporting me in every way.

What’s the most rewarding thing for you personally about working in childcare?
I really prefer to form relationships with families and with kids, and so it’s rewarding both for myself and for the kids and the families. The family that I work for now, I started when their daughter was 6 weeks old and now she’s turning two, and she continually surprises me and just gets better and better. There are so many things that I could never have predicted about [the child I nanny], that are solely her own making. And so to be an observer of that, fulfills my soul in so many ways. To see the personality traits that are so uniquely her is so special. It gets to be my job that I get to nurture somebody and be a part of somebody’s family. It’s wonderful.

The bonds I have with my bosses just get deeper and deeper, and I don’t feel like an employee but like a member of the family. It’s beyond words. I get to go on vacation with them, I eat all my meals at their house. I get paid for something that I love doing. It’s actually a career for me.

What’s the hardest thing for you about working in childcare?
It’s definitely hard when families move away. It’s hard to emotionally handle it when you’re attached to the children and the family.

What would you consider your philosophy as a nanny/sitter?
My childcare philosophy is somewhat influenced by how I grew up, I went to Waldorf school for the first 8 years of my life. As I was going through college, I decided to take some classes in RIE parenting (Resources for Infant Educarers). I’m a huge fan of it. As far as child care goes, I’m a firm believer in saying ‘no,’ though I wouldn’t never say ‘no’ without a reason. Instead of saying, ‘Don’t touch the stove’ I’ll say, ‘Don’t touch the stove, because the stove is hot’ or that sort of thing. I think discipline is very important to teach children, but I never want to force my opinion on a child. RIE is really about respecting the child, and I like that.

Tell us a little bit about your own childhood.
I’m from Portland, Oregon and we spoke french in my home growing up because my dad is french. I had a really happy childhood. Portland is a really incredible place to grow up, because the people are really, truly kind. I have a really wonderful relationship with my parents and my brother who is six years younger than me.

When you aren’t babysitting, what do you like to do?
Ride my bike! Portland is a pretty bike friendly city, and my parents are avid bikers. My dad built a beautiful bicycle for my mom as a wedding present, so I inherited that when I moved down to San Francisco. Now I bike in Marin and the East Bay. I just love it.