Profiles of Childhood: Kia Gomez, Doula & Babysitter

Kia Gomez and one of her favorite babysitting charges, Olina, 18 months old

Our childhoods shape us and prepare us, not only for our own lives, but for the joys and values we’ll pass on to others. 

As told to Dawn Van Osdell

“I split my time between school in the San Francisco Bay Area—Notre Dame de Namur University—and my hometown of Los Angeles. It’s not so different from the way I divided my time when I was a kid: between LA, where I was raised, and Belize, where my dad and extended family live and where I spent whole summers and every Christmas. The closeness of my family, and growing up in two places, made me who I am today, and who I am to the kids I take care of. My childhood prepared me to deal with different kinds of people and to realize I shouldn’t have any expectations of how people should be, act, or live.

My mom, brother, and I moved to LA from Belize when my parents divorced. I was 7 years old. I had several cousins in LA to help ease my transition, but it took me a while to catch on and keep up with the other kids. I remember how Americans phrased things so differently than people did in Belize, how the lingo was so completely new. I was fortunate to have a strong family and community of other Belizean transplants who knew the culture of my small country and helped me adjust to living in such a big, new place. Nonetheless, the change was difficult for me and also for other kids to understand. They didn’t get what it was like to be a part of a separated household spread across two countries. I couldn’t invite them over—we were living in a one-bedroom apartment. I didn’t have the luxury of getting picked up and dropped off in a car—I took a city bus. My clothes didn’t have brand names. I realized you have to ask questions to understand how another person lives. I also learned to not just accept differences, but to expect them.

Today, I babysit for dozens of different families. I don’t have expectations before walking in the door. Sometimes the kids are really shy and other times they are balls of fire—similar to the night and day difference between my brother and me when we were growing up. My parents always struggled to understand why I wasn’t more extroverted like him. I’ve vowed to respect and appreciate people’s differences because it makes us who we are. I have a built-in support system for interacting with kids, no matter their personality: my mom, a single mother and a nanny since she was 18 years old. I call her and say, “Help! What do I do? What works for you?” She always reminds to me try to understand the other side, to have patience, and to be confident.

Olina and her three-year-old brother, Samson, hang out in Los Angeles with their sitter, Kia

I’m studying kinesiology, which is the study of human movement. I may be an athletic trainer one day, maybe something else! I’m interning with a chiropractor in LA County, and starting to work with a mom I babysit for who is a yoga teacher for athletes. I’ve also become a doula—inspired by my aunt who is a nurse practitioner— which has given me so much information about what women need during childbirth and what needs to change. There is often a lack of concern over providing a mother and her child with a happy and healthy birth, and fallback from doctors who just want to get the job done. Becoming a doula has introduced me to feminist views, like how women are underestimated just for being female, and the inequalities that still exist between men and women. It’s made me want to speak up for others and for change. I’m able to help by serving as an advocate for low-income families and young mothers with unplanned pregnancies through volunteering at Joy in Birthing while finishing my degree.

Whether it’s the kids I babysit or my friends, I always encourage others to embrace what makes people difference and to try new things. Thinking about the “what-if” will only deter you from doing something that could possibly be wonderfully life changing. For me, even if I fail, I will be happy to know that I at least tried.

Photographs by Kyle Monk

Profiles of Childhood: Nicole Miles, Doula and Sitter, Chicago, IL

As told to Lela Nargi

I grew up on the Southwest side of Chicago and I’m the oldest of three girls. My parents were high school sweethearts and have been married for 28 years. My father works for the Chicago Transit Authority and my mother now works at a local university.

nicole_milesI’ve always been surrounded by babies and children; in church, in school, in my family, babies were always around. So, I loved children from a very young age. In elementary school, I would always volunteer to help out in the preschool class. My middle sister, Kayla, is only two years younger than I am but my youngest sister, Victoria, was born when I was 11 years old, so I became the built-in babysitter—this was the same year my mother opened a home daycare and I helped out there, too. My cousin had triplets my sophomore year of college and when I came home during the summer and holidays, I spent my free time with them.

I attended all-female schools from 6th grade through college, so I’ve always been surrounded by women, too. It was during my mother’s pregnancy with Kayla that I developed a love for medicine, specifically as it pertains to women’s health; I attended childbirth education classes with her and asked questions at her doctor’s appointments. During my senior year at Smith College, I became a trained doula. My passion is working with birthing women, helping them find their inner strength through the labor process. In Chicago, more women are choosing doulas and midwives during their pregnancy and it’s great to see this shift. One of my personal goals is to bring the power of the doula to every woman, especially in communities that are often overlooked.

Becoming a doula is not my ultimate plan, though—I’m in the process of applying to medical schools to become an OB-GYN. However, the personal care and education involved in aiding new mothers to bring life into this world has been invaluable. The first birth I attended alone was a moment I had to step out of my comfort zone. I was the doula on-call at a local hospital and I was brought in to help a mom who was experiencing labor pains and personal issues. This was my first time meeting her, right in the middle of one of the most difficult times in her life! All my training kicked in and the first thing I did was create a safe space for her. I let her know I was there to help in any way that I could. My biggest challenge was getting her to stay calm and trust her body. She had to tune out the world around her and focus on the moment.

In all, I’ve attended about 20 births, which is also helpful when I babysit. New moms appreciate that I’m a doula because I have experience with newborns and postpartum care. New moms, like laboring moms, need to be supported and reassured that their baby is fine and that they’re doing the right things.

When I babysit, I’m notorious for being a bag lady—I always bring homework and food. The kids I sit for always ask why I carry such a big bag. I tell them I’m talking science classes so that I can apply to medical school and become a doctor. The older kids like to see pictures or hear stories about the babies I care for. Becoming a doula has helped me become a better listener, comfort, and healthcare provider—all skills that will be important in my future life as a physician.

Photograph courtesy of Nicole Miles

Childcare Jobs: The 6 Most Popular Types of Caregivers

childcare jobs

Childcare jobs come in a wide range of different capacities. Whether you’re a parent determining which type of childcare is right for your family or a caregiver deciding what sort of childcare job you’re looking for, it is essential to understand the differences in order to make the right choices for your preferences and lifestyle. Here are some of the most common types of caregivers.

Types of Childcare Jobs

  1. Au pair
    An au pair is a young adult from a foreign country who lives with a family and helps to care for children and do housework in return for a monetary allowance (and the opportunity to learn the family’s language and culture). An au pair will almost always reside in the family home and be treated as another member of the family. Au pairs are enrolled in post-secondary education and their labor is regulated by the Department of State. Hiring an au pair requires extensive commitment on the parts of both the au pair and the hiring family. The process sometimes requires a large sum of money up front, and employers may be expected to provide healthcare and transportation to au pairs during their stay. In exchange, the family will benefit from exploring a new culture and exposing their children to the world from the convenience of their own living room.
  2. Babysitter
    A babysitter is a caregiver who comes to a family’s home to watch children for a limited number of hours or sometimes overnight. Some babysitters work out of their own homes. Most are hired by families on an occasional basis and are paid an hourly rate. More often than not, babysitters work for many different families as their schedules permit. While babysitters’ ages fall into a wide range, all sitters on UrbanSitter are at least 18 years old.
  3. Doula
    A doula is hired to help provide comfort and care to a woman and her family before, during, and/or after childbirth. A doula attends births and imparts constant emotional and instructional support during labor. Doulas are trained professionals, but are not doctors. Usually a doula’s job is done once the baby is born, although some doulas offer breastfeeding instruction, night nurse services, and even postpartum care for a period after the birth.
  4. Mother’s helper
    A mother’s helper is a pre-teen or teenager who is not yet experienced enough or old enough to watch children alone. A mother’s helper may be a neighbor, relative, or other acquaintance of the child’s parent(s) who has expressed an interest in babysitting or caring for the child(ren) in the home. A mother’s helper may be paid or unpaid, but a parent is present for the duration of the caregiving period in order to give guidance and/or supervision. Sometimes mother’s helpers are hired to do light chores around the house or run errands in addition to (or in place of) watching children.
  5. Nanny
    A nanny is hired for a set period of time and is usually given a regular schedule, and may reside in the family’s home (“live-in”) or travel to the family’s home for shifts (“live-out”). Nannies are paid an agreed-upon salary at regular intervals, and most nannies consider childcare their full-time work obligation. However, some are employed part-time according to the family’s needs and are able to take on outside work.
  6. Night Nanny
    A night nanny may be the perfect solution for families with newborns. These caregivers generally come to the family’s home after dinner to help with the new baby’s bedtime routine and provide support to the family overnight, whether rocking a colicky baby back to sleep, heating a bottle and handling night feedings, or helping soothe toddlers back to sleep after a newborn’s cries wake everyone in the house. Parents of multiples may find night nannies especially helpful. Night nannies are usually hired for a short period of time after a new baby arrives, to help a household adjust to their new overnight routine, allow families to get a little extra sleep, or to give new parents nighttime guidance. Some night nannies may have nursing experience as well.

UrbanSitter is an excellent resource if you are looking for childcare jobs or childcare solutions. Good luck in finding your perfect fit!