INA “Nanny of the Year” Profile
Name: Marni Kent
Location: San Francisco, California
Year Honored: 2002
Experience: 26 years
Past Jobs: Baby nurse, tutor.
Hobbies: Cycling, cooking, kickboxing, keeping up with the nanny industry, donating platelets, taking stand-up comedy classes.
Fun Fact: Collects Mary Poppins memorabilia and designed her own Poppins-themed tattoo.
Nannying In a Nutshell: “As I hold their little hands, I stand tall and proud knowing that my job is both of value and important. At the end of every day, I know I have done my best despite their tantrums, crying, or not feeling well. I would not trade my job for any other profession.”
When you’re a nanny, you never know what surprises each day will bring — like an impromptu biology lesson and stand-up comedy act.
A few years ago, nanny Marni Kent took fourth grader Sammy to the Hobby Lobby to pick up all the raw materials for her class project on the human ear: papier mâché head, Silly Putty for the outer ear, and pipe cleaners for the inner ear. During the girl’s presentation, she meticulously explained each part of the ear and how it contributes to processing sound and sending signals to the brain. With a deadpan delivery, the student later showed her classmates where the brain was located. It was represented by a pea — as in “pea brain” — a gag inspired by her brother.
“I was sitting with Sammy’s parents and siblings and the crowd went wild with laughter,” Marni says. “At that moment, I was so proud not only how she used all those big words, but that she had put so much work into this project and was able to entertain and explain this in front of a large crowd.”
It’s natural for nannies to experience parenting-like moments such as these. Although the public often assumes that a nanny is merely a full-time babysitter, the truth is that they are constantly switching roles as trusted guardian, teacher, and friend.
“Some people see the career of a nanny as simply unchallenging, yet where else can one take credit in playing an integral part in the way a young person will become an adult amongst society?” asks Marni, the 2002 recipient of the International Nanny Association‘s “Nanny of the Year” award. “We get to mold the content of a child’s character face to face and see the results first hand.”
“I’ve learned that you can’t learn how to be a professional nanny from a book,” she adds. “Each family has a specific blueprint of needs and expectations. The nanny has to be able to morph into those needs, be flexible and accept different parenting styles, temperament and personalities. Child development is about playing and modeling, exploring the world around them. And a little praise means a lot to a child — it helps with building their independence and self worth.”
Marni’s childcare philosophy and openness to adapt to each family’s unique situation has paid off with intangible dividends.
Last year, she was hired by two Stanford University professors for a brief stint as an overnight nanny. The mother, feeling overcommitted at work, felt conflicted about sleeping through her newborn’s cries. But she also knew she needed to be fully awake during the day.
“Marni changed our lives by supporting and nurturing our whole family unit at a very trying time,” the professor recalls. “She has a deep humane interest in people, young or old, novice or experienced, and helping them to craft their best lives. She is imaginative, inquisitive, professional, and dynamic in everything she does. I felt immediately at ease with her.”
Those sentiments are echoed by her current employers, Kim and Chris, another two-career family in the San Francisco area who are new to juggling the demands of parenthood.
“Having the right nanny means that our baby is happy, healthy and thriving,” Kim says. “Because of the great support Marni provides, we are able to spend more high quality time focused on our baby and enjoying our time as a family.”
“Marni is wonderful with our daughter – she is upbeat, engaging, affectionate and focused on helping the baby develop and thrive. She takes the time to observe and ask about our preferences and she honors those preferences. She has established a strong connection with our daughter and at the same time, has completely reinforced and supported our primary roles as the baby’s parents,” she adds.
Marni likes to occasionally dress in a Mary Poppins costume, but it’s not just to entertain children. It’s also to amuse herself. She’s been collecting Mary Poppins memorabilia for the past 20 years. Her collection includes books, movies, Broadway tickets/programs, figurines, mugs, pens, pins, a carpetbag necklace, an umbrella and even a Mary Poppins-themed tattoo that she designed herself.
“There is even a new super nanny on ‘Sesame Street’ who resembles and acts like Mary Poppins. She’s named Penny Pipkins! ‘She is faster than a speeding Mommy, nicer than friendly doggy…’ Her unrelenting niceness is her chief power, she has super hearing, and carries a carpetbag and a powerful feather duster — used for tickling.”
“Children have such a profound effect on you whether you realize it or not,” she says. “When you get down on their level, you are forced to think and learn about patience. Your tone of voice can affect a child so greatly, and most importantly, children teach you how to be happier, and more positive about yourself when you are the one who is supposed to be teaching them.”
Marni’s Nannying Advice
1. Every nanny should think of herself as a “wife to the wife.” The parent-nanny relationship is about discipline, development, and rearing that will allow for long lasting relationships.
2. Growing with a family requires great commitment, dedication, and desire — even when things get rough.
3. Nanny resources and support are key for self care, personal growth and creating new opportunities to advance further in this career.