Working as a nanny means always being busy. You spend your days wrangling kids, sometimes several of them, and it can seem like you never stop moving. Activities, play dates, housework, cooking: there’s always something going on and something else to do. Unfortunately, in the midst of that chaos, it can be easy to overlook personal safety and find yourself dealing with an injury, even a severe one, which can sideline you and leave you unable to work. It’s not too late to start playing smart defense, though. Remember these tips for avoiding injury on the job:
“Lift with your legs, not with your back.” Everyone says this all the time, and that’s because it’s true. Why? Because your body is built to use the legs to lift things. As a nanny, you won’t be lifting construction equipment, but you will be bending over every day to pick up objects of varying weights, including small furniture, heavy toys and, well, kids. The only way to survive is to use proper lift techniques. Squat with your legs, keep your back straight, grab and lift. It’ll probably take some practice if you aren’t used to it, but your body will thank you in the long run.
Rest When Needed
Your body needs to recharge, especially after days spent chasing kids and running a household. Don’t try to be a superhero or assume that you can power through. Proper rest is vital for letting the body bounce back from physically demanding tasks like workouts or childcare. (Sometimes workouts might even feel easier than childcare!) Get plenty of sleep and take care of yourself.
Don’t Overdo It
This (obviously) doesn’t mean you can lie around and trust the kids to look after themselves. It does mean that you should always be careful about how and when you exert yourself and that you should listen to your body when it tells you to slow down or stop. Too much stress and strain on your body can lead to fatigue and sprains, and those can easily spiral into bigger problems if you don’t heal and rest properly. Be smart about how you spend your energy, even if you’re just cleaning up around the house.
Avoid Repetitive Motions
Repetitive stress injuries are commonly associated with office tasks like computer work, but they can happen in any situation that requires you to go through repeated physical movement without proper breaks or training. Running, sports and other physical activities with repetitive movement — including games you might play with the children in your care — fall into this category. Be sure to consider your movements and always do a warm-up or cool-down if you’re going to be doing anything big. Even something as simple as a few basic stretches before you arrive at work can do wonders for injury prevention.
Watch How You Dress
Nannies deal with a lot of messes, from kid-related mishaps to food spills, and sometimes cleaning them up can be just as messy. (Ask anyone who’s mopped themselves into a corner.) This tip isn’t so much about dress code as it as making sure to wear things that can keep you safe. For instance, it’s a good idea to wear shoes with rubber soles and good traction to reduce your chances of slipping on a wet or messy floor. Similarly, clothes that dangle or that could get caught on something might lead to a fall, whereas less baggy gear will reduce this risk while still making it easy to move around.
Keep the House Clean
A certain amount of cleanliness comes with the job, of course, but this isn’t just for appearance’s sake. A clean house means a house free of obstacles and instruments that could lead to trips, falls, bumps or bruises. You don’t have to put the place on lock-down, but make sure that books are off the floor and on shelves, shoes are out of walkways, clothes aren’t in a tangle near the bed, etc.
The more generally active you stay, the better shape you’ll be in to deal with whatever your nanny job throws at you. You don’t have to run out and train for a triathlon, but you should make an effort to stay active on your own time and not just while you’re at work. Physical fitness and basic strength training will mean stronger muscles, less risk of costly sprains or injuries and a more resilient body. It is work, but it’s worth it.