Caregivers a part of family life


Photo by klikomatic, Flickr

Photo by klikomatic, Flickr

Florence Asuncion, 49, has been a nanny in Vancouver for three years. She is one of the many childminders living and working in Canada who help raise the children of working families of all backgrounds and ethnicities.

Originally from the Philippines, Asuncion was a nanny in Hong Kong and Singapore before coming to Canada. For her, taking care of children is not just a job – it’s a passion.

“I didn’t marry because I was focused on working. I dedicated myself to helping others,” says Asuncion.

She is the second oldest child of five and says she has always helped everyone. She raised her three younger brothers and even her older sister.

Now she dedicates herself as a live-in nanny for two young Chinese boys. She takes care of everything from house-cleaning, to taking the boys to and from school to providing all their meals. She says that the parents give her free reign to raise and educate the boys as she sees fit.

“I am a Christian and share with them [the boys] about Jesus and that they should know about God,” she says.

Asuncion says that the parents aren’t bothered by her religious teachings to the boys, and that her faith is the basis of how she takes care of the boys. It is a fundamental part of her character.

“The most important thing for me is to help people,” she says. “Since I became a nanny I am very proud of all the children I have raised. I can share what I know.”

The importance of a care-giver

According to a 2013 Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, over 550,000 Filipinos over the age of 15 live in Canada. Of that number, 438,000 are in the labour force, and fill jobs that range from work in the fast food industry or housekeeping to management positions in bigger companies.

A woman who helps people find work, but didn’t want to be named, says that she often gets inquiries from Filipino women looking for work.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t hear from at least four women who desperately need a job,” she says. “The job that I most often need filled is as a nanny, and they snatch it up.”

To her there are two types of nannies: the ‘career-nannies’ who do this as a job and have little to no other skills to offer, and ‘mom-focused-nannies’ who take care of families as if they were their own. It is the latter that she focuses on and wants placed in homes across Vancouver.

In her five years in the industry, she has seen different approaches to child-minding and says that Filipina nannies are some of the most hard-working and caring.

“Some parents are so overwhelmed, and at times at a loss of what to do, and having these [nannies] there, at least gives them a peaceful night,” she says.

The bond between nanny and child

Tammy Johannson is a 43-year-old mother of three. In the past 13 years she has had three nannies. Purely by chance, all of them have been from the Philippines, and Johannson appreciated their approach with her children.

“They always had a very close connection [with the children],” says Johannson.

Her family no longer has a nanny due to the death of her children’s latest childminder. For six years, Evelyn spent roughly eight hours a day for 3-4 days out of the week with the children, until she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Johannson had always ensured that her children were taken care of by family or someone that felt like family and Evelyn was no exception.

Johannson says that Evelyn meant a lot to her family. She helped them by taking care of the children while they were small and making sure everyone was looked-after and happy. She recalls moments with Evelyn that will stay with her for a long time, images that you wouldn’t really associate with, or expect from, a Filipino-born nanny.

“While looking after the younger children,” says Johannson, “[Evelyn] would also find time to play street hockey with my son, who was 7 years older than the [other children].”

This is just one example of how Evelyn tried to integrate herself into the family and find ways to meet their needs. Johannson says that she thanked Evelyn every day when she went home.

“I knew in my heart that she was special and that I was lucky that she found us,” says Johannson.“Every time I paid her for her work she would giggle and say ‘oh, thank you’ as if she was surprised that she was being paid for her work.”

For now, it seems that Evelyn will be the last one to have such a profound effect on Johannson’s children. Johannson says that they won’t hire another nanny and since her youngest is soon be going to kindergarten, they’re just going to tough it out.

“[Evelyn] wasn’t perfect, but she was perfect for us,” says Johannson. “We miss her dearly.”