GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, N.L. – As the saying goes “sisters make the best of friends.”
This holds true for two sisters in Grand Falls-Windsor, and through their bond, other children who may not have been friends, are growing friendships as well.
Denise Sheppard and her sister Diane Taylor grew up babysitting in Millertown.
They have helped mold numerous children into young men and women over the years, helped parents continue working, or go back to work, and have gained life-long honourary family members in the process.
And now, they get to do this together.
The duo took care of children when they were still children themselves, starting when they were barely double digits.
Sheppard even came to Grand Falls-Windsor as a live-in nanny getting paid $35 a week, and Taylor spent two summers babysitting in Grand Falls-Windsor as well.
Taylor also spent time as a live-in nanny, for a family in Edmonton when she was 20.
The sisters, one two-and-a-half years older than the other, were the two girls in a family of five children, and though close in age, they had their differences.
“We had different friends, we had different interests,” Taylor said. “It’s only, I’d say, since Denise became a mother, that we got really close.”
Sheppard has two sons in their 30s.
“And no grandchildren. That’s why I babysit maybe,” she said with a laugh.
Taylor has one son, and two grandchildren, who spend every second weekend at her house.
Years of caring
Sheppard said she took a break from babysitting when she was working in St. John's.
“I babysat a little girl that was less than a year old who had a lot of medical problems,” Sheppard said. “She had her first birthday and then she passed away. So I went to work at A&W and worked there for five or six years.”
She has been babysitting since she moved back to Grand Falls-Windsor 12 years ago.
She was with her last family for several years, and her current one, with twins Mason and Claire Burton, for three years.
While Sheppard has always come back to childcare, Taylor went to the opposite end of the spectrum and did - and loved - homecare for many years.
“I wasn’t babysitting as long as what Denise was because I was doing homecare and I worked at seniors homes for a few years,” she said. “I used to meet the girls (Sheppard and her friends who are also childcare providers) at McDonalds before I would have to go to work, and I used to laugh at them and call them the babysitters club. I don’t want to be in the babysitters club I used to say.”
Taylor recently went back to babysitting when a year ago Sheppard heard of a family in need of childcare, and told her sister about it.
“I said maybe I will try babysitting, I will get to spend more time with my sister,” Taylor said. She agreed to meet the family.
“As soon as I walked in through the door, Reese was jumping up in my arms,” Taylor said. “I had to fall in love with them right away. I said I can tell you right now I’ll babysit for you. I didn’t even have to think about it.”
And they haven’t looked back since.
“We are together all week with the kids, not very often are we apart,” Taylor said. “We always do things together, but still at 5:40 p.m. I have to call my sister.”
They begin their day together as well, with a 5:30 a.m. walk, and by 8 a.m. on weekends Taylor is calling her sister for a chat.
“We got a lifetime of memories to talk about,” Sheppard said.
The sisters take Mason and Claire, as well as Reese and Anna Ash, who Taylor cares for, out together every weekday, whether it be to the Family Moments Resource Centre, TUFF, McDonalds, to a playground, or for a walk.
“We get together at the kids' homes if it’s not a nice day,” Taylor said.
“There’s never a dull moment,” Sheppard added.
“I am enjoying babysitting now because I do get to spend time with my sister,” Taylor said. “She got me back into the babysitting.”
The children's affection for their babysitters, whom they call NeeNee (Denise) and Iane (Diane), is clear.
While making Mother’s Day cards this past week at a play group, Mason made his for NeeNee.
“I just hope that my influence is doing something for them,” Sheppard said. “That’s what it’s all about in the end.”
It’s hard for the sisters to pinpoint favourite memories, as every day there’s a new one. However, Sheppard knows one that sticks out to Mason – the tea parties she holds for them where they dress up in their fancy clothes and have lunch together.
“The other day we were… looking for a short sleeve T-shirt for him,” Sheppard said. “I held up one and he said ‘oh that would be good for our tea parties.’”
They may have too many memories to choose, but they can choose a favourite part of childcare.
“When I go there in the morning and the kids are up in the window and they are right excited, they can’t wait for me to walk in through the door,” Taylor said. “I get all these hugs and kisses. They are so happy to see me.”
“Hers is the first of the day, mine is the end of the day,” Sheppard said. “I get my hugs and kisses then.”