Nanny Knows Best

Although Mary Poppins may have saved the day with "a spoon full of sugar", Nanny V employs a more pragmatic approach. No magic, just simple love, attention and consistency. And a healthy dose of humour.


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Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 12 August 2013
Nannies don’t have mind-reading superpowers. Well, maybe for little people under the age of three.

It's 10am and little Mr H is grumpy. Tired, hungry, sick or just plain naughty, sometimes it’s frustrating trying to work out why, and then have a solution.

Did he have a restless night? Wake up early? Fuss over breakfast? Is he testing boundaries? Revealing a stubborn streak?

There are a myriad of reasons for his puzzling behaviour and your nanny will probably be the only person with an explanation. Her relationship with your child is often as intimate as your own.

An ideal situation is one where nanny has your complete support and confidence that her decisions will be accepted by all. Maybe Mr H might have an issue, but it is his best interest that is everyone’s priority.

An initial interview is a great opportunity to discuss perspectives and philosophies. However, like any situation, feedback and regular communication can only benefit all involved.

Early days in any new job requires clarity and time. Also make sure you give any constructive criticism face to face – it can be really demoralising when someone is nice to your face and then an hour later you discover they weren’t happy.

And just like the consistency your nanny employs with your child, it is necessary to ensure it resonates all round. A child can easily and quickly take control of a situation. Dissension can lead to more difficult and louder behaviour. Not fun for anyone.

As Nanny V to a boisterous and ever challenging two year old boy, I am sure his mum was often perplexed by my choices. The decibels of his screeching would set off the neighbourhood canine community and anyone who has struggled through a similar exhibition of vocal prowess will know of the patience needed, and resulting exhaustion. Mine and his.

Sometimes, I would let his tantrums run their course, other times I took the opportunity to try to instil boundaries, but I always felt in charge of the situation. When the dust settled mum and I had quiet time for a cuppa and to review.

Because of the time your nanny spends with your child, more often than not you will need to heed her recommendations. You hired her for a reason, so defer to her on-hand experience. At the very least, allow her to provide context. Respect and cohesion are vital in any work environment, particularly within the intimacy of your home.

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A nanny fit for a Prince?

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on Thursday, 01 August 2013
Yay! He’s here.

Apart from the Royal “we”, a collective smile radiated from another hundred million or so humans with the news of the arrival of Prince George.

Whether we rejoice in the softness, his perfect mini fingers and toes, or the potential for greatness of a new earthly being, every child should be so wanted. It’s a no brainer how to love, but how to bring up baby is what every parent will struggle with at some point, no matter how confident or seemingly prepared and supported.

There has been an insane amount of discussion about who will influence and who will be responsible for our young prince. Is a nanny necessary? Important? Expected?

If asked, most would have a point of view about the subject of a child carer, as up until now, no God fearing royal and moneyed upper-class family would deign to consider doing it alone.

However, one must choose wisely when picking the quintessential individual who may even influence your child more than you imagine, or wish.

Someone who is never retiring about sharing her perspective, Kathy Lette even suggested it’s “…preferable that your offspring inherit your own personality flaws and not those of a Czech au pair with an eating disorder”.

Not that Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would allow just anyone into their fold. I’d imagine a stringent vetting process to ensure George has the guidance of a positive role model and life coach. One is never too young to begin training. Royal or not.

No pressure though. And no need for military boot camp quite yet.

A long and happy childhood and hopefully adults prepared to make learning fun. Or for the not-so-fun times, a gentle but consistent approach to create a strong foundation for future life lessons.

And when in doubt, there is always a mum close by with a hug when sleep deprivation addles the senses, and hopefully a happy story and laughter as she prepares a strong pot of tea.

If eventually the new parents do decide to seek assistance, Nanny V might just have her bags packed, ready to be of service...

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Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Thursday, 18 July 2013
I wish.

A go-to handbook for little Hannah’s parents perplexed by her quirky eating habits and a compendium for Nanny V to explain to mum & dad that their darling three year old is simply discovering and learning.

Alas, this fantasy tome does not exist and whilst countless learned scholars have applied years and decades and centuries of wisdom, still we adults wonder. And just think, we were all children once. I have worked as a Governess, Nanny and Tutor for 20+ years and although I can name wonderful families with parents who are cooler than cool, and kids who I hanker to hang out with any and EVERY time, perfection does not exist.

Negotiation, chaos, laughter, tears, rules, curiosity, frustration, noise, grumbling, and tantrums, and a little more laughter prevail in homes with one child or a menagerie. And that’s just the adults.

I’d like to introduce you to my world of working with families across the globe, across cultures, across philosophies and perspectives, and across generations.

Of course there are the basics in the way parents innately nurture their offspring and provide for them. But some need help. And that is where I come in with my sister and brother carers.

There are innumerable ways we can work in a family. To help with teaching appropriate behaviour, supervising homework, kicking around a football, acting as a role model, being serious when necessary and rolling on the floor laughing too. To acknowledge achievements no matter how small or on a world scale, seemingly insignificant. To foster a child and find a talent or a passion, to put a smile on the face of all.

When you chase around a three-year-old roaring like a dinosaur, it’s not a great stretch to notice that glint in his eye that tells you “I like dinosaurs”, then collapse on the sofa with the laptop to watch dinosaurs on YouTube and Google dinosaur facts and pics. A visit to the dinosaur museum, a stack of dinosaur books, a collection of dinosaur toys and in no time, young Master T will be able to recite the difference between carnivores and herbivores and pronounce Latin words I find too much of a tongue twister.

He might not end up a palaeontologist, and even switch to building model planes in a few years. But there is nothing sweeter than a child curious enough to expand his knowledge to comfort mum, dad, and Nanny V, that all is good in his world.

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Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Tuesday, 02 July 2013
You’ve signed the contract, packed your bags, all excited about your new adventure, and yet the niggling butterflies in your tummy remind you of the great unknown ahead.

Whether it’s a lovely local daily job where you can retire to your own home once you clock off or a live-in role on the other side of the globe and jetsetting to a different hotel every few days, each situation has more similarities than you’d think.

Starting work with a new family requires the utmost concentration and every ounce of energy you can muster. I would argue that there is no steeper learning curve than the first two weeks of acquainting yourself with a new household’s routine and rules, parent’s desires and expectations, the food the children eat and their favourite outfits, and all the other necessary idiosyncrasies humans impose.

If possible, negotiate a cross-over period with the departing nanny. It’s the best opportunity to gather information. It is sometimes a fine line between interrogation and a barrage of questions, but you can delicately take advantage of an opportunity there won’t be again when you are flying solo.

And other household staff can also be your new best friends. Just beware of gossip, the kind of “upstairs downstairs secrets”, when unnecessary confidential disclosures may compromise you both.

Sometimes you will be part of a team of carers with contradicting methods and cultures to consider. I cannot stress enough to ensure your definition of what is expected is in sync with all involved.

I was once reprimanded by a dad for keeping junior in “time out” for too long. My instructions were to be “firm, but fair”, to instil manners and polite behaviour. The parents and I even discussed, at great length and ad nauseam, to the point I was ready to walk away jobless, our mutual understandings of everything related to their children.

There was never going to be a happy-ever-after ending to this job. Then again, maybe the interview should have been a blinding indication that the concept of consistency (well, the children were always a nightmare while we adults inflicted conflicting messages) ended with a final arbitration and a decision to part company.

However, after the briefest of conversations with a mum on another continent and another hemisphere, and two days later settled into my new lodgings, I knew it was a winner.

Harmony abounded with young and old and even the pets. Thank you Masha.

There are no guarantees. That’s what a probationary period is for. And remember to breathe.

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on Tuesday, 04 June 2013
“You want me to join you in the Caribbean for Christmas?”

I am awake, so it’s not a dream. But I am a nanny, so it’s no picnic.

It all sounds deliciously exciting, traveling with a family. I imagined days lounging around the pool with the little ones, and wading through warm seas at sunset once they were safely tucked in bed, escaping winter climes that make it impossible for those house-bound back home to even crack a smile when the front door opens as the frosty wind whistles in.

But reality has a cruel way of shattering this picture. The family is on holiday, not me.

Expect to work longer hours and be prepared to spend most of the day with the juniors in kid’s club or restricted to the hotel room/nursery, an observer of others having fun tasting exotic delights. Routines pretty much are immediately disrupted by long flights or drives, healthy diets are ditched for holiday treats and parents seem to enjoy their freedom from said routine, and sometimes even forget there is a Mimi-Me, or two.

My first experience on such a jaunt I was relegated to economy but grateful for my lowly status as the distant squeals from business class diluted toward the back of the plane.

Lesson 1. Just because your employer doesn’t need a holiday budget, don’t assume you will enjoy the perks they do.

And engaging a child on holiday to do homework is always a challenge and every nanny trick in the manual needs to be employed to ensure studies are completed before fun is to be had.

So a change of perspective is what I suggest for both a happy child and nanny. Revel in your foreign surroundings through a child’s sense of adventure and savour any opportunity to be a tourist when you are not paying the bill. When you get time off, run. Of course, punctual and energised for your next shift.

You may not always fulfil your fantasy but at the very least you can tick off a new destination … unless you have been to all FOUR Disneys, repeatedly.

Oh, and you might want to think twice about taking a job in Las Vegas with a six-year-old in winter. It’s an adult playground and all the pools are outdoors. BRRRRRR

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