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The Golden Age

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 02 December 2013
When you get a moment to breathe, collapsed on a playground bench watching the children play, have you ever noticed which age group looks the most happy?

It may be a generalisation if little Olly is still a little self-conscious at the age of seven, but his peers apparently are less so. By this stage, a child is also most energetic, engaged with life, open to new experiences and most in awe and wonder about the world.

The Galaxy Research Poll surveyed parents to reveal that joy, energy and innocence peak between the ages of six and nine, before children start worrying about what their friends think, or how they look.

Up until this golden age, a child seeks the attention of a parent over anyone else. The apron strings are still tightly bound and home is the safest and most secure environment (you could also include their attachment to Nanny V).

Dr Justin Coulson, author of the study suggested “…there’s a beautiful period between six and nine when the world is just wonderful”.

“Most children have boundless energy and lust for life – something that deteriorates as we become older and perhaps more jaded,” he adds.

A seven year old has had a few years to test boundaries, explore and learn the lay of the land. No doubt it’s the onset of lifelong discovery, but it’s also a time when risk is not so conscious, nor critical.

Consequences are a relative novelty so the sweetness of the uninhibited soul shines through. Like a perfect blend of innocence and enthusiasm.

Gosh, I want to be seven again. Though no miracle Freak Friday body swap possible. As the adult I do however, get to relish the beauty and live vicariously through someone else’s golden age.

And just because Olly may not be as vibrant as the statistics suggest he should be, his timing is no cause for concern. If anything, it’s part of what makes him delightfully pure and in no hurry to race through childhood.




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DEAR DIARY

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 18 November 2013
Daily feedback for parents is an important aspect of childcare and many families now require the nanny (you) to communicate via a diary.

Busy lifestyles, crazy schedules, even different time zones mean adults sometimes don’t have the opportunity to sit in peace to discuss the day’s events. It’s a combination of catching up on the ordinary affairs of life, and the more significant issues such as milestones and the “something happened on the playground today I need to tell you about” moments.

Hopefully the parents are in sync with the difference between an important matter for conversation and the regular daily routine. When 5-year-old Sammy loses his third tooth a quick note in the diary is fine (with the evidence alongside). If his teacher has approached you with a concern about his behaviour or development, the note should refer to this and the need to find time to relay the facts in person.

A few more tips:-
  • A little detail is good. An essay is unnecessary,
  • Even if you are exhausted and should have had your break 3 hours ago, ensure you at least write a few words before you clock off to say you will compensate tomorrow,
  • Don’t rely on the diary to write something you would never say in person.

Also smart phones can be a handy tool for messaging if you are running late, for reminders and even happy snaps. Every parent loves updated pictures of their offspring having fun and smiling. Just remember your employer is not your bestie so better to err on the side of “less is more”…unless otherwise instructed or demanded.

A diary is a convenient tool for communication. And like any tool it has its place and its time. Use it wisely. Regularly. Sensibly. And always have a pen that works close by or a charged up laptop.



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IS IT CULTURE OR SIMPLY GOOD PARENTING?

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 21 October 2013
Call me old-fashioned but I cannot accept that where you live dictates whether a child is happy, or well behaved. Growing up in Manchester, Moscow or Mumbai may present distinctive environmental challenges and opportunities; however, their impact is an aspect of character, personality, and not conduct.

So why does petit Pierre in Lyon, sit contentedly sharing an adult meal with his parents in a restaurant, whilst demanding David in Liverpool has more of his nuggets and fries scattered on the floor like debris, than in his belly?

The French are masters in managing enfant terribles according to Pamela Druckerman, an American mother of three raising her brood in Paris, with a keen interest in the “superiority” of French parenting. She feels the Gaels are so worthy of admiration, she has penned a how-to manual, “Bringing Up Bebe”, detailing secrets for avoiding tantrums, teaching patience, and saying “non” with authority.

I can’t say there is any ground-breaking revelation Madame Druckerman offers. “Even the French parents themselves insist they aren’t doing anything special.”

It seems it is simply the age old principles of spending more than quality time with your brood, engaging them without the distraction of phones & computers (YOURS, not theirs), consistency, teaching by example, parenting with calm firmness, patience and a whole bunch of love… ALL THE TIME and not just when it is convenient for you.

It is not a five minute miracle technique, nor a one-day-quick-fix, and this French style is no different from good parenting anywhere.

There is no top-secret ingredient in their croissants. Real kids do eat quiche. Actually, they also eat salads and soups and snails if that is what is served for dinner. No special meals for fussy eaters because there are none.

Good manners, pleasant behaviour, confidence, independence are all concepts that can be taught. Nurtured. Encouraged. The choice is whether you decide to be the teacher, or whether your children will eventually learn despite you. Or they might not, and just grow up.

THE NANNY MANUAL

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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GREAT EXPECTATIONS

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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CARIBBEAN CRUISE BOOKED. BAGS PACKED. EXCITEMENT UNCONTROLLABLE

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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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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THE BOOK OF ETIQUETTE

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Tuesday, 21 May 2013
Two of the first words a child is taught to say are “please” and “thank you”. Or at least they should be.

It is the concept of appreciation and respect that are the important factors. Not just meaningless politeness. And even if little Sally or Jeremy may simply parrot language, it is never too early to begin educating a young mind.

The same can be said and done for table manners. The upgrade from high chair to a regular dining table with mum, dad, or Nanny V, may signify freedom from the restraints or their sense of isolation, and it’s an opportunity for a child to embark on another stage of learning about behaviour and boundaries.

For most, their first instinct will be to leap out of the chair, run amok, making a game out of meal time. It can become a nightmare for all involved. A screaming, erratic toddler and a frustrated and helpless adult attempting to bring order is not a pretty picture.

A nanny, who lacks confidence and fears reprimand from an employer if junior is crying, may think the only way to get food into the tummy of a marauding child is by chasing and coaxing to eat. In my experience, the situation only escalates without the desirable outcome leaving no one happy.

Allowing a nanny to perform and teach is what Jo Macartney, from The Lady Recruits, discusses with parents in search of a care provider in their family unit.

“Whether or not this is the style the parents wish to employ, it is necessary to clarify mums and dad’s wishes, ensuring an ideal nanny match and also that everyone is in sync”.

Little Miss C was a notorious wanderer. It took tedious weeks of fidgeting and whining (her loudly, and me as inwardly contained as I could muster on the day), until eventually she realised that leaving the table meant eating was finished.

Thankfully, mum was patient and understood the necessary drama to break a bad habit. Particularly at the end of the day when exhaustion overwhelms and remaining calm is an almighty challenge.

And no matter how advanced a child’s hand/eye co-ordination, be prepared for a mess. Learning sometimes requires experimentation, particularly with a knife and fork, so even if the aftermath resembles a Jackson Pollock masterpiece, rubber gloves with an industrial strength cleaner can remedy all.

Try not to stress. Each child has their own peculiarities and even when the variables are great, consistency and a little firmness will eventually pay dividends. And smiles.



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MY NEW NANNY

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Wednesday, 08 May 2013
As a professional Governess, I feel privileged to be responsible for the welfare, happiness, and education of a child. An impressionable young mind, an inexperienced soul, a developing body is the ultimate opportunity to support parents through the years of challenges and delights.

Selecting someone to become a new member of your family, a person you will trust imperatively, is no ordinary staffing issue.

You consider general criteria, like qualifications and experience, but more than anything, it is a personality fit. I realise this may seem strange, but much like dating, it is an intimate relationship on many levels.

Jo Macartney, one of the Recruitment Consultants at The Lady Recruits, at The Lady Magazine, tells me that many families find it difficult to articulate their ideal match. “I help guide them by asking about routines, their child’s likes/dislikes, and all manner of personal questions to create a clear picture of who they are”. The easy part is age, skills, etc, and I encourage parents to consider candidates who don’t always tick all of the boxes, however, for other reasons would complement their parenting and lifestyle”.

I know this to be true. I have been told by an employer I was chosen not because I had a childcare qualification (I studied Business at University), rather, my philosophy on child development and ability to convey to them I would always have the interest of their child as my highest priority.

I also believe the fundamental ingredients of love, lots of cuddles, intelligence, and a healthy dose of common sense is necessary. And humour. Lots of it.

I once ran out of nappies and thought I could wing it for the drive home. However, Master R’s toilet habits did not coincide with my calculations and I found myself in a busy car park stripping his clothes as it was more than a gentle wee that had exploded from his body.

I managed to fashion an improvised nappy from a small towel I kept in the car and sang songs about “pooey” boys, and “smelly” bottoms to distract him from the discomfort of being buckled in a child seat almost naked. We survived. And sometimes that is all a nanny, and a parent, can hope for.

The variables of working with children are almost infinite so if you think more openly you might just find a special nanny with imagination and creativity with whom your child may have a magical relationship for life.



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