There’s a mountain of material gifts we’d love to see under the Christmas tree come December 25. That Mulberry handbag we’ve been eyeing up all season, some sparkles from Swarovski, a monthly subscription to Hotel Chocolat (yum). And if we’re pushing the boat out, a spa day would be the icing on the Christmas cake. But in reality, the best present for many of us with small (delightful but demanding) people in our lives would be a nanny.
Go way back, and nannies were once perceived as brusque matronly types with values verging on the Victorian. Either that or a version of the pink-cheeked, prim and proper, practically-perfect Mary Poppins (which reminds us, we must get to the cinema to see the new Emily Blunt movie!). But today, nannies are caring, down-to-earth, professionals, who are passionate about not only bringing out the best in their charges, but enriching the lives of the families they work for.
Their responsibilities include caring and bathing the child, cooking up nutritious meals and firing their imaginations through play, crafts, singing and reading. They also ensure their little one is active and sociable, taking them on play dates, to baby and toddler classes, swimming sessions and nature walks.
At one time nannies were considered the privilege of rich or famous folk, but today they’re a viable option for many working parents, and can end up more cost-effective than nursery when there’s more than one sibling.
Gingham Kids has an impressive roster of nannies to suit all families, in the UK or overseas. One of our team, Lisa Smith, who has been working with the agency for three years, has been talking to us about her experiences as a nanny. Lisa, who lives in Cambridge, is warm and friendly, and speaks with real affection about her job. “I’ve always worked with children and I just love it. My mum worked in a playgroup since I was two years old, so that’s probably where it comes from,” she recalls. “As a nanny, you have a lovely one-to-one with the children, and the best bit of the job is watching them grow and develop into little human beings. Every day, you have fun with them, whether going to soft play or taking them on a walk. It’s wonderful to see their personalities develop.”
Lisa spent a year working with a little boy, from when he was six months old, including flying out to Switzerland with his family to aid his transition to a new country and into nursery. It’s a time she looks back on fondly. “It was amazing. The family looked after me so well, and showed me the area – and I developed a real bond with the little boy as when we first moved to Switzerland we spent every day together for weeks while the family got settled.”
When her contract finished, Lisa admits it was hard to say goodbye, which is testament to the connection nannies form with children. “It can be heartbreaking but I realise it’s part of the job. We keep in touch though, and he always recognises me on Facetime!” she smiles.
Lisa is working with a new family now, looking after a two year old boy, keeping him entertained with a variety of activities from Christmas-themed painting to music groups. She batch cooks delicious meals for him – and explains that when he takes his regular afternoon naps, she helps the family out by emptying the dishwasher and doing chores. Though not in all nanny’s remits, some do help with household tasks, as well as caring for a child.
Hence another reason we’re dreaming of a nanny emerging from beneath our Scots Pine this year! While some may say that employing a nanny means spending less time with your son or daughter, what it actually means is that the time parents do have with their precious children is quality time, unfettered by thoughts of having to do the hoovering or cook the dinner.
“In my old job I did everything,” Lisa tells me. “Washing, cooking, ironing, shopping. It’s great for parents as it means they don’t have to worry about the dishwasher being full or the fridge being empty. They can just enjoy being with their child, carefree. And it they’re tired from work, once the child is in bed, they can go to sleep too, meaning they’re more refreshed. We’re here to make everything easier for them.” We salute you nannies! Now, where do we sign up?