After arriving in Sydney on my three-month holiday visa with £200 to my name I realised fairly early on that a job would be pretty handy.
Being the self-aware gal that I am I realised I wanted to live and work somewhere near the beach, cause AUSTRALIA. And I also wanted a job where I had minimal or no accommodation or travel costs and all the other costs should be low too. So I found myself an au pair job, not because I have a burning desire to have kids and love washing baked beans out of pots but cause it ticked all the boxes.
A few days before my interview for the job I found in Bondi, (cause AUSTRALIA), I got super burned. I mean, every inch peeling, puffy-faced, hella feeling sorry for myself, burned. I realised that this error was not just for me and my painful skin, it was for the outward appearance I needed to present in a few days of a mature young woman who can not only take care of themselves but also of the unsuspecting parents two little daughters.
Turning up to the interview albeit with a nice tan and covered in E45 I did have to lay down the facts that I have learned my lesson and promise to always ‘slip, slop, slap’ their kids.
The interview went well, mainly due to the discussion of “I am one of ten kids”, “one of TEN kids?”, “yeah it’s complicated, we’re not catholic” and leave it at that hoping they’ll just trust that I have changed a nappy and have learned first-hand how family disputes can come about solely from one child wanting the handful of pasta the other has.
So I moved in!
I got my dream little job, I lived in their house, ate their food, fell in love with their kids, folded laundry while watching bluey (it’s like Aussie Peppa pig) and slotted into their family happily.
This is not to say that the whole experience was super easy. To start with, the eldest daughter took a while to soften up to the new lady who lives in the house and tells her when to go to bed. And boy did she like to tell me ‘I don’t like you’ straight up, which to be fair, I respected. This did make the journey of our friendship even more exciting when the week before her 5th birthday she turned to me and said ‘Please can you come to my birthday party at school’, I cried bro. I sat in her playgroup class and watched her in her princess dress sat at the special table chose which friends could get cake first (which I thought was kinda cruel on the teacher part but they, ain’t my kids) and she smiled over and gave me a piece. I felt love for another person’s child which I never thought was possible.
The youngest daughter, I’m not gonna lie to you, I had a sweet spot for, I’m a youngest sibling too so I empathised with her. Smaller physical but also easily manipulated cause you’re a bloody baby. But she always gave as much as she got. Watching someone else’s kids grow up before your eyes at such a young age is the best privilege I could ask for, to be intertwined in their earliest memories and being there for the babbles and then the first words is pretty cool. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t turn into a bowl of melted ice cream when they see a lil bubba.
So with all this said, here is a list of some of the things I learned being a nanny.
- Kids are kinda dicks, and it’s okay, cause we all were one
- Kids get stuff everywhere, no matter what it is or where you are, it will be everywhere
- You kinda have to understand that you’re not their mum and you’re not their babysitter. They can’t pull the ‘mum’s not coming home till later, can we play one more game then bed’ cause you’ll never get them into bed. Side note, I’m always the babysitter that says yes, sorry parents.
- Cook food before the kids come home, that way you just have to heat it up while they’re at your feet
- Put extra food on your plate, they’ll want to eat it cause it’s yours
- Once the nappy is off, straight into the bath. Ain’t no naked babies running around the bathroom weeing everywhere again
- Wear jewellery, but only stuff you don’t want to break, or that you’re happy being the item you’re strangled with
- Don’t take pens so seriously, when a kid is drawing on you, they get so excited and shut up for a while. Also, it washes off with a quick scrub
- Never leave the remote control with the kids, causes stress
- If kids can read, don’t try to be a smarty pants and make bits up or skip bits out cause you’ll be caught and get busted by a 4-year-old.
- If you’re sleeping within earshot of a 2-year-old, when they wake up, congratulations, so do you.
- Kids cant have peanut butter before school, just don’t do it
- Meal prep isn’t that hard and I can do it
- Kids have the capacity to just turn and say the sweetest things, don’t let those moments pass you by.
- Kids have the capacity to just turn and say the most random things, these will keep you on your toes and sometimes leave you wondering all day why should bumble bees die after stinging people.
- Kids kinda know more that we give them credit for, at aged 4 the eldest explained to me all about recycling and how the climate crisis will affect all of us. She needs to have a lil chat with some of the rich white men running this place.
- You have to watch them all the time
- Sometimes when you forget to watch them you turn and see them doing something productive like colouring or playing nicely with other kids and gives you a sense of pride, (even though their not your kid and you haven’t really had much major input into their development as a child, you like to think that their positive attitude today is cause you didn’t burn their eggs this morning’
- Sometimes when you forget to watch them you turn around and see them eating dirt or fighting it out with another kid for a lego cow, in these times id just leave them until it became fatal. (this isn’t advice, it’s just what I learned), and this taught me that kids are just as curious and optimistic and unknowledgeable as adults.
- Don’t give kids a phone to shut them up, its kinda sad
- Spend time with the family together
- Allow yourself to experience the different way that other families live, eat with them, get to know the parents, you will understand how the children tick much better too. – The family I worked for was Jewish and I had no experience of the Jewish faith or religion and was so intrigued by how different a family can be to my own while also being so similar. I enjoyed Friday night dinner with the family and broke bread, something unfamiliar to me but was such a beautiful thing to be apart of. Learning about the history of the family that I had been adopted into for a short while was such a blessing that I will never take for granted.
- When I have kids, I want to have a nanny, an older sister who helps in the home teaches them what’s right and wrong without the authoritarian grip of a parent (which is still super important). Someone who can bend the rules sometimes but teaches your kids that there are rules and their important. – I remember in my first week I picked the kids up from school and I was bringing them home. As soon as they’re in the car and all clipped in ill give them both a bag of puffy rice snacks that taste like styrofoam but kids love ‘em. After the drive home I’m getting the youngest out of her car seat and asking them both to get their bags and put them in the bin inside. The eldest was not too happy on this plan as she said it was mummies job. After a minute or two of arguing with a 4-year-old, at which point I realised the futility of the whole thing, picked up the bag and took it inside. Once inside, I asked, ‘babe, pop this in the bin please’ and she did it.
I’m not gonna lie, I expected her to say no so I was stoked. We then had a chat about how it’s not mummies job and it’s actually all of our jobs to put our rubbish in the bin. A couple more days go by and before long we were all taking our packets inside. Now I’m not going to claim some Supernanny shit on you cause, I’m 19 and I don’t know the first thing about parenting, but it was a small victory in teaching respect to a kid without thumping them that I’d learned on my own. It was nice. Anyway, this was only supposed to be a bullet point.
- Get to know the parents and be open to new opportunities. In one conversation between the mum and I, we discovered that I liked marketing and she needed marketing help in her business, this made for a perfect business opportunity for us both as I was already a trusted person in her life and enjoyed working with her.
- Oh also, you’ll have loads of time. Make new friends!
- Sometimes I found myself home bound for days other than to take the kids to school or pick them up. This makes you feel like you’re wasting your holiday and you feel like you want to go out and do stuff but then you’re held with the knowledge that at 6 am tomorrow you have to be up and you only really have 4 hours in the middle of the day free. So make friends, either by going to a bar on your own which I never did cause I was an awkward kiddo, or online. I met some amazing friends online through BumbleBFF, after you get over the original embarrassment that you have gotten to the stage in your life when you’re quite literally internet dating for friends and download the app, you’ll realise that most of the girls on there are just as chill as you but are also in a pickle cause they’ve just moved to the area, need some new gal pals or just wanna go get drunk with other girls who wanna go get drunk.
- Don’t spend your weekends alone or even in the same town – this kinda links to the last point but plan a solo weekend away, not too far but far enough that you’re not in the house. One of the things I found with being a live-in nanny, it’s very hard to distinguish between work me and off work me, I would begin to just unload the dishwasher and change nappies on a Saturday afternoon cause I wasn’t busy. Which yes is a nice thing to do, wasn’t really me spending my time off. I started to set plans for the weekend, like go to the city to a new market or café I want to go to and read, or just sit in the park on my own eating crisps and scrolling through Instagram. Whatever I wanted to do I could on my days off, just do the same old same old, you know what I’m saying?
- Finally, Don’t be a stranger. Once you go, stay in contact. Life will get in the way for sure but try to remember birthdays and special days and holidays and random Tuesdays to send a text to say hi.
I guess this is the account of a nanny who didn’t set out to be a nanny.
Im not overly motherly or nurturing or even childminded, and that’s why it was the perfect job for me.
I learned to not take myself so seriously, that having sick on my tshirt isn’t the end of the world.
I will always feel sympathy when I see a mother or caregiver in a public place who has a child that cannot be tamed, not cracker or Tupperware box of apple slices can keep them at bay. I used to just think ‘thank fuck that isn’t me’ and now I think ‘thank fuck that isn’t me anymore’ and then throw them a few words of relatable comedy about kids, hopefully making the stressful shitty situation slightly better.
I now understand the importance of the first few years of a child’s life and how I shouldn’t be a condescending boring adult too soon and instead chill in the level of being able to communicate with a childlike their worth your time.
If you’re off on holidays when you’re hoping to work or even in your home town looking for a live-in job, I would wholeheartedly recommend becoming an Au Pair. Be open minded and be willing to jump fully into a new family and have a good time. At the end of the day, if you hate it, it’s a job, you can go.
At least its not your kid.
And that’s why I think everyone should be a nanny, it gave me a glimpse of having a couple sprogs, it’s a full-time job and then you take the emotional cost into consideration. I learned that I’m not ready yet but I had a great time.
I want to say thank you to the family that invited me into their home, and to the two daughters, that I haven’t messed them up too much and hopefully there is a tiny glimmering memory of the English girl who taught me to put my crisp packets in the bin.