Finding Mary Poppins

At a time when parents are returning to work sooner, and in a part of Sydney where formal child care can be difficult to secure, nannies are increasingly sought after. But how do you find the right fit for your family? And what are nannies looking for, too?
In this piece I discuss my experience of hiring a nanny, and what makes a great relationship, from both a family’s and a nanny’s points of view.
When our younger daughter was 11 months old, my husband and I decided to employ a nanny while we awaited a place at a childcare centre together with her older sister. Specifically, we wanted someone who would mind our daughter one to two days a week, and who was also happy to care for our older daughter at times when she may not be attending day care. In broad terms, we wanted someone who would care for our daughters diligently. Someone who would provide stimulating activities at home and small excursions outside the home, offer comfort when needed, administer medication as required, and maintain the nap schedule. We had no expectation that the nanny would undertake household duties, but hoped not to find mess akin to a bombsite on returning home at the end of the day!
So where do you find these wonderful people? After some research, it seemed the main avenues for sourcing a nanny were recommendations from personal connections or social networks, agencies and Facebook groups dedicated to connecting nannies with families. We chose to post an ad with our requirements, which included current first-aid certification and appropriate background checks, on one such Facebook group. Within hours, we were inundated with responses, and asked several applicants to meet with us.
Although I prepared some questions for our candidates, I was mostly interested to see how each one engaged with our girls. The candidate we hired, Annie, gave our daughters the space they needed to feel comfortable with her presence in our house, then quietly and warmly began to interact with each one of them. After meeting Annie, our younger daughter cried because she didn’t want Annie to leave. Our older daughter begged for Annie’s return. Both girls knew they wanted her in their life! After a few phone calls to her past employers and reviewing the relevant checks, we knew that we wanted her in our life too.
Eighteen months on, I’m pleased to say it has been a fabulous ongoing relationship. Annie has shown great dedication to our family. She has brought bucket loads of responsibility and enthusiasm. She’s unflappable when the kids are sick or out of sorts. In short, she has embraced our family, warts and all, and we have embraced her!
Reflecting on our experience, I believe the two key elements for a successful relationship between a family and a nanny are respect for each other and good communication. So often relationships between families and nannies can begin to sour when needs and preferences are not articulated at the outset. Some families may be disappointed to find that their nanny does not initiate light housework during nap time, although they never discussed this requirement. Others may be frustrated that a nanny would allow their children to watch television or use devices, but never explained their approach to screen time. By the same token, some nannies may find themselves in situations where a family’s values or methods do not reflect their own, or the expectations keep getting higher.
I ask Annie about her wide-reaching experience of working with families. First of all, what does a nanny’s workday entail? She says: ‘On any given day I might end up being my charge’s carer, their chef, their teacher, their story-teller, their musician, their game player, their swim instructor, their partner at classes, their first-aid giver, their hand-holder … The list is endless!’
I also ask her about which relationships she feels have worked and why, as well as those ones that suffered. She says: ‘As a nanny, I have experienced both positive and negative relationships. I have worked with families where every day has been a struggle, because we were not all on the same page from the get-go. But I have also worked with many beautiful families who have treated me like one of their own. Those that have allowed me to take care of their children, to help them grow and learn and experience life.’
What are some of the benefits of finding a great fit? ‘I can’t stress enough the importance of finding the right fit,’ says Annie, ‘because it’s those families that make me love what I do. Nothing can quite explain the feeling when I hear the pitter-patter of little feet running to the door in the morning excited that “Annie’s here!”. Most importantly of all, when I find the right family I end up being that little person’s friend.’
A huge thank you, during this Nanny Appreciation Week (31 October–6 November), to Annie, and all the deeply committed, hardworking nannies in our community!
More articles by Ginny:
The Relentlessness of Reflux: Michelles Story
Remembering with Love: Janes Story
Beautiful Births
Sleepy Heads: Surviving Sleep Deprivation in the Early Years
Welcoming Baby Number Two
RPA Newborn Cares Baby Warriors
Making Friends at School … with Other Parents
When Two Becomes Three (or More)
Focus on Womens Health: Childbirth Injuries
Birth Injuries: An Uncomfortable but Important Matter
Finding Peace: An Inner West Mums Story of Domestic Violence
Our Incredible Village
Just Eloped!
The Day Cale Met his Idol Guy Sebastian
How to Support a Friend through the Loss of a Baby
Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
The Milk Wars
A Big Shift: How Three Women Transformed their Careers during Motherhood
You Know You Have an Inner West Child When …
The Game-Changer
Cookie Cutter Kids: How can we teach our children to celebrate diversity?
Running in Circles
Allergies: What’s all the fuss about?
The Early Days
Not Water – Tears
No Judgements, Please
Triumph or Trauma
Riding the Merry go Round
Friends, Near or Far
When is Enough, Enough?
My (Child’s) Kitchen Rules

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