One of the biggest stressors in a working parent’s life is how to handle child care. Modern child care with busy households differ across the globe, but for me and many Western mothers I’ve met, Mary Poppins and other fictional nannies like Nanny McPhee, can seem like a pipe dream.
This isn’t going to be a post about what’s better: stay at home moms (SAHM) or working moms with children in the care of someone else or work at home moms (WAHM). I’ve had ALL roles over the last few years and now, as a WAHM, my family is again experiencing a transition. I’m here to say emphatically that what’s best for one family isn’t the same for another. There are too many variables to consider for each family, each child. However, in future Tuesday posts, I hope to highlight observations on modern childcare options and concerns that seem to be a common theme in many countries around the world (Japan, US, UK, Germany for instance). A good friend and a UK nanny, Tasha, will also keenly contribute her thoughts and experiences in these posts too. (So make sure you subscribe so you know when a new post comes out!)
Why write about child care? A couple of months ago, a viral video showing shocking abuse by an African nanny of her toddler charge raced through the Internet and lit up social media pages and electronic news media. Many blogs focused on this Ugandan nanny and the long minutes of abuse she handed out to the little girl who could barely speak, let alone walk.
So starting this month, I’d like to introduce readers to how child care is handled around the world, starting with a short Q&A with our Thoroughly Modern Nanny in London, Tasha.
Tasha is not Mary Poppins nor is she Nanny McPhee, although with her lovely British accent and unflappable personality and no-guff tolerated rule, she is as close to the ideal nanny as one can be…without the talking bird-umbrella and incredible, bottomless carpet bag. She’s a lot like the book’s heroine: “energetic, smart, presentable, and sensible” according to The Hairpin’s Mia Warren, who wrote a fantastic character review of P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins. By the way, I do tend to describe Tasha as our Mary Poppins. Here’s why.
Hiring a Mother’s Helper
A few years ago, soon after we moved to Germany, I decided to hire a part time mother’s helper or personal assistant. I’d just taken a full-time job as an executive assistant about 30 minutes from home but realized soon after saying “yes”, that I needed some help managing the household. In stepped a real-live Mary Poppins, our modern nanny and dear friend, Tasha. She lived with a German family nearby as their au pair and only worked with my family for about six months before returning to her native England, but the positive impact on our lives is still felt today. (In fact, we love her so much that we’ve included her on a quick weekend trip to Vienna so she can help with childcare for our family and four other families and also get some downtime of her own.)
She visited us a couple of months ago and I finally got the nerve to ask her about writing down her experiences: the good, the bad and the ugly. She would never speak ill of her past employers in a public forum but she was game to share advice, especially professional topics like what to look for in prospective employers or how to find positions as a nanny or au pair. When she returned to England after our visit, she agreed to answer a few introductory questions with this first post. She’ll be visiting Global Family Treks as often as possible for a new series we’ve dubbed “Tuesdays with Tasha”. We’ll definitely learn more about life as a young professional child care provider and hopefully, over time, get a peek into her life as a proper British nanny.
And now a few words from Tasha, our “resident” British nanny…
Question 1: Tell us a bit about yourself. Why are you a nanny now and how did you begin your journey?
Hello! I am a 24 yr old professional nanny: qualified, first aid and food safety trained. I have cared for newborn babies to teenagers. I live and work in London.
I came into the profession by becoming an au pair in Chicago, taking care of a month old baby girl, a type 1 diabetic 6 yr old boy and an 8 yr old boy. This was four years ago. I still talk to the family and once a year, they bring me over for a holiday/vacation. Once in Chicago, I found that my organisational skills were really useful and that I was quite naturally gifted in caring for children, which was the BIGGEST surprise to me, as even 6 months before I didn’t believe that I would with children. And nearly 5 years later I have taught babies to talk and walk, potty trained toddlers and a whole lot more.
Question 2: What are the top 5 things that you wish all parents would consider before hiring someone to care for their children in their home, whether an au pair or a nanny?
- I wish parents knew and understood exactly what they want from their childcare provider.
- That they shouldn’t expect their childcare provider to deep clean the house unless being paid extra (and) at the rate in which cleaners are paid for in the area.
- Parents should not have different rules for themselves and the childcare provider; children and babies should have the same routine throughout. If you do not want your nanny to give your child (the) TV/iPad/iPhone, you shouldn’t excessively give it your child as they will ask their nanny/au pair. If that is the norm with the parents, they will get confused as to why it is not (the norm) with the nanny/au pair.
- I wish parents would consider whether or not they want the nanny to have full care, part care or help within the home, so that the childcare provider can be organised and plan routines, and work with the parents, than keep being blocked when trying to.
- I wish parents would organise and consider before getting a childcare provider what discipline routine they would put in place and work with the nanny/au pair together this would enable the parent to back the au pair/nanny if a situation occurred with the child.
Question 3: What are the main differences between a nanny and an au pair? And do they differ greatly in different countries?
An au pair is not to have sole charge of the child. An au pair is from another country and is there for a cultural exchange. Au pairs are generally younger, ages between 18-26 without much experience.
Nannies organise playdates, appointments, lessons etc. Nannies can live in and out and are paid more due to more responsibility. Nannies have experience or qualifications and sometimes both, and ages can vary. Nannies are more likely to have been screened and checked e.g. DBS/CRB check*, background check and references.
*in the UK, a DBS check is a Disclosure and Barring Service check. DBS was formerly known as a CRB or Criminal Records Bureau check.
Question 4: What’s a favorite memory you have as an au pair or nanny that you can share?
My favourite memory is when I taught the first first baby/toddler to walk… Chicago Winter December 2000, she was wearing a bright pink snowsuit and we were in Starbucks. I took her out of her stroller and put her on her feet. I had to walk maybe 7 babysteps away and she walked to me. It was a very proud happy moment. Starbucks gave me a free coffee and her a baby-ccino!
Question 5: What’s one thing you’ve learned as an au pair or nanny (no names please)?
I learnt that I always had to stand up to what I believe in, and not let myself be pushed around. I learnt that I had to be more confident in skills and abilities to know when I am right but also when I’ve made mistakes and to take responsibilty for them.