In 1987 I decided to study childcare and told my careers adviser that I wanted to be a Nanny, she laughed. “Why would you want to do that?”, she asked with a slight tone of disbelief in her voice.
I explained that I had a love of children and wanted to follow in my Great Aunt’s footsteps; as she had been a Nanny before and during WW2 for the Singer Family.
At that time, the only childcare courses on offer were the National Nursery Examination Board (NNEB) or Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC).
So, I applied to Eastbourne College of Arts and Technology to study the NNEB qualification. An entrance exam had to be sat which was a multiple-choice paper and an essay, I passed this and was invited to the interview stage which I also passed. After 2 years of a full-time course, I graduated in 1991, aged 18.
My first job was caring for two children who were only 4 and 18 months. Both parents were teachers, so I only worked term time, Monday-Friday, 8 am - 4.30 pm not like today when most Nannies work a 50–60-hour week regardless of if they are ‘Live In’ or not.
What has changed between then and now?
Change #1: Technology
In 1999, my employer was diagnosed with cancer and could no longer afford a Nanny. So, I found myself working for one of London’s top Nanny agencies. We had one word processor between the three of us and a fax machine. No computers or emails; all CVs were sent by post.
In today’s industry, agencies have databases, websites, and video calls when a Nanny cannot make it to their offices. Almost all communication is by email or text messages.
Change #2: Risk management
30 years ago, there were no DBS checks, there was no Ofsted, and certainly no Nanny Insurance. As a Nanny, today, you would certainly have Insurance and as well as a DBS check. First Aid training has always been there and is probably one of the most important certificates to have.
Change #3: Communication
When I started my career as a Nanny, there were no mobile phones; so, all playdates were arranged the week before and you would have to use the landline to call if you could not make it. No texts, WhatsApp messages or messenger etc. back in those days to the last-minute rescue. It was the same if there were any changes to the arrangement between the employers and nannies.
We are now living in an age where parents can access their Nanny 24 hours a day by having constant updates sent via mobile phones. Nannies are expected to text or send photos constantly which can be to the detriment of the child, as the Nannies focus is not on the child but the phone. Is this a good thing? A lot of Nannies would say no, as it is not appropriate, and perhaps unsafe. You cannot be on the phone constantly as you have the most precious item in your care i.e., ‘The Child’.
Change #4: Professionalism
The children that a Nanny cared for were called ‘charges’; some Nannies and agencies still use this term today, but the term ‘nanny kids’ has appeared from America as well. These days, the employers i.e., the parents, are often referred to as MB (Mum Boss) or DB (Dad Boss).
If things went wrong, and nannies needed to vent back in the day, they could not take to Facebook or Twitter. In my view, this was probably a good thing as this meant the nannies had to communicate with their employer face to face; text or WhatsApp was not available. This made nannies good communicators, which has been lost today.
Being able to get hold of your Nanny does have its downs as the Nanny cannot do her job properly if she has to text or send photos constantly the child suffers as the Nanny’s focus is not on the child but the phone. Some employers get very upset if the Nanny does not pick the phone up in the first three rings or if it goes to voicemail because you are in the middle of a class, why would you be on your phone.
Change #5: Social media
These days, most nannies have social media accounts, whether that is on Facebook, Twitter, Tik-Tok, Instagram or LinkedIn. Social Media was not around 30 years ago so Nannies could only have photos of their charges by taking their camera and getting the film developed at Boots or any other company.
In today’s industry agencies have databases, websites and Zoom calls when a Nanny cannot make it to the office. Everything is sent by email or text messages. No more buying the Lady magazine every week to hunt for jobs as these are now posted across social media.
So, to sum up, has the Nanny Industry changed for the better? In my view, Yes and No.
Yes, we are treated with more respect as the Professionals we are and have a lot of opportunities to further our knowledge and skills with Nanny conferences, CPD training and access to Industry Professionals.
No, the invention of social media and mobile phones has made life slightly harder for Nannies, no doubt about it.
On balance, the Nanny Industry is changing for the better. Yes, there will always be problems but hold your heads up high because at the end of the day you are raising and educating the future generation of your Country.