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What life is really like as a modern-day nanny aka "the help"

I was making dinner one evening when my 5-year-old charge ran into the kitchen, clutching a black sex toy in his hands. He had wanted to play with his sister’s karaoke machine but couldn’t find the microphone, so I had told him to go upstairs and look for it. I could never have imagined he would then return five minutes later with a plastic butt plug, asking if this was the microphone.


I demanded that he show me straight away where he had got it from and he tentatively led me to his parent’s bedroom, pointing to the open drawer that he had been rummaging through. I told him to put it back in the drawer with the assortment of other "toys" his parents had collected and to immediately go and wash his hands.


Incidents like this come part and parcel in the crazy world of nannying. I have worked in total for five different families in the space of six years (excluding all the ad-hoc babysitting gigs and holiday work I have done for other families too). I am paid to be a professional picker-upper, dishwasher, tutor, mediator, and occasional piggy-backer. The funny thing is, I never intended to work in childcare – my degree was in Creative Writing and Drama, not Early Years - but somehow, I fell into it as a means of supporting myself during university. After spending two years as a full-time live-in carer, I thought looking after children would be a breeze. Oh, how wrong I was.


You learn very quickly in this game what little sh*ts kids can be. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been kicked, hit and smacked during a full-blown temper tantrum by school-aged kids who grew out of nappies years ago. I’ve had my belongings scribbled on and thrown off the balcony, and even had an entire cup of water poured over my bed by one delightful child because I told her to go to her room.


You’ll also discover how much these parents will let their "little angels" get away with anything - perhaps out of some misplaced guilt of leaving a stranger to raise their children, or just out of sheer laziness. I cannot describe the frustration of witnessing a parent refuse to dish out any consequences on their unruly offspring, even after they slammed the garage door so hard during an outburst that a chunk of the wall broke off - or after they were caught smuggling a packet of Barny Bears from Tesco’s without paying for it.


And let’s not even mention how disgusting some children can be. If they’re not bringing home threadworms and head lice from school, or picking their butts and then sniffing their fingers, they’re wiping their faeces on bathroom towels because they’ve run out of toilet paper after making too many "tissue dolls" the day before.


However, if you thought the kids were bad, try dealing with the parents. Once a nanny is employed, they soon become the scapegoat for everything that goes awry – whether it be the child leaving their PE kit at school once again, the dishwasher not working properly, marks on the wall, food going missing or the toilet getting blocked.



Many of these parents are completely oblivious to the fact that when they berate you to their kids, the kids will come back and tell you everything that they’ve said. Classic examples being, "Mummy doesn't like your pumpkin pie", "Mummy doesn't like your Instagram name" and "Mummy said your blueberry muffins were underdone". Well, Mummy can f*ck right off.


Then there are those for whom parenting is less a vocation and more a mistake.


In one particular job I was hired for, the children were practically feral and left to their own devices, because their parents would rather spend their spare time catching up with Game of Thrones rather than engage with their young brood. There was no set bedtime, the kids were falling asleep in class and when I would return the following Monday, the house would be completely trashed, the kids would not have brushed their hair or teeth the entire weekend, and there would be no clean clothes or food for them for the week ahead.


But then, what should have I expected when after going on a "date night" with the husband, the mother was arrested after getting pissed in a casino in Leicester Square and abusing an Uber driver. Other warning signs probably should have been the frequent 3am screaming matches between the two of them, and the time she flung a load of KFC leftovers all over the floor in a ballistic rage, because she couldn’t find her headphones.


The worst bit about nannying though is the lack of stability. You discover just how disposable you are to your employers. Where you saw yourself as part of a family, they saw you as nothing more than a piece of furniture. I have been dismissed twice now on the grounds that a nanny was no longer needed but then several weeks later, have discovered that the same family has re-advertised my old job position on Gumtree. Another heartbreaking moment is when they decide to tell the kids that you are finishing with them before they have even bothered to tell you.


Would I still recommend working as a nanny after all of this? Surprisingly, the answer is yes.


Despite all the crap I have had to endure, there has also been so much good that has come from it as well. There is nothing quite like the joy of teaching a child how to read or witnessing them finally learn how to do their buttons up or being able to persuade them to try peas for the first time, without enforced retching. There is also nothing quite like the feeling of hearing a little voice in the dark tell you that they love you before they go to sleep, or them running to the door every morning, excited to see you there, and then crying when you have to leave.



You get paid to do the best (and sometimes the worst) job in the world - that is, being the perpetual big kid. As a full-grown adult, you get to run around in indoor play areas, eat Turkey dinosaurs and do unlimited arts and crafts without being judged - and get paid for it too. If you are really lucky, you might just find a family who will appreciate you and tell you that life isn’t the same when you’re not around.


There is also a lot of laughter and surprises when it comes to rearing children, such as the time I made my one charge cry when I told him I wouldn’t be attending his 100th birthday party because I would be dead by then. He later got his own back by blurting out in the middle of the cinema, "Daddy, when are you going to marry Emma?" which was then followed by awkward silence.

I’m not sure whether I will have kids of my own someday, but at least I know that, in my own little way, I have helped to raise (and emotionally scar) the next generation of children. Whatever happens in the future though, I will never look at a microphone in quite the same way again.


Do you have a funny work-related story? Let us know in the comments!