Real-life nanny diaries: "I was told, 'Don't eat in front of the baby'."

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This is what it’s REALLY like.

I hadn’t had a whole lot to do with children before I took my first job as a nanny.

If I’m honest, I ended up landing the gig after following a very unreliable boy from London to Sydney. Needless to say, when it didn’t work out, I was left homeless and without a job, so when a friend suggested a live-in nanny position with a family she knew, it wasn’t only a lifeline, it felt like kismet. After all, I loved children and had always been very hands on with my nieces and nephews.

It was obvious within two days that I was in over my head.

Now, let me be clear. I love kids, and I have become a mum myself since this all happened. But oh boy, there are some situations I found myself in as a nanny that I could NEVER have imagined.

For example, my very first instruction from the mother of the child: “Don’t eat in front of our baby because it’s unfair to her feelings.” Really? She was three months old, barely making eye contact and able to grab at my finger. Did she REALLY think the baby was going to get all cut up inside because I was eating a Thai beef salad on the couch as she was kicking away in her bouncer?

My problem was that I had spies everywhere, especially in the form of her six-year-old big sister. Charlotte (not her real name) took it as a personal challenge to bring me down, as I’m sure she had my predecessors. Part of me thinks I should have quit when I found her drawing a gravestone with my name on it but no, I was sure I could win her (and her mother) over.


One day, it turned out she really needed me. She was in the toilet for 15 minutes or so and I went in to find out if she was okay. I heard her inside, straining. I was about to leave her be, understanding that this kind of thing is personal, when I heard a small voice say “Nanny, please don’t leave, you have to squish me”.

Then she explained that when she can’t go to the toilet, her mum or dad usually “squish my tummy so I can poop”.

She was marginally nicer to me after that night.

But then there was the night that involved the flashlight.

Now, I knew about worms; I’ve got a younger brother and I’d seen my mother confirming that yes indeed, he did have worms. So when I heard a knock on my door late one night, I knew it wasn’t to offer me some brandy and a chinwag. “Nanny, Charlotte has worms, I’m positive of it. She can’t stop scratching her bottom.”

The mother thrust a flashlight into my hand (let’s just say she was the squeamish type) and instructed me to inspect her, um, bottom. I did so, through bleary eyes, and confirmed that yes indeed, those worms were attracted to the light. This is when she gave me some cash and her car keys and instructed me to grab some worming chocolate squares from the late night chemist down the road.


You would think that I would be horrified to ask the ridiculously good-looking pharmacist to assist me, but I was beyond mortification by this stage. I’d only been there the week before to grab some cream for scabies, so we were already old pals.

What I did find though, is that after some pretty hectic mind games — games I didn’t even know 6-year-olds were capable of playing — Charlotte and I became pretty firm friends. I enjoyed hanging out with her (and her baby sister, once she stopped getting upset about what I ate in front of her).

Being a nanny isn’t for everyone, but sometimes, you discover the best little humans just waiting to be understood. And I’ll always be fond of my nanny days in Australia.

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