'Nannies aren't glorified babysitters. Here's what we want parents to know about our job.'

Nannies absolutely love being nannies. Some are young, some are old, some have families and others don’t.

But overall, nannies love the children in their charge and seeing them grow and develop into happy, well-behaved and well-educated children.

What most nannies don’t like is the connotation that a nanny is a glorified babysitter and not a provider of a valued service in educating a new generation of children.

Louise Dunham is a pioneer of the nanny industry having established leading nanny agency, Placement Solutions, 30 years ago. Louise knows intimately what nannies would like parents to know.

“Parents who haven’t used a nanny before, or if they did so many years ago, need to know what is expected of them today, because things have changed in recent years,” said Louise.

Nannies aren’t domestic slaves.

A professional nanny is a proactive carer who provides personalised care to children in their own home. They can be casual, temporary or permanent; part time or full time; and live-in or live-out.

A nanny’s role includes being an educator, playmate and occasional disciplinarian for one to four children from newborns to tweens; they shouldn’t be expected to act as a housekeeper or a babysitter.

Nannies are also professionals, usually qualified to Certificate III or Diploma level. They will have a current first-aid qualification including an annual CPR refresh, and meet the current police checks and working with children checks relevant to the jurisdiction in which they work and they should be Child Abuse Prevention Certified.


“Parents who leave a list of things to do such as ironing, housecleaning and washing, don’t want a qualified nanny, they want a nanny/housekeeper,” Louise said.

Any parent who asks, “What’s my nanny going to do when my child sleeps?” needs to understand that while the nanny is focused on the child they still need to look after themselves, so they are going to have a toilet break, have some lunch and put their feet up for while so they have energy for the rest of the day.

Of course, nannies will do all the many child-related tasks that need to be done such as cooking and feeding nutritious meals and snacks, cleaning up the kitchen and table after meal preparation and meals, managing the nappies and helping children to nap.

But importantly, nannies are employed to keep children safe, help them learn and entertain them.

Lots of nannies are helping parents with the awkward art of ‘Fakebooking’. We discuss, on our podcast for imperfect parents. Post continues after audio.

Nannies want to be paid legally.

Nannies are entitled to the same rights as everyone else in the workforce. And like any employee, nannies must be formally employed, either by the child’s parents or an agency, and paid the nanny/educator award wage as a minimum.

What many parents don’t know is that nannies cannot be employed as contractors working under their own ABN as this doesn’t meet the ATO’s definition. Nor can they work for cash payments. These are both illegal and could get the parents and the nanny into hot water.


Parents will also need to make regular superannuation payments into the nanny’s fund, as well as organising worker’s compensation insurance and ‘pay as you go’ tax instalments.

All this can get complicated and time consuming and is the reason why many parents choose to use an agency who handles payrolls, which gives peace of mind and limits the paperwork parents need to manage.

As much as nannies love the children they care for, at the end of the day it is a job and nannies have their own life and will go back to their own homes with their own family.

Nannies need professional development.

Parents should actually encourage their nanny to undertake any professional development and training that is available to them, often through a nanny agency.

“Attending these training days is beneficial for the parents because it is so valuable for the nanny. They have the chance to learn new skills, new ways of doing things and learn about the latest research into early childhood development, all of which will help keep nannies at the leading edge of their profession.

“These events also provide an important opportunity for social interaction with other adults, as they don’t usually have this ability during the day. As dearly as nannies love children, sometimes they need to spark ideas off other people also in their industry,” said Louise.


When the Federal Government’s new childcare changes come into effect from 1 July 2018, nanny/educators will have to achieve a required number of CPD competency units every year.

Professional development helps keep nannies excited about their job and about the growth opportunities for them as individuals.

Nannies would also like parents to know that they are willing to share what they know about bringing up children and in many instances a nanny has a deep depth and breadth of experience and can teach parents so much if they are willing to learn.

Further to this, it’s best for parents to employ a nanny whose child rearing philosophies match their own. This way it’s reassuring to both parties that together they can raise resilient, responsible children.

Mutual trust and respect.

If there isn’t mutual trust and respect between the parents and the nanny, the relationship won’t last long.

“An example of how it should work is when we had a nanny who started a new job and the father gave her his platinum credit card and said, ‘This is for any small things you might need to buy if you take the children on any excursions’.”

“The nanny looked quite anxious about it and said, ‘I don’t think you meant to give me this card, I only need small change.’ The father said, ‘No, I did mean to give you that card and I totally trust you with that card because I’m leaving you with my most precious assets, my children. So what matters about a small piece of plastic? Of course I can trust you with that’.


“When there’s trust and respect, as in any relationship, it can be a wonderful partnership,” Louise Dunham said.

Ultimately, in-home childcare is a profession not just a job. A nanny’s role involves being 100 per cent present and in the moment for the child/children they are looking after.

Children rely on this active presence and engagement; it’s how young humans learn and develop. They rely on all their carers to be hyper-vigilant, enthusiastic and above all, kind.

Have you ever thought about a nanny for your family? What works best for you when it comes to childcare?

Louise Dunham is Founder & CEO of Placement Solutions, a Melbourne-based agency specialising in nanny placement, which she established in 1988. Louise served as Chair of the Ethics Board of the International Nanny Association (INA) for five years and was also INA’s Vice President, being the first non-American on the Board. She has also been Vice President of the Australian Home Childcare Association, Australia’s peak industry body for in-home childcare. Louise was on the steering committee that wrote the Australian National Interim In-Home Care Standards and she was instrumental in the development of the Working with Children Check in Victoria.