Hi, my name is Annemarie and I am the Client Services director for Night Nannies.
I use this blog as a way to give you tips and idea's in all areas of childcare and development.
Posted 08 December 12
What is a modern day Nanny?
NOTICE that woman pushing the double stroller down the street towards you, groceries hanging off one handle bar, scooter stacked on top? Is that the mother or the nanny? And really, why would you ever think to ask?
Once upon a time, unless you lived in certain suburbs ("the nanny belt", as the owner of one childcare agency puts it), any woman pushing a stroller to a park on a weekday might safely be assumed to be the occupant's mother.
Nannies were a luxury for wealthy women juggling children with charity commitments, or so the stereotype went.
Now in suburbs across Melbourne, nannies are being seen as a legitimate, sometimes even cost-effective, alternative to formal childcare for families where both parents work.
"There's that myth of the idle rich. A lot of our clients are clients who are wealthier women, but they are working women." says Louise Dunham, managing director of long-established childcare and household management agency Placement Solutions .
"There are also more people who dip in and out of the nannying world than there used to be."
As childcare needs have evolved, so too has the list of reasons why families hire a nanny.
For some, it's because daycare options are impractical or impossible - children would have to be dropped off too early in the morning by parents who are also worried about how they are going to make it back in time to pick them up at night.
Others like the idea that their children are looked after in their own home with one-on-one attention and are protected from the constant stream of illnesses often associated with childcare centres.
Shift workers are often unable to find another childcare option that suits their working hours, while families with two or three children under school age are finding a nanny can work out to be a cheaper option than long daycare.
New nannying models such as nannyshare, where two or more families share one nanny, are taking the sting out of costs, while new mothers with little family support are turning to nannies with mothercraft skills to help them through difficult stages with their babies.
Lissa Franke, from nanny and domestic services agency Help on the Way, says the agency founded by her mother more than 20 years ago now has clients from places such as Narre Warren, Pakenham and Point Cook.
"There's been a huge growth of clients from Yarraville and that sort of area," she says.
Franke believes the changes are partly linked to an increase in older women with established careers who need to return to work while their children are very young.
"In the last five or 10 years I have noticed so many more women going back in to the workforce a lot earlier. They are already professionals and they need to get back into their business quite quickly," she says.
Victoria Atkinson had a hunch before the birth of son Flynn that she might need a nanny.
A cardiac surgeon with long and often unpredictable hours, Atkinson put her name down at a city childcare centre, but already had her nanny by the time a place became available.
"I thought, 'I can't be standing in an operating theatre looking at a clot wondering if my husband can get him'," she says.
Six years and another two children later, Atkinson is on her second nanny, a woman with grown-up children.
Without her, Atkinson says she and husband Noel, also a surgeon, would have to get the kids out of bed at 5.30am to get to childcare and work on time.
Atkinson also says that with three children, having a nanny is more cost effective than daycare.
There's also the peace of mind that goes with knowing her children will be cared for, bathed, fed and settled regardless of how her day turns out.
"It's being able to come to work knowing that whatever my day is like my kids are going to be settled," she says.
But she admits that having a nanny has its drawbacks.
Before she had more than one child Atkinson says she was concerned about Flynn missing out on the socialisation that comes with attending daycare.
Then there were the more practical concerns, such as adjusting to having a stranger who organises the house differently to the way she does. With the family's first nanny there were also reliability issues.
"I was so na adive, I thought you just rang up and said, 'Give me Mary Poppins' and there she would be," Atkinson says.
Getting the right nanny for the right family, ensuring they have the relevant background checks, qualifications, experience and insurance cover and employing them correctly is where nanny agencies make their money.
While it might be cheaper to hire a nanny off the internet, Susan Rogan, of Susan Rogan Family Care agency, which directly employs about 100 nannies in Melbourne, says families are taking a risk by not ensuring their nanny has proper insurance.
Expectations surrounding the types of household duties nanny will and will not do can also cause friction.
Where some nannies see themselves as early childhood educators, some clients see them as babysitters who will hopefully clean their house.
"We do hear some horror stories," Rogan admits. "If a family comes to me and says they have had four nannies in the past 18 months you tread very carefully."
Mother of two and medical oncologist Frances Barnett signed up with Susan Rogan Family Care in June, partly because she was struggling to make the morning drop-off before starting work at 8am and partly because of health concerns for her youngest child, who was born prematurely.
"It makes getting to work really easy and the kids love her," she says. "It hasn't been that helpful in reducing work that I need to do at home.
"I think I probably had skewed perceptions about how much there was at home to do that somebody else could do."
Barnett estimates more than half of her weekly wage goes to paying for her nanny. She says she could have done things more cheaply by not going through an agency, but she was reluctant to take any risks.
"Some people have had no problems with nannies, although typically that tends to be people they have sort of known before they started. Other people have had horror stories.
"Someone was telling me they came home early to discover their nanny walking around the block while the child was sleeping."
As demand for nannies from working families grows, so too does debate about whether the industry should be more regulated and whether more families who use them should be able to access the government assistance and rebates afforded to those who use formal daycare.
Only families who meet strict criteria can access the childcare rebate for in-home care, something families who use formal daycare are eligible to receive.
New mum Leonie Wood hired a nanny trained in mothercraft when her daughter was three months old, specifically to help with settling issues.
Though she anticipates sending her daughter to a childcare centre when she returns to work, she's not yet sure a place will be available when she needs it.
"If you literally couldn't get her into childcare when I need to go back to work and you are forced to hire a nanny for an interim period it seems fair enough that you would get the rebate," she says.
The Government argues against extending the rebate scheme to include all nannies, in part, it says, because the industry lacks regulations.
"The reality is the nanny industry is not regulated, and no responsible government can invest taxpayer funds into an entirely unregulated field, which would make the Australian public responsible for what goes on in private residences without any checks and balances," Early Childhood and Child Care Minister Kate Ellis says.
"At present there isn't actually even a common national requirement for nannies to have police checks, let alone minimum qualifications."
However, the Federal Opposition has raised the possibility of extending the childcare rebate for in-home care in its proposed Productivity Commission review into the sector.
And in June, the Australian Nanny Association was founded with the aim of establishing minimum standards for nannies and to lobby the Government to extend the childcare rebate to families who employ one.
"It's about having that flexible option and not enforcing that every child fits into that square box," ANA co-president Annemarie Sansom says.
"The Government is saying you must put your child into a centre and we are saying, 'Give families a choice'."
THE TRIPLETS' NANNY
FIVE years of working in a childcare centre before becoming a nanny had its ups and downs for Antoinette Moretti. But dealing with large numbers of children at once can only have been good training for one of her most recent nannying jobs.
Until last month Moretti spent two days a week as nanny to three-year-old triplets: Bridget, Oscar and Mollie, who she still babysits.
Not surprisingly the 10-hour days were full-on, and the lack of a nearby park meant that Antoinette had to be creative when it came to thinking up ways to keep the children occupied at home.
"They love going outside. They've got a big long driveway that we would spend hours doing chalk drawings on," she says. "We would use all of the empty containers in the house and we would make our own little shops out of old nappy boxes. The second Play School comes on they were quiet. Other than that it was a pretty noisy day."
Antoinette, 26, began her career in the childcare industry after leaving school. Disillusioned with working in a privately run long daycare centre, she decided to go nannying.
She's now also studying teaching, and takes her role as childhood educator seriously.
"You hear a lot of horrible stories where people are clicked at and told to do this and pick up that.
"I don't work like that. I am not a personal slave; I am there for the education of the children - to keep them entertained as well as teach them a few things along the way.
"I'm not just watching your child while I am sitting down having a cup of tea. I am engaging your child; I am working on their motor skills, their cognitive ability, every little thing that I do is for your child."
THE NIGHT NANNY
LISA English creeps around strangers' homes at night, soothing fractious infants and granting exhausted parents the precious gift of sleep.
A nocturnal fairy godmother who sweeps in at 9pm, she's part nanny, part teacher and part maternal support person.
Rather than attaching herself to a single family long-term, English works with many different families, usually for shorter periods, through specialist nanny agency Night Nannies.
A career nanny with a degree in childhood development, English says she was attracted to the idea of night nannying because it offered a chance for her to pass on her mothercraft knowledge directly to families.
"With night work I get incredibly rewarded when I see parents who are really struggling get great results and are so happy with what they have achieved," she says.
English first met now eight-month-old Jemimah (below), when she was just two weeks old and has worked with her on and off ever since.
Despite what you might think about people who have a nanny who stays overnight, English's clients aren't the Brad and Angelinas of this world.
They're more likely to be the parents of twins who need a few nights' break or families where mum is struggling after the birth.
Sometimes English is called in to run sleep-guidance programs, where the tortured parents of non-sleepers are given coaching on how to get their little ones to settle.
Sometimes, when parents have little support from their extended family, it is English who teaches them some of the practical aspects of looking after baby.
"A lot of my clients don't have a mum around or a sister to say to them, 'that's not how you do it, you do it like this'," she says.
"I have quite a few clients who have chosen to be single mothers as well. Quite often they don't have a lot of support networks around them so I've gone in to do a bit."
English's working night kicks off between 9pm and 10pm. If the baby in question is no longer breastfed, she might start the night by sterilising bottles before the family bunkers down.
She then checks into the lounge room with a book or some study and listens for the inevitable stirring. If bub is breastfed, mum still has to get up to feed, but English does all the settling and nappy changing.
She keeps a journal of baby's activities through the night before slipping out into the dawn about 6am, leaving mother and baby well refreshed for the day ahead.
Posted 18 December 12
Nanny on a budget? Have you heard of Nanny sharing?
Nanny sharing is a wonderful way to provide your child with very personalized, home-base child care and share the costs of this care with another family. Many families find that the nanny share is the answer to managing their infant care expenses.
- More personalised attention than a day care, depending on the day care facility and child/staff ratio.
- A shared nanny is a happy medium between traditional nanny care and day care.
- With fewer children around than at a day care centre, your child is more likely to get one-on-one attention, which some experts say is especially important for infants from 0- 2 years of age.
- If the nanny comes to your house, your child spends her day in their own familiar environment. And because she’s not around many kids, your child may not get sick as often as she might at a day care centre (be prepared, though, for some germ-sharing. It’s unavoidable when children get together). • It’s much more affordable than individual nanny care.
- Greater flexibility in regards to scheduling. If you have a more unpredictable schedule than day care allows for, a nanny share may the answer
- It can be very difficult for two families to find a nanny that they both agree on. Ample time should be set aside for the nanny search and for negotiations between families.
- Decreased candidate pool. It may be more difficult to find experienced nannies interested in working a nanny share vs. a single family employment.
- If child is particularly demanding or has special needs, it can be especially challenging for the children to get equal attention.
- If the nanny will be trading off by the day, week, or month, the routine can be disruptive. If your nanny needs to travel between families, any change to the schedule (e.g. if you are running late) will affect both families.
- It may be logistically difficult to rotate the childcare between the two houses
- You will need to plan carefully around both families’ holidays to coordinate the child care.
- Disagreements between the nanny and one family may affect the other family.
- Communication – set up regular three-way meetings to cover any changes in care requirements or scheduling. This way the nanny isn’t receiving a mixed message from two sets of families.
- Over time, your needs may become different from the other families, and the nanny may no longer suit both of you.
THE BOTTOM LINE If a private nanny is not a financial option your family, under the right circumstances, sharing a nanny can be the best of both worlds. Each family gets a more individualized care of a nanny at a more affordable cost.
Posted 31 December 12
Last minute New Years eve plans? Book a Babysitter.
First 5 hours = $235 if you make your booking before 3pm today New years eve.
Bookings made after 3pm = $265 for the first 5 hrs.
All qualified, experienced and background checked professional Nannies, Teachers and Nurses.