Would you take £50,000 for being the nanny in a haunted house?

Ghost

If you speak to any nannies or other household domestic staff about what they think is the most challenging part of their job, they may provide any number of answers: meeting high expectations, juggling responsibilities and impeccable time management are all things that successful household workers need to become experts at.

It is unlikely, however, that constantly being bothered by ghosts would rank very highly on the list of most nannies’ complaints. Nevertheless, this is exactly the reason why a family based in the Scottish Borders are desperately struggling to fill the otherwise attractive vacancy in their household – a job which is now worth £50,000 to the successful applicant.

This bizarre story – which has been reported on by a number of media outlets, including the Telegraph – came to light when the family in question advertised the role online. After it was noticed that the listing offered a surprisingly high level of remuneration, the mother of the two children who require looking after felt compelled to explain the situation: ‘Five nannies have left the role in the last year, each citing supernatural incidents as the reason, including strange noises, broken glass and furniture moving’, she said.

Family ‘Happy to pay above the asking rate’

The stories surrounding the supposedly haunted house have inevitably led to questions over why the family continue to live in the property, but the parents remain defiant despite their unenviable record at retaining nannies, explaining how their home is ‘lovely, spacious [and] historic…with spectacular views’.

Insistent that the family themselves have not been on the receiving end of any nasty supernatural surprises in their almost 10 years of living there, the mother added that she understood why securing a long-term employee has been difficult, and that the family is ‘happy to pay above the asking rate, and feel it’s important to be as up-front as possible’.

The job involves looking after a five and seven-year-old pair of siblings and, at the time of writing, is (unsurprisingly) still open to applicants!

Image Credit: Jordi Carrasco

Handy apps for household staff

Healthy cooking

While household staff are expected to be organised at all times, there are a few apps that can make things easier. Whether you need inspiration for healthy meals or ideas for activities, downloading a few free and helpful apps can take the stress out of some daily tasks.

EatingWell

It’s now fairly common for household staff to be required to cook healthy meals for families. With the rise of clean eating and vegetarian/vegan diets, it’s important to keep your meals varied and to bookmark a few recipes for fussy children. Award-winning magazine and website EatingWell has an app for “fast, easy and delicious recipes” which even allows you to save recipes and ingredients lists for when you go food shopping. Healthy in a Hurry is available for free on iOS and Android.

Kids Craft Ideas

For nannies in need of inspiration for creative activities, Kids Craft Ideas is an incredibly useful app. As well as browsing vibrant galleries of craft examples, you can share your own with others. The app is particularly helpful for seasonal craft ideas and will keep children busy for hours. So you’ll be prepared to get creative for Christmas, Halloween and Easter.

Yummly

This app is designed to help you find recipes tailored to certain health needs. Whether you’re dealing with a picky eater in the family or someone with a food intolerance, Yummly matches over 1 million recipes to your cooking lifestyles. You can add entire recipes to your shopping list and save your favourites, so you’ll never be without inspiration for a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan or vegetarian meal.

Those working as private household staff should aim to keep up to date with the latest health food trends and seek inspiration for new and exciting ideas for activities. That way you will continue to discover new ways to put your skills to use.

Image credit: Tim Sackton

Warning over misleading sun cream labels for kids

Sun cream

A nanny in Manchester has warned parents and household staff to check UV ratings of sun creams and not just the factor. Carly King shared a post on Facebook when a child she cared for caught the sun while wearing a brand with factor 50+ but with low UV protection.

King also spoke to a friend whose little girl had been sunburned at a nursery and was not aware she had to check the UV ratings. According to Manchester Evening News, King said in her post: “I’ve seen so many people say ‘I used factor 50+ and my child is pink/red etc! When buying sun cream PLEASE make sure you check the UVA star guide! Ambre Solaire being one of the good ‘brands’ deemed very high protection at 3*** and a £7 bottle, but Asda own brand at £3 is 5*****.”

The nanny said she was disappointed that she’d bought into “trusted quality brands” but felt let down. King added: “The boy I nanny for was outside for 25 mins in 22 degrees! I covered him in cream every half hour and half hour before he goes out! Children burning whilst using spf 50+ shouldn’t be happening!”

Explaining why she posted this, King told M.E.N’s Manchester Family: “I was in Asda looking at sun cream for myself to take on holiday and on the phone to my friend who I mentioned. I was beginning to notice how misleading some of the sun screens actually are. I’d researched best cream for children in the UK to find one for the little boy at work.”

King went on to explain that she only became aware of the UVA/UVB ratings during her previous role at a company selling health products. She added: “Being a nanny I thought it would be a good idea to raise awareness and hopefully help others realise what to look for.”

British nanny changes her name to Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins umbrella

A British nanny has changed her name to Mary Poppins after allegedly being likened to the fictional character by her clients.

According to a report by Huffington Post, Mary Poppins, formerly known as Emma Davenport, has been working as a nanny since she was 18 years old and has even dressed as the character as part of her job. She has now legally changed her name.

Poppins said: “I’ve always been told by my clients and the children I care for that I look and act like Mary Poppins, which is wonderful because she’s one of my favourite Disney characters and someone I certainly aspire to be like professionally.”

Mrs Poppins previously joked with her husband about changing her name, according to the article. She added: “I dress up as Mary anyway for the children at parties and they and their parents always call me Mary, so when he responded with ‘why not, the children would love it and it might give you an edge’, I decided to do a bit of research.

“My own little girl is so excited and keeps saying ‘mummy is Mary!’ and my nanny children think I’m definitely Mary Poppins now.”

The nanny’s name change has certainly attracted attention, and the response has been fairly positive. Richard Conway, CEO and founder of Childcare.co.uk, told the Huffington Post: “Mary contacted us last week to notify us that she’d changed her name to Mary Poppins and asked whether she could update her profile to reflect her new name. Of course we think it’s a wonderful idea and fully encourage her to embrace her new identity professionally.

“With an already glowing reputation as a top-class nanny, we’re sure that the name change will only make Mrs Poppins even more popular amongst parents and children.”

There are plenty of opportunities to shine with positions offered by nanny agency Beauchamp Partners, whether you’re seeking work as a housekeeper, nanny or house manager.

Norland College students receive anti-terrorism training

Norland College training

Student nannies at the prestigious Norland College will now undergo anti-terrorism training as part of their course. The aspiring nannies are being instructed by the former head of UK counter terrorism on how to protect their charges from the threat of kidnappers and terror gangs.

According to an article in The Telegraph, the move follows growing demand for Norland nannies among the rich and famous, whose children may be targeted for ransom demands. The students are learning how to foil a possible attack and are undertaking self-defence lessons, along with evasive driving techniques.

Brigadier Paul Gibson, former director of counter terrorism, is also helping the students to learn how to avoid revealing potentially sensitive information on social media, which could be used to target the children. This includes posting any details on locations, frequent routines and favourite meeting places.

“The range of threats exposed to high net worth and high profile individuals and their families is extensive,” said Brigadier Gibson. “The role of the nanny in looking after their children puts them in a unique position to both be targeted and to act as a credible obstacle to actions such as kidnap.

“By understanding how a pattern of life is established through social media and direct observation, mitigating actions can be put in place to best protect the nannies and their charges. Our training provides the nannies with a foundation to think ahead and prepare for potentially threatening changes in their environment, a skill they can apply to every aspect of their lives.”

As part of the training, the nannies are advised to always keep an emergency bag at hand with spare clothes for the children and any other equipment they might need to make a quick escape. These additional skills are a far cry from the traditions of Norland College, which was established in 1892. The roles of private household staff are ever-changing to adapt to modern life and the threats posed, however as Norland College evolves with the times, it continues to maintain the high standard of training that has become associated with it.

Defining the working relationship with your nanny

Nannies and au pairs can be domestic dreams, household heroes and child whisperers but any relationship that involves living with a stranger can be fraught with difficulties. When you consider different cultures, a distance in ages in ages and homesickness it can easily be a disaster while you try to establish an equilibrium.

Whether it is your first live-in child care or the fifth, each nanny or au pair is different and can be frustrating in different ways. However by maintaining a few ground rules and structure while being understanding of their position and firm of your own, you can live in a household of harmony.

au Pair and child

 

Clarity

When interviewing potential staff be upfront with them. Though the nanny agency would have vetted them, and given them some details about your family, clear and honest communication from the start will ensure that everybody is on the same page and working towards the same goal.

Listing all the duties expected of them, showing them where everything is and ensuring they are aware of the standard you anticipate, will make the first week intense but it will also give you a decent framework to build on and then negotiate if things do not go as well as planned.

Structure

While sticking to a routine week after week may seem impossible with modern living, it is important to ensure your child will be covered. A last minute announcement that the au pair is needed to babysit may be fine once in a while (though may cause some resentment) however if it is a regular occurrence it can cause similar problems.

The same is true for a nanny, while illness and family emergencies cannot be anticipated, social engagements should never be prioritised over their duties. If you give them notice of discrepancies in your schedule, they can do the same to nurture a relationship based on mutual respect.

Discipline

Everybody begins with the best of intentions, a new nanny, and a new regime. You may plan to restrict the television to half an hour a day, and never over meal times, or introduce a sugar free diet for the whole family, however the reality is often very different. Over time standards may slip, a sickly child can be coaxed with nothing but custard or fighting your child over his television time may seem impossible after a long day at work. Maintaining the standard of discipline that you expect from your au pair is not always easy however, you cannot let them always play bad cop.

Continuing to update your nanny on the standards you expect them to maintain, will not only ensure they are aligned with your own views, but will also make you aware of the times you fail to meet these standards. A consistent approach will not only make the children aware of the rules (that should not be bent) but also will help you nanny deal with any situation without any doubt.

Image Credit: Adina Voicu

Downton Abbey vs Reality

The television show Downton Abbey has been a roaring success, enjoying six seasons and with talk of a film on the horizon.  Not only has the British population relished a peek at life upstairs and down, but it was received with enormous praise by those across the pond.

There have been some criticisms of the series and the portrayal of not only the relationship between the upper crust and the serving class but also the conditions they worked in. While it is tempting to believe in a history of benevolent masters and loyal household staff, the reality was in fact very different.

There is much evidence from maids’ diaries and journals that confirm that the Crawleys were a rare breed of management. Mostly the living conditions were poor, either over crowded attics or chilly basements, the wages were minimal and the codes of etiquette more strictly enforced. While Downton conforms to modern standards, the reality would have been servants who were grubby at best but probably smelled. The nobility would have disregarded staff in an ambivalent manner, when attention was paid it would often be to criticise and to lash out either physically or verbally.

Maids from 1907

Though many of the personal aids (like ladies maids and valets) have something akin to friendship with their member of the household, giving advice and making personal marks above their station, this would only have been permitted in the rarest of cases. Instead any scandal would have a maid out on the street with no character reference, often condemning her to poverty.

As times have changed so have our expectations of household staff. Being based on much more than wages, instead mutual respect, friendship and often true affinity come into place, with many staff feeling more like family than hired help. Au pairs often keep in touch with their young charges and employers have a vested interest in their staff’s well-being as well as their future. Though we may like to indulge in the fantasy that Downton encourages, of perfect civility ensconced in lace and velvet, the modern day version is much more palatable.

Image Credit: photos of the past

Inside Norland College – training the world’s most sought-after nannies

cooking-header

Norland College in Bath is training the world’s most sought-after nannies, according to a recent article.

The piece in Business Insider delved into the inner workings of this prestigious childcare academy, which provides unique opportunities for nannies to work for celebrities and the Royals. Norland College has offered childcare training for private household staff for over 125 years. The academy was founded by Emily Ward and its graduates have gone on to care for Prince George and the children of Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, according to the article.

Mandy Donaldson, vice principal at Norland College, told Business Insider: “When they’re in uniform, they’re representing 125 years of history and quality.” The uniforms are old-fashioned, made up of a brown felt hat, a pale brown dress and a brown wool shrug, as well as white gloves in the summer and brown gloves in the winter. Male students wear a jacket, shirt, tie and trousers.

Though from the outside it appears the school has fairly stringent rules to follow in regard to composure and appearance, Donaldson insists the trainee nannies are not always on duty: “They’re in a city with other universities and lots of student life, so once they’re not in uniform, we want them to have fun and enjoy themselves.”

Students at Norland College graduate with a three-year BA (Hons) in Early Development and Learning from the University of Gloucestershire and covers a range of subjects. According to the report, the course aims to teach the trainees the theory of social and emotional development they need to properly look after a child. As well as the traditional childcare skills, the trainees are taught to prepare and cook elaborate meals, learn about nutrition, allergies and dietary requirements, sew, make clothes and plan parties.

Though there are many essential skills to learn to prepare the trainee nannies for private household staff roles, Donaldson added: “Every family and child is different – there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution, so they need to have plenty of different strategies in their toolbox so they can understand how the family operates.”

Real-life Mary Poppins handbook discovered

notebook

Amid the excitement of the upcoming Mary Poppins remake, a real-life Mary Poppins manual has been found.

According to a report in the Metro, the handwritten manual is by the “real-life” Mary Poppins, whose name was Emily Ward. She founded the most famous childcare academy, Norland College, in 1892. The college, training private household staff, was the first to offer any kind of childcare training, according to the article. The newly discovered manual was written by Emily 125 years ago and covers 1892 to 1919.

The notebook was found by Elizabeth Kerry, a lecturer at Norland College, while she was sorting through old boxes from the college’s previous site in Bath, Somerset. She told South West News Service: “As soon as I opened the first page and saw the handwriting and the date 1892, and I thought ‘oh my goodness, this is Emily Ward’s notebook’. I gently packaged up the book and brought it into the college for the team to see.”

Inside the notebook, Emily has written personal reflections as well as the training manual, expressing her vision for Norland College and her students. In the notebook, Emily wrote: “To the mother means freedom from some of the most wearying anxiety that comes with the care of children, more leisure for her own recreation; pleasure in the company of an educated equal and the help which comes in working hand-in-hand with another bent on the same object.

“To the nurse it means a home where the ordinary domestic virtues of no special market value are appreciated – a position of confidence and trust, a healthful life, and above all, the sense that the character of a future generation is to a certain extent, in her hands.”

The remake of the 1964 classic Mary Poppins will hit cinemas in 2018, with Emily Blunt taking the lead role.

Image credit: Pezibear

How to get children to eat healthy food

Healthy food

As a member of private household staff, you may also have a responsibility to look after the children in the home. Alongside your usual duties, you may be required to provide an example of how to eat and live healthily by preparing meals and maintaining a healthy diet in the family home.

It can be a challenge to encourage children that fruit and vegetables are an important and tasty part of their diet. A recent blog by Wellness Mama said junk food is largely to blame for fussy eaters: “It’s quite obvious, with a quick stroll down the perilous middle aisles of any grocery store, that a lot of food marketing targets children. It is also no secret that obesity and type 2 diabetes are skyrocketing in kids and appearing at younger and younger ages.”

To help encourage children to eat well and enjoy a healthy diet, Wellness Mama recommends a few rules.

Commit to making a healthy, positive change

“When it comes to dietary shifts, you must present a confident front, and believe the information you are telling your kids,” says Wellness Mama. The same applies to nannies caring for children. “Research, meal plan and commit to making this positive change.”

Introduce food gradually

“While your kids won’t make the jump from happy meals to veggie smoothies in a day, they will adapt faster than you expect, and they will learn to love healthy foods. To start, put one small bite of each food you have cooked on a child’s plate.” This encourages children to try new foods without feeling overwhelmed.

Let the children make healthy choices

According to the blog, it is important to continue to give children the option to choose what they eat, within reason: “Whenever possible, let the kids make their own choices on healthy options for food. Not only will they feel better about trying a good they chose, but it will help break down their perception that you have hijacked their ability to eat what they want.”

Set an example

As a member of the private household staff, you will be spending a lot of time with the family and children. It is essential to remember that you will be influencing young minds. According to the blog: “Parenting experts agree that children pick up behaviour based much less on what they are told and much more on what they observe. If they see you routinely eating veggies and enjoying them, they will start to choose it themselves.”

Home cooking

Cooking may or may not be part of your job description in the domestic service sector. If you are looking for a household staff role, it may be worth picking up some home cooking skills just in case. “Your chances of eating healthily drastically increase when you cook at home,” says Wellness Mama. “You have the option of using more natural ingredients and more variety.”