In the Press, Reviews, Social Commentary

The Help: Nanny Nightmare or Nanny McPhee?

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(Photo courtesy of the Internet)

The Break – up: Can’t Live with them, can’t live without them…

“Is it me?’ My eyes start welling up as I pour out my woes. ‘Was I too nice? Was I too mean? What have I done to deserve this?’ I really want to start crying, but I know that this too shall pass and I am possibly being ridiculous. ‘It’s only been one and a half years and she’s already leaving me!’ ‘Don’t worry, its not you, it’s her,’ my friend consoles me. ‘You deserve someone better and that will treat you with more respect. You’re too good for her. If it wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be. You’ll find someone better.’ ‘But my previous relationship only lasted two years! This one only lasted one and a half years. I’m really starting to think it’s me. I just don’t know what I’m going to do without her.’ And when I start thinking about how to find ‘the one’, meeting them, making small talk about where they’re from, seeing how we ‘click,’ and getting depressed when it doesn’t work out, then, I just can’t help myself, I burst into tears.

I am sad, scared and angry. Sad that our happy family is breaking up, scared that M is going to have a million tantrums and separation anxiety until I find another wonderful replacement, and just angry that Nanny Y has decided to leave us with two weeks notice, leaving me in a panic-induced-paralysis. M loved her like an auntie ( See Quote of the Day: Can Nanny Y have Bathtime with us?’ https://nottinghillmummy.com/2014/03/26/quote-of-the-day-can-nanny-y-have-bath-time-with-us-too/) and we made her a part of our family by sending her granddaughter all of our daughters’ almost-new Bonpoint, Caramel and Marie Chantal baby clothes that had been worn once, gave her one of our old laptops so she could Skype the Philippines, we sponsored part of her family to move to the UK, she ate our Lobster and Truffle Spaghetti for Christmas dinner, and it felt like we were financially supporting her entire family and her village. Now every morning, I keep repeating my mantra in front of my mirror: ‘Only another 3 years, we will find someone else. Only another 3 years, we will find someone else. Only another 3 years, we will find someone else’ to survive. (Once the children are in full-time education, this critical role of nanny/housekeeper can be replaced by a number of equations, but for now, I am in desperate need of one).

RPP: Rich People Problems

To most people, this is a RRP, finding the right ‘Help” (or is ‘Staff’ a better word?). But it is a strange co-dependent relationship that makes you feel like your world is falling apart when they leave you. On a day-to-day basis, give me a nanny-housekeeper over a husband any day (sorry Mr. C, you are really wonderful, but your strengths lie outside the domestic realm). I was brought up as an expat in Asia, the Middle East and Africa where it was completely normal to have one cook, one cleaner, one gardener, one driver and at least one or two nannies, all for the price of one meal at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner. So when the opportunity came for me to get help with my two children, I didn’t hesitate. Live-in nanny/housekeeper, please! To most people growing up in the Western World, this concept is very unusual, having someone living under the same roof as you and watching your every move, knowing all your intimate details. They become someone who knows when you are having an affair before you husband does, when you are pregnant before any of your friends do, they’ve seen you naked (M just pulled my bathrobe open at breakfast-AGAIN), walks in on you doing your ‘nature calls’ (every kind you can imagine), and are the first to cuddle your newborn apart from your parents, the in-laws, and possibly the father.

The problem is that we start depending on them for our wellbeing, sanity and our marriage’s health. A nanny/housekeeper allows your husband to go on boys’ trips, football games, golfing, work dinners/trips without making them feel so guilty and you so resentful. It allows you to go away on a ‘mummy and daddy’ holiday to ensure that your couple makes it through the early years of parenthood. Most importantly, it can allow you to sometimes be a better parent when you can hand the baby/toddler/teenager off when you are so exhausted from another sleepless night of teething or when you feel like shaking them and shouting at them to stop crying/whining/tantrumming (Of course if you are happy to do all those things without any help while staying cool as a cucumber, you can come over and give me a few tips over coffee any day). It is more important than couples counselling, cheaper by the hour, and allows you to feel ‘normal’ for a few hours a day. It enables me to focus on my child/children so that I can spend ‘quality time’ with them rather than spending an inordinate amount of time on the things I am not so good at; cleaning up their vomit/piss/poo/food on the floor, laundry, ironing, cleaning up after them every second of the day and the list goes on.

A nanny also allows me to spend time with each child individually, giving them attention they need to ‘foster their intelligence, leadership, and achievement’ (which apparently only one child parents are able to give rather than multiple child parents as written by Lauren Sandler’s book One and Only http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/opinion/sunday/only-children-lonely-and-selfish.html). And I haven’t even started discussing the essential role of a nanny in a family where both parents work (Another blog post coming up soon on Working Mums & Mumpreneurs). To this end, I am sharing my woes and tribulations on finding the right nanny with anyone willing to read, and for all of the future, virgin mums who have yet to discover the world of finding and hiring a nanny:

My Guide on How to Hire a Nanny

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(Photo courtesy of the internet)

The English vs. Filipino Nanny

Firstly, when deciding to hire a nanny, one must choose early on their ethnic background, because it will tell you already in itself half of what you want to know about the nanny.  There are only two main Ethnic Backgrounds that really we need to discuss: Filipinos vs English.

1. English Nannies

English nannies have always been famous, but even more so when Mary Poppins and Nanny McPhee won over our hearts. British nannies take their nannying jobs very seriously. They have qualifications and often became tutors as well in the olden days. They speak perfect English and will teach your child the Queen’s English (The children of Filipino nannies stand out immediately with their Tagalog accents, but at Pembridge/Wetherby, that’s OK since most of them will have this same accent and will communicate with each other perfectly). They can be very creative with painting, arts and craft lessons, or building pirate ships out of your living room sofa. They are not afraid of a little (a lot) of discipline and your child will quickly learn to say ‘thank you, please and sorry’ out of fear. The downside of English nannies is that they have a superiority complex over other nannies, especially Filipinos, and therefore won’t do any housekeeping (nothing peeves me off more than when I am sweating and cleaning the kid-tornado’d house while my English nanny is happy, frockling, and splashing around in the pool with the kids in the Mediterranean sun when we rent a house in the Med).

2. Filipino Nannies

The Filipinos have become famous around the world because they are hard working, usually honest, reliable and trustworthy, and are very gentle and loving towards children in general. ‘They work like dogs’, one reference said to me about Filipino nannies when I was deciding what and who to choose to look after my children. They are known to work harder than anyone else, will happily cook, clean, feed, wipe, and take care of domestic pets (fishbowls, take out scary large tarantula-like spiders found in the basement, get rid of the dead mice in your mousetrap, and help free the fox stuck in your garden). Most of them have a similar background: they have a husband at home in the Philippines who looks after their children (who doesn’t work and uses the hard earned money sent home to drink beer with their mates), many of them have passed through Honk Kong (the lucky ones) or the Middle East (the unlucky ones), they go to church on Sunday, don’t drink or smoke,  and will do pretty much anything you ask of them. They do not have easy lives being away from their kids, but do get to live in beautiful houses, travel to exotic places and sit around the playground gossiping with their friends. Could be worse.

Unfortunately, these rare Filipinos are dying out and a new breed is emerging, largely due to the Filipino mafia that you can see having a picnic in Hyde Park on Sunday, gossiping about their favourite topic of discussion; how much you are being paid and for how many hours, trying to figure out how they can get more money. When a Filipino asks about salary and starts negotiating during the first interview, it is not a good sign. And when a Filipino is no longer happy because of their salary, they passive/aggressively become grumpy, borrow lots of money from you saying their family needs the money, don’t work as well as before and appear completely distracted and uninterested in the work. For Filipinos, best to hire a single/never married/no kids/church-going nanny between the ages of 25-50, who isn’t as focussed on money.

The Nanny Search: Nanny Agency, Word-of-Mouth or Gumtree?

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(Photo courtesy of the internet)

There is a famous Italian coffee advertisement, which shows two families. One family is smiling, happy, drinking the advertised coffee in peace on a Saturday morning, with their smiling, perfectly behaved children sitting around the breakfast table, with sun shining on all of their blissful, happy faces. In the other family, the parents look like they are going to kill each other with dark circles under their eyes, the kids are running around screaming, and the place is a mess. There is food everywhere and the house looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in decade, and they are drinking a rival coffee. This should really have been an advertisement for Little Ones Nannies or Greycoat Lumleys Domestic Help.

Originally, I promised myself I would never pay the exorbitant nanny agency fees when I saw how much they charged and was convinced that I would find someone word of mouth, which I did for my first maternity nurse and nanny, but unfortunately both ended bitterly, so I bit the bullet and signed up to every agency for any future nanny search. Here is a quick hierarchy of ways to find a nanny based on cost:

1. Word of Mouth: This is when you mass-email all of your friends with children/nannies to see whether they know anyone available (or usually their nannies will know someone). So far, I have not had much luck with this type of nanny-searching, although many swear by it, especially if it’s your friend’s nanny that is handed to you. If you are lucky enough to get a direct reference from a friend, take it. Price: FREE

2. Kalayaan: ‘Justice for Migrant Domestic Workers,’ this is for the abused domestic workers from Saudi trying to find work in the UK. Cheap labour (anything above the minimum wage of £6.31/hour) but don’t expect very good English, a British Passport for traveling, or any references. You can post your job ad for free on this website. Price: FREE. http://www.kalayaan.org.uk

3. Gumtree: A receptacle for anything and everything, it is like a diamond minefield, trying to find a diamond in the rough. You could spend days, hours and months looking for the right one, some lucky ones will find great nannies here, others will just be unlucky. You will be sent CVs from a range of prospects like a deaf teacher in Zambia, a Butler in India, and the Polish girl who writes about how life has been hard, her parents divorced and she was left alone in the mountains. Another con is that until there is a binding contract, many cancel at the last minute. Price: £35 to put up an advertisement. http://www.gumtree.com/london

5. Eden nannies: A good, experienced agency that has good candidates, but not as many candidates as Little Ones. Price: 6 x weekly salary +VAT or minimum £2000+. http://www.eden-nannies.co.uk

6. Imperial Nannies: Best for pure nanny work or maternity work. Not so good for nanny/housekeeping roles. Good for temporary positions/holiday positions. Price: 8 weeks of net annual salary +VAT. http://www.imperialnannies.co.uk

7. Greycoat Lumley’s: Very good and thorough candidate reports and verbal references given with candidates being offered, so you can start calling references right away. A good mixture of nannies, nanny-housekeepers, temporary staff and maternity nurses. Price: 17% annual net salary +VAT. http://www.greycoatlumleys.co.uk

8. Little Ones: Known as the bilingual nannies’ agency, it is fast becoming known as the ‘money grubbing’ agency which takes money from everyone, from the candidates who need certain qualifications that the agency offers for a fee of £90/£100 and for the clients a one-off fee £100 just to start the search, and will charge 18% of the annual salary as a commission + 20% VAT, which equates to over £4000. It has now become very popular with all nannies as they will advertise higher salaries so it has over 200 candidates signing up each week. It looks like they have more candidates on their books than any other agency but is becoming a victim of its own success, having too many candidates that fall short of the quality needed, but I can’t generalise. They provide very good bilingual nannies and have some lovely Senior Consultants like Sonia Mateos. Price: Realistically, fee starts at £4000+.http://www.littleoneslondon.co.uk

9. Maternally Yours: Pure maternity nurse agency. Generally provides very experienced and qualified maternity nurses. Price: £95 per week +20% VAT. http://www.maternallyyours.co.uk

10. Night Nannies: We all need an uninterrupted night’s sleep once in a while, which is when Night Nannies come in handy. Recommended agency by the Portland Hospital and every friend who has used them recommends them. Price: £22 per night agency fee. http://www.nightnannies.com

Final Tips on hiring & keeping nannies

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Almost anyone who has had a nanny has had their own nanny-nightmare story (and if not, don’t bother reading this, go away, we are too jealous to speak to you and hear about your ‘Amazing, Perfect, Mary Poppins Nanny’). One of the most famous urban legend nanny-nightmare story is about the nanny/au-pair leaving in the middle of the night because she is a prostitute, this story has repeated itself from DC to Hong Kong: one ended up running away with her pimp in the middle of the night, the other one was picked up by the police in Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

So here are my final tips: 

– Do a Google search on the Eastern European ones to ensure they are on respectable social media sites. You don’t want to find out later that they’ve been surfing http://www.golddigger.com on your computer. http://www.christianmingle.com is preferable.

– Ask to see her  plane ticket when she goes on holiday and keep an important personal item of hers so that she doesn’t go home to Australia and never comes back.

– Choose someone who preferably is a non-smoker and non-drinker, especially if they are English or Australian, otherwise you risk the chance of getting your child intoxicated by the smell of their alcoholic breath one night after coming home at 2am. Keep a curfew of midnight and put a big ‘NO BOYS ALLOWED’ sign on her bedroom door.

– Be wary of the Filipino one who asks about labour laws in your first interview and mentions that her solicitor will need to review your contract. She may threaten to call her solicitor when you ask her to help out your friend when you go away on holiday and she is at home being paid to do nothing because she doesn’t have a visa to travel.

– Unfortunately, do not sponsor their family to move over to the UK from the Philippines if they are live-in and actually want to keep her, as they will move out as soon as possible after their family arrives to find a live-out job.

– Do not hire the nanny, who on the trial day, tells you they are looking for a French husband, and your husband happens to be French.

– And finally, DO NOT hire a young, Swedish nanny that looks like Natalia Vodionova, who is 10 years younger than you with bouncier boobs, of course unless you are having an affair and are trying to find out a way to get your husband to sign the divorce papers.

For those undergoing the nanny nightmare, I understand your pain, frustration and depression. I can feel your panic attack coming on, and sympathise. It is normal. I am here for NA support (Nannies Anonymous).

Good Luck!

xx

NHYM

**Please add any of your nanny tips, your worst Nanny-Nightmare story below, or employer nightmare story in the Comments box! **

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One thought on “The Help: Nanny Nightmare or Nanny McPhee?

  1. My new housekeeper of 2 weeks and 3 days had misplaced a bunch of items everyday, she became lazy on week 2, lied whenever I asked why she hadn’t done whatever that was instructed, forgetful daily, she actually wouldn’t do anything I ask her to do. She made relocating my things a hobby. Today, I caught her vacuuming my cardigan with the telescopic part of the machine without the actual parts. When caught red handed (7 times) she first will lie, then will make excuses, or tells me was going to do that after blah blah…and if all else fails, she resorted to crying and telling me if I have conscience, that she has 4 kids to feed at home… I would not be checking up on her work. Anyway to cut to the point, most misplaced items remains missing. She ignored me when I confronted her about all the missing stocks of toilet rolls, packs of soft-drinks, fairy liquid, Dettol, 2 bags of 5kg rice… However, to my horror on Wednesday (she did not come, sick leave) I was left alone in my house, and when I set out to look for all the misplaced items, I realised 4 out 8 garden chairs were gone, 1 plasma TV and it’s hanging bracket missing from the wall, 6 old dining chairs from the staff room, 1 of a pair wooden kitchen stool, 5 rolls of bubble wrap, 5 rolls of parcel tape, 5 parcel boxes, 3 bistro chairs, Set of 4 silver photo frames (photos taken out and left inside a desk) 1 office chair from the office in our basement, gardening gloves, spade, garden supplies, 2 boxes of instant noodles, all the 9 rolls multipack toilet rolls from the stockroom. She nearly cleared out our stock room.
    When I confronted her this morning – keeping my sanity and calm, she reacted in the most hideous way, she started crying and walked backwards away from me, kept saying please don’t hurt me, I know you are going to hurt me, I will just go now, I don’t want to work here anymore. Proceeding to why are you hitting me (I did not lay a finger on her.) I know you want to hurt me bad….

    Then suddenly, she probably realised it wasn’t working, because I told her, you may not leave until you have signed a document for me that you acknowledge the reduction in your wages and acknowledge that you have received all the money that you are entitled to, but we will sign and explain this document with a witness, so now we will sit calmly and wait the witness to arrive.

    1 minute ago, she was crying and sobbing as if someone was beating her up, now, she was sitting angrily, no tears at all at my dining table and hissing at me.

    Her name was Lilia San Lorenzo, do not hire her.

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