Is a nanny for life?
A few years ago, my son asked me how long our nanny would be working with us. He was 6 at the time and his brother was 9. "When do you think you will be able to cook your own food, get yourself to school on time, go to the library by yourself and organise and get yourself to activities in the holidays?" I asked. "Never" came back the honest answer. "Well then, we've got her for life!"
If only that had turned out to be true. Last month, after 8 years with us, our lovely nanny left our household to start a family of her own. It was, and still is, a huge wrench. I'm not sure who cried more, the boys, me or the husband.
Cloning our nanny
She had been with us since my youngest was one year old. He would often call her "mum" and call me by her name, as to be honest we were pretty much interchangeable. I never had a problem with that, as it meant my son felt loved and cared for. I had more of a problem when my husband got our names mixed up. I hope that was just an early sign of dementia.
The idea of trying to find someone else like her seemed an impossible task. We couldn't see how we could replace her. My son suggested cloning, and even took out a book from the library about it. He soon realised that sheep cloning (remember Dolly?) and human cloning are quite different.
So we've decided to try to muddle along without. And it's been quite an interesting experiment so far.
We are very lucky that the boys' school has a small boarding house. So once a week, the boys board.
They absolutely love it because it's like being at a holiday camp. Lots of fun and not a lot of sleep. But it means I can travel up to London for a full day's work, and stay overnight if I need to. My husband and I had high hopes of staying up in London and painting the town red. The sad fact is that nearly every week we've come home on the train and fallen asleep in front of the telly.
At half term, I shamelessly used my sister for additional childcare. The fact that she has 4 of her own children, a dog, and a building site for a house did not dissuade me. I said it would be a great chance for the cousins to bond and have a run around together. Turned out the bonding was mainly made up of sitting mute in front of the TV, and exercising their fingers playing FIFA. They hailed it as a huge success, so my poor sister can expect more visits in the future.
I was feeling quite smug about how well we were coping, until one week when I very nearly dropped the ball. I had to go up to London on a day when I'd normally be working from home. It was only when I was halfway through my day and getting ready to go into another meeting that I realised that there was no way I would make it home for school pick up. Luckily a hastily sent email to my son's teacher meant that he could be booked into an after school club.
He wasn't overly pleased when I picked him up. It turned out the school club was Brownies and they were working on their "Designer" Brownies badge. They had all dressed up in some beautiful outfits and tried to get my son to do the same. Apparently he put on a white shirt and white shorts, and said that he was standing up for gender neutral dressing. Unfortunately they insisted on sticking flowers on him and putting bows in his hair anyway. It took a week's supply of Haribo and some "manly" TV to get over that trauma.
When you need a nanny, who are you going to call?
So life without childcare is currently a work in progress. The Easter holidays are looming, and I'm not sure we can muddle through then. Luckily I know an excellent chain of nanny agencies who can find me a perfect temporary nanny. It's time to call Tinies.
Amanda Coxen, Working Mum and Tinies Director