My mobile rang the other day, and on answering, I was greeted with
“Hello Mother, how are you?”
No, not one of my offspring wanting something (they still call me mummy if no one’s listening or they want something!)
No, it was JJ, our beloved ex nanny, who is now far too old to be calling me Mother! But who, despite having left us over 16 years ago, is still an integral part of the family.
It started me thinking about our foray into the world of nannies…..luckily it wasn’t quite “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle”, but we did have a few moments!!
There was never any question of my not returning to work…much as I loved my children I have never been cut out to be a stay at home mum. Domestic Goddess I am not! And I do have the utmost respect and admiration for all those wonderful stay at home mums, just not for me, I would have gone totally mad.
We were lucky enough to be in a position that allowed us to take on a nanny, rather than send our “little darlings” to a childminder, and because, in the early days , I worked shifts and weekends, it felt the way forward. The children would be in their own homes and their lives would be less disrupted.
Having worked up until 10 days before our daughter was born,( I was working in a GP Practice, so if I had gone into labour there would have been plenty of people around to help!!) apart from a brief return to the Practice when K was 12 weeks old..and she did go to a childminder, which wasn’t very successful,… I too was a stay at home mum for 2 years, getting heavily involved in Mother and Baby groups, and weaning K on flash cards….(.it’s what we did in the 80’s!! )
However, by that time I was going stir crazy and desperate to get back to the job I loved. And so the search for the perfect nanny began.
The first girl was a feisty blonde who rode the biggest motorbike I’d ever seen!! She was lovely, and totally devoted to K, and they had wonderful times together. She was with us for nearly 2 years, and only left as I was having another baby and the thought of looking after a small baby frightened her to death.
We have stayed close to her, with K being her bridesmaid, and then when K and G married her daughter was their bridesmaid!
I returned to work when A was 6 weeks old, so we needed someone who would be happy and competent looking after such a small baby… when I say small I mean in age as opposed to size , as he was a big bouncing baby….he’s now a 6’2″ beanpole!!
We advertised, and saw a steady stream of prospective candidates, but none of them really “clicked ” with us. Then we met a “mature lady” who had been a nanny in London before marrying and having children of her own, and she was WONDERFUL
So “Auntie S” entered our lives, and although she stopped looking after K and A just after A’s 1st birthday as she hurt her back and couldn’t really manage anymore, she is a much loved member of the family who is like a surrogate grandma, and is Master Chef’s Godmother. Though to this day K won’t eat the skins of jacket potatoes as Auntie S’s son told her “her head would spin and fall off”!!
So, then we had to try and find someone to replace her,and they were big shoes to fill
And then along came JJ
JJ was 16, no qualifications but a genuine love of children which shone through. We liked the fact that she placed an advert saying she was looking to work with children so we got in touch and invited her to come for an interview, and to meet K and A.
At the allotted time the door bell rang and I opened the door to be greeted by a large blonde perm in jeans and leather jacket, chewing gum, and stubbing out a cigarette! I nearly said she had come to the wrong house!
However, I invited her into our home and there she stayed for the next 2 1/2 years . the children adored her, and she them. She didn’t stand for any nonsense, but god help anyone who upset her little charges. She did leave after the 2 1/2 years but came back when Master Chef was born and stayed with us for another 18 months.
When JJ arrived she could barely make a cup of tea or boil an egg but was a quick and willing learner, and by the time she left us was more than capable of running the house. I n fact I was away for 6 weeks on a course , and couldn’t have done without her. I don’t think the children even missed me! Time keeping was never her strong point, and many a morning I could be found throwing stones at her 3rd floor bedroom window in an attempt to attract her attention.
We lived through hangovers, dental emergencies, fights with boyfriends, fall outs with her mother, tears and tribulations, but through it all the children were exceptionally well cared for and loved dearly by her and they, in turn, loved her dearly too.. and still do this day. She was there at school sports days, Christmas plays, First Communions,(though I think that was the first time she had stepped inside a church), family holidays, and never missed a birthday party. She invariably spent Boxing Day with us, and even after she had left always came to parties and Boxing Day lunch, apart from a year when she was in Australia. She was there at K’s wedding, and was one of the first people A told when he got engaged. She now lives in Sussex with her partner, has 2 children of her own ( who are the same age as K and G’s), and is still a nanny. She still comes to see us whenever she is back in the area and is still greeted with whoops of delight by the boys. K and her are like sisters , spending time swapping hints and stories of motherhood and sleepless nights!
There were others….the vegetarian rebel, who I came home to find her feeding K and A cereal and herself a bacon sandwich!!
The one who refused to make the cot as I “didn’t have fitted sheets”……. and stole from us.
The one who answered the phone with “Hello, the S household, Nanny speaking” but didn’ t like changing nappies!
Then there AM used to let Master Chef run around as she didn’t like pushing the buggy or using the reins…so when we were on holiday he screamed blue murder when I tried to keep him in his buggy. I also discovered, almost too late, that she was emotionally bullying K . She obviously left very quickly
There were some other lovely girls who stayed for longer.
A, who was with us after our disaster with AM and stayed until Master Chef started school and L, who was with us part time when all three were at school. She too is still in touch with us,and is now the proud mum of beautiful twin boys. N, who used to temp for us,and who now lives in Canada. She made an advent calendar when Master chef was 2, and which is still brought out every December!
All came and went, and all left a mark on our home…..some good, some not so.
But to the majority of them I remain eternally grateful for the stability and loving care they gave to the children.
And especially to JJ, whom I watched blossom from a ( in her own words) a mouthy little teenager into a mature and beautiful woman