My thoughts about nannying and getting older.
We all know how rewarding it is to be a nanny. We help children grow and develop, we take care of them; we love them; we bond; we cry and laugh with them; we teach them, and we learn. I learnt (I am still learning) throughout all these years of giving and receiving. Give and receive - this is what it is all about. That’s why I think that being a nanny is one of the most gratifying jobs I could ever hope for. I would even dare to say, can’t imagine or see myself doing anything else, after all this time.
You might have noticed that I said “all these years” and “all this time”. I have been a nanny for several years now. The same goes for some of the nannies I see almost every day in the playground of my charges’ school or at the after school clubs. We see each other on a regular basis and, on one of these regular occasions, an informal conversation triggered a matter of discussion: “is age an issue when you’re a nanny?” One of my colleagues suggested that it was time for us to slow down, working less hours or even a complete change of career; contemplating working in retail or in an office environment. She even said that, at this stage, we could “offer less” to our charges. She mentioned a couple of examples like getting too tired when she had to play football with the boys “my boys get bored because I can’t keep up with them and then I feel guilty because I am not at 100% when I should”. “Sometimes I am too sensitive and if I think that I did something that was not quite right or my charges make remarks, I just feel like crying or feel very down”.
Another colleague said that becoming a mature nanny has its drawbacks and they have already experienced some rejection in job interviews. “Parents do not want you because they think you are going to be unable to keep pace with their kids”.
There was a third lady who, and despite being the oldest of all, conveyed that age has never been a problem for her. She claimed that parents were more concerned about her having a rapport with their children than anything else. “This is really a bonus” she said. “I can bring all my years of experience to the family and they welcome that”. To tell the truth, she is not the first nanny who sees maturity and experience as a bonus. There are some aspects that most of them agree upon though, for example: working less hours/days, (although some of these nannies cannot afford to reduce their working hours), taking care of older children or a slight change of career, like undertaking more PA roles or becoming a maternity nurse, as I myself was advised to do by a well-known childcare training provider.
Interestingly, I read an article a few years back and do not know if this is still the case, where it was stated that older nannies were in demand. Some families showed their preference for more experienced carers, they were looking for a more “grandmotherly” figure. The article even mentioned that there was an agency where many of the nannies on its books were over 50 and one its was reported was aged 73!
A few years back, one of our regular nannies at my charges’ school was a lady in her early 70s. She took care of two girls who were, at that time, in Year 2 and Year 4. She stayed at the job until the oldest started secondary school.
It seems that the main point here is the nurture a child receives and the impact that this person will have on the child rather than the age of the carer. A child will not remember the age of their nanny. A child will remember many other things.
My question now is, are there advantages or disadvantages to hiring a mature nanny? The aim of this piece of writing I am producing is to give some peace of mind to some of my colleagues, including myself, and to talk about the subject, not to discriminate or be biased against the younger childcare workforce. I have to say that I have (well, we have) much younger colleagues whom I turn to when I need to discuss child concerned matters, ask for an opinion or just have a relaxing chat. They are and have been of great help on so many occasions.
We can think of some of the benefits of having an older nanny around. They have more life experience, for instance, they have known and acquainted more family settings and therefore have an ability to adjust to the situations they come across. Their experience gives them the ability to anticipate parents’ needs and accommodate different parenting styles and preferences. An older nanny will go above and beyond their job duties, thinking of an overall support of the family and the smooth running of the household. A mature nanny, who has chosen being a nanny as her career, will not hop from job to job and will stay longer. They are also more settled in their own lives, more focused and most, with their own family to look after.
With hands-on experience, mature nannies can also provide and share advice on raising children (with all the due respect), giving tips on temper tantrums, on how to get a child down for a nap, or to ease a child’s discomfort if they feel sick for example.
It was not my intention to produce a list of the benefits of employing a mature nanny. My idea was to give to some of my colleagues some encouragement to carry on doing the job they really love and avoid considering stepping out of it. I know that this can be difficult since some of my colleagues have to stick to a full time job and this can be tiring.
We know that as nannies and, as any other nanny, no matter our age, if we are to be employed, we will have to go through the trial period that is requested until we become “part of the family”. Parents will observe us, they will see if we are able to keep up with the children; if we are good with the kids; if we are kind but also firm; if we educate with respect and love; if we have that rapport with their children, crucial if we wish to establish a long lasting relationship with the little ones and the family.
I know that the important thing is to be a good professional, no matter how old we are but when we reach a “certain age” and bearing in mind that our job requires lots of stamina, worries arise, and questions are posed.
I think that I have already mentioned above what age I am talking about. We are in our early, mid-fifties. A couple of us, in our early 60s. We are a very “young in spirit” bunch of people, with plenty to offer and eager to keep caring and learning from our charges, our colleagues - no matter their age-and to support and understand families’ needs.
Maria Teresa Goicoechea