Lessons from an autistic Nanny

Lesson One

Be Kind and take time out

There was no other vocation for me as far as I was concerned. I saw life differently and had empathy by the truck load. After two years studying my NNEB I packed up my Fiat Uno and hit the M4 with a vengeance. 250 miles later I was in the bright lights of London.

I had hardly ever been to a takeaway before let alone a huge city full of shiny lights and the big bad city. Still, I was here and more importantly I was ready to begin the job I always wanted to do. I am a Nanny.

To date, I have lost count of how many children I have cared for but it's over 80. Each and every child I have cared for has had an impact on me. Nannying is a mixed bag of the best times as well as some really tough times. This is important to remember as being a part of a family (albeit extended), is always going to bring with it not only the best times you can imagine but also, at times, life can throw you curve balls that can result in some of the worst times. Take the good with the bad.

To trust someone with the most important and precious thing in your life is actually the most privileged of opportunities that can be offered to you, remember this as there is nothing more important to people than their children.

My first nanny job was in South London, my charge was a 2.5-year-old girl who was cheeky, cuddly and full of fun. We had so much fun and together we explored the area. This job was in 1996 and The Naughty Step was a thing - I used it when it was needed. On one such occasion I told this cheeky monkey that she needed to go to sit on the naughty step, she turned to me and said very clearly and to my absolute horror, “oh piss off”. I asked where she heard that before and she replied “daddy” - that’s ok then, for one second I thought she had heard it from me or whilst we were out but no it was ‘just daddy’. Sometimes mummies and daddies are really quite naughty!!

Fatigue was a big factor for me even then at the age of 18. I put this down to working 60 plus hours a week and partying a little too hard on a Saturday night, but it also taught me a valuable lesson. I spent my days ensuring that my charge was busy and making sure we were out in the fresh air most afternoons, but I forgot to care for myself and my own well-being. It was at this time that I had to make sure, not just for myself but also my charge, that we had an hour rest each day. After lunch was quiet time where we both either sat in the garden or the playroom and, importantly, she chose a quiet activity and I got to just sit and be for an hour.

Mindfulness wasn’t too much of a big thing back then or maybe it was, but they hadn't coined the name for it. What I did learn from doing this was that it was only possible to care for another when you have also cared for yourself. This doesn’t just mean caring for the body i.e. food and water but also to care for the mind. Being mindful is one of the most important things a nanny can access. By giving the child an hour a day where they had no plans and only their imagination to use, allowed them to develop as a person and also to allow their body a rest. It allowed me to rest but also be in the same room as them. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t ignored in any way. I was in the same room , but I sat in the same room or the garden and simply read a book for half an hour or a magazine. We conversed and she was free to do what she wanted as long as she wasn’t running around the house nonstop.

So, be kind to yourself and give yourself time to recoup your energy not just physically but also mentally. Remember, this isn't being lazy this is being kind to yourself and your charge. Children don’t need 24/7 attention, give then the skills needed to learn to rest when they need it and show them that it isn't just our bodies that need a rest, our minds are also in need of the best possible care too. Whilst doing this it is important to make sure that they also learn why they are doing something and in a particular way. Children won't always learn if you do not teach them why they are doing it and this may lead to frustration and possibly temper tantrums.

This job had taught me so much, yet I was wanting more and after one year with the family I decided to explore the opportunities out there and found another position in North London.

More to follow ………………………………..


Emilie has been a nanny for 23 Years. She’s currently working as a Nanny/PA and lives in the South of the UK. Emilie lives with her dog. When Emilie is not working, she enjoys exploring local footpaths and camping. She also volunteers as a Community First Responder for the Ambulance Service in her local area which she does to give back to her community.


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