My name is Joanna Smith, and I am a London based nanny living in Croydon, and until recently I was working in Dulwich in South London. My love for children began from a very young age and my sister was also a massive inspiration as she also trained to be a nanny and I loved to see what she had achieved when she came home from college during her training. I remember thinking I want to do that, to be part of giving a child the best opportunities in life. I very quickly developed a real love & passion for helping children reach the best of their abilities and I feel so honoured & privileged to be a part of that journey in a child’s life, working as a nanny in London.My career began in Hertfordshire after doing BTEC National Diploma in Nursery nursing at Hertford Regional College. I have always had a passion for children and a strong desire to give them the best opportunities and experiences in life by filling the working day with fun but educational activities and working closely with my charges to expand their horizons and to be part of their life whilst they are growing and developing. As a professional nanny, I love to watch the children I work with grow and develop and what makes my job rewarding is the special bond that develops with the little ones in your care; for me they become like my own and I strive to treat them as I would wish and hope I would treat my own children.
I have always been of the mindset that the first five years of a child’s life are the most formative and the experiences they have at a young age forms a big part of their success later in life and this is why I feel it is so important to note how we care for children and what we demonstrate and therefore teach our children, the next generation.
When I left college in 1997 it took me a few months to find jobs as every job wanted someone with experience and that was a big challenge as of course I only had my college placement experience. Eventually I met a lovely family in Pirton, Hertfordshire who gave me some temporary work to help me gain some experience which was amazing. When looking for my jobs I always used reputable London nanny agencies to search for positions, I feel that using a reputable London nanny agency offers a greater deal of protection – many agencies provide CV help, complete all the background checks, & liaise with the family to find out what they are looking for and match jobs that meet my skills. There are many London nanny companies that strive to find the perfect match of family and nanny and this is so important to the success of the respectful ongoing (long term) relationship between the nanny and the employer. Finding jobs through London nanny agencies such as Notable Nannies and other reputable companies can be a useful sounding board and a source of great support if challenges come up within nanny positions.
I was very fortunate to gain an opportunity to work for a year in a school in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire as a teaching assistant in 2003 and this gave me a really strong insight into school education in the early years sector and I gained lots of ideas of how to make learning fun. I developed an interest of the Early Years Foundation Stage [EYFS] and when I got my next nanny job in central London, I began to use the EYFS schema to plan and organise activities based upon what I had learned whilst working at the school.
I used a central London nanny agency to find several jobs and through a London agency, I was hired for a live-in nanny role in south west London to include the care of a four month old baby. I loved the role and I stayed with this family for 8 enjoyable years. During that position I transitioned from being a baby nanny to a housekeeper/nanny role as the children I cared for grew and went to school full time. It was a lovely job with great responsibilities. My role progressed from the usual nanny duties of caring for the children day-to-day to being given additional responsibilities to plan out and organise a large basement area for the children’s playroom and I would take the boys to their grandparents often in the school holidays who lived in the countryside. I would stay with the children at their grandparents home as well as proxy parenting in their house in London. I also did some travelling with this family and went to their home in Devon most years and I travelled with them to America too. I loved the diversity of this role and the experience it gave me. During this role I also studied with Open University and gained a degree in Childhood and Youth studies.
Separately, I worked with a family for a short time in 2013 who had suffered with postnatal depression and the mum I worked for was getting back onto her feet with her baby and I was hired to provide support and give confidence and assist her in the bonding process. This was a rewarding experience as when I left the mum took over full time care of the baby on her own, confidently.
I then worked in Knightsbridge, London for an Italian family which was a very intense job, but I loved the experience of working in the city centre of London. It was a completely different experience to any other type of job I had done before. I gained a real insight into life within the city and the differences of working within that environment, I found the families in central London very different in terms of the structure of the household and most families I encountered had not only nannies but also other household domestic staff as well. This was new to me. I enjoyed working alongside other staff and housekeepers. I learned some lovely Italian recipes and cooking skills from the parents. They lived just behind Harrods in Knightsbridge and this meant I could do food shopping there [in Harrods] or buy the children’s clothes and toys from there. That was like stepping into a different world to do food shopping from my previous experiences. Whilst employed in this job we spent some time at the Natural History museum and also the children loved the Science museum also nearby. Hyde Park was a popular place to go when the weather allowed; we loved to walk and go to the playground there and see the fountains. The children belonged to a children’s club where they could go and participate in activities and play with other children. It was a lovely place to meet other likeminded people. One day I was there when David Beckham came along with his daughter to visit the children’s club to see if they wanted to join. This role also included a trip to Capri, off the coast of Italy. This was an amazing experience. My living arrangements changed meaning I had a long commute to get to this job, and I thought it was time to find new horizons, and went in search of work nearer to my home location of Dulwich.
I then took a role in Dulwich Village in 2013 for just over a year, working with two boys four days a week, this was one of the jobs I enjoyed the most, I developed a real friendship with the parents and I think that was key to the success of the role. I started with the two children when they were 18 months and 4 years old. I enjoyed this role a lot and during my time with this family I was able to do some troubleshooting and support and prepare the children for a big move and transition to move overseas. This I thoroughly enjoyed, but that was the end of this vacancy sadly.
I then got another job with two boys in Dulwich in early 2015, when I started they were 1 and 3 years old and Mum was returning to work after maternity leave. I stayed in this job for five years. It was a good job with a high level of responsibility, and I was very much seen as the professional and it was completely sole charge responsibility which I really appreciated. I even stayed on when the youngest boy went to school full time and took on some housekeeper duties to maintain my hours. My role basically included everything to do with the children from keeping their rooms organised to buying gifts for birthday parties, to shopping for their clothes, and preparing meals. Sadly, due to the current economic climate and the impact of COVID-19 I have recently been made redundant which is very sad, but equally has been a great opportunity for me to think about what I would like to do next and to consider which fresh challenge will I take up next.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a strange time, there have been many different opinions regarding whether or not nannies should stay at home or go to work and the evening of Boris Johnson’s announcement of the lockdown [March 23rd 2020], there was a lot of confusion and uncertainty. I found that many different nanny agencies were giving conflicting advice and because it wasn’t clear from the government it was confusing for everyone whether nannies were allowed to go to work or not. Thanks to a few different nanny companies such as The Association of Nanny Agencies and Notable Nannies, the guidelines were made clearer once initial advice was issued by the Department for Education & HM Treasury. I sense there is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty remains, and I really feel that I had a lot of deliberation to do in regards to the safety of the families I had until very recently been working for.
It has been a challenge trying to explain the Coronavirus lock down restrictions to the children whom I am still in contact with, trying to relay things need to be different for a while to children is no easy task.
Social distancing with the children you work with is somewhat challenging (if not impossible) so the importance of washing hands & practicing high levels of hygiene is paramount. The school policies of the children I was most recently looking after have changed and the drop off and collecting routines have had to change consequently.
Keeping children busy and entertained has been a challenge with not being able to go out and meet friends we were used to meeting in parks, driving out of London and visiting museums in the school holidays and the prospects of spending the Easter break without any activities available was daunting. I began to collate ideas and resources in preparation. One of my charges was quite confused about why he couldn’t play football in the garden with his next door neighbour. To help explain things to the children I used some podcasts and we also watched Newsround every day to keep them up to date with what was happening. Zoom suddenly became the norm and we stepped more into the virtual world with a lot of the boys’ extra activities outside of school being done through virtual means over the Internet. I have been amazed by the fantastic resources I found online and the way many London companies and child-related services have opened up their offering to create a virtual platform for people to allow online engagement during lockdown. Even facilities such as being able to see the Natural History Museum via the website & webcams is so great, though of course not quite the same as being able to attend in person, it’s certainly better than not having access at all. Food shopping changed dramatically and I was used to picking up anything that I needed for that day whilst out and about, the local supermarket to my work was virtually empty at the beginning of lockdown and I myself and I know some other nannies found that quite scary.
The support from associations such as The Association of Nanny Agencies and Notable nannies has been great during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A lot of nannies now have parents working in the home which can work brilliantly, but in some situations can be a real challenge too. I think it is very important to have a conversation with your bosses and put some steps in place for both parents and the working nanny to feel safe. Since being made redundant recently, it has been an opportunity to reflect on my life and I know that it has become so important to me to ensure that the next family I work for shares similar values and ethics as myself. What is next for me, who knows what the future holds? I am excited and starting the search for my next challenge and remain in South London currently.
Stay safe everyone.
A London Dulwich & Notable Nannies Nanny