Over the many years I have been living life as a nanny, my duties have changed enormously since my first terrifying experience. It is a form of employment that changes all the time depending on your employers, their lifestyles, their dependents and a host of other things that you only find out about when you’re literally – in the moment!
Nannying for celebrities is this, plus more – a lot more. As I don’t have my own Tardis, where I could take you everywhere I’ve worked over the past number of years, and let you experience for yourselves the many aspects of working with celebrity families, the best I can do is give you the heads up with a list of twenty tips to help guide you through a world where even Doctor Who would be powerless.
- Smile. It sounds ridiculous, but fear can make you totally forget how to move the muscles in your face. Smiling can give you an air of confidence when there isn’t any, but more importantly, it makes you look your best – yes, it doesn’t matter if you’re smiling at the mismatched hairpiece on your employer’s head or the ten gold chains hanging around his neck, it’s really about what that smile is doing for YOU. I would have been lost many times without mine.
- Put most of your personal life on hold. Loneliness is guaranteed with many high profile jobs as you really don’t have any time for yourself much, but apart from that, many celebrities will take for granted that you are an orphan – I’m not joking. “Do nannies actually have families?”
- Make great friendships with the other staff. These people can make your situation more bearable. They understand what you’re going through much better than anyone ‘on the outside’ and can give you hints regarding data concerning usually all members of the family. Here is a list to consider; housekeepers, butlers, maids, masseurs, bodyguards, security guards, chauffeurs, tutors, chefs, managers – and all the others I haven’t mentioned but I’m sure you get the idea.
- Trust nobody. Of course this completely contradicts what I have just said, sorry but you do have to be careful, extremely careful with what information you pass on to people and make sure you don’t become tangled in a web of gossip – best to have your ear to the ground and your lips zipped! This applies to your employers too. If they know who you have worked for, as your references will show, they could be tempted to tie you up, hang you from a rope above the pool and make you tell them the name of their competitor’s hairdresser! Be suddenly ‘forgetful’ and apologise and try to change the subject if you can or just need to check the children immediately!
- Don’t be a fan, be a friend. Most celebrities I have worked for have been very good employers and I have had little trouble with the majority. They are often rather lonely themselves and can find it hard to know whom they can trust. Let them trust you. A relationship based on a solid working arrangement can be greatly improved by taking the step to becoming friends. There are of course many high profile people who would not consider this at all, but go with your instincts. Be careful and thoughtful and you might be surprised who wants to be your friend.
- Be prepared to move. Sounds strange? It is. What I have noticed about quite a few of my employers, is that they don’t like to plan. If they wish to go to France for the weekend, then they go. But we all have to go too! You could call it exciting which is can be, but with two toddlers and a baby to care for and making sure you have all their needs as well as your own, you have to be prepared to be flexible and keep that smile well and truly planted on your dial as you fast track your packing!
- Sprechen Sie deutsch? Even if you can’t speak a foreign language, learning a few helpful phrases of languages you might have to use, will always come in handy. You will no doubt have an advantage if you do happen to be fluent in another, but don’t think you don’t have a chance without one. It’s fun to teach the children some words too – thank you, please, hello and goodbye are always appreciated wherever you go and it gives a child a sense of achievement to be able to even say a few words in German for example.
- Keeping the balance. Children living in a ‘not so normal’ world, often crave the things other kids take for granted. Going to the movies, the beach, the park and having friends over are quite different occasions when your mum and dad are famous. Building a cubby house from furniture and blankets, playing hide and seek or maybe just good old Lego and Barbies will give them a sense of balance – ordinary things are actually worth a fortune!
- Always, always put the children first. A bit of a no-brainer but there will be times when you’ll be exhausted or distracted or something will tempt you to take your eyes away from them for a minute – don’t. They are your only responsibility – keep your focus on the important ones – always.
- Give social media a wide berth. Talking of temptation, this is one area to be very wary of. Your privacy and the privacy of your employers is extremely important. It is vital that you keep it that way.
- Stay well away from gossip magazines. This may sound crazy but once they work out who you are, you become prey and a very viable player in their game. When they are around is probably the only time my trusty smile takes a break – they are not to be encouraged.
- Pesky paparazzi! Some famous parents will instruct you to keep a low profile when the cameras are clicking. Why would they need a nanny? They can do EVERYTHING without the help of anyone. I never mind – it would be tough to be on the other end of criticism because you have a nanny. Sometimes I really could do with one myself! The poor things have to be under the microscope all the time and I see how much it takes its toll.
- Nanny network. It’s such a relief when you can spend some time with other nannies. There will be ‘no-go’ zones of course but the ‘language’ is always the same. There is every chance you will meet quite a few as famous people with children tend to holiday with famous people with children! Have some fun!
- Airports. These can bring with them their own set of hazards. It’s a great idea to talk to the children about what goes on in these terribly busy and sometimes dangerous places by maybe setting some tactics in place that will ensure you can all feel as safe as you can be while travelling. Growing some eyes in the back and sides of your head can help and two extra hands on each arm would also do the trick but for an example, I teach them a song we sing which not only keeps us calm but lets me hear them – have to use all the senses if possible!
- Reporting. I keep a journal for the children I care for. It helps me remember things; if someone has a bad headache or grazes a knee, I can let their parents know, as well as any messages from school, from their extracurricular coaches or perhaps a friend who is having a party soon – a notebook of some kind will keep you safe from forgetting anything – in theory.
- Sleep. This is how you feel now after reading so much. I’m so sorry to keep going on but I want to give you as many hints as I can (plus I hold the Nanny World Title for talking the legs of a very expensive antique table). You MUST get as much of this as you can. Sleep doesn’t come easy sometimes. Some families have night nannies but I’ve only worked with three in my time as a nanny so if you know that you may have to comfort a little one who is ill or has had a nightmare or who just doesn’t sleep well or a baby who may need a late feed, don’t think you can do without the sleep you’ve missed. Try and get it back on your time off – this might sound lazy or the last thing you want to do, but that body of yours needs to be looked after to perform the incredible feats of caring that it has to carry out every day!
- Don’t take things TOO personally. Some celebrities can be a little highly strung – only some! They can fly off the handle at any time and if you happen to be in the room, you might just be the target. Don’t worry – you can’t afford to be too sensitive. Out with the smile and make a delicate but fast exit!
- Defensive driving lessons and self defence. I can now hear you laughing. Well there have been a few situations I have had to become a decoy for a parent trying to escape some unwanted photo shoots and when you are being chased by unrelenting photographers, knowing the car you’re in and how to drive it, is so important. Now as for self defence, you’re probably not going to use it EVERYDAY but it’s another skill that you can put on your CV and be proud of. Just like Jackie Chan.
- Remember to write! Your family will miss you and you will miss them – incredibly! It’s as if you’ve been adopted by another family and they forgot to tell you. Sometimes it will be hard to stay in contact with friends and family but, like this article, it can be SHORT and to the POINT.
- Be kind to yourself – give yourself a break. As a nanny to the Rich and Famous, the one thing that I found difficult to do was to STOP. Yep, stop doing things. I would stay up late to make sure I had the next day down pat – uniforms, instruments, the necessary homework checked and signed only to find that the parents had arranged a surprise trip to Palm Springs to visit friends and so the children would miss school – again. It took me a while to understand that I wasn’t spending enough time with somebody quite special – me. Half the things I would spend my time on were unnecessary and I would often worry if perhaps I HAD forgotten to write something in my journal. I discovered that a good nanny is a well rested, healthy, happy and relaxed nanny who just does her best – that’s as good as you need to be.
Thank you for sticking with me. I hope some of these tips will help you along the way to finding or keeping your role as a celebrity nanny. All the best for the future!