What do you think of when you hear the word, Governess? Does your mind wander to Thornfield Hall and the straight laced, prim and plain Jane Eyre? Do you think of Mary Poppins flying in with her magical umbrella to bring order to two unruly children? The Governess is a term that many thought had long since become extinct, and that might be true in the case of drafty halls, in stately homes, in the secluded areas of England. However it other parts of the world; Russia, the United Arab Emirates and the South of France, the Governess has become a staple of the elite and wealthy, or more commonly known VIP family.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a Governess as; ‘(especially in former times) a woman employed to teach children in a private household,’ and this definition isn’t far wrong, but for the modern day Governess or in fact Governor, the responsibilities go above and beyond this. Many will say the words a Governess hates to hear, ‘well aren’t you just a nanny?’ To which the disgruntled Governess will reply an outright ‘no!’ Whereas a Nanny is responsible for mostly the physical needs of the children in their care, the Governess will meet their educational needs, sometimes teaching more than one and occasionally all subjects to their charges. The Governess is expected to be a mentor and a friend; she should be educated and intelligent whilst also unafraid to ‘muck in’ and take up other jobs should need be.
I myself have been a Governess in Moscow for nearly four years and have many friends who have done the same. We all resoundingly found there was so much more to the job than we ever anticipated or were ever told. After the usual sit-down English lessons, homework help and decorum development, we have also been asked to do a range of things from booking flights and concert tickets, riding quad bikes, to helping load pellet guns for young children to fire (not something we ever encouraged!). Many of us have become good friends with the teachers at the schools, regardless of us having to call way after school hours to resolve academic problems. To our dismay some of us have even been sent text messages during the children’s exams asking us for the answers to the exam questions, because grades are more important than actual education…apparently?
The press have recently had a habit of reporting on the privileged life of a Nanny or Governess. They’ve written articles glamourising their life, believing it to be of complete luxury. Yes, we are lucky enough to fly in private jets and be chauffeured in Rolls Royces and Bentleys and be escorted by bodyguards. We get to stay in the best hotels in the world and experience life through the eyes of an ultra high net worth client. However, what these articles leave out is that, this is not our life. We are lucky enough to witness some amazing things but at the end of the day we are still staff and we have to work. It just happens that sometimes we can do that on a beach. What all these articles fail to specify, is that the life of Governess or Nanny can sometimes be a little lonely. After full days of communicating with children we often crave any kind of adult conversation. If you are a live-in, then you feel like you are always at work, always putting on your game face. If you are lucky enough to have your own apartment provided, after a days work you are usually too tired to entertain or go out. Governesses and Nannies, live for their days off. However, what these articles also fail to tell us, is the wonderful Governess and Nanny community you are sure to find. I have made some incredible friends whilst doing this job. Who best to vent to than those who fully understand what this job entails? Even with our crazy schedules we always manage to find time for at least a coffee with each other once a week.
For all the exciting and sometimes crazy adventures we have had, I know that none of us would ever want to swap our lives with someone living a normal life at home. There comes a time when we know we must at some point join the real world, but the experiences and adventures of being a Governess are just too difficult to give up. Interestingly having VIP experience is a valuable asset to your CV. Recruiters will know you are tolerable, patient and have a strong personality. Saying you’ve worked abroad, shows that you are brave and are willing to try new things. All in all if you are educated and looking for a new adventure, then becoming a VIP Governess might be the ideal role for you and who knows, may open some doors for you when you make it out the other end.