Life as a Live-In Nanny, Fact Vs Fiction
Crime Scene Investigators don’t actually interview witnesses, decide upon suspects, get into gun fights or make arrests. They mostly just investigate crime scenes. Writers spend more time on Twitter putting off the inevitable redrafting than they do having amazing adventures that they just have to quickly transcribe to paper before running off for more daring-do. Doctors who take ridiculous amounts of painkillers and abuse the patients get struck off really quickly. What I’m saying is, reality and fiction, they look different.
So, get specific, let’s look at one of the more romantic and whimsical jobs in fiction- nanny jobs. London is home to hundreds of families with live in nannies, and there’s probably an equal number of fictional nannies in the same city. So how much is your experience in this job likely to resemble that of your storybook counterpart?
Fiction: You Will Have Magical Powers
Whatever the problem, a good live-in nanny will be able to solve with a click of her fingers (for some reason it is always a her) or a wrinkle of her adorable nose. Whether it’s jumping into chalk drawings, floating about on an umbrella, or making all the toys fly around the room like a deleted scene from The Exorcist, a good nanny will casually harness unseen dark forces the way you’d pick out an iPhone app. Often while singing.
As seen in: Mary Poppins, Nanny McPhee
Reality: You Will Wish You Had Magical Powers
Being a nanny involve 12 hour days, during which time you’ll usually be solely responsible for however many sprogs your employer has. You’ll need to get the children up, dressed, fed, teeth brushed, hair brushed, and with shoes and coats ready for school, and quickly. If the kids are school age, you get a reprieve of a few hours to clean the kitchen, the children’s bedrooms, and go out to do some shopping. During the day you might get time to grab a cup of tea with friends or watch a movie, but before long the kids will be out of school, and often they won’t all go to the same school, so you’ll have to pick them up, make sure they get to any after school activities they have organised. Depending the age of the children, once you’re home there will be some time to play with the kids, then make sure they do their homework, feed them, and then get them to bed. That’s your to do list. This to do list assumes nothing goes horribly wrong during the day, and because you’re dealing with children, something will go horribly wrong every day. So yes, magic powers would be handy.
Fiction: The Children Will Be Evil, Possibly Possessed
The children in your care will pretty much always be blonde, blue-eyed twins, possibly one of each gender. They will speak in unison on all things, although you may get the impression that the sister is the more dominant of the two. Sometimes they may appear innocent, such as when they’re being disturbed by scary nightmares, but rest assured, these children are haunted, possessed, the spawn of the devil and in no way are they a metaphor for your own emotional repression.
As seen in: The Turn of the Screw, The Others, The Orphanage, The Awakening
Reality: They Probably Aren’t Actually Possessed
If you’ve taken work as a nanny then you must really love children. A lot of people love children as a hypothetical. As in “If I heard a child had fallen into a sausage making machine, I would think that was a bad thing”. As a nanny you’re going to be with the children for a huge portion of their life at home, and that includes the good times and the bad.
Quite a few may have behavioural problems, particularly if you’re the latest in a line of nannies. However, a by-product of spending time with these kids is that, over time, your affection for them will grow and a lot of nannies find they vastly prefer their charges to their employers. Even if sometimes it’s tempting to get the crucifix and holy water out.
Fiction: You Will Fall Madly In Love with Your Brooding, Emotionally Unavailable Employer
He’s hardly ever home. When he is home he never speaks to you. The creepy blonde children always look forward to his arrival, but when he does arrive it seems all he ever does is go to his study and stare pensively out the window. This is the hottest thing you have ever seen. You don’t know what dark secrets or terrible pain he’s trying to hide from you, but it’s stirring strange and untameable passions within you, and it can’t be long before the two of your profess your love for each other.
As Seen In: Jayne Eyre
Reality: Don’t Do This, For The Love Of God Do Not Do This
Really. Nothing good will ever come of it.
Charles Reybreck is a writer and social activist who blogs primarily about charity jobs and nanny jobs in London