As for many around the world, for me, the news of Coronavirus Covid–19 spreading globally brought with it fear, uncertainty, confusion and anxiety. Just before lockdown was announced on March 23rd 2020, I’d walk with fellow nannies in the park and our discussions quickly turned to what was on it’s way to us – we’d all watched the daily briefings from the British Government & seen the stark headlines printed in the London Evening Standard, we watched as European countries around us had started to implement a lockdown and we would speculate on what was going to happen in the UK, to our families, to our nanny families, to us, and what the rules would be. Discussions had already started between nannies and the families they worked for – some were gearing up to leave London with their nanny families and move in with them in their second homes, others worried for their own health and the health of their family members and had to have difficult conversations about possibly taking time off. Nannies had started to weigh up what was most important, maintaining a salary and caring for their nanny children or maintaining the health of themselves and all those around them, including the families they work for.
As a London nanny working in Herne Hill, I thought that when the inevitable lockdown was announced in the UK, that it would at least put some of the uncertainty to bed and would provide clear guidance on what was and wasn’t allowed in terms of continuing to work in another household. How wrong I was! For me it felt like a big decision that I had to get right in order to protect myself, my loved ones and the three families I worked for but I only felt disappointment and continued confusion after listening to the Boris Johnson’s lockdown speech. It seemed as though the nanny workforce was completely forgotten by the government. There were clear guidelines for schools and childminders and for those who worked in offices, those who ran businesses or those working on construction sites but for nannies, the guidance just seemed not to exist at all or at best was blurred and a massively grey area. I saw many posts on social media of nannies being confused, not knowing what to do for the best and some being treated appallingly by their employers. There was so much uncertainty and worry and I felt it too. At this point, I turned to Notable Nannies Ltd. for advice and I’m so thankful for their support. Notable Nannies really did seem to go out of their way to keep on top of the situation that was changing daily, on top of all the updates and provided much needed guidance for myself and fellow nannies. I felt much calmer after speaking with Notable Nannies and seeing the guidance they had received from The Association of Nanny Agencies and The Department for Education and felt as though I had the answers I needed to discuss next steps with my employers.
Thankfully, I have wonderful employers who also helped ease these anxious feelings by maintaining open and honest communication and together we were able to come up with a plan. My nanny week usually consists of part-time hours in a nanny share in Balham, where I look after two little boys, Art and Bodhi (both 18 months old) and part-time hours with a family in Herne Hill, where I look after three children, Lucy (4), Tom (9) and Harry (11). After our discussions, it was decided that continuing to work across all three households would not be safe and instead I would continue my part-time hours with the Herne Hill family and video call the Balham families to keep in touch with my charges.
To ensure this set up is as safe as possible, I have been driving to work in order to avoid public transport and we agreed from the start that myself and my partner would not mix with any other households and my nanny family would also not mix with anyone from outside of their household to keep our bubble small & to mitigate as much risk as possible. All nannies know that trying to socially distance from your nanny children is almost impossible but I have managed to keep my distance from the parents for the most part. We also agreed from the start that if anyone in our bubble started showing any symptoms, I would stay at home and we would all self-isolate in line with government advice.
To say I wasn’t at all apprehensive about how nannying under lockdown would pan out would be a lie – there were the obvious health concerns especially as known cases in London was on the rise but also the impact of how Covid-19 will affect the children’s behaviour having both parents at home, am I going to take on the role of home schooling, how will the pandemic impact the children emotionally and what will our days look like if we’re not able to go to our usual activities and playdates?
Eight weeks into lockdown living in Clapham, and I’m pleasantly surprised as to how it’s all worked out. Right from day one we have kept communication open – we start the day by checking in on each other’s health and set out the plan for the day. For us, it’s worked out that the parents complete most of the home-schooling with Tom and Harry while I focus my attention on Lucy, supporting with any work set by nursery and our usual home activities. The boys do however have three sessions a week blocked out with me where we complete art projects, baking and PE. I feel as though keeping to a set routine has really helped the children and myself feel as though there is some form of normality in these very uncertain times. By creating a real partnership with the parents, through continued communication and demonstrating to the children that we are on the same page with our decisions and having a set routine outlining which adult is helping with what activity, this has helped the children understand where the boundaries lie and therefore create a feeling of safety. Don’t get me wrong, of course there are days where the children are a little hyperactive or like to push the boundaries as they’re only human, but on a whole they have taken to having all three of us at home in their stride and adapted wonderfully.
In terms of the children’s emotional wellbeing, we check in with how they are feeling, discuss any worries and navigate through serious topics by providing correct information but without scaring them. The children do obviously miss their family and friends that they can’t spend time with, so to help with this they are allowed to video call with them and we also make cards and art work for loved ones we can’t see, to help them feel more connected. Overall though, the children seem to be quite resilient to the new normal and are enjoying getting to spend so much time with mum and dad and have commented that they actually learn more through home-schooling than through going to school! I’ve also really been enjoying extra quality time with Tom and Harry rather than the usual rushing them out of the door to school and getting them fed after school.
As for how our days look now – initially there was a sense of disappointment for both Lucy and myself that we weren’t free to carry on our usual ‘adventure days’ into central London, visiting the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Museum of London or to our local Horniman Museum, Whippersnappers singing groups at Brockwell Lido or playing with friends in Brockwell Park, but we soon found our new normal. We can still go to Brockwell park to run and scoot for our once a day exercise, we just can’t stop to meet up with any friends, play on any equipment or sit on any benches. And although our adventures into central London have stopped, we’ve found new ways to have adventures and fill our days with rainbow walks, daisy chains, Jo Wicks workouts, obstacle courses, keepy ups, timed races, hide and seek, arts and crafts, baking (so much baking!), reading, board games and role play and we have all eased into this new normal and dare I say it, have come to enjoy it. It seems like life is less hectic and there’s more time to enjoy the simpler side of life.
For my Balham families we have set up a video call singing session once or twice a week. Although I’m completely used to singing lots with the boys when I’m with them, I have to say it definitely took me out of my comfort zone to deliver a singing session over a conference call! It felt unnatural to me at first and as if I was performing for them rather than singing with them and of course I had to manage the not so easy task of the keeping two 18 month olds engaged when I wasn’t even in the same room as them. However, I soon settled into it and now look forward to getting to see their little faces and how much they have changed in just a matter of weeks. Before going into lockdown they were just starting to take their first steps and now, through the screen, I see them walking confidently and can’t wait to get back to see it in ‘real life’.
Although at first nannying in London through the global pandemic caused uncertainty and some anxiety, it has actually given me some sense of normality and something to get up for in the morning. Some days we’re so busy with our new normal that I almost forget we’re in the middle of a global pandemic – apart from the constant hand washing and cracked hands of course, not to mention the lack of crowds whilst navigating my way around South London! Despite the fact that I may not be able to hug my own family members, it’s so nice to be a part of my nanny-family and get loving hugs from the children, which always makes me feel better. All three families I work for have supported me through this difficult time as much as I’ve supported them and after hearing many horror stories of how nannies have been treated by employers, it has made me even more thankful for the wonderful families I work for and it has only strengthened the relationships we have and the trust we share. I have to thank Notable Nannies for supporting me throughout the pandemic, and for being a great source of trustworthy information that I have used to safeguard both myself and my families that I work for.
It seems as though we are now at a turning point and the government are changing their direction and I’m looking forward to seeing how things pan out and returning to work with Art and Bodhi when normality commences in the coming weeks and months.
*Names of the children have been changed for confidentiality purposes
Written by an anonymous London Balham Nanny in May 2020