Crikey intern Freya Cole writes: I had no idea what I was getting myself in to when I applied to be a nanny for six months. I had romanticised the idea in my head, thinking that a nanny would look after polite little children and take them to the local park, where they would meet other nannies over a picnic.

Oh, how wrong was I.

Flying out of 45 degrees heat at Tullamarine and flying in to minus 4 degrees at Heathrow was just the first surprise.

I guess you could say, alarm bells really started ringing when the current nanny picked me up from the airport and started to spill the beans on the mother.

“Oh, don’t worry about her, she will act strangely from time to time, but if you stay out of her way there will be no problems,” she told me.

She hadn’t cared to mention or even hint at this slightly important piece of information in one of the hundreds of emails over the previous five months.

I took the nanny’s ‘advice’ on board and went into the live-in position with a smile and positive attitude.

The house and my room were nothing like what they described on the nanny recruitment website:

It was dingy and I had to share a bathroom with the kids. But, I wasn’t a princess and just got on with it.

After a week’s induction I knew the routine. Eight o’clock start, breakfast, pack lunches, nursery, afternoon sleep, play date, dinner, bath, bed, 7pm knock off. Five days a week. Maybe four, if I was lucky.

Two weeks into the job, one of the boys came home from kindergarten with a scratch on his face. He was a typical lively three year old boy who probably fell over in play time. I didn’t think anything of it.

When the mother returned home that evening, she grabbed my fingernails and examined them.

“Are you using physical violence to discipline my boys,” she exclaimed.

“N,n,n,noo!” I stammered. “Of course not, he fell over at the nursery.”

I was absolutely devastated, could she be for real?

Well, she was for real, and these burst of outrage continued. Sure, she was under pressure. She worked hard as a PR agent for a large fashion merchant and her husband, who was really quite nice, was a banker in constant fear of becoming one of the hundreds being made redundant.

All of the grocery shopping was done online and automatically delivered every Wednesday afternoon. It was one of my jobs to unpack the groceries so I found a place for all of the food in the two by three metre kitchen.

That evening once the boys were in bed, the mother said she needed to talk to me.

My mind was racing at a hundred miles per hour as we sat down, thinking, “what could I possibly have done wrong now?”

“Are you starving my boys?” she asked.

“There is too much food in the house. I can only conclude that you are not feeding my boys enough food. From now on, you will follow my list of meals for the boys.”

There was no trust in the relationship. It was time for a new job.

Luckily, only a few days later a nice lady approached me at the kindergarten and asked if I had any friends looking for work.

“Can you take me?” I desperately responded.

Over a cuppa we shared our story and I agreed to start working for her in a week.

I walked home feeling enlightened and excited at the prospects of my new job. The family seemed very nice and my materialistic weaknesses gave in to the nice house and large bedroom.

Then I remembered I had to resign first.

This wasn’t an easy task. The “I quit” speech never is. The boys for starters had grown very fond of my company and I felt terrible for abandoning them.

Moreover, as much as I didn’t like the mother, both parents worked very hard and I was leaving them without much notice. But, I couldn’t bear the thought of my year away from home being ruined by a terrible job.

It was now my turn to approach the mother and request we have a talk. “I’m sorry, but this job is not for me,” I said matter-of-factly.

She stared at me, and continued to do so for half an hour of agonizing awkward silence.

“Can you say something?” I asked.

“I feel sick,” she said as she continued to stare at me, barely blinking.

I started this awkward ramble about how I couldn’t hack the hours and I thought our personalities clash. It was all just gushing out, the worst word vomit I’ve ever experienced.

I excused myself and frantically started packing an overnight bag. I rang my one and only friend in London, another nanny who I met at the nursery, and asked if I could stay with her for the night.

I grabbed my passport and all the essentials — just in case.

A teary blubbery mess I walked out of the house. The mother had broken her vow of silence and kept apologising over and over for her behaviour in a panicked voice.

I’d never had to deal with this type of confrontation before and as guilty as I felt, the family soon found another nanny from South Africa.

After that, I had the occasional awkward moment at the nursery where I would bump in to my old boss. For the first few weeks out of the job, some of the bored mothers would whisper about me behind my back.

But I didn’t care, I was in a new job with more money, less hours, a beautiful bedroom and ensuite and a family who I still keep in touch with today.

My advice to wannabe nannies:

  1. Nannying isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It has sure put me off motherhood for some time.
  2. Do not accept a job over the internet — first impressions and face-to-face interviews are flawless.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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