Since I moved to the United Kingdom in January last year I’ve been itching to explore a topic I feel is wrought with complexity but goes by unspoken about. I am, as the title of this post would suggest, talking about being a Nanny.
In Australia it’s hailed as something akin to a right of passage to pack up your life in your late teens/early twenties and set off for an overseas adventure. Living overseas is an experience riddled with lessons and journeys that one would never encounter had they stayed at home. However, moving overseas is goddamn expensive. In order to avoid financial distress many young women (and men) navigate their way around the globe working as Nannies or Au Pairs.
Working as a Nanny or Au Pair is a fantastic job. It pays well, the hours are phenomenally good and there is usually a surplus of demand so that the employee can be picky about who they work with. Many young people who work in this field get opportunities to travel with the family they work with and have all expenses paid in exchange for childcare once they’re on holiday. Employers are often extremely generous and take in a Nanny or Au Pair as part of their family- celebrating birthdays and Christmas, eating with them and shopping for specific foods and things they like to make them feel comfortable in the home where they work. Honestly, the perks of working as an Au Pair or Nanny overseas are unprecedented. And then there’s the bond you form with the children….Oh Lord. There’s nothing more special than hearing ‘I love you’ from a child.
So yes, being a Nanny or Au Pair overseas is delightful. However, there’s one aspect of the job that I have never heard anybody mention and it has by far been the hardest component for me. That aspect is being so far from your own family and missing them incredibly and then working with a family that is all together.
I miss the routine of living at home. I miss waking up on Saturday mornings and riding my bike to the local cafe to get a coffee for my Mum and I and sitting in the sunshine with my dog and my little brother chatting about who was mean to who in the schoolyard. I miss special events where the family gets together and I get to see that relative that I cannot fucking stand and then complain with my parents about them after they leave. Ah, good times. But instead of enjoying time with my own family, I’m instead being paid to fascilitate this quality time for someone else’s family. And this is absolutely fine; it’s what I signed up for and it was my autonomous decision to move overseas and away from my family. But it’s hard nonetheless and it can be incredibly challenging especially on days when I’m missing home and my family the most.
I wish people spoke more about the heartbreak of looking after a little one all day and then seeing their excitement when Mum or Dad comes home from work and the love, cuddles, kisses and soppy crap that ensues while you stand there and think ‘I would give anything for my Mum or Dad to be here giving me a hug right now’. I think if the emotional challenges of being a Nanny or Au Pair were more spoken about there would be more scope to band together as a community and for fellow travellers working the same job to become eachothers family for the duration of their stay. I wish someone had told me about how hard it is to work as a Nanny overseas before I left home, but at the same time I would never trade my experiences for anything….