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Nanny Separation and saying goodbye

Let’s talk about Nanny-separation and saying goodbye, something that makes my Nanny heart ache, but a time that eventually comes to all families with Nannies.  Saying goodbye to a Nanny family can be stressful and one of the most difficult things to do – Because, the nanny-family relationship is both professional and personal, it makes it emotionally hard to give notice.

In many cases, there comes a time where Nannies decide they do need to move on; whether that’s because they need to in order to continue to grow or because they are forced too, due to their visa expiring. I know this from experience. Other reasons could be if the Nanny is being mistreated and/or being taken advantage of, it’s sad to say but this happens a lot, or if the children are old enough to care for themselves and the family no longer need the Nanny. Each scenario is equally difficult and does not make the ‘letting go’ any easier.

I feel the decider on how much easier the goodbye is going to be, is how the parents react when you sit them down, give notice and tell them your reasons for leaving. It is sad to say but many families do resent the Nanny after their notice has been given, which makes you think ‘Was there a personal relationship at all?’ But when the Nanny has decided to finish, it can be a shock and send parents into a whirlwind of questions and frustration especially if it’s unwanted on their part. Realistically I think it is equally as hard for the parents to let go of their Super Nanny as much as the children, but one they must accept.

I understand that losing a super nanny is very difficult (I say super because if your Nanny wasn’t super, you wouldn’t have them in the first place) and can cause a lot of hurt and anger. That’s okay and normal. But it’s important to recognise that just like you, your nanny may need to move on, even if it’s just for a different nanny job with significantly higher pay which you cannot match. While upsetting, you should be happy for your nanny! You should be happy that your nanny is moving up in the world and achieving their goals. Just like you would be happy if one day your kids got a promotion or were offered a better opportunity with another company. As nannies we are here for you and your family, but we also have to think about ourselves. That’s not selfish — it’s smart and it’s healthy. And I’m sure it’s exactly how you want your kids to be when they grow up and enter the workforce. You may be tempted to terminate her abruptly because you are angry or hurt, but this is the wrong decision for your child. Your kids will be looking to you on how to react and how to deal with this situation, so it is important that you remove anger and remain positive.

Nanny it’s important that you stay positive in the situation whatever the outcome and remain true to your decision’s and reasons. Once that stressful bit is out the way, you can then get on with focusing on the children.

So, when it comes to finishing a position, how do you say goodbye to the tiny humans you have invested so much time in.

I don’t think I could say at which age; a child finds Nanny separation the easiest. All of my experiences have been very hard and that has been with children from 4 months – 10 years old. 

Explaining to your child the changing situation…

Age 4+ is when I think it’s a good age to sit around as a family, maybe over a dinner or game and explain what will be happening. I find that explaining it to children as early on as possible, gives them time to get use to the idea. Also celebrating the Nanny moving on, gives the children a chance to be happy for the Nanny, instead of feeling hurt. For example, if they are moving on to study, explain to the child what they will be studying and why their Nanny cannot care for them anymore, involve them in the transition as much as possible – after all, it is them it affects the most. Let your child know they can stay in contact with the Nanny with letters, video chat and visits (if possible).

If you plan on getting another Nanny, explain that they can help you find them another super Nanny, someone fun, who will do all the things they did with their current Nanny. If your wanting your current Nanny, to train a new Nanny, then you need to consider the possible change it could have on your child’s behavior. There is no easy way of this being done if the children are young, because naturally they will cling to their current Nanny. Children do tend to push boundaries when someone new is around, so it is important that your new Nanny is happy to discipline and earn the respect from day one. Maybe organizing some fun activities for you to do altogether and after a few days leave the new Nanny alone with the kids, giving them time to bond and form a relationship. It is a huge step for children to learn to trust someone new in their life, so letting the child/children know they are safe is important.

Younger children, the ones who don’t have the verbal capacity to communicate how they feel are a little trickier. Although they cannot talk, they still feel every emotion any other older child would. At this age, all you can do is give them lots of affection and keep talking to them. Use fun toys, books and take them out and about to distract them from the way they are feeling.

My most difficult goodbye… (due to visa expiring)

From my experience, I have found the most difficult goodbye be, to an only child. This was the most upsetting, the child didn’t have any other sibling to lean on, they were alone and no one else not even the parents, could understand what they were going through. The child was 15 months old, I had cared for her since she was 10 weeks and although she was young, and couldn’t form sentences to explain her feelings, she knew. I could feel it through her actions and emotions. She knew what was happening and became more attached as the days got closer and closer to the time of me leaving. After trying all methods to make it easier, in some cases you just can’t. We tried the face time method in the first few weeks, but we found this only made it harder so we stopped and knew that time would be the healer. Now the child is happily cared for by another Nanny and video calls me on a regular basis. I now visit her year after year and every time the reunion is incredibly special and our bond remains.

When you have a child that is struggling, you should explain to them that it is okay to miss their Nanny and what they are feeling is normal. Tell them it’s good to talk about how they are feeling and you are always there for them to share their feelings with. Extra cuddles, distraction and attention is needed during this time.

Children are resilient and it can be more emotional for the parent and Nanny than the child. Children are flexible, resilient and accept change more easily than adults. But being the model for your child, and not pushing your feelings onto them, letting them know everything is okay, will help them adjust a lot quicker. Remember children will create many special bonds with caregivers and teachers throughout their life, so are more than capable of loving another Nanny.

Mommy’s Having A Baby

Help them become friends before the birth…

Starting to introduce that Mommy is having another baby is so important to any other children living in the same household. Taking the time at least a few months before the birth to prepare yourself and the older child, will be a much easier transition than doing no preparation at all. The older the child the more they will understand, but for toddlers it can be more difficult. If there are already multiple siblings in the family, then the transition is usually smoother, however with an only child introducing that they will be ‘graduating’ to big sister/brother early on is important as pretty soon, they will have to learn to share you and your time – something they’ve never had to do before.

In the early months of pregnancy, start talking about babies and how little they are. If the child doesn’t yet know about pregnancy number 2, start asking them if they’d like a baby sister or brother, introduce the idea that it would be a positive change and they would have a friend to play with as the baby got older. If your child is young and can’t really communicate their feelings verbally, then still talking about having another baby in a natural way will slowly get them ready.

Explain to the child what is growing in Mummy’s tummy and that they are going to be the best big sister or brother, you can ask them to kiss, sing and read to mummy’s tummy to help encourage them to accept a second child and start a bond between them both.

Reading child friendly books are fantastic ways to help prepare for their ‘big sister/brother’ role.

Book titles:

  • We’re Having A Baby – Marion Cocklico
  • Mommy’s Having A Baby – Braylen Jefferson
  • I’m Going To Be A Big Sister – Brenda Bercun
  • I’m Going To Be A Big Brother – Brenda Bercun
  • Babies Don’t Eat Pizza – Dianne Danzig
  • Brand New Baby Blues – Kathi Appelt
  • My New Baby – Rachel Fuller
  • There’s A House Inside My Mummy – Giles Andreae
  • Waiting For Baby – Rachel Fuller

Getting a baby doll is a great visual aid, this helps your child understand what the baby will look like once it arrives. You could buy a dolls cot, bottle and pram and allow them to explore through pretend and imaginative play. Show them how to rock the baby, feed it and stop them crying. Taking the doll on outings with you in the day, is another great way to slowly introduce baby number 2 into their life.

Get the older siblings photos/baby book out. Little children love looking at themselves as a baby and if you have photos from when you were pregnant with them, show them and explain how your tummy changed and got bigger as they grew. Taking your child to a baby scan is also another special bonding activity, but if this isn’t an option you could always just show them the baby scan pictures when you get back.

Take your child out on baby related shopping trips and allow them to pick out a few clothes, maybe even the outfit the baby will return home from the hospital in. Don’t forget to get your older child something too, maybe a special outfit to wear when visiting the baby for the first time. They could also help you find nursery furniture, this all helps with the bonding process. If you have an active toddler who’s not into shopping, then have them ‘help’ assemble the baby’s cot or draw a picture to hang in the nursery.

If your child isn’t interested in anything to do with another baby, leave it a few weeks and then try introducing it again. Sure enough they will come around. Like I said, the earlier you introduce the idea that your having a baby, the more time you have to prepare.

Most importantly, remember not to stress! Thousands of babies are born everyday with siblings already waiting to meet them and not every transition or first meeting goes well and that’s okay, it is just a matter of time, sure enough it will become their ‘normal’ very quickly.

Successful Tips when Working in a Staffed Household

1. Communication

Working very closely with staff and employers in Private households can be hard to manage, as the close network makes it difficult to not blur together personal and professional boundaries. Try to keep communication about personal activity and other outside of work situations private to you, to save bringing possible drama and conflict to work. Communication is still important with your team members and employers to ensure you are doing your job role to the best of your ability. (See my other blog Maintaining a healthy Nanny/Employer Relationship for more on this)

2. Respect each other

Having mutual respect for each other and the other staff, will have a huge impact on the role you play in the overall operation. Respect each other’s needs, time and space especially when a staff member is on a break or off work, staff need this time to relax, rest and energise for the next coming week. Cultural differences including language, religion and cuisine may be different to what you’d normally know, but taking time to learn and respect these differences can be imperative to a happy and strong multicultural workforce.

3. Always be positive

Domestic bliss comes from balance in all areas of the household. All household employees want, is to be happy and feel appreciated. Regardless of any complaints you or anyone else maybe experiencing in their role, stay positive with your colleagues. Listen carefully to what they say, be constructive and helpful, support each other and appreciate the collaborative effort that you bring to the service.

4. There is no I, in ‘Team’

To keep a household running smoothly you will need to work together, to present a united front. Be a team player, don’t add more work to another’s job. Remember that someone else’s job is just as important as your own. There will be times when you need the assistance of another and someone will need yours. Always work as a team to complete the collective goal, a smooth running and successful household.

5. Remain Neutral

Working alongside other household staff there will be days of conflict or disagreement, everyone’s job description, duties and contracts will be different to yours so ensuring you don’t take sides is important, remain neutral so you don’t then affect your own role within the household.

6. Stay Humble

A really important reminder is that when you do become part of a private household, not to become spoilt yourself. Household staff receive many benefits and intensives which is all part of their role, but can easily be taken for granted, especially after working in that environment for many years. Stay humble, keep remembering who you are and where you came from.

Nannies Transitioning from Non-Staffed to Staffed Households

Are you considering starting a Nanny career within a private household or have you ever worked for a family that comes with ‘chefs, drivers, cleaners, grounds-men, personal assistants, house managers, security, and multiple Nannies?’.

Here I share my experiences and thoughts, explain how different it is from working with a family who has none of that and hope to help prepare you, for when you are in a similar situation.

When I started Nannying, a few of my positions involved multiple household tasks as well as nursery duties. I was often called ‘Super Nanny’, by friends and family who would ask ‘how do you do it?’. I remember as soon as I put the children down for a nap or quiet time, I’d be running around the house doing the laundry, washing up, preparing meals, cooking, cleaning the children’s spaces, writing lists and planning the next activity. Every time the parents came home from work, I’d be sat completely relaxed with the children all fed, bathed and in their pajamas with all jobs, activities and errands done. I liked going the extra mile and helping the families out as much as I could. I was learning about how much it takes to run a household and care for children full-time.

However, as I furthered my Nanny education and experience, my next positions were completely different. Becoming a part of a private household I had to learn to work alongside other household staff and had to accept that ‘its not my job anymore’. Times cropped up where I was required to make a snack or drive the children to where they/myself needed to go and when required to travel with the family, my duties increased. On a whole I pretty much spent my entire working hours, focusing on caring solely for the children, filling their day with as much stimulation as possible, whilst other household staff completed their required duties.

Working in a private household comes with many challenges, as no two days are ever the same. However, this variety can make the role really enjoyable, if you have the right attitude and personality. You do become an integral part of the family and are relied on heavily to keep the household running smoothly. Families that have a lot of help often live a fast-paced lifestyle, so having flexibility and be able to work with ever changing timetables and routines is a skill you will require.

Each family will be different and you must therefore adapt your working style to suit each individual household. Some families will want to interact with you and will want you to feel that you are part of the family, other more formal households will not want this personal interaction. They will want you to be seen but not heard and will expect you to do your role with very little conversation, with family members.

You will encounter times where you want to step back and give parents some space to spend time with their children, some parents appreciate that or request you to take a break. Others may not want you to leave when they are interreacting with their children because when they have had enough, they are able to leave the children in your care right away so they can do as they please. Having household staff run your home is ‘the norm’ in some countries, in others only the rich or famous would live like this.

It is vital that you take your time when applying and interviewing for positions as finding the right family to suit your personality and working style will have a direct impact on your level of enjoyment and success in the position.

Speak with parents about all aspects of the job, hours can be long and you need to make sure you both know each others expectations before you start. Getting so involved in the day to day running of a home in previous positions, where families haven’t had household staff is a big change to working in private households, as taking a step back can sometimes be quite challenging. By talking through exactly how the home is run should prepare you more so, helping you to settle quicker.

Working with household staff, you become your own little family and many of them usually come from different parts of the world, which is a great way to learn about different cultures and cuisine. Other incentives for Nannies can be lots of travel, higher salaries, experience living a VIP lifestyle and other rewards and benefits.

Now, not every day will run smoothly, but if you find a family who works together, communicates and respects each other, you will find it to be a very positive environment to work in.
Remember, the perfect match between yourself and a family can result in a rewarding and successful Nanny career.

Becoming a Travel Nanny

What do you get when you combine Nanny duties with an interesting location?

A Travel Nanny!

Here I explain what a Travel Nanny is, job details, how you could become one, transitioning from Nanny to Travel Nanny and where it could potentially take you….

First off, what is a Travel Nanny?

A Travel Nanny is a childcare provider that is hired specifically to go on family holidays. They specialize in short-term trips which is the most common but can also be hired for longer trips, for families who decide to travel the world for longer periods of time. Travel Nannies are experts in adapting to new routines, new locations and other challenging situations that come with traveling with children. They are flexible and come with much knowledge, that they have gained through education or experience from similar scenarios.

What does the job entail?

Being a Travel Nanny requires a certain type of personality, you need to ask yourself if you have it. Families want Nannies to have the right attitude, they look for candidates who are enthusiastic, energetic and positive. The best Travel Nannies are the ones who use their initiative and create solutions without being asked. There can be many complications that come with travel, so you need to be flexible, be able to adapt quickly to change and not get overwhelmed by the details.

Travel Nanny positions are all different, depending on the family’s needs. In reality all Travel Nanny positions are 24/7, you have to be prepared and happy to be on the clock at all times. Yes, there may be times the families give you an hour or two off in the day or some evenings if they aren’t planning on going out for dinner, but realistically your always on call whether your off or on. Some positions, the Nanny will get one day off a week.

Before stepping on that plane, Travel Nannies already know how they are going to keep their Nanny kid entertained during the flight. Let’s face it, any flight time is a long time, for a child. Nannies will know how to research activities around the globe, be excellent suitcase packers, not get intimidated by other cultures and be extremely safety conscious.

Travel Nannies need to be organised ensuring their passport is in date and they have travel insurance to cover them for the duration they are away. If you have any food allergies or are afraid to fly these things need to be considered to ensure you are going to fit best in a role like this, as some countries may not be as accommodating as others. If you struggle with home-sickness then you don’t necessarily have to rule out being a Travel Nanny, you can do short term contracts, just bare in mind if you ever decide to apply for those long term roles, be sure you are fully committed and know you can do it. You can find my top tips on how to help with home-sickness when Nannying away, in my Suitcase Nanny Guide.

Loss of sleep shouldn’t bother you either as you will not have time to get over the jet lag, you are the Travel Nanny, you will be working. Some children may even be sleeping in your room, so making sure you get early nights so you don’t burn out, is important. Travel Nannies usually have some knowledge on how to deal with jet-lag in children and it will be your job, to help get the child back into a routine. See my other blog for advice on Jet lag from tots to teens.

Another thing to know is parents do get messy, it is their holiday after all and they will be relaxed, drinking and enjoying themselves. You have taken away all their stresses and they often like to chat. Some of the things mom’s have told me – about family life, their marriage, their parents and future, it can get quite personal, as a Nanny you just have to smile and nod while trying to maintain a professional relationship. You do become a close-knit family when working in and around each other so there are bound to be times where you step on each others toes, but in a roundabouts way you just have to go with the flow and remember the reason you are there – to work and provide the best care for their children.

Besides the job being hard work, there are many perks to the role. The money can be very good and you don’t have to spend a penny while you are away. There is no need to pay for accommodation, food, travel expenses and excursions you do with the children, so you are simply just saving money while getting paid to see and the world.

Not only that, but as a Travel Nanny you get to choose when you work and where you work, so if you have an important date coming up or a family party you can just ensure you don’t book a contract in for that time. Sound’s intriguing right? It’s like being your own boss! You can also decide where you want to go, so when positions get sent to you, you can decide if where that family are traveling too is where you’d be like to go. A one week family holiday in the Bahamas, or a 10 day ski trip in Switzerland are just some of the positions that come around each year and if your anything like me you’ll be dying to go on all of them.

Don’t forget the FUN! Children always want to do anything fun and if you have the personality of a Travel Nanny then you will have just as much fun as the kids. I’ve spoken to so many Travel Nannies and they all say ‘It just doesn’t feel like work, it’s the best job in the world’.

Is there anything better than seeing the world through children’s eyes?

Are you packing your bags yet…

How do you become a Travel Nanny?

Families look for Nannies that have done it all before, (both domestically and internationally) so gaining experience is key to nabbing those ‘dream’ jobs. If you have no experience that’s no problem, brainstorm ways to grow your resume. Talk to families you babysit or Nanny for, ask if they have any holidays coming up and if they’d like you to come. Offering a reduced rate might sweeten the deal and get you the credentials you need, even just short weekend trips away are great to get you introduced for a Travel Nanny life. This will also help you decide if it is something you’d like to continue.

References are most important, so any positions you take and finish, ensure you ask your Mom & Dad bosses for a written reference. Always ask if they will be happy to be contacted by Nanny agencies to confirm their referee for you because all professionally run agencies will check.

Once you have a resume that resembles your childcare skills and experience, you can start contacting Travel Nanny agencies. Send them the information they ask of you, they will do their background checks and either request a face to face interview, Skype or phone call and once all is clear, you will then start to receive Travel Nanny positions that are on offer with each agency you are registered with.

How do you transition from Nanny to Travel Nanny?

Okay so you’re already a Nanny but want more Travel? Amazing! The good news for you is that you probably already have a strong resume. You’ve got lots of experience in childcare, and have more than likely done some trips with the families you’ve worked for. With this in mind, a great way to make your resume stand out, is by putting a list of scenarios on there that you are familiar with when traveling with children. For example – If you’ve flown internationally and domestically, commercial or private then put that down, if you’ve done ski and summer holidays etc. There are so many scenarios I’m sure you could bullet point down if you thought about it. This helped me a lot, and families get a quick overview of what you’re capable of, making you look EXTRA.

If you’re a Nanny and ‘the traveling with children’ is completely new to you, then definitely use the techniques I’ve written about in the above paragraphs. But also remember you probably have done more traveling than you think, if you have moved to another country to work for your Nanny family, then that definitely counts for something. It means you have the capability of living away from home, the confidence and ability to travel worldwide, know some basic in’s and outs of what its like packing bags, moving in and around airports, flights, time change and more. You just need to get your first gig traveling with a family and you’ll be away!

Transitioning from Aupair to Nanny is a great step forward also, because not only would your pay increase dramatically but you’ve managed to experience so much already in a cultural exchange environment, giving you the best start of becoming a Travel Nanny. That looks good on your resume and you can only keep on growing from there. I always advise Nannies that once they’ve left the ‘Aupair’ stage to not return. If you’ve already bettered yourself in experience, pay increase and education why go backwards, you know your worth! Every year that you remain a full-time Nanny or Travel Nanny is another year of credentials for you, more recognition and more dream job opportunities.

Where could it take you?

For starters, becoming a Travel Nanny could take you all over the world, but so could being a Nanny in itself. Out of experience Nannying has been what I believe the best job for me, I love all things travel, adventure, freedom and snuggling with children. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had jobs that have gone flawlessly, some that made me question ‘what’s normal anymore’ and others where I barely made it out with my wits intact, many were a combination of all these, but each individual experience has been a credit to my resume and provided me with some incredible opportunities.

As a Nanny, if you can show you’re the best, you have the chance to be hired by Celebrities, VIP’S, Royals, and the upper class. Not all Nannies enjoy working for the upper class and that is okay too, there are many other factors Nannies have to consider when working in these types of roles and it isn’t for everyone but these are just some of the bigger opportunities out there for Travel Nannies and Nannies in general.

If you’ve made it this far then I’m assuming you enjoyed reading this blog and I hope it answered your questions, any other questions you have please email me and I’d be happy to answer them. Take a look at my other blogs for more inspiration on becoming a Traveling Nanny.

Happy Travels xx

4 countries, 12 days

COPENHAGEN, Denmark

At the beginning of January my Nanny Family and I  flew 7 hours from Dubai to Copenhagen, Denmark. We had 24 hours there and were leaving the next morning for a flight to London. So, with an exhausted toddler and the afternoon closing in on us, I put my NK down for a short nap, before we went out on a little walk down the streets of Copenhagen. I had never been to Denmark before and in the short time we were there, I found it quite beautiful, even in the cold. It seems the city is well known for tall terrace block buildings painted in white and some streets, painted in rainbow colours. There are many museums that look amazing from the outside so I can only imagine they are amazing on the inside too. I had been told before we came, that Copenhagen is known as the ‘black city’ and that everyone wears the colour black. That definitely was true, everyone I saw was wearing black! Although I did not get much time to explore Denmark, it was nice to be there and learn a few things about the country I didn’t know before. Three fun facts I learnt:

  1. No place in Denmark is more than 30 miles from the sea.
  2. Denmark is reported to be the happiest country is the world!
  3. Denmark has twice the number of bicycles than cars and Copenhageners pedal more than 1.13 million km on their bicycles each day.

London, UK

We flew to the UK the next morning and once at the hotel, I  went straight out with my NK. Getting through those last few hours of the day before bedtime is always a struggle, after a time-zone change. Staying busy helps, as the time then goes quicker. (See my Jet lag Article for tips on helping defeat jet lag with children)

Over the next 3 days in London we did many fun things, one of them was London Zoo. This was my Nanny babes first time at the zoo, he loved seeing the animals. My NK was at a good age as he could walk and explore himself, rather than being pushed in a stroller all day. Other than the usual animals, London zoo had an animal that many zoo visitors wouldn’t have seen before, the Okapi. It looks like it’s crossed between a deer and zebra, but it is actually cousins with the Giraffe. I definitely recommend anyone who visits London zoo, to go and find the Okapi.

While we were in London, I had some time off which was so nice as I got to spend the time with my partner. The Lumiere light festival was on, which only happens once a year, so we walked the streets in the evening, viewing some of the 50 light displays. There were many street entertainers out as well, which was fun to watch. Some of the light displays were projected onto buildings and others were actual structures that hung in trees or suspended off buildings. My favourite was the butterflies, they turned on a scaffold structure 360 degrees and were lit up purple and orange.

We also visited the National history museum, as they had a special whale exhibition on. This was a great activity to do in the day, to get out of the rain. It was the weekend and so the museum was packed full of people. I would recommend seeing it in the week where it is less busy, but we managed to see everything we wanted too, so that was lucky. This museum is definitely a perfect place for children, there was so many interactive and hands on exhibits that children could touch and play with. Plus, it is FREE entry!

Paris, France

We continued our travels onto Paris by Euro star, which was also a new experience for me. It was much quicker than flying, if you add on the amount of time you spend in the airports before and after your flight. This was another city I’d never been to before, so I was excited to be there. I walked the Champs Elysee all the way to the Arc de Triomphe and then to the Trocadero, which I discovered was an amazing place to view the Eiffel tower from. The Trocadero is so touristy, but if you get there early before the crowds, it is a great photo opportunity.  One evening I was out around 6pm and to my surprise all the sparkly lights came on the Eiffel tower, this was really special. Later I learnt it sparkles every hour in the evening. While we were here, I also got to see my twin best-friends who I went to school with , they happened to be in Paris the same time as me. We caught up and explored Paris together. I had always wanted to see the Mona-Lisa painting in real life, so on the last day I visited the Louvre museum which was incredible and got to tick that off my list before we left. 

Courchevel, France

Our next stop was the snowy mountains! We took a 2-hour train journey to Lyon airport, where we then got picked up by helicopter, which flew us 1 hour across the countryside and into the mountains. This was incredible, the views we had were simply stunning.  Once we landed at our final destination Courchevel 1850, the pilot told us they had got 3 metres of snow, over the last few days so we had arrived at the perfect time.

First full day, I had my NK while his parents skied. So, I took him sledding and into town. Babies always look so cute all wrapped up in winter gear and a fur hood, he looked like a little Eskimo. In Courchevel town there is a carousel for children and a horse and carriage that you can take rides in. My NK loved seeing the winter horses, watching them eat and jingle the bells around their necks. I was surprised how well my NK took to the snow, he was happy to be outside in the cold, a lot of children I have cared for at his age haven’t enjoyed the snow, but he did so that was a bonus. In the late afternoon I had some time off and got a few ski runs in before dark. I love skiing, I love the mountains and going out in the late afternoon or early morning is always great as it is less busy.  I got to ski the next morning also, as my NF went into town. I got to practice some more skiing techniques and went down a couple of black runs, I always love pushing myself and feeling like I am getting better and progressing. In Courchevel there is a proper sledding track, going from 1850 to 1550 which is another town. I went so fast the breaks on the sled didn’t stop me, so I had to stick my feet out which caused all the snow to fly into my face. I did catapult out of my sled at least twice and got a huge bruise on my bum but it was so worth it.

Something we did as a family was Husky sledding, another one of my bucket list items. It was beautiful to see how the dogs work in the winter and how much they love the snow, they were rolling in it and eating it. I got to sit in a huge sled and 7 dogs pulled me along for the ride. The man on the back of the sled commanded the dogs in French, all 7 dogs listened and knew when to stop and go. Our stay in the mountains really was amazing and two fun facts I learnt there were:

  • We were skiing on the largest ski field in the world.
  • In Courchevel they don’t call it a ‘Gondola’ they call it a ‘bubble’.

Geneva, Switzerland

We left the mountains after 5 days and travelled to Geneva, Switzerland to catch our flight back to Dubai. I feel so lucky to be able to have these opportunities and explore parts of the world doing the job I love. Always so grateful to the special families I have worked for.

Find more of my Nanny travel blogs here on the website x

Teaching myself to surf

When I first learnt to surf back in 2013, I was in Australia working as a first time Nanny, wondering how I was going to make friends, or what I was going to do in my free time. After spending my first few weekends exploring the area, I quickly came to realize that everyone seemed to surf. I was in one of the most beautiful locations in Australia, sandy beaches and consistent waves surrounded me. After watching hundreds of surfers, catching waves every day and coming out of the water with a huge smile on their face, I knew it had to be good. I decided it was something I want to try, it would give myself something to do, and what better place to learn to surf than on the famous Northern beaches of Sydney.

I didn’t know a thing about surfing and being a beginner paddling out on my own, I knew I had to be cautious. I didn’t want to jump straight into buying a surfboard until I was ready to get in the water, I knew I needed to learn about the surf ethics, don’t paddle inside, don’t drop in, don’t snake, don’t ditch your surfboard, and so on. I needed to know what the flags meant, where the rips and currents were and the simplest things like, how I would even transport my board to the beach and back. I had thought about having surf lessons, but I knew they were expensive and if I’d have wanted to go out surfing, I would have had to hire a board; another cost and I’d be restricted to time limits. Anyway, teaching myself would be fun, exciting and something I could stay busy with.

I use to sit for hours on the headland in Avalon or in the car facing the water watching surfers arrive, put wetsuits on, stretch, carry their board down the steps and into the sea. I would watch how they would time getting in after each set, so they didn’t get pushed back to shore as the waves rolled in. I would ask Surfers that pulled up in the car park about the tides and currents at that beach so I knew how to stay safe. I watched how people would tie their surfboard to the roof of their car so it was secure, and I asked someone to show me how to wax a board properly. I learnt what the flags meant and when the best times to surf were, considering wind direction. While I sit here and write, it seems there was so much to learn about surfing, but really once your past the nitty and gritty, know your limits, where is safe, and how to be safe, in the end, it is all fun!

I was excited to purchase my first surfboard, I knew I didn’t want a foamy (foam board), because I wanted to learn on a board I could grow with, as I got better. Plus, I liked the idea of having a pretty patterned fiberglass board. I purchased my first surfboard from the Rip Curl store at Manly beach, after getting advice from the guy that clearly knew what he was talking about, when it’s comes to beginner surfers. It was a mini mal 7ft 2 OceanTech surfboard, with different shades of blue lines going diagonally across the board. Thinking back now, I couldn’t have got a better board, my favorite colour and came with its own storage bag, which was amazing, because it meant I could travel.

I was so excited as I carried my board out of the store and straight across to the beach. The waves looked quite small from a distance and I was keen to get in for my first ride, so I waxed up my board, put my bikini on and started paddling out.

tHe first time I experienced a ‘wipe out’… It was like being in a washing machine ! 

Was I prepared? Absolutely not! The waves were much bigger closer up and little me bobbing up and down the water, who had never controlled a surfboard before, was a recipe for disaster. Somehow, I got out the back after my tireless efforts of being smashed a thousand times as waves broke before me, I got my breath back and sat with all the other surfers looking out on the horizon waiting for that perfect wave. When a wave did come, it was huge. I paddled my hardest towards shore and as the wave picked me up I tried to stand, but of course not having learnt to balance on the board yet, I fell. That’s when I experienced my first ‘wipe out’. I was under the water with what felt like forever, I was panicking, I was being twisted, turned, stretched and bashed as the power of the wave continued to head towards shore above me, not to mention my bikini top had been ripped off. It was like being in a washing machine! I must have been deep because I couldn’t seem to reach the surface, I was kicking so hard and I had almost run out of air when I came to the surface and took an almighty breath, I was tired, frightened, and wanted someone to just grab me and take me back to the beach. I grabbed my board and another wave came crashing over the top of me again, I knew they would just keep coming so I used whatever energy I had left to kept paddling until I got close enough to shore that I could stand up.

I got out the water and just lay on the sand looking up at the sky. I was alive! That’s when I realized how powerful the Ocean really is and if I wanted to continue surfing, I needed to get ‘surf fit’. I needed to practice holding my breath underwater for longer periods, practice paddling, do full body workouts to get stronger and learn how to duck dive and turtle roll to prevent exhaustion.

I watched the film ‘Chasing Mavericks’, one of my favorite films. It taught me a lot on the power of the waves and how much fitter I needed to be, if I wanted to surf and survive. I was extremely determined; I started watching tutorials on YouTube, practiced duck dives and holding my breath in my Nanny family’s swimming pool and paddled for hours on calm days to build strength. I would also only take my board out into the white water and practice standing and getting my balance. I was desperate to be strong enough, to be able to paddle out the back and sit with all the intermediate/advanced surfers in the lineup.

That was the day, I caught my first ‘green wave’ and became hooked!

I had my first surf trip a few weeks later and was heading to Wollongong, a beautiful place off the coast of New South Wales. I went and stayed with family and they all surfed, so I was thrilled to get some tips off them and go out surfing with others.

My first wave was caught on camera, here I am… smile on my face, feeling on top of the world. As you can see my leg rope is on my front foot, that’s typical of a beginner surfer, it should have been on my back foot, but nevertheless after I came off that board, I got straight back on and paddled towards the line up again, I wanted to catch another. That was the day, I caught my first ‘green wave’ and became hooked!

My passion for surfing just grew after that, I learnt new things every day, even when I was tired, or didn’t have enough time to surf before the sun went down, I’d race to the beach to see the surfers catch the final waves of the day. During my second year in Australia I taught my best friend and was surfing every day, sometimes twice, before and after work. I’d meet Mona down at the beach and we’d surf until sunset. Some weekends we’d be in the water for 6 hours and skipped lunch, we loved it! There is something special about sharing a hobby with someone, who is just as passionate about it, as you are. Between Nannying, we would travel all over Australia with our surfboards, finding untouched hidden beaches, jungle showers and surf breaks. It really became the highlight, of my first two years abroad.

Learning to surf has been amazing, it’s taken me all over the world since then, encouraged me to reach goals, given me confidence in myself and taught me to step out of my comfort zone. Over the last 5 years I’ve now surfed in UK, Australia, USA and Mexico and am looking forward to surfing many more breaks, and will continue it into the future. I’ve had my fair share of injuries, but I know that in surfing, you will wipe out for years, but that’s how you grow and become stronger.

If you fancy learning to surf and are wanting more tips and advice, email me for more info and I’d love to help you.

Marbella, Spain

So, I just spent 6 weeks in Marbella Spain as a Temporary Travel Nanny for a family with two babies.  Marbella is a part of Spain I had never visited before, so I was excited to get out and about and explore. MB (Mom boss) and I flew to Malaga and then drove 40 minutes to Marbella to their villa. The babies were great on the plane until about the last hour, they were tired as we flew at lunchtime and typically they both fell asleep as we landed.  Why do children always do that?! So, getting off the plane with two sleeping babies, 5 bags and 2 prams was a mission. What could Marbella have in store for us?

Marbella is beautiful, lots of sandy beaches, palm trees, fun markets and surf cafes. When we arrived, it was low season and so it wasn’t busy at all, the temperatures in the morning and at night were quite chilly but in the middle of the day it got up to 28c.

A lot of our time was spent at the beach, I love the beach. I would recommend taking a visit to Playa Fontanilla and Playa Nagueles, which have luscious golden sand and stunning clear waters. But we spent most of our time at the closest one, South Beach, which was so convenient with the little ones and always full of locals.

 

Whilst on my day off, I took a trip out into town and whilst at Playa Del Faro beach I stumbled across something truly special. These incredible sand sculptures!!! Wow, I stood and watched the artist as he sat high up on scaffolding sculpting the face of a mythical male figure, it was clear to me that the artist always starts from the top and works his way down the sand, which would make complete sense if you thought about it.  These sand sculptures were intellectual ownership of the sculptor and his work was not sponsored by the town hall, he worked purely for tourist entertainment and on donations/contributions.

The artist had a board with a bit of information on about his giant master pieces, so I’ve added them here for you to really understand just how much work goes into them.

 

  • He uses 22 tons of sand
  • Construction time – 250 hours
  • Material – Beach sand and sea water
  • Daily use of sea water – 3000 L
  • Maintenance – Water spray every hour during the day, every two hours at night.

Sand art really is a special talent, when most of us struggle to build a single sand castle. The artist had also sculpted the characters from ‘Frozen’ the movie.

I also went and explored Old town or Casco Antiguo, built in 1485. A place where if I told you to imagine a Spanish town in your head this is what you would picture. Old town has such a lovely feel, little streets surrounded with white buildings, old stone and flowered balconies. In the center of it all Plaza de los Naranjos or orange square. Where you are surrounded by orange trees and beautiful Castilian Renaissance Architecture. You may sit around the square at your typical Spanish restaurants, eating Spanish cuisine while enjoying the beauty and smell of the oranges hanging from the trees.

 

Things to do with children in and around Marbella

We went out and explored a few different parks and attractions to mix up our days and we discovered some great places for families. A great place to visit as a family is the Selwo Adventura in Malaga. I couldn’t believe how big this place was, it honestly felt like I was back in South Africa at the Kruger National park. It was so wild, so much space for the animals to roam, you are able to go on a guided tour in a jeep and get up close to some of the animals at an extra cost, alternatively, you can walk the park yourself. They have some amazing activities to make you feel like you’re really in the jungle, hanging bridges, zip-lines over the lake and archery are just a few. They have lots of demonstrations on throughout the day also to educate children more on the different species of animals and their habitats. This is well worth a visit!

If you don’t fancy the huge day at the safari park and wanted just a morning or afternoon doing something, I would recommend the Bioparc in Fuengirola. We enjoyed this very much. In the heart of a town you wouldn’t expect to find a jungle paradise with tropical birds and exotic pets. The park was smaller than a zoo but had lots of the usual zoo animals, in naturalistic enclosures. It was clean, well-kept and the staff were friendly and spoke great English. This is well worth a visit for anyone with small children traveling around this area, wanting to see something exciting that doesn’t consume the whole day.

We also visited the Butterfly Park of Benalmadena. Located in the heart of Costa del Sol, home to around 1500 exotic butterflies. These butterflies fly freely between the flowers, waterfalls and tropical paradises. As you explore their habitat you gain a beautiful sense of tranquility and peace watching all the different colours and patterns fly by. Children under 3 go free, so it was a cheap day out for us with two little ones.

Tip – I would recommend eating out or bringing food with you to any of the parks as most of the cafes/ restaurants sell your typical takeaway fast food and a lot of Spanish food is very high in salt which of course is not always good for children.

Marbella has an amazing coast-line and the sunsets over the water, are simply stunning. One of the best things about Marbella is where it is situated, on a very clear day as you stare across the Mediterranean Sea, you can see Gibraltar, (another part of Spain) and Morocco and the African mountains. You are able to take a short journey by Ferry across the sea to Morocco and visit the city of Marrakesh. Nothing more satisfying than ticking off multiple locations on your bucket list, in one trip.

 

Living in Dubai

Living in Dubai has felt so different to anywhere else I have lived. Not just because of the vast desert, cactus and roaming camels, but the way of life, the law, the culture and communities that make up this incredible city.

If I could describe Dubai, I would say it is definitely a playground for the rich, where everything can be done. The biggest, the fastest, the tallest, whatever it is, you can pretty much find it here.

All over the city, construction is happening and in just 20 years, they have built some of the best businesses and tourist attractions in the world. The population has grown tremendously, and currently there are more expats living here than UAE residents. Something I love the most about Dubai, is the traditions and vibrant culture that make this city so dynamic.

Living in a country where prayer and religion is so important, has been such an eye opener to me. I have learnt that nothing stops prayer, you can be driving down the motorway and cars, trucks, lorries will be pulled over in the hard shoulder, and men/women will be on the side of the road praying on the floor. Now that seems so dangerous and in the UK that would never be allowed, but here it is, which makes it so interesting to see happening all over Dubai. Muslims pray 5 times a day and every mosque calls them to prayer at certain times. You can often be laying on the beach or walking around the mall shopping and all of a sudden you hear Adhan calling Muslims to prayer. It’s such a beautiful sound.
If you are wanting to visit a mosque, I would recommend doing it in the UAE. There are so many picturesque ones, the architecture and designs are amazing, some allow tourists to go inside. You do have to cover up before entering, there will be staff at the entrance to hand you a hijab to put on, if you aren’t wearing the correct attire.

The location of Dubai definitely has its challenges, after growing up in the countryside surrounded by lush green grass, it has been such a contrast moving to the desert with sand nearly everywhere you look. I experienced my first sand storm here, it was definitely not pretty. Visibility is low, sand and dust are blown all across the city and lingers the air, you find yourself holding your breath and walking with your eyes shut if you haven’t got a mask/goggles to put on. You do try and find yourself staying indoors and avoiding going out on those days because it can be quite dangerous and sand hitting your legs at wind speed is quite painful, but never the less experiencing a sand storm has got me another tick off my bucket list.

The hardest part I have found getting use to is the way of life, this place has one of the highest percentages of immigrants in the world, and this is the city I have realized that racism exists in so many different forms. Here it is important what country you come from, social status plays a key role like no other place I’ve been too or lived in before. It’s also the first time I’ve seen special areas allocated for ‘gold members’ and ‘women only’ in public. At attractions you will find special que lines for women only, and on public transport seating areas are divided. In Dubai there is a hierarchy and when it comes to finding a job and receiving a salary, depending on where you are from, depends on what salary you can expect and if other nationalities get priority over you for the position. Once again after growing up in the UK, where everyone is deemed equal and valued no matter where you are from, this has definitely been a real wake up call. If I could take anything away from this reality check it would be to remain humble, and never take anything for granted. I have seen and heard stories of how people here survive on the little money they earn, how they need to send it to their families. The only benefit when it comes to earing money here, is the UAE does not have any federal income tax. So, every month what you earn and work for is yours, you get to keep. But never the less, I’ve learnt that it really does matter where you are from, as that will depend on if you live to work or work to live.

Dubai isn’t what everyone says it is, yes granted there are many laws/rules that are different to other countries, but it’s not what people portray it as. Many people’s concern when traveling here, is whether or not they have to cover up. Well let me tell you, it is okay to wear normal swimwear on the beaches, you do not have to worry too much about covering up when out and about. You should always be mindful about what you will wear for the day and where you are going, but unless entering a place of worship you shouldn’t worry. About the other laws, there are some I will never understand the reasons behind such as, ‘no affection in public’, this is something I have always thought is a strange restriction, but one you must respect to risk being deported, fined or being imprisoned. Also, Dubai’s licensing laws require venues serving alcohol to be attached to a hotel or private clubs. It is illegal to drink in the street or a public space. Crime rate here is so low, I actually feel safe walking around in the dead of night than I would walking down a street in the US in broad daylight. Although I don’t make it a habit of wondering around at night alone, the point is I don’t feel I’d be in any danger if I did, beyond perhaps a rude whistle from a fellow expat spilling out of a club. Horror stories do get around on the internet, or in the news about expats who get arrested and put in prison for things westerners take for granted and their own country would see as minor incidents. The easy way to avoid this is to know the laws/rules before you go, and respect the countries wishes.

The weather is hot, hot, hot! Dubai doesn’t have four seasons, it is either winter or summer and when it’s winter, it still feels like summer. It can reach temperatures of up to 50c and for 4 months of the year most people leave the country, travelling to escape the heat. A lot of the theme parks, gardens, and outdoor amusements close during this time, as it just isn’t comfortable and everyone hibernates in the day. The malls are all air conditioned and after 4pm people disburse into the shops, cinemas and any other indoor location with an air conditioner. Every mall is awesome, each different in their own way, the Mall of the Emirates has a ski slope in it! Who wouldn’t want to ski in the desert! The Dubai mall, the biggest in the world, is one everyone has to experience at least once. The giant aquarium is one you cannot miss!

Dubai is home to the world’s tallest building, The Burj Khalifa is 830m to the tip, the views from the top are staggering. Fun fact – The tower is so tall that residents that live above the 80th floor, have to wait an extra two minutes for the sun to go down, before they can break their dawn to dusk fast during Ramadan.
The dancing fountains and light show, has to be one of the best things I have seen here. The way the water is timed so perfectly so it dances to the music is amazing, the lights and laser show that is projected onto the Burj is awesome too. You have to get there early, to get a good spot in the crowd, the atmosphere is what makes this free show all the more spectacular.

Now let’s talk about Camels!
I’m just laying on the beach minding my own business, then all of a sudden one camel, two camel comes strolling along the beach. One of them ‘casual’ moments! Of course, the ones on the beach are with their owner, he parade’s them up and down until tourists offer him money for a ride, but just having Camels lying next to your beach towel, seems so surreal. Oh, so fascinating in the moment.

I love being able to go out into the desert on safaris, having BBQs while watching the sun go down. There’s definitely something special about watching the golden sun, sink over the sand dunes. There are so many incredible things for tourists to do in Dubai, and so many opportunities for work and business growth. I kind of see Dubai as being in the centre of the world, so travelling is made so much easier which ever country you want to visit, because it seems you’re already half way there. It really has been incredible experiencing living in the UAE, it’s definitely a country that has educated me more so on culture, religion, social status and how the other half live.

Do you get lonely as a Nanny?

It is lonely working as a Private Nanny, it is a career where you talk to children all day who sometimes don’t have the verbal capacity to communicate back, so you always seem to be having a conversation with yourself. Also, 9 times out of 10 you are not in your home country close to friends and family and so you do have to make the extra effort to go out and try and meet new people, join different groups and classes that are just a part of what comes with this job. It is not like an Aupair position where you can talk to your ‘host parents’, cook dinner together, watch tv shows you all enjoy, it’s very much employer and employee relationship rather than a part of the family.

You are alone, it is hard but that’s where I have really learnt how to enjoy my own company and how to deal with ‘boredom’. I find that when I do feel alone or feel down it is usually because I am bored so when this happens I go out and do something. I find something new to go and visit, whether that is visiting a historical or cultural building, going for a walk or doing a fun activity like paddle boarding or visiting a theme park.

You may think ‘who would want to go to a theme park alone?’ Well actually sometimes these are the things as a Nanny you have to go and do because otherwise you would never get out and have fun. After working for 3 days straight,  I had the day off to go and do something and considering I was in Abu Dhabi for Formula 1 I decided to go and check out Ferrari World, home to the world’s fastest roller coaster. At first, I did feel a little out of place walking through the front doors by myself, seeing everyone else in groups with their friends or family laughing and having fun together, I thought I would walk around inside and check it all out before I decided on purchasing a ticket, I really didn’t know if I wanted to go and queue up for the rides by myself.

Roller coaster Formula Rossa

I love roller coasters, I am a real adrenalin junkie, I kept watching people getting on the rides and wanting to do it but not knowing if I should wait and come back and experience it with someone else. But then I also knew if I didn’t do it I would have regretted it and who knows when I’d be back to visit. So, I purchased my ticket, and to my surprise, being a single rider worked in my favour, I skipped most of the queue’s filling in the gaps for other people, I actually went on most of the rides twice all for the price of one standard ticket. Because the final for the Formula 1 Grand Prix was approaching people started leaving Ferrari World so a couple of the rides I was the only one riding! Ha! The staff operators couldn’t believe I was on my own and called me ‘a strong independent woman’ they just kept sending me around the track until more people turned up to ride it.

I went and rode the fastest roller coaster named Formula Rossa, it was such an adrenalin rush, we had to put goggles on to protect our eyes and it travels at a speed of 0-240km/h (150 mph) it was insane!  Another attraction I really enjoyed was the 4D cinemas, they have awesome effects and I think I enjoyed it more than the children that were there. All in all, the afternoon spent there was worth it and I am so glad I went and did it, and it doesn’t matter that I was exploring alone because I now get to say I’ve ridden the fastest roller coaster in the world!!