Name: Susie Somerville
Training: Norland Nursery Training College
Years working as a Norland Nanny: More than 30!
What is your current position?
I currently work in a rota position in India looking after a 17-month-old little boy, 4 weeks on and 4 weeks off. Having said that, I am just coming to the end of my first trip with them which has lasted 8 weeks, 24 hours/day and 7 days/week, sleeping in with the little one.
Have you always loved working with children?
When I was at school, my housemistress noticed I was good with the younger children and I was consequently given the task of looking after the homesick girls, even having to tell one that her father had been killed whilst on duty in Northern Ireland. This was a heartbreaking situation and such a huge responsibility, but we got through it until her mother managed to come and collect her.
I have never ever encountered anything as difficult in any of my years as a nanny. My housemistress then suggested to my parents I should become a nanny, it was not an easy decision for my father to allow me to go to Norland but in the end, he did.
What reservations do you think parents have when hiring a nanny?
I think at the beginning of a nanny’s career there is always the feeling (on the parent’s side) that perhaps the nanny is a little young, I know myself I would not let anyone under the age of 24 even babysit for my daughter when she was little, perhaps that is just me! The more qualifications a nanny has, I think the more the parents feel safe in their minds. I know experience counts for a lot, perhaps parents prefer qualifications.
What would you recommend to nannies looking for a long term nanny position?
Looking after children, as we know, is a commitment. No-one wants someone dipping in and out. Nannies should be prepared to stay a good length of time as children need stability, someone they can rely on when their parents are at work. The same smiling face each morning when they wake up, the same silly jokes and the huge cuddles.
So, before taking a position, make sure this is the family for you, lay all your cards on the table at the interview. There is no point, three months into the job quibbling about something, not being able to discuss it and handing in your notice.
Your child cannot understand your issues with their parent, they will not even understand why you are leaving. You are their ‘person’ so put them first! This means being hard at the interview and if necessary, explain you are a long stayer and want everything on the table before you start.
What are your top interview tips?
I have always been honest in interviews. I explain I am fun-loving, organised, punctual, enjoy educating children but am a bit wacky!
What is your approach to discipline?
The children will always have a fun time, however, if they bite, scratch, become rude or develop nasty habits, I will become the ‘firm’ nanny. So far, all children have had a great time with me. My child from the 15-year job even wrote a character reference for me which brought tears to my eyes.
What has been your longest position?
My last job lasted 15 years. Three children from one family, one from another and after a couple of years, my own daughter who returned to work with me when she was 6 weeks old! This was the best job I have ever had. We are all still in touch, children, parents and grandparents. All the children got on very well, helped each other when needed, did homework together and eventually ganged up with my daughter against me!
How do you cope with disagreements between yourself and the parents?
There was never a cross word. One of the mums went from working 3 days/week to 5 days shortly after I started, and from a 0730 start to a 0630 start, often finishing at 20:00 if not later. The parents needed me so I was there. Perhaps because I was older and married I was not bothered by the longer hours, I just took it as part of the job.
What do parents look for in a nanny?
I truly do not know what new parents are looking for in a nanny. I would look for someone who was going to love my child, be a protector, nurturer, educator and a whole lot of fun into the bargain.
Have you always worked for HNW families?
The phrases which are used by agencies to describe the wealthier families fill me with dread. ‘In my day’ there were wealthy families also, but no big deal was made about it. We had the view that children are children and it does not matter how wealthy the parents are.
At Norland now, they are taught evasive driving and various other skills which we did not have in my time. I presently work for a wealthy family but do not need evasive driving as there are chauffeurs. I do not need self-defence skills as there are armed guards in the garden! But the child is still just a child and we laugh like everyone else in the world.
How does being a super nanny compare to say working in an office?
I worked as a secretary for a couple of years whilst trying to convince my father to send me to Norland. Oh how dull, 9 – 5 stuck in an office, same day in and out. Now, compare taking children to the beach, Legoland, theatre, museums, painting, pottery, music etc. which would you prefer?
The glee when they do something you have been trying to teach them and the smiles on their faces when they realise they have succeeded is worth so much more than anything I can think of.
Do you ever get lonely?
Yes, nannying can be a lonely life but I think Facebook is helping nannies to socialise and feel less isolated. I felt terribly isolated for the first four weeks in my present job, I was so very lonely but my friends bolstered me along with emails and Skype messages and I am still here. Time off in 6 days…….not that I am counting!!
What have you learnt over your years as a super nanny?
Patience is the main thing and tolerance of the parents! Problems always lie with the parents. How many times when a nanny hands in her notice does she say “Actually I have issues with your tardiness, lack of discipline with your child/children, the mess you leave the kitchen in and expect me to tidy it up, the fact I have to be the tough one and say ‘no’ to ice creams and treats and you fill them with junk all weekend”? No, she says “It is time I moved on/ looking for older/younger children” and any other excuse, never telling the truth. Why? Because she wants the good reference that she no doubt deserves.
Why don’t nannies write references for the parents?
As nannies, we need to know the pitfalls and potential ‘difficult’ parents, and boy there are a few out there!
How do you gain respect from the parents?
Mothers can be tricky. My bosses were very secure in their minds that they needed me whilst they pursued their careers, they did not feel threatened by the relationships which grew between their children and myself, in fact, they were more than happy that their children ‘loved ‘ me. At weekends, if they became fed up with their parents they would ask for me. It feels good to be loved!
Upon returning from work at the end of the day if the children ran to their mothers asking for something, they would always ask ” Have you asked Susie and what did she say”? Followed by “If she has said no, why are you asking me”? We always worked as a team and I can say, hand on heart, those 4 children are all very, very successful and happy in their lives, of which I am so proud to have been a part of.
What other job generates such rewards? Alright…surgeons and nurses get a lot of job satisfaction, and carers, teachers, go on, make your own list! You get what I mean.
What advice would you give to a nanny starting out in the industry?
Be prepared to work long hours, come into a messy kitchen, be undermined, be told off by the mum for silly things because she is tired and feels guilty that she is not caring for her own child/children or has had a disagreement with their father. Oh, the list is endless, but where else are you going to find a job with smiley faces, the excuse to get really mucky as part of the job and be the person who can stop the flow of tears? Don’t do the job if you are not willing to give up certain things. The list is too long to mention but the list of benefits is even longer.
Think long and hard before embarking on this career, children’s hearts can be broken, don’t be the one who does the breaking.
One phrase which sticks in my mind which big Thomas came up with (big Thomas because my grandson is called Thomas after him, he is like my daughter’s big brother)
“Susie, I love you but at the moment I don’t like you” normally after I had told him off! We can always feel like this but tomorrow is another day.
If you would like to know more about finding a Super Nanny or Norland Nanny we’d love to hear from you. Why not drop us a line and one of our recruitment consultants will get back in touch with you.