One of Norland’s first male graduates reflects on his career so far
16 March 2021
Liam (Set 39) is one of Norland’s first male degree graduates to qualify as a Norlander, having completed his probationary Newly Qualified Nanny (NQN) year in 2019. In his third year as a Norlander, Liam shares his perspective as a pioneer in the early years sector (men account for less than 2% of England’s early years workforce). He currently works in south west London caring for two boys, aged three years and 18 months.
“Since leaving Norland, I’ve held three nanny positions in and around London. In my probationary Newly Qualified Nanny position, I travelled to Los Angeles as well as South Africa; neither of these were places I had ever thought I’d visit.
Travelling with my NQN charge to South Africa is one of the highlights from my career so far. I’ll never forget running along the water’s edge with him, laughing and giggling, as the sun came down on the horizon and with a view of Table Mountain in the distance. Another one that springs immediately to mind is visiting a previous placement family, whom I adore! The eldest and I snuck off into town and bought some lovely treats for her parents and sister. It was so lovely to be able to show my gratitude to a family, who will probably never fully understand the profound impact they have had on the trajectory of my career and life! Another one would be the first time I visited my NQN charge after I had left. As I entered the kitchen, he looked up and shouted “Leelon” (which was how he said my name) and ran up and gave me the biggest cuddle and wouldn’t let go; it was such a special moment. A more recent one would be watching my eldest charge head off on his first day of pre-school, seeing him so happy and proud that he’d finally made it as a ‘big boy’.
The one striking thing that has surprised me the most in my career to date, is the love you have for your charges, and the sacrifices you’d endure for them. It’s a fine line to negotiate as a professional nanny, but ultimately the desire to care and protect will prevail. The biggest challenge I’ve found is that what works for one family, will not necessarily work in another. Although you may have the best intentions when going into a job, ultimately you have to be the right fit, which means having similar values, approaches and attitudes. If this isn’t right then there’s no chemistry, which can make the relationship between family and nanny much more challenging.
The most helpful aspects of my Norland training so far have been the theoretical knowledge of child development and psychology. It doesn’t mean that I go round saying, for example, that this child is illustrating ‘Piaget’s schemas’ (Jean Piaget’s theory of how children use patterns of thought or movement to develop and process their knowledge and understanding of the world around them). But, it does mean I understand what makes children ‘tick’ and being able to tune into this makes the job of furthering their knowledge and development much easier. It also helps when explaining to parents and employers what you’re doing and why. I’ve found that some people really just want to know why something you do works so well, and that knowledge means you can go into the theory and explain how they can take the principles of that and add their own take on it to yield similar results.
If you had asked me a few years ago what I love most about nannying and why I’d recommend this profession, I would have struggled to think of a credible answer. However, now I’m in a job that I am perfectly suited for and with a family that I get on with incredibly well, I’d say “just being with the boys”. There is nothing I love more than the fact that one moment can be rough and tumble play, then the next sees them wanting to be cuddled up to you reading a story (or in most cases, the same story about 15 times in a row!). I think I admire them as much as they do me, and that is such a special feeling and a privilege. I’d say nannying isn’t for everyone; talking from experience it can be incredibly lonely and the long working hours can be taxing, but that shouldn’t deter you. If you can establish a good network of nannies, whom you can trust and rely on if need be, then nannying could be the best job you will ever have.
“To men who are considering an early years career, I would say you should focus on being good at what you do. By doing this you remove gender from the equation, and instead make the conversation about your skill set as a nanny.”
I’ve learned a lot about myself through nannying. Throughout my NQN year and into the early part of my journey as a Norlander, I was always conscious that my style of nannying wasn’t the same as the styles portrayed over social media. Over time, I’ve become less concerned about what others do and more confident in my own style of nannying. As one of six children, including three elder brothers, my experience growing up has been a big influence on my approach and I would describe my style as being akin to a highly responsible big brother. The extensive Norland training, the experience I’m building and the principles set out in the Norland Code of Professional Responsibilities which all Norlanders must uphold, has enabled me to develop this style in a safe and age-appropriate way. This, coupled with working alongside a family who value and appreciate what I do, has meant that my charges are flourishing and taking all their developmental milestones in their stride!
Being a male nanny, and one of Norland’s first male Norlanders, hasn’t been easy. I have faced many setbacks, some of which I wasn’t sure I would overcome. It all comes down ultimately to your ‘why’. If you have a strong and genuine purpose for doing what you’re doing, then you can deal with these difficulties, and the times when no one believes in you. If I have learned anything from my experience over the past few years, it’s that people can sense your intentions; if you are genuine then people will warm to you and, ultimately, trust you. This is incredibly important to remember when coming into an industry where you are an outlier. You need people vouching for you to allow you to reach for opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t be considered for.
To men who are considering an early years career, I would say you should focus on being good at what you do. By doing this you remove gender from the equation, and instead make the conversation about your skill set as a nanny. Also, I would recommend that you find ways that will allow you to weave in your own interests, which will benefit your practice and give you a unique skill set. For example, I love fixing and mending things and I’ve now begun role modelling and teaching my charges how to do the same. Sharing this has given us another shared interest. Recently, my eldest charge needed his bike wheel fixing, so I got my tools and let him join in with fixing it. He now wants to know how to fix anything and everything that he can find. I would argue that this is something that very few nannies, regardless of gender, can offer, but every nanny has something different and unique that they can share. It’s just a case of finding that skill!
Norland, for me, is the place that ultimately shaped who I have become. It wasn’t an easy journey and there were times when I never thought I’d make it. There were some humbling experiences for sure, but I also had my fair share of successes, and that has helped me to grow as an individual and as a professional. Ultimately, Norland offers an experience like no other. You’ll be worked harder than you ever knew you could. You’ll attain skills you never knew you needed, and you will meet some of the most wonderful people along the way. I look back at my time at Norland with incredible fondness, and I even had a ring commissioned to remind me every day of the highs and lows of my journey to gain Norlander status.
If you are looking to have a career that is yours to control, where the world can be your playground and you can have a hand in shaping the people of the future, then I would definitely recommend studying at Norland!”Watch Liam's We Are Norland video