Nannying during lockdown: Norlander Keziah's story
12 November 2020
In this series, Norlanders and Newly Qualified Nannies (NQNs) share their different experiences of nannying during lockdown.
Keziah (Set 36) qualified as a Norlander in 2015 and still works for the family that she started nannying with six years ago as a Newly Qualified Nanny (NQN). She cares for two children, a boy aged nine and a girl of seven, in South West London. Keziah was a live-out nanny but moved in with her nanny family and increased her hours to protect their health and give additional support at a critical time. The pandemic brought additional challenges as well as crucial opportunities for her nanny family to spend their final months together.
“I’d like to start by saying that I absolutely love my job. I have built amazing relationships with my employers, charges and their extended family. I am so very lucky.
“I am a great believer in, and was trained at Norland to create opportunities for, learning through play.”
Sadly, last year my employer and friend was diagnosed with a type of cancer that has a very low survival rate. It was devastating news. She has been an absolute trooper and we are all in awe of her strength and determination to fight. Understandably, since her diagnosis, my job has changed. Both parents, who previously worked full-time, were home 24/7 and in and out for treatments and appointments. I became a support system for the entire family, not just my charges. Supporting both mum and dad through difficult conversations with the children and navigating the difficult realities of what lay ahead.
Living and fighting with cancer is tough in itself, but when you add COVID to the mix it becomes increasingly difficult. As a high-risk household, we have been shielding since 28 February. I was in a position where, if I chose to isolate in my own home, my employers would struggle to cope. Bringing in help wasn’t an option due to the risk to my employer’s health. It was an easy decision for me; I moved into my work home and we carried on as usual, I just had a shorter commute.
The nationwide lockdown from March was both a blessing and a curse for us. The children had been home since late February and I had been home schooling since. We stayed in London throughout lockdown and, of course, took every measure to stay safe when we needed to leave the house, including social distancing, masks, visors and gloves.
“When we had a bad day, we would take it slow, go outside and have fun.”
Both children attend wonderful schools that provided great online hubs for them to work and communicate through. However, there was a lot of screen time learning for both children, which exhausted them. I am a great believer in, and was trained at Norland to create opportunities for, learning through play. I designed fun activities based on their lessons to help them learn through play and to give them a much-needed break from screens.
A typical day in lockdown for us was breakfast at 7.30am, usually made by me or one of the children as they both love to cook, before their first online lessons. They would then start working independently and I would oversee and check in and help when needed. After their morning lessons, they would have a break to finish off their work away from their screens. I aimed to have activities set up for this time that focused on the topics they were learning about in a fun, hands-on way. We would then have lunch with mum and dad and the children’s aunts and uncle who came over to help. After lunch, they had free time before school classes resumed from 1.30pm until 3.45pm.
We took each day as it came. Lockdown affected both children’s mental health and behaviour. When we had a bad day, we would take it slow, go outside and have fun. School would take a back seat and I’d ease off the pressure – both on them and myself – as their wellbeing is far more important, especially with all they’ve been going through.
“I am so proud of everything I’ve achieved this year. I feel I’ve risen when everything else was falling around me.”
We have been very honest with the children about the health implications of COVID for their family. We watched child-friendly educational videos to explain why their daily lives and routines had changed so much. They are both extremely bright and understood the seriousness of the illness, especially for those with underlying health issues. This has caused both children to have some anxiety around health, which is common for children with sick parents. It has also made them more aware of their personal hygiene and they understand why we are taking such precautions and are on board with masks, visors and social distancing, which has made our lives easier when implementing these measures.
COVID has definitely affected us more than it would otherwise have. The children have been home every day since February and have been able to spend much more time with their mum, cherishing every moment and making beautiful memories as a family. However, although this time together has been a blessing, it has also made a difficult time more challenging. The children have watched their mum get sicker without having access to their own safe space at school, a place of normality where they could forget about what is going on at home and just be children. They have had to step up immensely, helping me and their dad take care of the home, the dog and, most importantly, their mum. I am incredibly proud of them, but I wish they could just be children, running round the playground with their friends.
After lockdown eased, and with careful planning, we were able to escape London for the Cotswolds for a week with all the family and the dog. We spent a week enjoying each other’s company, eating delicious food and making memories. I arranged a special date night for my employers – it looked like a scene out of a Disney movie and it was so special, both children loved keeping it a secret and surprising their parents. Truly magical.
“I am so very grateful for my training at Norland, which stood me in such good stead to handle this awful situation.”
Devastatingly, my employer lost her battle on 17 August, earlier than we had expected. I am in complete awe of her two children and their dad. They have taken this in their stride, and she would be so proud. We are still very much coming to terms with the immense loss, but both children are back at school and thriving alongside their friends.
I am so proud of everything I’ve achieved this year. I feel I’ve risen when everything else was falling around me. Being in this situation is not something I would wish on anyone, but I have learnt so much about myself, my capabilities, determination and resilience. From a professional side, I spent 100s of hours reading and researching everything that could help my charges. I’m hoping to be able to help and support other nannies in a similar situation.
I am so very grateful for my training at Norland, which stood me in such good stead to handle this awful situation. I am particularly grateful for the nannies around me, my peers, family and friends. I relied on Norland alumni on many occasions through our Facebook portal for help and support throughout, and it was an invaluable resource. It really does take a village and having all my fellow Norlanders’ knowledge and support was such an asset.”
For further inspiration, Keziah has documented her family’s lockdown activities and adventures on her Instagram account