Nannying during lockdown: Norlander Sarah's story
26 September 2020
In this series, Norlanders and Newly Qualified Nannies (NQNs) share their different experiences of nannying during lockdown.
Norlander Sarah (Set 31) nannied throughout the nationwide lockdown that began in March 2020. Since graduating in 2009, she has nannied all over the world, including in Northern Sweden, Switzerland, Quebec, Jamaica and London. Sarah now works as a daily nanny in rural Oxfordshire looking after two children, a boy of six and a girl of four. Sarah is also the family’s personal assistant and handles the running of the house, cars, the household laundry and management of cleaners, property maintenance, as well as holiday planning, family paperwork and much more besides!
“Lockdown was a rollercoaster for me. I started off very positive and excited for the change of routine and ready to attack the home schooling – we had two weeks before term ended, which went well and was a lot of fun because it was new. We then had the Easter holidays and I had a week off due to a temperature (no other symptoms). It was very odd to be off sick; I’ve taken about four sick days in 11 years, and never for anything as minor as a bit of a temperature!
“Overall, lockdown has proved to be a wonderful thing. My charges have come on in leaps and bounds.”
Going back to ‘school’ for the summer term was a real challenge. As it is my job, I felt we needed to complete every bit of the school work being sent home every single day, which at times was several hours’ worth of worksheets, reading lessons, phonics, class catch-ups and sports lessons. We did manage it and, after about three weeks, we had a big breakthrough when both of my charges realised it’s simpler to get all the work done quickly, rather than dragging it out with grumbling and procrastination!
We had a brilliant time doing the science experiments, spent a fun week exploring bugs, exploded effervescent tablets and delved into arts and crafts. I’ve been incredibly grateful for being in the countryside – long daily walks, a big garden and the glorious weather have made everything bearable and we’ve had the most fabulous time. We’ve grown vegetables (and refused to eat them!), splashed in the river nearby and seen everything from moles to woodpecker nests. We’ve loved face painting, done lots more baking and cooking, and the children have started earning their pocket money doing chores. They’re now incredibly good at making their beds, tidying their rooms, laying the table and so on. It’s been super to have the time to really instil some more awareness of the roles of others and how they can help impact those around them.
I have amazing employers who, from the outset, reduced my hours and ensured I had time to exercise as part of that. I also had a lunch break away from the children (for the first time in my nannying life), for exercise. It made a huge difference, and it’s only really since schools went back that normality returned.
During full lockdown, I would arrive at work at 7.30am and the children would usually be up and playing. We’d get dressed, have breakfast and do some work until mid or late morning, with gaps for trampolining, running races and so on. Then playtime until lunch, usually picnic style in the climbing frame or similar. A long walk in the afternoon with a snack to get out of the house, rain or shine. More playtime with some reading thrown in, and then supper around 4.45pm before bath at 5.45pm. Then I would finish at 6pm and return home.
“I am incredibly proud of how my charges have coped with upheaval to their normal routines”.
There were some changes to their routine. Bedtimes became more flexible and mealtimes a little more so, but it was a little like the school holidays barring a couple of hours homeschooling in the mornings. We have a visual timetable on a whiteboard in the kitchen that the children love, with pictures of books, work sheets, playtime and so on, and this really helped them understand what needed doing before ‘free time’ for the rest of the day.
Both children are used to being treated as small adults, for all that they are four and six. They are both logical and pretty able to reason for their ages and we’ve explained the basic facts about coronavirus to them, watched a couple of super videos from CBBC Newsround and also talked about hygiene and how viruses work. They have a good, if basic, grasp of what is going on and why, though obviously at a level that makes sense to children.
Other than home schooling, which once again proves how amazing teachers are, I found the normality the hardest aspect. So many people have had massive disruptions to their lives – furlough, redundancy, working from home – and I didn’t see any of this. My routine has been almost identical as I cannot socially distance at work. It has been really challenging to remember that when I go to do a food shop, the post office or other errands at the weekend, life isn’t normal for everyone else.
I am incredibly proud of how my charges have coped with upheaval to their normal routines – not seeing friends or going to school and day after day being willing to sit down and have another go at some work, be it writing a letter to grandparents or some phonics. Even when all three of us were frustrated with fractions or something similar, after five minutes running around in the garden in the rain or bouncing on the trampoline their resilience and willingness to come back and have another go at whatever was a struggle before has been brilliant to see.
“I just hope they are old enough to remember the fun time they spent with their parents and me at home, despite it being a strange time.”
A lot of the time our Norland training means we can do pretty much anything. Norland’s focus on good communication with employers has been something I have worked hard at. I think there is added pressure as a Norlander to be a super nanny who can do everything brilliantly. Being able to admit that I am human has been a steep learning curve and having established good lines of communication with employers along with maturity and experience have shown me that I don’t have to be perfect to be a super nanny.
I have learnt that I need more time on my own than I thought. As a nanny I’ve always chosen jobs with school-aged children, even if one was younger, as I have always liked having a school run to break up the day. For many years now, one charge or another has been at nursery or school for at least some hours every day, outside of the holidays, and this has enabled me to spend time on my own working, be it paperwork, ironing, running errands and so on.
Like many people, my family were at home for weeks on end, both personally and at work. Other than my 15-minute commute, I have been with people, 24 hours a day, for 16 weeks. Trying to do my normal job and routine without any time alone has been much harder than I could have imagined. I now know that I need to make more time, going forward, to be on my own. I have learnt that I am a better, kinder, nicer person for having spent some time without anyone else around!
Overall, lockdown has proved to be a wonderful thing. My charges have come on in leaps and bounds. Weeks four, five and six were tough, but having worked through that with both my employers and my charges, we are all so much closer. It has been so much fun having time to do all the things that usually get saved for holiday time. I’ve loved watching spring move into summer in the woods nearby and walking for an hour or two every day with my charges has led to some amazing conversations with some wonderful little people. I just hope they are old enough to remember the fun time they spent with their parents and me at home, despite it being a strange time. I’ve also significantly improved my face painting skills, something we’ve done almost every day since lockdown began … it’s amazing what you can turn your hand to!”