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What Is a Nanny?

Updated on February 29, 2020

Individuals who are interested in caring for a child on a long-term basis become, over time, more than just your average babysitter.  A nanny is a person who provides specialized and focused care for one child or the children of one family.  This type of job is an old one, with its modern traditional origins lying in the care of wealthy house’s children.

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image from cariocando on flickr
image from cariocando on flickr
image from cariocando on flickr

Nanny vs. Governess

Contrary to what may be thought, a nanny’s function in a household, both classically and in the modern world was the care and well-being of children, not in their formal education.  This area of a child’s life was ruled by a governess.  While a nanny would feed, bathe and clothe children, a governess’ duties included teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as music, language and artistic pursuits.  A nanny’s usefulness continued so long as there were children to tend to, whereas a governess is called upon many years later when the children reach the age of learning.

The typical day of a Nanny

A nanny’s day is dictated by the needs of the child in their care. Nowadays, this may mean arriving at the home of the family a short time before the child is due to wake. In other cases, it means waking before the child. To provide an example, let’s examine the day in the life of yours truly.

I nanny for two boys. One, who was a toddler when this hub was originally written and is now eight years old, and his little brother, who is four:

  • 7:00 - 7:30a.m. – wake up, prepare breakfast
  • 7:30 – 8:00am – walk eight year old to school if necessary, feed four year old breakfast, set to play
  • 8:00 – 10:30a.m. – play time, including possible ‘learning’ games
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. – clean up from morning play, prep lunch
  • 11:30 – Noon – lunch, four year old plays while lunch is cleaned up
  • Noon – 2:00 p.m. – Naptime, nanny relaxing time (or nap time, yay!)
  • 2:00 – 6:00 p.m. – Free time, play, possible snack if requested, homework time for eight year old
  • 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Dinner, usually prepared by parent
  • 7:00 – 7:30 p.m. – Bath time, pajamas
  • 8:00 p.m. or so – Sleep!

There were plenty of days when the schedule deviated based on situations that came up. Interesting events such as potty training, the toddler fighting sleep, the terrible threes and all the like are perfectly normal hurdles, but perfectly aggravating at the time.

Being Hired as a Nanny

Beyond having a true love for children and the capability to responsibly care for them, a prospective nanny should also have a clean criminal record, be free of damaging habits and behaviors, and possess a large degree of patience. Training in CPR and first aid are essential skills, as well as a willingness to be flexible in your day to day life. When interviewing with a family, be truthful of your background and experience, and do not be surprised to be asked possibly strange questions. Do not let a family’s wariness lead you to believe they dislike/distrust you, and remember that while you have possible income to lose, the family’s primary concerns lie in the safety and livelihood of their children.


Hiring a Nanny

Unless you’re very close with an individual who displays talent with children and a measure of responsibility, the process for hiring a nanny should be one moved through cautiously.  A capable nanny is not difficult to find, and those individuals to whom you can entrust your children will have no issue with a thorough and cautious approach on the part of a parent.  To minimize possible issues, and provide you with another level of security and assurance, interested parents may wish to seek a nanny through an agency.


Famous Nannies

While the name Mary Poppins may be the first nanny to enter your mind, there have been numerous nannies throughout history, some real and some fictional whom you may recognize:

  • Jo Frost – the extremely successful nanny and host of Supernanny
  • Charlotte Bill – nanny to King George V’s son John in the early 1900’s
  • Hulk Hogan – fictional character in the movie Mr. Nanny
  • Robin Williams – played a character called Mrs. Doubtfire in a scheme to see his own children more
  • Nanna – in Peter Pan, the overseer of the Nursery for Wendy and her brothers was a dog!


Have you ever had a nanny? Have funny stories from babysitting? Let us know!

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    • profile image

      Anouser 

      8 years ago

      Interesting.

    • LizzyBoo profile image

      LizzyBoo 

      10 years ago from Czech Republic

      I worked as an Au-pair so I can imagine How hard could it be to cope with 3 dragons behind your back. You made a great hub with many interesting toughts. Thank you for that lovely information.

    • artrush73 profile image

      artrush73 

      10 years ago

      Very cool hub :)

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