ANA- Alice Vandersteen Professional Nanny- 24th September

Annie and Chris

Alice Vandersteen joins us to discuss her career as a professional nanny.

How long have you been working as a nanny?

I have worked as a professional nanny for nearly 24 years. I started at age 18 after completing year 12.

How did you get started as a nanny?

I started working through a top Melbourne agency that specialised in hotel work. I also did a nanny training course at the beginning of my career. It was a six month course, two days a week. I had done a lot of work experience prior to becoming a nanny. In crèches and a centre for under privileged children. As a teen I used to babysit the local kids. So I always had an interest in working with children.

Do you have any training that has helped you in your nanny career?

The nanny training course I did in 1992 set me in good stead. It covered many topics. It was a very thorough course.
I have also done the Certificate of Education Support-Integration Aide/teacher Aide at Monash University in 2012.
More recently I completed the Certificate in Children’s Services in 2013.

Over the years I have also attended numerous seminars, talks, shows and events covering relevant topics. The topics do change over time; for example, there was no talk of social media in the nanny training course I did in 1992.

Every year I update CPR and first aid. Every time I do these courses I learn something different. You can never be complacent.

What type of experiences have you had working as a nanny?
I have seen a lot over the years. The good and the bad. By far, I have had positive experiences. For the first 6 years of my career, I mostly provided nanny services for families that were one off bookings in hotels for travelling families. I learnt quickly to adapt to varying situations and conditions.

I‘ve always done a 40 plus hour week whether that has been with a family full-time, part time or casual nannying. I’ve never had any trouble picking up work through agencies or through the mothers you meet over the years at the kinder drop offs, parks, shops etc. I’ve never been without work in 24 years. The trick is to work with a family that has similar morals and values as yourself. And everything should go pretty smoothly.

What age groups of children have you worked with?

I have worked with infants through to mid teens. The most common age being 0-5.
There have been some families I have worked with from day one until the youngest child goes to school. So some families like my current nanny family has four children the oldest nearly 10 and the youngest 4.5. I have been with them for nearly 6 years.
So I really do cover all the ages and stages.

What changes have you seen happen in the nanny profession over your career?
For years i was used to feeling that I was one of the handful of nannies around. Now with social media it has extended the nanny world. Social media has greatly broadened the nanny community, locally, nationally and internationally.

The younger nannies coming through generally have more education under their belt. Often with degrees such as primary school teaching. There are maternal nurses and kindergarten teachers also nannying .And many nannies now have diplomas. The nanny game has lifted over the years. There are more nannies now specialising in certain areas such as sleep consulting, tutoring, travelling nannies, special needs, languages and so on. More nannies now have roles that branch out to other roles such as being a personal assistant to the family.. Basically running the house hold –family.

From a legal point of view nannying has become more strict and is been taken more seriously. Nanny insurance and other personal insurances have produced more guild lines over the years.
Nannies are catching on more these days the importance of superannuation. Families are more willing to pay it when the nanny works less than 30 hours a week. Agencies have helped this too.
Generally I find nannies are taking more care of themselves financially, legally and doing more further education they are mixing well and keeping themselves in the nanny loop –network.

What keeps you in the nanny profession?

I do enjoy my career choice. I like that every day is different. There are new developments everyday and new experiences. No two days are ever the same. I enjoy caring and helping babies and children grow. Helping with their development both physically and cognitively, their esteem their social skills, their health and well being. There is much love and laughter along the way.

How can we inspire more young people to become career nannies?

I would only want to inspire the right people for this career. It’s a vitally important role.
Little people are placed in your care. It’s a huge responsibility morally, legally, ethically.
To be a career nanny it has to come from within. It needs to be in your nature and skill set to do this type work.

It is a very rewarding vocation. There are many benefits to this type of work .Such as flexibility and control over your day. You get to use your imagination and creativity to embark on age appropriate educational and social activities There is something very gratifying about venturing out and exposing a child to the world.

As a career nanny you have the opportunity to build special relationships with each child and serve as a role model, mentor and companion. Often I have kept in touch with many of my nanny families after the job has ended.

Being a career nanny you may want to broaden your horizon and perhaps travel with a family or work overseas. There are many opportunities and paths to take as a nanny. There is always plenty of work. It’s not a lonely profession, you meet many different people. The children are not the only ones doing the growing and learning.

What tips would you offer to a young person considering a career as a nanny on how to break into the nanny profession?

Firstly work out if that’s what you want to do!
Then get all the required paperwork together. Such as your police check, first aid, working with children card .Get your resume up to scratch. Add any qualifications, your work history and references. Perhaps look into appropriate certificate or diploma courses. Certificate III in Children’s services would be a good start. I wouldn’t be surprised if nanny agencies required this as a minimum requirement in the not too distant future.

Ring some nanny agencies and try to get your foot in the door with them. Maybe visit places such as maternal health care centres and play groups and leave a flyer advertising your services. Speak to the local mothers and nannies. Go online and join nanny networks. Get a feel of the community. Learn from others .Understand the job, the conditions, your role and expectations. There is always a lot of work out there.
If you present well and know what you want you will come across many opportunities. Good luck and enjoy!!

What tips would you suggest to help an inexperienced nanny starting out?

Have an idea about yourself and work out if this type of work is in your nature.
Get work experience –perhaps babysit the local kids or family members etc
Do work experience at appropriate centres such as crèches, play groups or kindergartens
Do courses and seminars to gain knowledge and confidence.
Read books- educate yourself, Go online, join blogs, nanny groups, get tips from other nannies
Be honest with yourself and the family regarding your capabilities.
Know what traits and skills you have and know that you are capable of nannying and everything that comes with it so you don’t waste your time, the family’s time or put anyone at risk.

A new nanny needs to build their experience and knowledge up. Sometimes you just need to go with the flow .Enjoy the job, enjoy your day.

The nanny profession can be isolating .How would you recommend new nannies meet other nannies?

Nannies need to understand there are nannies everywhere especially in particular areas where there is money. I’ve always come across them at parks, libraries, play centres, schools, kinder, shopping centres basically anywhere that children and families may congregate. I’ve always found them to be up for a chat and very friendly.

These days with social media the nanny circle is even wider. There are many networks through Facebook and Instagram where friendships can be formed. It’s very easy to join a group .There are many invites for meetings with other nannies, both with nanny kids or outside of work. It is important and nice to associate with like minded people.

About 12 years ago I was in a nanny play group that was organised through the agency I was with at the time. Many of us nannies have remained good friends since. When the play group ended we continued our play dates for the kids at each other’s nanny family home. We have good friendships outside of work too .We listen, understand and support each other.

Do you keep in touch with your nanny families?

I keep in touch with many of my nanny families. I’ve always been on good terms with my families. There are plenty of past nanny kids that are now older than I was when I nannied them. One of them even started her own successful nanny agency many years ago.

I still receive Christmas cards, birthday cards and messages and updates from many past families. Two families came to my recent wedding.

I’m always interested to hear how my past nanny kids and families are and what they are up to. I knew them so well when they were young that when I hear what they are doing as adults I really haven’t had any surprises regarding what fields they have gone into.

Do you specialise in a particular nanny area such as behaviour or sleep?

I do not specialise in one particular aspect. However working for all these years as a sole carer nanny I’ve gained experience and knowledge in many fields of nannying. I know a bit about everything but I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in one particular aspect. I’ve worked with many families. They are all different, all individual. Infants, children, teens ,special needs ,twins, autism spectrum, a child with a quadriplegic single parent, large families, different religions and cultures.
Happy homes and families with all sorts of issues including grief, depression and marriage break downs.

I have seen some of my nanny friends branch out and specialise in certain areas and I think it’s a very good career choice. There are growing industries.

Family requirements are changing and I can see where there are growth industries and family needs. Particularly in sleep guidance. Consultancy in many areas such as safety around the home, nutrition and health, preparing a nursery/home for a new born , car seat safety, de-cluttering homes are just a few of the business I see popping up all the time.

What is your favourite thing about being a nanny?

  • Running my own ship.
  • Seeing the babies and children develop and grow into who they are.
  • Seeing them learn through play.
  • Gratifying when they sleep well, eat, well and reach mile stones.
  • I enjoy that every day is different.
  • I enjoying going with the flow of the day.
  • I enjoy having a career that I can have a good conscience about.