I used to be a nanny. What were they thinking?

Once upon a time, a long time ago, before I’d wasted three years of my life at university and spent another year desperately trying to persuade anyone that would listen that I’d make a really good reporter (even when young I was an adept liar), I was a nanny.

I figured that nannying would be a fairly easy way to make a living; all you have to do is keep a few children alive during the day while you watch TV and drink tea, read the odd story, make a few models out of cereal boxes and, Bob’s your drunken uncle, you’re a childcare professional.

I had no brothers and sisters, very few friends with younger siblings and basically had no idea whatsoever what I was letting myself in for. I thought that looking after children would be fun. I thought it would be easy. I soon learned otherwise.

The room used to be white, you say?

'The kids? They're fine. Last time I saw them they were under what used to be the bed.'

By the time I was 18, the only things I’d ever had to assume a degree of responsibility for were guinea pigs.

I say that I assumed a degree of responsibility for them – I named them.

Feeding them, cleaning out their cage, clipping their hateful nails, dealing with their hideous mange, attempting to stop them copulating with their own brethren, I left this all to my mother; had it been up to me, the guinea pigs would have resembled hair-tufted skeletons within about a month.

After all, she didn’t have anything better to do, what with being a 24-hour carer for my bed-bound Dad, running a house without a bread-earner, running my social diary and putting up with me wafting round the house like a little black cloud in gothic rags; I expect that sifting the guinea pigs’ food for tiny turds was a bit of light relief.

I hasten to add that now I have children of my own, the circle of life is complete: having promised faithfully that they would take on full responsibility for their hamsters, the kids have interpreted this to mean that they’ll occasionally ask me if I’ve fed their pets/cleaned out their cages/ refilled their water and so on. This is, to be fair to them, a step up from the respect I showed my guinea pigs (or my mother).

Suffice it to say that I didn’t expound on the whole guinea-pig-responsibility-issue when I went for my first job as a nanny, not that my interview was particularly soul-searching. The closest we got to probing was when my potential employee asked if I knew how to use a microwave oven.

Ah, those were the days. No police checks, no health and safety, no NVQs in bead threading or papier mache, just honest-to-goodness unqualified, useless teenagers looking for jobs that didn’t involve getting on a minibus at the crack of dawn and driving to a grim poultry factory to masturbate turkeys for pennies or stacking shelves at the local supermarket (worse than the turkeys. At least someone in that transaction was enjoying themselves. And I don’t mean me, before you ask).

Within a week of my interview, I was in charge of two small children for five days a week, from 8am until 5pm. One of my tiny charges was a very sweet little girl, aged about four, who was genuinely a pleasure to be with, on the basis that all she wanted to do was (a) sleep (b) watch TV or (c) play with Lego.

The boy, on the other hand, was somewhat more of a trial. As his mother flitted out of the house on my first morning, she told me that little Rupert had “toilet issues” and was, as I was to find out later, an anal-retentive in the truest sense of the term.

For those not familiar with Sigmund Freud’s theories on the anal stage in psychology, and trusting that you have not recently finished eating your dinner, I will explain.

Dr Freud believed toddlers were fixated with their bowel movements and that the way toilet training is carried out can determine the way a person develops in later life (I am paraphrasing here somewhat, if you want the full story, ring my premium rate line for more anal chat).

Heaven knows what kind of toilet training little Rupert had had, because he hadn’t bothered waiting for later life, he’d become an anal-retentive at the age of two. He would do anything whatsoever to avoid going to the toilet and was, therefore, suffering from self-imposed constipation and fearsome flatulence.

On the plus side, I never had to change any rancid nappies. On the minus side, I was a slave to a toddler’s bowels, and expected to use my most impressive powers of persuasion to cajole him into evacuating them, a task which Hercules would have passed on had he seen the glint of determination in little Rupert’s eye.

His mother admitted, at a later date, that one time, when matters had reached crisis point, an on-call doctor had once “manually evacuated his bowels using a teaspoon”. I never made a cup of tea in that house again.


13 Responses to “I used to be a nanny. What were they thinking?”

  1. April 14, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Freud had many silly theories. I believe these little tykes simply find it humiliating to crap in front of their mothers. The only way of curing their shame is for someone to do it in front of them. Possibly a job for the nanny.

  2. April 14, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    I may never again use a teaspoon or eat turkey, thanks Nanny In Black.

  3. 3 Ram Venkatararam
    April 14, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Sounds like a job for the ultimate magic nanny, Mary Poopins.

    Sorry. Really. My apologies. I hated to do that WIB but I had to get it out of my system…

  4. April 14, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    This turkey job you speak of…are you saying when a turkey let’s his “giblets” fly, that a penny pops out? If so, I am going to go buy a bunch and jerk them until they are blind. I will be rich I tell you!!!

  5. April 15, 2009 at 1:50 am

    Wouldn’t going full circle meant that you would have pawned your kids off on an 18 year old to take care of?

  6. April 15, 2009 at 3:49 am

    Payback’s a bitch, isn’t it? I refer here to motherhood… I, too, was a nanny, and my charge a two year old boy, who compared to yours, was a saint. I do remember however that he used to make up words in his little sing-song voice and chant them repeatedly and it was cute until the day he discovered he liked the sound of the letters f-o-c-k strung together and proceeded to say the word over and over, much to my dismay and attempts to encourage him to like new and different sounds. I’ll never forget when his mother walked in the door and in greeting he yelled “Fock!” to her, with a smile on his face of course. Oh, the look she gave me! I don’t think she ever believed that I hadn’t been teaching her two year old to cuss. I left shortly thereafter. Change of subject here, don’t you just love Fundamentaljelly’s new look? It’s so military…

  7. 7 brucehood
    April 15, 2009 at 7:36 am

    Hi WiB… back to some semblance of normality.. Yes.. anal stage theories of personality.. hmmm but did you know at the other end there is a very reliable and strong relationship between the amount of time that a 4 year-old can resist before gobbling up a tempting marshmallow and their school performance 16 yrs later? Somehow I think I would prefer to conduct this type of study that scatological surveys. MISSED YOU

  8. April 15, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Why is it that kids with toilet issues are always named “Rupert”?

  9. 10 Deepti Chaudhari
    April 16, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Hi WIB,

    I’ve been following your blog for about a month, and I’ve come to look forward to every update. Keep it coming 🙂


  10. April 19, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Your mother attempted to stop the guinea pigs from copulating with their brethren? Is there some moral component here that I am missing? 🙂

    I am reminded of the story of Mary Benny (wife of American comedian Jack Benny) who was paid a visit by the family veterinarian about her sick cat. She was very rich by this time as husband Jack was very big in radio and could afford house calls by the vet. Poor Mary was also very naive and had been extremely sheltered growing up. The vet examined the cat and announced that it was not sick, but was indeed pregnant. Mary complained that this was impossible as her she-cat was a house cat and never allowed outdoors. The vet noticed another cat, a tom, strolling through the house and pointed him out as the culprit. To which Mary responded that that would be an impossibility as the tomcat in question was the female’s brother.

    You sound as though you were a teenage female of the sort with which I was acquainted in my youth (sometime between the terms of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson) who would walk around with her hair in her eyes and with shoulders thrown forward in an attempt to hide her breasts. “Gothic rags” is my clue here but I may be mistaken.

    “masturbating turkeys for pennies.” What lovely visuals you paint, Woman! 🙂 I once observed a pig being masturbated. For whatever reason I did this I no longer remember, I am sure it has something to do with the inadequate and spotty attempts of the human mind to traumatically block such things. I am sure it had something to do with my growing up on a small farm but have no clue whatsoever why I would intentionally witness such a soul twisting spectacle. The demented curiosity of a teenage boy? *shrug*

    WIB, as always you are a pleasure to visit and read. I have been away from your domain for too long, and vow to correct my erroneous ways.

    Excuse me now wilst I trot on over to News 24 to see what’s new.

  11. April 19, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Nice to see some old faces back at the WIB towers. And the poopins gag proves that Ram still has it, not that I ever thought otherwise.
    Love to you all. And no teaspoons.

  12. April 25, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    I was an only child, too. I wonder how me and my step-kids are gonna get along? They’re angels, right? Nothing like my character Hank, right?


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