William and Kate have hired a Spanish ‘supernanny’ to look after Prince George – the holder of the most pressurized childcare job in the world was seen pushing her charge around Kensington Gardens recently, accompanied by an impressive security detail – and certain sections of British society are up in arms at their unpatriotic hire.
Not parents though. We parents know the truth about English nannies.
There was a time, of course, when the English nanny represented the pinnacle of the child-care profession – thanks largely to Mary Poppins, and the well-turned out graduates of the celebrated Norland nanny school.
Not so much these days. These days, English parents go to great lengths to avoid hiring anything but British nannies, saying that our native girls are lazy, messy, over-entitled jobsworths who stare at you blankly when you ask them to clean up.
I must say that my only experience of an English nanny confirmed this impression.
A few years ago, after our (male!) German au pair returned to his homeland, we were searching for a replacement and decided to hire a British nanny for our kids, then aged 4 and 2. "Krissy" seemed perfect - 23, a previous employer who would be only too happy to provide a reference and, best of all, she could start immediately.
The first few days she was exemplary - she even cooked a Shepherd's Pie without being asked - and was a helpful and happy presence around the house. Sure, she was more expensive than an au pair, but, we congratulated ourselves, she spoke English and she knew what she was doing.
Week 2 was when the problems started. She stopped cleaning up generally and said she would only clean up after the kids, not us. Fair enough, sort of, we thought. We had hired a nanny after all not a cleaner.
During week three she began taking sickies, which from then on came thick and fast, at least one a week, of increasing ridiculousness, culminating in the line that she couldn’t work because she had a sore finger. It was week 4 when she stopped cleaning up after the kids, and we started cleaning up after her.
Fed up, we issued the first warning, and she then pulled herself together for a week or so and was spookily nice, and Over The Top helpful before relapsing - this set the pattern for the five months she was in our lives before we finally fired her.
Talking to some rich British moms in recent days, you hear the same thing over and over again – English girls make very bad nannies. And the complaint always seems to be that it is their refusal to do anything outside the strict confines of their ‘job’ that makes living with them so impossible.
One mum, who lives in a £5m townhouse in Chelsea told me the following tale about her English nanny.
"I had to give Poppy milk in the nights and I would leave the empty bottles at the top of the stairs. The nanny refused to pick up the bottles because she said that it was outside of her job and in the end my husband fell down the stairs when he tripped on the bottles early one morning.
“The nanny's argument was that the bottles were put there outside of her working hours. She would complain about everything even though she had a whole floor to herself in Chelsea. She was a highly trained nanny who was supposed to be Mary Poppins but turned out to be Payton Flanders."
Another friend, who lives in splendor in the country, says of her privately-educated 22-year old English nanny, "She just had no work ethic. It was like she wanted to be my mate and wanted to share my life rather than do a job. She seemed to be confused about whether she was working for me - or whether she was part of my social circle. She refused to do any cleaning around the house, which is actually what you really need the help with.
“She was unprepared to get hands dirty and was just very, very unhelpful. It was a really bad experience. After that we got a Czech aupair who was one 10th the price – and she was amazing and generous and would just help out around the house like any normal person would."
Am I being outrageously predjudiced and dealing in sweeping generalizations? I am, but, it is for some reason it feels OK to do so when it’s your kids involved.
And if you really want to be offended, check out AA Gill’s self-professedly "hideous, racist, sexist, 19th century, embarrassingly stupid" guide to hiring a nanny he wrote for British GQ some years back, in which he wrote that Australians "are famous in Nannyworld for needing sex about as often as Bentleys need filling up. And in the same quantities," while South Africans are mostly to be avoided for their accents, while Soviet bloc New European girls "will live happily in a converted broom cupboard and talk wistfully of how they could fit their grandmothers and cousins into the airing cupboard.”
So, Spanish. A good compromise by Will and Kate, says the Royalist.