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Meet Nanny McVee

nannymcvee1Vee Da Palma Dias has been a nanny for seven years. She looks after five children, aged from five months to six years. She tells us why she loves her work…

Brazilian-born Vee (Veronica), 33, works as a nanny for four families. Married to Fernando, 44, they live in north London, and – as yet – don’t have any children of their own. All the families Vee works with are also based in north London and one of Vee’s jobs is a nanny share. She explains how she makes it all work.

‘Flora, who’s now six years old, was the first baby I nannied for – she was seven months old and I looked after her four days a week.

‘When her mum, Emma, offered me the job, she said she’d interviewed four girls and I was the only one who’d even asked to hold the baby.

‘I worked with Flora for two years, and then went back to Brazil. When I returned to England in 2009, after the recession, I found that most parents wanted a nanny share – years ago, they didn’t exist; they’re a recent thing, but it works brilliantly for me.’

Sharing the care
‘On Mondays, Tuesdays and again on Thursdays, I work for Christine and Alice, looking after Christine’s baby, Eden, who’s two, and Alice’s baby, Anna, who’s one. I start work at 8.30am by picking up Anna from her house, then I walk her to Eden’s house – they both live in Stoke Newington. We have a little routine – in the morning we go out somewhere; on a Monday it’s usually playgroup, and on the other days I’ll take them to the farm or soft play. After the morning activity, we go home, I give them lunch, then they both have a nap and in the afternoon we go out again; in the summer, I love taking them to the park and I’m a member of London Zoo so we go there a lot – they love it! I take them out all the time; I don’t like staying inside.

‘We come home and I give them their tea. I finish work at 7pm and Anna’s mum picks her up from Eden’s house, so I don’t have to walk her home in the evenings.

‘I’ve learnt that I can’t push the children into doing what I want them to do – I need to be flexible. I try to make sure they have their lunch at the same time, but Eden normally sleeps and needs his nappy changed more frequently than Anna.’

Vee-with-Rosa-1Here, there and everywhere!
‘On a Wednesday and a Friday, I’m due to start working with Rosa, who’s only five months. It was going to be a job share with Emma’s children, Flora and Polly, but Rosa is so young that we decided to wait until she’s a bit older. I start work for Emma at 1pm when I pick up her youngest daughter, Polly, who’s three, from nursery. Before Polly started at nursery, I used to look after her all morning, but now I don’t need to, which is why I looked for another part-time role with adorable Rosa.

‘I walk home with Polly and give her lunch, then at 3pm we go to pick up Flora from school. On Wednesdays, it’s sweets day and on Fridays it’s ice cream day! We come back home, have a snack, then on a Wednesday we go to Flora’s ballet class. Polly and I stay to watch, then we come home, have tea and relax!’

Daily responsibilities
‘At both families, I cook the children’s meals – things like Brazilian rice, vegetables and fish. If I arrive at one of the houses and there’s no food, I go and buy it, and give the parents’ the receipt. The same process goes for the swimming pool or soft play.

‘I don’t get a job description from the parents. Normally I say, “I’ll keep the toys organised and the baby equipment organised.” The mums would rather I spent my time with their children than do chores.’

Making mummy special
‘I sometimes worry that the little ones will get more attached to me than to their mummy. But normally it doesn’t happen. By the end of the day, babies are always a little anxious for their parents to come back. I try to make mummy coming home a big event – I always talk to them about mummy being at work but stress that she always comes back. I say, “Mummy loves you; Vee is looking after you, but mummy and daddy love you” – I say this to them even from when they can’t speak. They really listen and I feel it makesthem feel more confident. I think that’s why the little ones trust mea lot. I’m like their second mum – I’m their Brazilian mummy!

nannymcvee2A matter of trust
‘I’m very lucky because all the parents I work for really trust me – they don’t ring me all the time to see how everything is going. Sometimes I call them more than they call me!

‘When it comes to discipline I always ask parents what they want me to do. A while ago, Eden started to push Anna – and although I’d read some books on this and asked my own mum – I also asked Christine what she wanted me to do. She was really good about it. I try to share my experiences with the mums and talk about what they do in the same situation. I never get, “I do this and you must do the same” from them.

‘I’ve never had to smack a child. The most I have to say is, “Ah, ah, ah,” with the little ones – I don’t like to say ‘No’ – and with Flora and Polly I just say, “Girls,” in a very firm voice and that’s usually enough.

‘I’m sure I’ve seen the babies walk or talk before their parents have, but I’d never say that to the mums. I say, “Oh, I think she’s going to start walking soon.” I know how important things like that are for mums and how guilty they feel about working.’

A job for life
‘I love everything about my job. I’m not exaggerating – a day at the farm with the little ones, or a day at the swimming pool with Flora and Polly – for me, that’s like a super day! I don’t find the work tiring. If I’ve had a really fun day, I’m always so over-excited when I get home!

‘For me, the best bit of a day is when Anna or Eden are playing, then one of them comes over and kisses me. A spontaneous kiss. Or when Polly is playing and suddenly comes to hug me; or Flora says, “Cuddle, Vee, cuddle.” That’s the best part – the affection is so true. They can’t lie or pretend they love you. They really do. I think that’s why I love my job. It’s my life – definitely. I want to be a nanny forever!’

The families Vee works for:

  • Christine Murray, mum to Eden, aged two; and Alice Fernandes, mum to Anna, aged one – nanny share, three days a week
  • Emma Perry, mum to Flora, aged six, and Polly, aged three – two afternoons a week
  • Louisa Scott, mum to Rosa, five months old – two mornings a week

Vee’s words of wisdom
Vee suggests the following to parents who are taking on a new nanny:

‘Try to be with your nanny for the first two weeks. It’s important the child sees the nanny with their mum, and gets used to the nanny being around before she’s on her own with the child. From the nanny’s point of view, too, it helps because a nanny should know the mummy well, and try to see her routine with her baby; and whether or not she disciplines. A nanny should then try to replicate what the mum does with the child. It’s important for the parents to  see how their child is with the person they’ve chosen, because sometimes it just doesn’t work.’

This article was first published in at home’s ’Parenting with Jo Frost’ July 2011. [Read the digital edition here]

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