Insider guide to nurseries, nannies and childminders

Three experienced childcarers reveal their tips and advice for making childcare work for you

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How to get the best from your nursery

Ciara Mullen is deputy officer in charge of a day nursery in Leicestershire that looks after 32 children.

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“When you first start working in a nursery, dealing with parents can be quite daunting! I remember an occasion when one of the children we were caring for got headlice. Instead of the parent coming to us and talking about her concerns, she completely over-reacted and complained about the nursery to the local authority and Ofsted.

“You have to be diplomatic with parents, even when you think they’re not being 100% truthful. There have been times when a child has obviously been too poorly to attend nursery, but their parents have bent the truth so that they can go to work. I don’t necessarily blame them. I see a lot of very stressed, hard-working mums and dads – it can be tough.”

Ciara’s insider tips

  • Before you decide on any nursery, check Ofsted and read the report on the nursery
  • Turn up unannounced – a good nursery should never mind a visitor
  • Trust your gut instinct

How to get the best from your nanny

Charlotte Harris, a nanny for 10 years, has worked in Australia and England. “Some parents can’t accept that being a nanny is hard work. One nanny friend has sole charge of three children, does all the family laundry, shopping, housework and dog-walking, and ensures a meal is ready for her employers when they get in from work. And they still think she sits around all day!

“A big problem is an employer who doesn’t want you in their house – one friend practically has to hide when mum gets home! Another friend worked for a family who were adamant their son should have a strict bedtime routine as well as not eat any junk food. But when the dad came home, he’d spoil his son rotten with fast food and late nights. 

“Some people seem to have a problem with honesty. One nanny I know saw an ad for her own job in the local newspaper before her employers hinted they weren’t happy.”

Charlotte’s insider tips

  • Discuss what you expect from each other at the beginning
  • Remember, your nanny has a life, too!
  • Don’t undermine your nanny in front of the children

How to get the best from your childminder

Catherine Mackley has been a childcarer in London and the US, and is now a registered childminder in Leicestershire.

“I enjoy looking after children, and it fits in well with being a mum. I care for seven children, plus my daughter, at different times of the week. I get odd looks from people, who are probably thinking, ‘Just how many has she got?’ 

“Sometimes it can be difficult to cope with the demands of tired and stressed working parents. Some, particularly first-timers, don’t understand what’s involved. I look after children from 6 months upwards and have school runs and pick-ups to fit in around caring for the tiny ones. Once, I did multiple school runs, a trip to the park and arts and crafts with the kids as well as dealing with several toddler tantrums, all in one day. Yet one parent casually commented what an easy job I have!

“I always try to accommodate parents, but sometimes you can do someone a favour and get stuck with the consequences. A friend of mine offered a mum an extra hour once for free, because of an emergency. But now the pick-up is 7pm not 6pm – and she’s never paid for that! “It’s very important to have a contract, so you both know what to expect.”

Catherine’s insider tips

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  • Talk openly to your childminder, so you get to know each other
  • Try not to pick up late; phone if you can
  • Visit several childminders before you make up your mind

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