Working parents: `At 3pm we had a tantrum ...'

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The Independent Culture
Parents who are out at work all day often find it a comfort for their nanny to keep a diary. But it is no substitute for talking. Sarah Jewell reports.

After a long day at work, the first thing any parent wants to know when arriving home is how their children have fared without them. Mothers of small babies, in particular, are concerned to know all the details of the day, from the number of dirty nappies changed to the amount of milk their baby has drunk. As well as a chat at handover time, many mothers now also want their child carer to keep a diary, so that they have a concrete record of what is going on.

When Gill Hardy went back to her job in PR five months after having her first baby, she decided to design her own logbook for her nanny to record the day's events. The result is Babilog - a brightly coloured, spiral- bound diary in which the child's carer can record each day's events and the parents can leave messages. Gill believes that talking to the child carer is "by far the most important means of communication", but claims that Babilog is a useful back-up.

For many parents, a homemade version does the job just as well. Jessica Morris finds it helpful that her nanny, Tean Rowland, keeps a diary of her days with six-month-old Felix. "I love having the diary; I try and have a quick chat with Tean when I get home, then the first thing I do is read it." Jessica finds it "a very sweet record of how Felix has spent his day", and also useful. "For instance, the other day Felix was ill and I wasn't sure whether he was thirsty, so it was useful to find out when he had his last drink".

Tean thinks the diary is a good idea. "Parents like to see what the baby's routine is and how it is changing, especially when the baby is very young." She also finds things can be rushed at the end of the day. "If the baby is crying and we are all tired, it is hard for the parents to take everything in."

Not all nannies like keeping a diary, however. Miren Cenarruzabeitia has been a nanny for 12 years and although some of her employers have insisted that she either follow a daily written routine or keep a diary of events, she is not keen on it. "I think that a diary is very cold. I like to talk to the parents at the end of the day ... I think it is a bit sad to read about the day on a piece of paper."

A diary is, of course, open to misuse. Georgia Miller's nanny kept a diary when looking after her one-year-old, but Georgia found that it became a list of demands and complaints. "She kept asking for more baby wipes or food, and as our relationship deteriorated, so her diary demands accelerated. She ended up writing things like: `went for a pizza with my nanny friends today. You owe me pounds 12'. By then I realised she had to go. I no longer trusted her, or the diary."

Nothing can compensate for lack of trust between parent and carer. And however useful a diary may be, to maintain it you need to keep talking.

Babilog costs pounds 11.99 including p&p from 10 Mill Lane, Epsom, Surrey, KT17, 2AG (0181-393 6211).

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