Personal Column: Nanny to the stars

Rachel Waddilove, 58, from Devon, has worked all over the world as a nanny and maternity nurse for a string of celebrities, most recently Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Martin and their baby Apple

I was 21 when I first worked as a nanny in London. It was the 1960s and I was looking after three children under the age of three for a theatrical family in Kensington. There were lots of well-known actors visiting the house and it was a new experience for me. I'd been brought up on a farm in Kent. I found it glamorous.

I grew up in a house full of children. I was the eldest of six siblings and it was a child-oriented household. I loved babies, so working as a nanny and maternity nurse was a natural progression. I've worked all over the globe for famous and wealthy families.

It can be a strange world. Last year, I was working in a stately home in the north of England filled with beautiful, priceless antiques and artwork. Another time, I lived with a Japanese couple on a yacht in Monte Carlo. Sometimes I've wondered what on earth I was doing there.

I have met many celebrities: Jude Law, Kate Moss, Barbra Streisand, Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro are just a few names. On one occasion, I was sitting next to somebody quite famous at supper and we were chatting away then I suddenly realised who she was. I said: "Gosh, I'm sorry, I didn't realise it was you!" She just laughed and said it was refreshing. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are a lovely couple and great parents.

I'm pretty unfazed by celebrity. As mothers, we all go through birth. It is a great leveller. The feelings, emotions, pain and trauma of birth touch every mother. What I have seen is that life is different for the children of famous parents, compared to other children. They are not as free.

I aim to look after the baby, the mother and the father when I take on a maternity job, which usually involves living with the family for six-week periods. I help with the feeding, washing, sleeping and generally creating a routine for the baby. I also arrange the flowers that arrive, make tea for visitors, wash the baby clothes. Anything but clean the house.

I love my babies. I become very attached, particularly when they're bottle-fed. I always have them at night-time and bring the baby to mummy in bed if they're breastfeeding. Becoming attached emotionally is a natural consequence. But because I'm a mother and a granny, I'm constantly aware that these babies do not belong to me. When I first started doing the job I would get terribly attached. I still have a good cry when I leave.

The attachment of a nanny can be difficult for the mother. If you have a mother who is at work a lot, the child will be more drawn to the nanny than the mother. I would always look out for this and make sure it is discussed with the parents if it happens.

It is an intimate experience when you're working at the heart of a family and you get to know people well. With experience, you learn when you should be around and when you should leave the family to be alone. The downside of the job is being away from my own home. I'm a real home girl.

I longed for my own children. I married in my early 20s and it was wonderful to have each of my three babies. I certainly didn't want anybody else to look after them. Today, I have four grandchildren and my children often say: "Mummy, can you come and help?" and I have to tell them that I'm working.

Life as a nanny has changed. Girls today get weekends off, their own cars, and they often get their own flat with their own telephone line. Thirty years ago we'd live in with the family and work three weekends out of four. As a top-of-the- range nanny I was paid £15 a week. A top maternity nurse today earns between £100 and £175 a day.

Children do seem to be less disciplined than 30 years ago. I see a lot of over-indulged children. Often this happens when mothers work and they feel guilty about not being there so they overindulge their child materially. And there should be more parenting classes for young couples with children.

I believe that if babies are started into a structured, sensible routine in the early weeks of their lives, you're putting down boundaries that will last. Things may have changed in the nanny world over the past 30 years, but I will always have a passion and love for new-born babies.

'The Baby Book: How To Enjoy Year One', by Rachel Waddilove, Lion Hudson, £7.99. Rachel Waddilove was speaking to Danielle Demetriou

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker