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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee