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 year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015