Nanny Nightmares! – 7 things you don’t want your nanny to do

Extracted from the Sunday Times – written by Sarah Ebner –


As many parents know, it’s difficult to find the right nanny, and when you do she’s a godsend, providing the kind of high-quality care that studies show is important, along with cuddles and play in your child’s own home. After five years of nannies, I can honestly say I’ve never regretted opting for this type of childcare – even if my bank balance has. But despite the greater measure of control a parent has through having a sole employee working in their house, things don’t always go as we’d like.

I’ve loved the way my nannies have given hours of fantastic one-to-one care to my children, but I’ve also had my share of unhappy surprises and heard some disturbing tales. Of course what’s worrying is that, if I hadn’t been working from home, I wouldn’t even know about some of these…

1) Eat you out of house and home

Providing food for your nanny is part and parcel of employing them. But stories abound of nannies hoovering up entire fridgefuls and jacking up the cost of the weekly grocery shop. I soon learned with one nanny that nothing was safe.

In the run-up to a big family party I had spent weeks happily baking. My freezer was stuffed full of brownies, cakes and biscuits. The evening before the party, I retrieved my containers from the freezer and was in for a shock. The Tupperware was empty, with even the cake gone. There was just one possible culprit, our lovely, but admittedly rather overweight, nanny. In another incident, a different nanny ate my daughter’s prized chocolate Easter Egg. She took a long time to forgive and forget that one.

The experience taught me an important element of good parent-nanny relations: food labels pointing out what’s up for grabs and what’s not. “Please don’t eat” is always a good start.

2) Feed a newly-weaned baby inappropriate food

My son was newly weaned when I got one nanny in to look after him.

“There’s some organic salmon in the fridge for his lunch,” I said (sounding even a bit yummy mummy to my own ears). “He loves fish.”

She waved me off with a friendly “You go and work, we’ll be fine.” The baby even smiled.

But that afternoon, she told me that lunch had not been a success.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have microwaved the fish,” she said sadly. “Or maybe it was a bit too salty.”

“Salty?” I asked.

“Well, smoked salmon is very salty. And microwaving it made it quite tough.”

As you have probably guessed, the organic salmon fillets were still in the fridge.

The packet of smoked salmon for our supper, however, was lying opened on the table.

3) Disappear with your baby on her first day

When an apparently nice responsible Australian girl started working for me, I talked her through the day, explaining when my baby slept and ate. I also said that I would collect my older daughter from nursery and be home by 1.30, so she would be looking after her as well in the afternoon

Around 9.30am, I heard the door slam as nanny and baby went out for the morning. By noon (the baby’s lunchtime), she still wasn’t back. I rang her mobile, but there was no answer. I texted – no answer again. That’s when I realised all I knew about this woman was her address, and some references.

She arrived at 2.30pm, looking perfectly relaxed. My daughter asked where she had been. Lisa appeared bemused, but let slip that she had “got lost a little.”

I asked why she hadn’t rung or taken the A to Z I had offered her. She seemed annoyed and said she had forgotten my number.

That night, before I could politely fire her, she resigned.

4) Disappear entirely

Most mothers’ response to finding a suitable nanny is to weep with relief. But I’ve discovered that even hiring a good nanny doesn’t necessarily guarantee that she’ll show up.

One nanny seemed lovely and she lived only a ten-minute walk away. “I am so happy,” she said when I offered her the job. “It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.” But the day before she was due to start, I got a text: “V sorry, but can’t start work with you. Going home to Hungary tomorrow, don’t know when will be back.” A mad scramble for a new nanny started as I juggled work, emergency childcare and new candidates for the job. And you can imagine how I felt when I saw her a few weeks later – walking down the high street, chatting with a friend.

5) Set the place on fire

“Nannies love candles,” one friend tells us solemnly, having employed several live-in nannies over the years. Another friend knows exactly how much. She awoke one night to the smell of smoke filling the house. The live-in nanny had come home after a night of drinking, arranged candles on the floor around her bed, lit them, then promptly fell asleep. Luckily it was only the carpet that caught fire.

6) Steal

Anyone who employs help in the home, be it builders, cleaners or childcare, knows theft is a risk. Luckily this has never happened to me. But what astonishes some unfortunate parents I know is what gets stolen. Taking designer clothes from the mother’s closet feels like a violation, but what are you to think when knickknacks and even mixing bowls go missing? A hot underground trade in porcelain bric-a-bric or perhaps the five-fingered discount approach to kitting out her kitchen?

7) Use prison tactics

A friend had a shock with the nanny to her 3-year-old when she arrived home early one evening and slipped in unnoticed. Her daughter was being scolded for naughty behaviour, before being informed her that she would be locked in a dark closet until she could be “a good girl”. The mother backed out the door, took a few deep breaths, then came in noisily, to see how the nanny would respond. The nanny quickly brought the girl out of the closet and said they’d all had a wonderful day together. When Mummy asked why she had locked her up as punishment, the nanny replied, “It doesn’t happen all the time.” Phew, that’s a relief.

Sarah Ebner is the editor of

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