This week we’ve been talking to parents, grandparents, child-minders, and nannies who are caring for children under five years old. We’ve had some really interesting conversations and heard some insightful stories about people’s experiences of child care.

Something that became apparent and is an interesting learning for us is the number of nannies and child-minders that are with children during the week while parents were at work.

The person who cares for a child day-to-day has a huge influence on their personality as they develop and it seems that many parents in Southwark and Lambeth are entrusting the care of their children to someone outside of their immediate family.

One nanny who we met spends 50 hours per week with the child that she cares for. Having spent 10 hours a day (Monday to Friday) with this child  Monday to Friday she has been present at many of the child’s key milestones such as hearing their first word, seen them take their first steps. As the child’s primary care giver during the week she also comforts the child when they are unwell.

Nannies/child-minders often invest a great deal in the care of a child, both in terms of time and emotional energy. Whilst many nannies/child-minders told us that they tried not to become too attached they also stressed how difficult this is when you were caring for a child because they get to know them and their personality so well, and even help to shape them as a person.

Typically a nanny or child-minder will be with a child from  an early age until they begin school, when the nanny/child-minder is usually no longer needed. During their years together the attachment that develops between a nanny/child-minder and the children in their care can be enormously strong on both sides, and this kind of bond is important but can also make things difficult when the time comes where the nanny/child-minder is no longer required. Unexpectedly the separation that is felt by both children and nannies/child-minders can be traumatic.

Something that really stood out to us is the value that family’s place on a nanny/child-minder. For example, one full time nanny explained that she is paid less than the family’s cleaner. We are surprised that as a profession nannies/child-minders are not valued more highly when you consider the enormity of the responsibility given to them. As one of a child’s primary care givers, a nanny/child-minder will undoubtedly be a key influence on the development of the child during the most formative years of their life, often teaching children to speak, read, behave and interact with others.

We will be speaking more to nannies and child-minders as well as parents who employ a nanny or child-minder during the course of our research. If you’d like to get in touch or reply to this post to share your experiences we’d love to hear from you.