During my time in Australia, I spent five months on a farm in Central New South Wales and was predominantly a nanny for my host family. I wanted to shed some light on a day in the life of a nanny for those who are curious or thinking of completing the experience. Please keep in mind that every day is not the same and everyone's experience is different!
My predominant role was as an au pair and career for my family’s children. At the time I had two families I worked for. The first had three children, two boys aged 3 and 5 and a girl age 7. My second family was related to my first and the fourth child, aged 16 months, was their cousin. From Monday - Friday I had various routines with a different variation of the four.
On Mondays I would take the 3-year-old to the cousin’s house, a 15 minute drive, and we would spend the day here until it was time to pick up the older children from school. This day always proved to be quite a handful as four kids to feed at the end of the day is a challenge!
On Tuesdays I would have the two boys for the day and similarly on Thursdays.
On Wednesdays I would have the 16-month-old on her own and these were typically my relaxed days. At this time, the baby still had an afternoon nap which gave me two - three hours to bake, clean or just relax. On these days I would also occasionally take her to my friend’s house to have tea or we would meet others for a coffee.
On Fridays I would swap between working on either farm as Fridays were typically the day that both mothers of my families had their day off work. It was often a half day and we would get busy with a task such as gardening or baking.
My weekends were mine and I was lucky to have a car for my sole use. I would therefore often drive to the local town, Warren, on the Friday night and join my friends for a weekend enjoying the Rugby, Golf Club evenings and events.
My days would go something along the lines of:
6am - wake up
7am - breakfast
7.30am - head to the house to finish off final things before oldest went to school
8am sort out laundry and feed the cows.
9am - make the beds and start on morning activities
9-12pm morning activities. This is often crafting, playing with toys, getting outside, baking, checking on the chickens.
Also make sure that laundry is out and drying outside.
12pm lunch - usually a sandwich or soup.
12.30-1.30pm - TV time! One hour of TV allowed in the day so I use this time to finish up any chores, fold laundry or if I have time, to sit and relax with the kids and take a breather!
1.30 - 4pm - Afternoon activities, go for a cycle, walk, arts and crafts, baking,
4pm - School is done for the day and we all head back to the farm. Usually getting ready for dinner and to feed the cows also. Their mum made the dinner most days so was simply cooking it up or microwaving it.
5pm - Dinner time and cow feeding time.
6 pm - Bath time and starting nightly routine. At this time is when the parents came back as well so sometimes, I just helped with managing all the kids getting in PJs and having milk before bed.
7pm - The kids are ready for bed and have TV time and play with the parents. If I chose to stay at this time it was to help with homework or read a story to the kids before bedtime. I enjoyed these little moments with them and if I was not too hungry, I stayed.
5.30 - 7.30pm - Home time! Head back to my cottage and make dinner, watch TV and read a book. Usually asleep by 10pm ready for another day.
In addition to looking after the children I also helped to feed the poddy calves and chickens. Poddy calves are typically rejected from their mothers for a variety of reasons and cared for by the farmer until they can re-join the herd. We had at a time three and they required a lot of care. They need feeding two - three times a day, at first with a bottle and as they get older with a bucket. We also fed them grain as they got older and had to teach them how to eat this by feeding some of it to them from our hands. They were certainly an experience and I enjoyed being about to help look after them.
One of our calves, Rosie, was a bit more of a challenge as we found her very dehydrated and with suspected brain damage. The children were so attached from the off that we tried to save her and gave her electrolytes and even an antibiotic course. We also spent much time getting burs out of her fur. The oldest child fell in love with Rosie and would often sit out with her until dark cuddling and keeping her warm. Rosie had trouble walking and did not act like a normal calf, often happy to sit and have a cuddle for as long as you wanted! As she began to build her strength, we let her take walks outside of her small paddock and she loved to roam on her stronger legs. It was such a sad day when she went missing and sadly, we found her in the river, haven fallen in. She holds a special place in my heart as she was such a unique animal with so much love to give. My other calves would instead headbutt and tread on my feet for milk and feed!
We also had several chickens which I would help feed and care for. I had never looked after chickens before but enjoyed how each chicken has its own personality and how dearly the children loved them. Some days I would spend half an hour trying to round them all back up to head back to their pen before dusk but became a pro chicken herder after five months! On my first day with the children I had the misfortune of one of the dogs finding a chook to bite. We found the chook hiding in the bushes with a very bloody and red bum! Luckily, she survived and grew even better feathers than before. I also from this day had a love hate relationship with Lucy, the dog that saw an opportunity to be naughty. After this day Lucy was always on her best behaviour.
I was honoured with naming my own chook during my last days on the farm. With a new brood of chicks, I was allowed to name one, this duty was usually exclusive to the children. I name my chick Fleur and learnt later that they found out it was a boy but kept the name!
Some days I found I was in control and these days were very relaxed. After three months with the children we understood each other, and the children were used to my discipline and way of caring. We would mix up our days by going to the town to select a movie from the library, to play football or to the park. We loved baking and would often bake for their grandparents or make cupcakes for a fun treat. There was also always a craft that could be made for either a town fair or school project. This usually kept us busy.
Other days could be much more hectic. At the beginning it was hard getting used to the children's temperament and them to my discipline ideas. Around the three to four weeks mark it was really hard and I remember locking myself in the toilet for a minute just to get away from it all! This did not last long as the boys were quick to stand outside the door and knock. It took a few tries to find methods that worked with us all and once these were in place our days were a lot more in sync and relaxed. Some days were also challenging with how much was packed into them. One day when I was asked to care for the youngest on top of the boys with little notice, I ended up having to leave her in the car with the engine running just so I could get her to nap! Being an au pair is all about preparation and flexibility and once I got the hang of it, I really settled into the lifestyle.
My family were very good to me and not only looked out for my wellbeing but treated me like extended family. I would often spend the evenings with them having dinner together or spend my days off at events with them. As I lived next door to the Grandparents, I also spent a lot of time with them in the evenings or gardening on the weekends. It was nice to have some adult conversation after a long day with the kids and we would talk about the farm life as well as global politics and affairs.
I try to keep in touch with them now and did go back to visit last year for a long weekend when I lived in New Zealand. I will be forever grateful that I was lucky enough to have them as my Australian family and that they accepted me with such warmth.
I was very lucky with my farm experience as I was looked after by a caring family, had good living conditions and amazing kids to look after. In my next post I will be sharing some thoughts from friends who have also undertaken regional work. I want to shed light on others experience and give a more rounded opinion. I will also be sharing on a later blog where is best to find this type of work when the time comes for you to undertake your own rural experience. The country and outback of Australia is a far cry from the cities but is what I remember most fondly for the experience cannot be replicated anywhere else.