‘No, I can’t do it, no matter how much they pay’: Inside the world of nannies to the super-rich - GulfToday

‘No, I can’t do it, no matter how much they pay’: Inside the world of nannies to the super-rich

Picture used for illustrative purpose only.

Katie Rosseinsky, The Independent

Forget Succession or The White Lotus. If you want a real insight into the cosseted world of the 0.01 per cent, you need to speak to their nannies. They see the lives of the rich and famous at close range, viewing their extravagances and idiosyncrasies from a ringside seat. Kids’ birthday parties have production values to rival the average Oscars ceremony, holidays are spent on superyachts and fancy gifts are a matter of course — just ask Rachael Gunn, who accumulated some impressive souvenirs during her four-year stint as a nanny for the super-rich. “I got given a Chanel bag – I almost died on the floor,” the 33-year-old, who now runs her own operations consultancy, recalls. “At first I thought I’d misheard [my boss], and assumed I needed to return it. She said, ‘No, I would’ve asked my PA to do that. Do you want it? I just need to get it out of my closet.’” Another memento was a “beautifully embossed” Smythson notebook, a gift from the “amazing goodie bag” one employer took home from Sir Elton John’s annual white tie and tiara ball. But few of the presents she received, Gunn notes, had much emotional significance behind them. “Virtually none of [the bosses] were gifting it to me because they appreciated me, it was more, ‘I don’t want this, just give this to someone,’” she notes.

Although the work can be glamorous and rewarding, entering the inner sanctums of the elite “is not for the faint-hearted”, says childcare expert Nanny Sharz, who has spent almost two decades as a travel nanny for celebrities and high-net-worth clients. For a case in point, just look at the recent claims made by Boris and Carrie Johnson’s former nanny Theresa Dawes. She alleges that she was sacked just three days into the role, after Carrie’s mother spotted her having a glass of drink with the former PM; in an interview with the Daily Mirror, she said that she was given just 15 minutes to pack her bags (the Johnsons have described her account as “totally untrue”, branding it “a completely false story for financial gain”). The boundaries between a nanny and their employer can be tricky to navigate. Some families will embrace the nanny as one of their own, as parenting and sleep expert Hannah Love found when she worked for a string of professional golfers in the Noughties. “Every single one of them just treated me as part of their family,” the former paediatric nurse says. “Talking to some other nannies, they’ve had different experiences, and when they’ve been out at night, they’ve had a separate table (to the family), or when they’ve flown somewhere, they’ve been in standard class with the children. But we all flew first class, we all sat around the dinner table.” She attended parties with the family, and even used to go swimming in Gary Lineker’s pool (the footballer was a friend of her clients).

But for others, there is a more obvious dividing line between staff and employer. Gunn spent extended periods working with Middle Eastern families spending the summer in the UK, who were unable to fly out their usual domestic staff due to visa issues. She would wear a uniform, often reporting to a household manager or a butler, and had to follow “a whole standard operating procedure about when it’s appropriate to enter rooms, how you enter rooms, how you communicate, all that kind of thing”. “But I actually found it easier working for the people who are used to having domestic staff, in some ways, because I knew exactly what to expect,” Gunn says. “There’s a very clear structure.” Finding a family where you get on well with the parents and the kids is “gold dust”, as Sharz puts it. To get more of a feel for potential clients, 27-year-old Adam* tends to embark on a brief trial period. “I’m always intrigued, and it’s good experience, but some of them, you’re like, ‘No, I can’t do it, no matter how much they pay,” he says — like if they turn out to be arms dealers, for example.

The children of the wealthy have schedules that can rival that of the average high-flying CEO. Gunn would often have to submit timetables for the next day before 6pm, so that the parents (or, at least, their house manager) could cast an eye over it. “I didn’t really work for anyone I’d categorise as relaxed, so they generally always had a very specific schedule,” she says. “What used to drive me crazy is when they used to say, ‘(the kids) can’t cry between certain times because we’ve got guests coming.’”

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