Granny nan­nies:

the new wave of ma­ture child­min­ders


If some­one had told her that at 64 she’d be spend­ing her days go­ing to play­groups and run­ning around after tod­dlers, Jane Stevens would have laughed at them. She had spent her work­ing life in the cor­po­rate world of bank­ing, but it wasn’t un­til she was made re­dun­dant a year ago that she de­cided to make a ca­reer change. Even then, nan­ny­ing was far from her mind and it took prompt­ing from her daugh­ter be­fore she looked into it.

“When I en­quired at a nanny school, I think they were a bit sur­prised that some­one of my age was con­sid­er­ing be­com­ing a nanny,” she says.

But in fact, Jane is far from alone. While many women in their mid-50s are wav­ing good­bye as their youngest chil­dren leave the nest, or set­tling down for a qui­eter life, there are a brave few that are suc­cess­fully nav­i­gat­ing tantrums, tod­dlers and kinder­garten drop-offs.

They are part of a new, grow­ing pro­fes­sion: the Granny Nan­nies.

In 2017 it is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­mon for people to make the ca­reer change to nanny in their golden years, ei­ther by for­mally look­ing after their grand­chil­dren so their own chil­dren can re­turn to work, or opt­ing to be­come an ed­u­ca­tor for other fam­i­lies, as a way to in­dulge their joy of car­ing for chil­dren while also earn­ing an in­come.

“I think the older gen­er­a­tion want to use their life skills in a mean­ing­ful way and take child­care back to the good old days based on love, re­la­tion­ships and us­ing the com­mu­nity as the class­room; not struc­tured learn­ing be­tween four walls,” says PORSE child­care Gen­eral

Man­ager Kerry

Hen­der­son, who agrees that early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion has be­come an at­trac­tive op­tion for those over the age of 50.

“I think also, par­ents have al­ways been open to more ma­ture care­givers be­cause they know they have life ex­pe­ri­ence and ma­tu­rity and have most likely al­ready raised chil­dren, there­fore hav­ing em­pa­thy for what par­ents are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

They can of­fer sage ad­vice and sup­port, and can pro­vide a safe but lov­ing en­vi­ron­ment, like a grand­par­ent would of­fer,”

Kerry says.


For 56-year-old Brenda Manch­ester, the strug­gle of go­ing through menopause and work­ing full-time in her high-pres­sured of­fice job was over­whelm­ing, and nan­ny­ing seemed like a re­fresh­ing change of pace.

“I thought I would do it to give my­self a break from my of­fice job for 12 months or so and I just loved it. People ev­ery now and then say to me, ‘When are you go­ing to get a se­ri­ous job?’ and I re­ply with, ‘Never!’ I’m so happy and it re­ally suits my life­style and my per­son­al­ity, so I’ll never change now,” she says.

Brenda had tried nan­ny­ing part-time while she com­pleted her nurs­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion and again in Florence where she worked as an au pair in her early 20s. “Nan­ny­ing is what I have al­ways loved do­ing, and I’ve al­ways come back to it, so be­com­ing a ma­ture ed­u­ca­tor was re­ally about let­ting go of the ex­pec­ta­tions that I should be do­ing more with my life,” Brenda says of her de­ci­sion to re­turn to nan­ny­ing seven years ago.

“I’m an out­door, ac­tive per­son and be­ing with lit­tle chil­dren you’re out ex­plor­ing the world to­gether. See­ing the world through chil­dren’s eyes keeps you young. I find it quite up­lift­ing.”

Brenda, who has no chil­dren of her own, says she feels priv­i­leged to be able to help par­ents with young chil­dren. “Whether it’s their first baby or not, it’s a very spe­cial time in their lives. I love stepping in to sup­port them. I re­ally feel like I am mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.”

She says it’s nice to be ap­pre­ci­ated for be­ing ma­ture, now that par­ents are in­creas­ingly look­ing for older nan­nies to care for their lit­tle ones.

“I think par­ents are start­ing to feel much more com­fort­able with a ma­ture ed­u­ca­tor as a nanny. Child­care is dif­fi­cult and I think us older nan­nies have the ma­tu­rity and the calm­ness to let go of ev­ery­thing else and fo­cus on the chil­dren.

“When I was younger, the par­ents of the chil­dren I cared for seemed a lot more like my boss. Now I think be­cause I am older and I have more life ex­pe­ri­ence, par­ents bet­ter re­spect my de­ci­sion-mak­ing and trust my judge­ment with the kids. They don’t need to be giv­ing me a lot of di­rec­tion, which saves them a lot of stress,” she says.

“I have greater pa­tience now and when I’m with the kids, I’m com­pletely ab­sorbed in the mo­ment with them. And kids are very ab­sorb­ing – you kind of have to be. But it’s so much eas­ier to do this now than it ever was be­fore.”

The en­er­getic nanny says she can un­der­stand why many older women are turn­ing to nan­ny­ing as their ca­reer be­fore re­tire­ment be­cause of the flex­i­bil­ity and free­dom it gives you.

“It’s a com­plete change in life­style, and car­ing for chil­dren makes you feel so use­ful. I’m so happy know­ing that I keep the fire burn­ing at home while par­ents are out work­ing to give their kids what they need.”


“I think I am wiser, calmer and more con­fi­dent now than I ever would have been do­ing this job in my 20s,” Sandy Her­bert says, as her one-year-old grand­daugh­ter squeals hap­pily in the back­ground.

Since leav­ing her busy full-time job as a den­tal as­sis­tant in a chil­dren’s clinic in Taranaki to care for her grand­daugh­ter, Sandy has never looked back.

“I had al­ways wanted to work with chil­dren, but I had never com­pleted a diploma in child­care. I al­ways had a yearn­ing for go­ing back to look­ing after chil­dren in my own home, es­pe­cially once my grand­daugh­ter was born,” she says.

When her daugh­ter, who was strug­gling with want­ing to re­turn to work full-time but also keep her child out of day­care, came back to New Zealand from over­seas, it was the push Sandy needed to make her ca­reer change. The 54-year-old now runs a child­care cen­tre from within her own home, with four en­er­getic young­sters to look after.

“A lot of people think I am mad for choos­ing to run around after young chil­dren at this stage in my life. ‘Why would you want to do some­thing like that?’ they say. But this job suits me.

“The kids al­ways want to cud­dle. They bring me so much en­joy­ment and they’re def­i­nitely en­ter­tain­ing. They are al­ways do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent or mak­ing me laugh. And I cer­tainly en­joy be­ing at home and be­ing my own boss,” she says.

Sandy says if she were a mother look­ing for some­one to care for her child, she too would prob­a­bly opt for an older nanny. “Some­one older, I think, has a greater sense of con­fi­dence in their abil­i­ties and their in­stincts when it

Some­one older has a greater sense of con­fi­dence.

comes to child­care. We carry with us this real-life ex­pe­ri­ence that a lot of younger nan­nies have not yet had.”

She sug­gests that the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of granny nan­nies might be due to their fam­ily val­ues and abil­ity to of­fer sta­bil­ity.

After many years car­ing for her own chil­dren, she says,“I have learnt how to re­spond to and man­age tod­dlers with their emo­tions and chal­leng­ing be­hav­iours. I know how to lis­ten and com­mu­ni­cate with them. Of course there are so many things that you think you know but you re­ally don’t,” she laughs. “There’s al­ways a whole lot more to learn and there’s a whole lot of dif­fer­ent ways of do­ing things since I had chil­dren.”

As a PORSE nanny she re­ceives sup­port and guid­ance, as well as a com­mu­nity of other nan­nies to go to for ad­vice.

Car­ing for chil­dren has brought her a hap­pi­ness and ful­fil­ment she hasn’t known in any other job.

“What I re­ally love about this job is the un­con­di­tional love and the af­fec­tion I re­ceive from these chil­dren. You are there to guide them and pro­tect them when their par­ents aren’t able to be around,” she says.

“And most of all it’s taught me to be present in the mo­ment and not stress about the small things in life.”


After spend­ing most of her work­ing life em­ployed in a cor­po­rate en­vi­ron­ment, Jane Stevens says child­care was a far cry from what she had imag­ined her­self do­ing.

“I had ac­tu­ally just been made re­dun­dant. I had worked in a bank for many years when they of­fered me ei­ther an al­ter­na­tive job in the com­pany or re­dun­dancy,” she says.

“This was right be­fore my grand­daugh­ter was to be born so I thought, ‘I think I’ll take re­dun­dancy.’ That way I could be around for my first grand­child. But [pro­fes­sional] child­care had never crossed my mind be­fore. I wasn’t op­posed to it. So I looked into it and I’ve been a nanny ever since.”

Nowa­days Jane spends her days mak­ing sure the chil­dren are fed, do­ing school drop-offs and at­tend­ing preschool play­groups.

“Fam­i­lies are so busy nowa­days and we tend to do the lit­tle things,” she says of her role as an in-home ed­u­ca­tor. “The pleases and thank-yous, and mak­ing sure they clean their teeth. The lit­tle things that some­times get missed when par­ents are busy and stressed. And that’s quite im­por­tant, to help par­ents out and just keep things tick­ing over.”

She says that be­cause she has raised a fam­ily of her own, she can un­der­stand what a child needs and wants, and what a par­ent wants for their child, more eas­ily than some­one who hasn’t spent a life­time around chil­dren might be able to.

“I think, be­ing older, we re­alise the im­por­tance of be­ing more than just the child’s friend. You need to teach them guide­lines, man­ners and rules. Be­cause this is real life and kids need to learn them.”

Jane finds older nan­nies trust their in­stinct a lot more when it comes to deal­ing with a cri­sis.

“We tend to deal with the sit­u­a­tion first and then do what we’ve got to do about the par­ents. There was one time when one of the girls I look after had a fall at school and hurt her foot, so I went to the school and picked her up. I took her to the hos­pi­tal and only once we were there did I ring the par­ents to let them know. Whereas some­one younger might have pan­icked a lit­tle or needed re­as­sur­ance from the par­ents be­fore head­ing to the hos­pi­tal.”

The nanny-of-five says it boils down to hav­ing con­fi­dence in your ex­pe­ri­ence and your knowl­edge about what chil­dren need.

Like Brenda and Sandy, Jane also iden­ti­fies pa­tience as her great­est as­set. “I think I’m a lot more tol­er­ant now than I was in ear­lier life. When I was younger I was al­ways in a hurry and as I’ve grown older, and even more so as I’ve been in this job, I’ve learnt that with chil­dren pa­tience is key.”

While that is some­thing younger nan­nies learn on the job, older nan­nies are more likely to al­ready pos­sess these qual­i­ties from bring­ing up their own chil­dren.

“You learn not to rush and stress about things – such as when you’re just go­ing to walk out, the kids are all dressed, ev­ery­body looks lovely… and the baby poos it­self. You might have to be some­where in 10 min­utes, but the baby needs chang­ing,” she laughs.

While other people might have been sur­prised by her sud­den ca­reer change, Jane says she can’t imag­ine a more per­fect job to ease her into her re­tire­ment years.

“Look­ing after chil­dren is such a joy­ful, ful­fill­ing ca­reer. They are al­ways do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent or bring­ing some­thing new to my life. I think for me and for many other women, be­com­ing a nanny brings you hap­pi­ness you didn’t know you needed.”

I’m a lot more tol­er­ant now than I was in ear­lier life.

LEFT: Sandy Her­bert en­joys wa­ter play with her charges (from left), Kry­dan (three), Lach­lan (20 months), Is­abelle (22 months) and Avalee (four).

LEFT: Jane Stevens with Tate, Wy­att and Tilly. She says pa­tience is her great­est as­set. “You learn not to rush and stress about things.”

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