Money of little account in a job full of rich rewards

JULIE is happy to have us in her home in Blackburn. She has no problem with being interviewed, or allowing her twin daughters Olivia and Rose to be observed and photographed as they paint with their nanny. But there is one thing she is adamant about. Even though her surname is different to that of her husband and daughters, she does not want it published.

''It's a perception thing,'' she says. ''People think that only posh people have nannies.''

Sitting cross-legged on the floor with the girls, nanny Tracey McDermott nods in agreement. ''There's a big misconception that we are just housekeepers, or that we are raising children for the wealthy.''

As professional musicians and music teachers, Julie and her husband do not meet anyone's definition of wealthy. ''We go without a lot to be able to afford Tracey,'' she says.

Ms McDermott, who at 38 has been nannying for 10 years, works two days a week for the family, generally starting at 9am and working until as late as 10.30pm on evenings when the couple has orchestra rehearsals. On average the family pays her $500 for the two days, income she declares to the tax office. She charges $25 an hour by day and up to $32 for overnight work with newborns.

''There's not many jobs where you arrive to be greeted by hugs and kisses and screams of delight. That doesn't happen when you work in an office,'' she says.

Ms McDermott trained as a childcare worker and gained further experience when she was living in England several years ago.

She is devoted to three-year-olds Olivia and Rose, and from the moment she arrives her attention is entirely focused on the girls' needs.

She affectionately strokes and reassures them, sits close as they paint and glue, plays games and dress-ups with them, and reads to them. Television?

''We never really have time and I don't feel like I'm being paid to put people's children in front of the TV,'' she says.

Rather, while she prepares their meals - Ms McDermott cooks for the children, does their washing and tidies up after them, but no other housework - she sets them up with toys or games. She has fitted her newish car with two child safety seats and keeps a twin stroller in the boot.

She regards these, and her membership of Melbourne Zoo, as her tools of trade. Each day with the twins involves an outing, to the zoo, the museum or perhaps storytime at the local library.

''I stay in touch with the parents through the day, sending them pictures so they know what we're doing and when they come home they feel like they've been a part of their children's day,'' Ms McDermott says.

She is a founding member of the Australian Nanny Association, set up to lobby for regulation of the industry and for rebates to be provided to parents, because, ''I'm passionate about children and the level of care they get when they're little''.

The story Money of little account in a job full of rich rewards first appeared on The Age.

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