Culture Street

Philippa Christian has worked as a nanny for the rich and famous. Born and raised in Melbourne, she has lived and worked in Australia and worldwide. Nanny Confidential is her first novel.

How did you get your first job as a nanny?
My neighbour asked me if I could look after his children one night as their regular babysitter had cancelled. I was very young and had had no experience but I showed up and that was it! I became their babysitter from that night on. I didn’t realize how much fun I would have! More and more jobs came my way and before long I had to enlist the help of friends to keep up with the amount of work and so I started my own ‘babysitting club’ where a group of us looked after quite a number of different families.

What was your average week like as a nanny to the rich and famous?
Well, no two weeks were ever the same really – apart from the daily routine of school times and bed times, many other changes happened on a regular basis – some of them quite unbelievable. For example, it was not strange for the parents to decide to feed their children a new diet they’d heard of from a friend, which would add quite a lot of pressure to my day. Most children like simple food and the routine that comes with it so certainly not the latest tofu burger with completely raw vegetables for dinner!
There would be frequent perks like being able to test out the samples of your employer’s new cosmetic line or meet celebrity guests who were co-starring in the same movie as your boss – they would often just pop over for an impromptu dinner. Many backstage passes to concerts were handed to me along with perhaps a ‘hand me down’ jacket than had ‘just got TOO, TOO big for me!’
Getting your allocated free time each week was always in question but when I think about the extremely high level of accommodation and safety I had all the time, along with my favourite job of just looking after the children, I have been very, very lucky.

What is the strangest thing you’ve been asked to do?
There’s a lot of craziness in my job, but one story that sticks in my mind is one that I have drawn on in part of my book. I think of it as “The Concert”. The rather famous parents who I was nannying for at the time were having their annual “white party”. This is an event that everyone in town wants to be on the guest list for. All the guests are required to wear white and the whole house is transformed into a winter wonderland. That night, I had put the children to bed and had taken a shower, wiped off my make-up and was sitting up in bed watching YouTube with my headphones in and my pyjamas on, ready to fall asleep. Suddenly, my bedroom door burst open and my boss was standing there in hysterics, yelling at me. I pulled my headphones off to hear what she was saying, and she explained to me that their entertainment for the night had just cancelled at the last minute. “Do something!” She said. “Tell jokes, sing, dance, imitate people. Please just do something.” She didn’t even wait for a reply before slamming the door behind her and running back downstairs to the party.
I knew that if I didn’t “do something” I may not have my job with this family for much longer. I jumped out of bed and paced around my room, trying to think of something I could do. I knew the kind of jokes I share with the children wouldn’t work on this crowd. I have two left feet, so dancing wouldn’t be a good idea either, and as far as imitating people goes … knowing my luck, I would have started imitating people who were probably guests at the party. Singing! That was the safest thing I could think of. I rushed into my boss’s walk-in wardrobe and found some of the bright, sequin-studded dresses she had worn on Dancing with the Stars. I put one on (breathing in), and also stuffed my bra with two hand towels I got from her ensuite. I teased my hair up and plastered on make-up, with bright Barbie pink–coloured lipstick and the famous beauty dot under my lips. I ran downstairs while putting on my heels, only to have everyone at the party look up at me in complete and utter confusion. I’m pretty sure I even noticed my boss’s lips mouth the words “What the …” but that didn’t stop me.
I got on stage and let the band know what songs I wanted them to play, and then turned to the crowd to give them a short speech. “Hi everyone, my name is Dolly.” I looked over at my boss and said, “I love my job, but wouldn’t it be great if we could all just work from nine to five!” And with a sarcastic smile, I yelled “Hit it boys!” and the band started to play my favourite song, “9 to 5”, and the concert began. When it was over I knew that if I could pull that off, I could do anything, and, in fact, it was one of the highlights of my career as a nanny.

You have worked in lots of countries around the world. Do you have a favourite?
Australia is definitely home and we all know there’s no place like home, but as far as work goes, it would have to be the U.S.A. As a nanny, you will always be able to make so many nanny friends while working in America as there are so many more nannies there!! This in itself is a great support when things get hectic or you need to compare notes. Most of the families I have worked with have always welcomed me into, not just their beautiful homes, but their incredible lives and the children always show respect and the fact that manners are taught from such an early age makes life much easier while caring for them. Of course there is the wonderful advantage that Americans just love Australians – apparently we make excellent nannies - so you’re in front before you even start! There are lots of reasons I love working there. Oh, did I mention P.F. Changs just happens to be my favourite restaurant? Sorry about that, but to tell the truth, every child I’ve cared for loves it too!

What are your plans now?
Sometimes I used to think, “If only I could write about this in a book! People wouldn’t believe it!”, so that’s what I have just completed and Nanny Confidential is actually on sale now, as I’m writing to you. It’s a fun book that I hope will show the entertaining side of the job of being a nanny. There are even some thoughts and discussions flying around at the moment that it could become the subject of a movie – that would be incredible!
I’ve moved back home for a while to catch my breath and spend some time with my family – homesickness has always been one of the hard parts of the job so it’s just great to be able to spend time with them all for longer than a few days.

Tell us about your book?
Nanny Confidential is a fun, fictional story that is based on reality and gives the reader an insight into the ever-changing world of the life of a nanny.
The main character, Lindsay Starwood, often finds herself in the middle of some crazy situations, which she seems to deal with one way or another. You will find between the pages, plenty of ‘wow’ moments, some good laughs and even times for a tear or two but most of all, Nanny Confidential takes you to the world of what it’s like to be a nanny to the stars.The story touches on scandals, secret love lives, more than a handful of dilemmas and in the background are the most important people in the novel – the children. After all, where would my life be without them?

NANNY CONFIDENTIAL by Philippa Christian, RRP $24.99, published by Allen & Unwin, out now.

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