Too posh to parent: How the rich outsource childcare

If you want something done you can get somebody else to do it. Photo / Getty Images
If you want something done you can get somebody else to do it. Photo / Getty Images

Anyone currently knee-deep in nappies, struggling to keep the kids entertained during the dog days of summer or clearing up after a recalcitrant teen may find themselves a little riled by fashion designer, Nina Naustdal's approach to parenting.

"If you want something done," the 34-year-old mother-of-three blithely explains, "you can get somebody else to do it."

Undoubtedly so: why bother getting bogged down in the booking of playdates, or the ferrying of children from karate class to 'Lego therapy', if there's a nanny on hand to help?

And there's always a nanny on hand, if you can afford to employ one per child (and put them on pooper-scooper duty to pick up after the seven Chihuahuas also racing around your £10m Chelsea townhouse); not to mention two tutors, a personal assistant, chef, butler and chauffeur-cum-bodyguard.

A very British approach
Across the board, British families now spend more on childcare than on the average mortgage, but as Naustdal (whose annual bill for her domestic fleet amounts to £200,000) and the other stars of a new Channel 4 documentary reveal, parenting services for the posh are not just booming, they're becoming increasingly niche.

From hiring sleep nannies to get up for night feeds, to paying professional potty trainers to do the very dirty work, it seems there is now no parenting duty too nitty or gritty to be outsourced.

For a princely £2000, for example, self-styled 'potty lady', Amanda Jenner promises she'll have your toddler toilet-trained in three days; her year-long waiting list (and brand new Sandbanks mansion) suggests prospective new clients should start signing their babies up before they're born.

The documentary sees Lauren, a mother-of-five not keen on finding 'puddles' around her 47-bedroom Kent mansion, engaging Jenner's services for her youngest. "[Potty training] is one of those skills you carry with you for a lifetime," she says, straight-faced, "so whatever the price is, I'll pay for it."

Unabashedly describing herself as "too posh to parent," Lauren may well be conflating wealth with class, but at least she's honest enough to admit that she is not just paying her two nannies to change nappies and do the school run, in order to spend more quality time with her children. "I like to go to cocktail parties," she explains. "It makes me a better wife for my husband, because I'm not stuck at home."

Money over memories?
As the boss of upmarket agency, Nanny & Butler, which provides the whole spectrum of domestic staff to wealthy international clients, Paola Diana has seen it all; though feels the title of the documentary has been somewhat overblown.

"Being rich doesn't mean people don't care about their kids," she says. "I've had clients who are so attached to their children that the nannies have complained of boredom. But of course there are families where even if a child has a bad dream during the night they want a nanny to deal with it.

"Some clients request a nanny to work seven days a week for months at a time, which is inhumane, so we assign them two nannies on a 24-hour rota system. Others are keen for their kids to grow up trilingual: "One client has three children and three nannies, one French, one Italian and one British."

Diana is a firm believer that hired help is the key to restoring harmony to a relationship.

"I always say that hiring a nanny can save your marriage," laughs the uber glamorous Italian, who has offices in London's Notting Hill, Rome and Milan.

"Countless men call and say, 'I need your urgent help to find me the right nanny because my wife's attention is solely on our children!' or, 'My baby is four months old but I'm still sleeping on the sofa, we need a maternity nurse fast.'"

Diana reports that wives have their own requirements when drafting in a nanny: that she's older and less beautiful than they are. Recent statistics from Nannytax, which provides a nanny payroll service, revealed that over half of nannies in the UK are now aged over 30; although Diana's clients "would prefer someone in her 40s or 50s."

The rules
"One client complained because their nanny wasn't just pretty, she was also dressing glamorously when she was on their yacht with them in the south of France, even though I always stress to nannies that they must dress conservatively."

Leggings are "forbidden" she informs one unwitting interviewee, who innocently tells her she spends half her time in sportswear: "Never, please. Too sexy".

In the decade since Diana, 40, launched Nanny & Butler (after being unable to find a British nanny for her own children, Eduard and Sophie, who were seven and four at the time) she has seen a 60 per cent increase in demand for nannies, despite the expense - the average annual salary for live-in help in London is £35,000, but at the high end, some charge up to £2500 a week.

"I've been a single mum since my divorce when the children were small, so having a nanny was a necessity not a luxury," says Diana, who has a degree in political science from the University of Bologna and whose political lobbying association, PariMerito, was instrumental in persuading the Italian government to improve rates of female employment.

Norland nannies have been the most coveted since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge hired Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo, a graduate of the prestigious Norland College in Bath, to care for Prince George.

Rise of the 'Ninja nannies'
"Oh my God, so many clients cite a Norland nanny as their ideal now," Diana exclaims. "But their training is expensive so there aren't many of them, I can't magic them up."

'Ninja nannies' - often female ex-police officers, trained in self defence - are also growing in popularity, to protect the children of the very wealthy on the school run; while old-school governesses are back in fashion, to help secure those A-grades and Oxbridge places.

'Super-tutor' Mark Maclaine charges up to £1000-an-hour for his services: small change to families with "almost unlimited funds", he explains. Given some employ up to 12 tutors per child, they're more than happy to pay for him to be their own "personal David Attenborough", taking his charges to see the pyramids of Giza, for example, first-hand.

"It's better to spend your money on childcare than on a fancy car," says Diana. "Women want freedom away from motherhood. Even if they don't have a career they might be involved in charity work, have an intense social life or want to travel with their husband.

"But a huge number of clients do still feel guilty if they are working or travelling and their children aren't with them," she adds.

Perhaps that's behind the current boom in 'holiday nannies' - thousands of whom jetted off with families this summer. The documentary shows entrepreneur, Heidi, searching for a childcare expert who can ski (other requirements: vegan cooking skills and a spiritual outlook) to take her two daughters under their wing on the Austrian slopes.

"They might go to amazing places but they are on call 24 hours a day, which is very stressful," Diana warns. "One nanny recently accompanied a family to the Maldives but was basically a single parent for the entire holiday."

Thirteen-year-old Katya, who lives with her parents, Igor and Natasha, in their £45million home in Kensington, certainly sees her English nanny, Emma as her "second mum". When it looked like Emma might leave, Igor convinced her to stay by buying her a house: "the best investment I ever made," he wagers, while surrounded by the multi-million-pound works of art he's otherwise busy acquiring.

Diana is circumspect. "Having children is one of the most amazing experiences in life, but I don't judge people who buy in their childcare, whatever the reasons.

"I've seen women who stay at home with their children all day and they are depressed. The modern way is the best - have a career and a life and kids, but make sure you hire a nanny. And if you can afford a housekeeper and a chef, hire them too."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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