From Small Acorns….
When I was asked to write a blog for the British Association of Professional Nannies it took me right back, over 30 years, to when I was a Nanny.
So, how does a Nanny become an Author?
After achieving my NNEB Qualification, in my home town of Sheffield, I worked as a daily Nanny for a couple of local families. When my employer left work to have her 3rd child I took the big step of taking a ‘live-in’ job in London.
It was very exciting to move to Hampstead and experience lots of new places with the family. I was lucky enough to travel with them, staying in Los Angeles for 6 weeks over the Summer. This sounds very glamorous, but it was actually quite demanding because I was working every day, looking after 3 children, ages 2,3 and 10 years. I did go back to visit new friends in Los Angeles, on my own, twice over the next year though, which was amazing!
Now that I’d found my feet in London I wanted to ‘live-out’, so I worked as a daily Nanny for another family in Stoke Newington. After having their second child they decided to move back to New York. They asked me to go too but I decided I couldn’t leave family and friends in the U.K. America was just a step too far!
I never really had a ‘life plan’ so, still being in my early twenties I wasn’t sure what to do. I’d enjoyed nannying, I loved the children, but I found it quite isolating and lonely. I’m very sociable and love to be around other people.
I went home for a while, then I had a complete change of career, I went to work in a brand new ‘Toys R Us’ Store in York. I loved this new working environment with lots of work colleagues around me. It was far more structured, and I was given regular appraisal from my Managers. This is where I found out something about myself that I hadn’t realised before… I’m very ambitious!
Within 6 months I’d been offered a full-time position, promoted to Supervisor, and enrolled on their Management Training Programme in Leeds. It was long hours and hard work, I learnt so much about retail, customers, products, employees etc.
After 4 years with Toys R Us I was Deputy Store Manager at their Doncaster Store.
In my late twenties, I started to think about having my own family which would have been very difficult as a Retail Manager because of the long working hours. Reading a magazine in my Dentist’s Waiting Room I had a ‘Lightbulb Moment’… a woman who couldn’t find a suitable Nursery for her child opened her own. With my NNEB qualification and some Business experience I thought ‘I could do that’ … So, I did!
Around 6 months later, after finding suitable premises and leaving my ‘Toys R Us’ job, my 1st Nursery opened in Lincoln. Within 4 years I opened 2 more Nurseries and 2 Kids Clubs. Stepping Stones Day Care Ltd. employed 40 staff and cared for hundreds of children, across 3 sites, in Lincoln.
I also had my daughter!
I’ve always been interested in the Nature vs Nurture Debate. Why am I so ambitious and driven? Was this part of me when I was born or am I a product of my environment?
My belief is that, although we definitely have some natural talents and personality traits, most of our opinions, values, work ethic and knowledge comes from our families, peer group and the formal education we receive.
Despite not achieving good exam results from School, I had a hard working, supportive family who encouraged and advised me. I worked hard at things I was interested in and built a successful career around those interests. A reminder of the great responsibility we have as educators and carers.
The one thing I hadn’t learnt to deal with during this time was stress. With a young baby and a lot of responsibility with my Nursery Business I became quite unwell. In 2005 I was diagnosed with ME / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I decided to sell the Nursery Chain and concentrate on getting well.
Fortunately, during the last year at Stepping Stones I had the idea for my inclusive story books. An Ofsted Inspector said that we needed to reflect diversity more in our resources. When I looked for books featuring disability I couldn’t find anything suitable so I realised there was a massive gap in the market.
Around the same time, I was attending a Business Development Programme where I met a variety of Business Owners. When I spoke about my ideas for inclusive story books they were full of support and encouragement. One of the participants was the Managing Director of a local Print & Design Company, who had recently published a children’s book. This was obviously meant to be!
He introduced me to Karen, the illustrator and Hattie was born. The 1st title, ‘A Day at the Zoo’ was available in January 2006. Hattie and George have a fabulous day, meeting lots of animals during the story. George uses a wheelchair but this isn’t mentioned in the text. He isn’t defined by his disability.
The stories were inspired by days out with my daughter, Harriet. They have positive images of disability throughout and educational content, relating to the EYFS Curriculum, perfect for all young children.
Since then, I’ve written 3 more titles; A Day at the Farm, A Day at the Seaside and A Day at the Park.
I’ve got lots of ideas for the future, at the moment I’m researching a ‘Hattie and friends’ animation for television.
We definitely need to see more diversity on children’s television… Move over Peppa Pig!
For more details about ‘Hattie and friends’ or to place an order please visit: www.hattieandfriends.co.uk
I always love to from you, you can email me here: email@example.com
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Linked In: @LesleyBerrington
Ms Lesley Berrington
Author / Publisher