'Whatever the price is, I’ll pay for it': the mums and dads 'too posh' to parent

Paola Diana runs the staff agency Nanny & Butler.
Paola Diana runs the staff agency Nanny & Butler. 

Anyone currently knee-deep in nappies, struggling to keep the kids entertained or clearing up after a recalcitrant teen, may raise an eyebrow at fashion designer Nina Naustdal's novel approach to parenting. "If you want something done," the 34-year-old mother-of-three explains, blithely, "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 Chelsea townhouse); not to mention two tutors, a personal assistant, chef, butler and chauffeur-cum-bodyguard.

Designer Nina Naustdal.
Designer Nina Naustdal. 

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 approaches AU$350,000) and the other stars of a new 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 AU$3500, for example, self-styled "potty lady" Amanda Jenner promises she'll have your toddler toilet-trained in three days; her year-long waiting list suggests would-be clients should sign babies up as 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."

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."

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

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

Nina Naustdal with her three children.
Nina Naustdal with her three children.  

"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'."

Wives have their own requirements when drafting in a nanny, says Diana. They want her to be older and less beautiful than they are. Recent statistics from Nannytax, which provides a nanny payroll service, revealed that more than half of nannies in the UK are now aged over 30, although Diana's clients "would prefer someone in her forties or fifties".

"One client complained because their nanny was pretty, and was dressing glamorously when she was on their yacht with them in the south of France. I always stress to nannies that they must dress conservatively."

In the decade since Diana launched Nanny & Butler, she has seen the demand for nannies increase 60 per cent, despite the expense - the average annual salary for live-in help in London is AU$61,300, but at the high end, some charge up to $4300 a week.

"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.

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."

The Telegraph, London