Lifestyles

The Trudeaus have one. So do the Clarks. And the Langs, of course

January 24 1977
Lifestyles

The Trudeaus have one. So do the Clarks. And the Langs, of course

January 24 1977

The Trudeaus have one. So do the Clarks. And the Langs, of course

Lifestyles

Not since Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins first came to town had there been anything like it. The affair: Ottawa’s first annual Nanny Night. The participants: no prim, bespectacled matrons, but about 70 fashionably dressed young women in their early twenties. Nibbling hors d’oeuvres and chatting merrily in Scottish brogues and lilting English accents, they expressed only mild curiosity about Canada’s “Nannygate” furor—touched off by Transport Minister Otto Lang’s attempt to arrange a free armed forces flight for his familv’s Scottish nanny. Instead, the girls listened attentively to the evening’s guest speaker (advice on how to travel cheaply) and later hoisted a pint of ale in a nearby pub. to the rollicking rhythm of some Irish drinking songs. This is the new breed of nannv. In their afro haircuts and blue jeans, they are as much high-flying adventurers as domestic servants.

And in several Canadian cities, their numbers are swelling rapidly. During 1976. about 2.400 nanniesjoined the Canadian labor force. The majority came from Great Britain, the only country where thev must earn a two-year degree from the National Nursery Examination Board to qualify officially as nannies. Many nannies lack the degree, but claim the title anyway— including women from Jamaica, France. Switzerland and Germany. Ottawa’s Queen Citv Personnel, the city’s onlv employment agency specializing in nannies, opened its doors last February. Since then, nannies have been arriving at a rate of 20 a month. With its head office in Toronto and others in London. Hamilton and Montreal. Q.C. Personnel now boasts almost 700 girls in Canada—about one third of the country’s total. In the past 18 months, at least half a dozen competing operations have been launched, catering to the rising demand.

Typically, the 20th-century nanny is bright and independent, like red-haired Jenny Ferguson, a 24-year-old Northern Irishwoman. She left home two years ago. after violence erupted in her mixed Catholic-Protestant neighborhood. “I decided to become a nanny,” she says in her thick Belfast accent, “because I like traveling and you have less expense this way. If you come to Canada to settle, you have the expense of an apartment, all the furniture, all the bills coming in. But this way there’s no bills. You do your work and the money you get paid is pocket money.”

Like many of her friends. Ferguson is considered part of her employer's family. She watches television with them, goes on

their holidays, eats their meals. She is even learning to drive the family car. One British nanny. Jacqueline Godwin, who has lived with an Ottawa family for seven months, says: “The lady here looks on me as a sister. I don’t look at her now as an employer. Even when her friends come around. I never feel I’m a paid servant.” But as surrogate mothers, often replacing single parents, the glamour of nannying can rub off quickly. Pay is low. hours long, often extending into the evenings. Most girls earn between $64 and $100 a week plus room and board, with a day and a half off. They pay their own round trip fares to Canada. Susan Murray, a 25-vearold from Manchester. England, doesn't mind the working hours and salary so much as the loneliness of leaving home. “When I first came here I wasn’t homesick at all. I was too excited taking things in. But it really hit me afterward.” Others have encountered more serious problems. Jenny Ferguson was first employed bv an agency that provided her with illegal visas and work permits. She was also forced to pay the agency her first week's wages ( usually a 10% “finder’s fee” is paid to the agency by the nanny's employer). So far. only Sheridan College in suburban Toronto offers training courses for Canadian nannies—a two-year program similar to Britain’s. After three years, there are just 15 graduates. “We’re not interested in gradu-

ating numbers,” says co-ordinator Colleen Burt. “We’re interested in graduating damn good students.” Meanwhile. Canada Manpower continues to meet the demand by granting employment visas good for one year.

The demand comes from the hundreds of Canadian women who have discovered that nannies are a relatively inexpensive and efficient way of pursuing a career or social life. A live-in nanny costs about the same as sending two children to a day-care centre. For instance, Maureen McTeer and her husband. Conservative Leader Joe Clark, have just hired a 23-year-old Canadian. Hilary Davis, to help care for 11week-old Catherine Jane, while McTeer studies for her final law exams. At 24 Sussex Drive, the Prime Minister’s residence. Margaret and Pierre Trudeau have had bilingual Diane Lavergne. 25. for five years. She helps take care of the three boys and assisted with a co-operative for seven preschoolers carried on by Mrs. Trudeau. Earlier this month she vacationed with the family in the West Indies. For their seven children the much publicized Langs (Otto and Adrian) have hired a new Scottish nanny to replace 21-year-old Elizabeth MacGillivray. whose free air travel sparked the Nannygate affair. And Gail Scott, reporter on CTV’S IV5. recently welcomed a Yorkshire. England, woman to help care for her newborn daughter while Scott returns to work. “She's wonderful.” says Scott. “She’s raised hundreds of children. had three of her own and has even offered to make Yorkshire pudding for dinner.” <dc:creator>JULIANNE LABRECHE</dc:creator>