I had a lovely chat with one of Fairfield’s newer residents recently: Mrs Mansi Khatwa has the nurturing, calm energy desirable in anyone looking after little ones, with just a sprinkle of playful cheekiness!AF: If you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself, we can start there…

MK: I’m Mansi Khatwa. Moved to the park about a year ago. I have a two year old son, and I’m a local child carer – nanny / babysitter / ‘save me’ service!

AF: Extraordinaire! Haha! Don’t forget the “extraordinaire”! You’ve babysat for my children and they absolutely adore you of course…the little monsters!

MK: Haha They’re really not! I love your children!

AF: They’re little angels for everybody else, not for their mother. Haha! So, how long have you been child minding?

MK: I’m a qualified nursery nurse, so I initially trained to work in nurseries with under fives and I did that in 2001.

AF: Oh wow! You don’t look old enough to have qualified in 2001! Were you a fetus then?

MK: Haha, I was 18 then! Feels like a lifetime ago! So I worked in a nursery and realised it’s great fun, but I just wasn’t getting the satisfaction I needed from work. I left and bounced around with nannying. I was lucky enough to find a wonderful family. I nannied for them for a year, and that began a series of long-term stints with other families.

AF: You mean each time, you were working with just one family?

MK: Yeah, full time Monday to Friday. And sometimes proxy parenting – if parents just wanted a night off – you know, basically taking over and dealing with anything a parent would deal with, which is what I really enjoyed. As a nanny, I got to be kind of like a mum and an educator all together and then I got to give the kids back at the end of the day!

AF: Living the dream! Haha!

MK: Exactly! I went back into nursery nursing eventually and got an opportunity to become the deputy manager of a nursery. I got to see how things work from the other side.

AF: Was that more administrative work, when you say “the other side”?

MK: Yes, which I didn’t immediately realise. I thought it would be really great and I’d do lots of fun things with the kids, but actually it was very office based and I was always on the computer. I did that for a year. Then another opportunity came up and I got to be a manager of a nursery.

AF: So, you went from deputy to ‘head honcho’?

MK: Haha Yeah! I was running a nursery for 2–5 year olds. Six months in and I realised, I’m not enjoying this; I didn’t get any time with the children. Well, I would do the odd story time or activity, just because I missed it so much. I left there, and I was really lucky because I found an amazing family that I was with for three years. They had a five month old and I left when she was three, while I was pregnant.

AF: Which obviously isn’t that long ago, because Indy is only two now.

MK: Exactly! I learned a lot about nannying then because I was older.

AF: What do you think is the most significant lesson you learned over the course of your career?

MK: When I was younger and I did nannying, I was very naive about the whole thing. I was like, “Oh, it’s good fun and the parents are your friends”, and yes – the parents are your friends, but only to a certain point. They’re still your employers and you still have to have boundaries. With the last family I worked with, if I had any problems, I could very openly go to them and say, “I’m not happy with this”, and they were the same way with me, which I really loved.

AF: You felt like you could be yourself, because if any kind of a conflict came up, people wouldn’t immediately jump to the nuclear option of “I’m firing you!” or “I quit!”.

MK: Exactly! And then I had Indy! I decided I wasn’t going back to work straight away because my baby was so little and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him with somebody else, even though I’m a nanny and other people left their children with me!

AF: Well, you obviously adore kids: it makes perfect sense to me that you would want to have that quality time with your own child. And he’s SO cute, with those big eyes!

MK: And his crazy hair! Haha It naturally falls to the side as well, so it looks like he has a comb over! I just need to get him a flat cap and a pipe!

AF: Haha! Speaking of quality time, obviously one of the big things on everyone’s mind is the school closure because of the coronavirus pandemic. Do you have any suggestions for what we parents can do to keep our little ones busy for an indefinite amount of time??

MK: Sure! Learning at home has massive positivity! Watching parents cook and do things children think just magically happens is educational. Cooking with children is a bonus. Also, I want parents to know they don’t have to make the day like school – it’s all about adjusting to what we have on hand. Try making lessons fun and challenging. Not all of us are teachers, so just doing little activities like turning the tinned foods and packs into a shopping trip to learn about money and how to shop is fun. Another great activity can be planting veg and fruit. We are in the right season now! Children love learning how things grow and that we need to take care of plants and help nurture them. We are just trying to make a plan for a week at a time –activities with Indy that don’t involve going out.

AF: Those are excellent tips! Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Mansi! Stay healthy and safe, my dear!

MK: My pleasure, you too!

Amber Fortier moved to Fairfield Park in 2017 with her husband and three young children. She is originally from New York.