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'There's no such thing as a perfect family, that is life'

Three Day Nanny Kathryn Mewes is back to restore order. The parenting expert tells Keeley Bolger why, if we are to change our behaviour, we must understand where it's coming from

By Keeley Bolger

Published 23/07/2016

Emotional: Having a child has changed Mewes’ attitude to how she works
Emotional: Having a child has changed Mewes’ attitude to how she works
Three Day Nanny Kathryn Mewes

If there's one piece of advice The Three Day Nanny star Kathryn Mewes always draws on, it's this ...

"When I was a child, my mum said to me, 'you do realise I won't always get it right, don't you darling?'" reveals the 42-year-old, who has a "very good relationship" with her mother. "I remember that being a light-bulb moment.

"However much I can help families, I always make them aware that you will never be a perfect family and you will never get it 100% right.

"You will feel at times that you're failing in yourself. You will feel at times you're failing your children, but that's life."

The words have been of comfort to Mewes, who opened up earlier this year about how she felt she'd "failed" her baby daughter Harriet, as she'd had difficulty bonding with her.

Two decades of working in childcare meant the first-time mum set herself unrealistic expectations of perfection.

"The big thing for me is, I can be the best mum I can be some days," she says. "And other days, life gets in the way. That's the message I give to all the parents I work with."

And Mewes, who is married to property surveyor Liam, is aware she would be "a lot softer" if she was still working as a nanny now.

"I'm still giving the same advice I always did. I'm still delivering it in the same way I always did, but emotionally, internally, I find it harder, because I can now fully empathise with how parents find it hard to say 'no' to their children, and how they find it hard to discipline," she admits.

"I understand that far more since having Harriet. She's the best thing ever, but she's made my job a lot harder. The emotional side of my brain kicks in far more than it ever used to.

"At work, my brain was just logic, whereas now my emotional side can cloud my view sometimes. I have to pull back from that quite a lot. I find myself considering the parents more than I ever did, because I can relate to them."

Since graduating from specialist childcare school Norland College in 1994, Mewes, who says she knew from the age of 13 that she wanted to work in childcare, has devoted her career to helping families.

She spent nine years as a nanny - which even saw her work in Australia - before launching her own business in London: Bespoke Nanny, working with families to resolve their differences with her 72-hour plan.

Like Supernanny's Jo Frost before her, a few years ago Mewes landed her own Channel 4 series, The Three Day Nanny, in which she helps restore peace to frazzled families.

That's where the similarities end, though.

"Our show is about understanding why a family has got into such a rut. These aren't just naughty children, it's more than that," Mewes states. "Whereas I think Supernanny was a wonderful show and Jo Frost is a great woman, it was all about naughty children, it never went further into why it got to that stage, and our show does."

Now returning for a third series, Mewes is set to draw on her 20 years' experience, and seemingly endless reservoir of calm, as she pays a visit to six different families in their homes. And she is unperturbed when meeting with children who are playing up.

"I believe we're all allowed to get cross," she says. "It's an emotion. In the same way we're all allowed to giggle. If anyone in the house decides they need to shout, whether that's a parent or a child, we have a shout spot.

"I'm all about children realising you are allowed to shout because you're cross, but you don't do it in a room with everybody else. You go and do it over there and when you're finished, you come back in the room."

Anger is among the emotions Mewes will unpick in the series, in a bid to understand the motives behind behaviour.

"This series has been all about parents understanding the sort of people they are, and therefore understanding the sort of parents they need to be," explains Mewes, who, ever the expert communicator, frequently stops to check that what she's saying is clear.

"Whether I go to a house with a film crew or not, there is a reason as to why parents are not quite getting it right.

"It's often to do with either their childhood, or something that happened with the labour of the child, or their marriage or their health. There is something that's causing them not to instinctively parent.

"We want to get to the bottom of that, to build a parent's confidence and allow them to parent well. We need to know why we do certain things the way we do, before we try and change them."

The Three Day Nanny, Channel 4, Wednesday, 8pm

Belfast Telegraph

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