When Abbey Ison goes to work she gets to do craft, take trips to the park or play dress-ups with her clients.
The 20-year-old moved to Canberra two years ago and set up her own nanny business.
"It was amazing coming up to Canberra and being able to score work immediately, and the business boomed," Miss Ison said.
"I just set up a Facebook page and advertised and within a few months I had lots of clientele."
She now nannies weekly for three families, and has booked more than 200 casual jobs since starting Miss Nanny - and the inquiries just keep coming.
Nanny agencies, job board sites and sole traders have been struggling to keep up with demand for nannies over the past year, exacerbated by the pandemic and a change in attitude to childcare.
The We Need a Nanny website, which connects parents with nannies, had a 50 per cent increase in the number of Canberra-based parents using the site this year.
The owner and manager of The Canberra Nanny Agency, Kiersten Kemmers, has seen a sixfold increase in the number of inquires since August last year.
"I could hire three people a day to cover all the inquiries that I have coming in, particularly for after school care because the government doesn't provide enough after school care positions in schools," Mrs Kemmers said.
Au pairs have been steadily leaving the country, with no replacement in sight, pushing more families into the nanny market. Childcare centres and outside-of-school-hours care can be difficult to get into, exacerbated by a shortage of qualified early childhood educators.
Centres have also become stricter with sending home sick children, which can become a major struggle for working parents.
"If you have a nine-month-old who's teething, they're going to have a temperature and a runny nose because they're getting teeth, it's just a common side effect," Mrs Kemmers said.
"A child could be like that for two or three weeks until their tooth comes through, and so that excludes them for that time, and then the knock-on effect is astronomical, [especially for] parents that don't have any sick leave, carer's leave, holiday leave, any leave whatsoever left to be able to care for their kids."
Employing a nanny was once considered an option for the elite, but that's starting to change.
Australian Nanny Association president Lauren Brown said only four years ago working parents would be unwilling to admit that they had outsourced childcare and some household duties to a nanny.
"There is that housewife role that has essentially disappeared. People have taken a long time to catch up, and the logical reasoning is now happening that it's just like 'Well yeah, I do outsource because then I have more time for my kids on the weekend,'" she said.
"I'm noticing that it's something people are celebrating now, rather than hiding."
Parents working in medical professions are also turning to nannies, because childcare centre hours don't suit their shifts.
"Particularly nurses don't work in great conditions - and not for great pay - and sacrifice their day-to-day normality to work shifts to look after all of us in hospitals, particularly in the last 18 months with all this craziness," Mrs Kemmers said.
"There's a childcare center at Canberra Hospital that's open from seven till six. It's great for the admin staff [but] how the hell does that help the nurses or the doctors?"
But the extra help around the house doesn't come cheap. Limited subsidies are available for nannies through the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and through a rebate for parents who don't have access to regular childcare because of shiftwork or special circumstances. However the scheme only has 3000 spots Australia-wide, and has very low engagement because it's so difficult to navigate.
"The Australian Nanny Association for years has been trying to get nannies to be tax deductible, even just that would help parents so much, because in the end nannies are getting women back to work, nannies are helping parents go out and achieve their career," Ms Brown said.
Parents and nanny agencies are crying out for more people to give nannying a go. Ms Brown, who runs a nanny agency and nanny payroll business, said there were good jobs with an annual salary of $60,000-plus that she was struggling to fill.
"The nanny industry is up and coming. I think it's a career where a lot of people can earn really good money, but it is a job where you give a lot of yourself so I do think that money is justified," she said.
For Miss Ison, being a nanny in a home is a much calmer setting than being in a centre, and brings greater flexibility to her daily schedule.
"Because I'm self-employed, I can choose what hours and days I do work, and depending on bookings I can accept or decline and it's much more flexible and I can work around my life," she said.
She's now got her eyes on opening a nanny agency to employ other nannies.
"It would be nice to expand - that way I can decrease my days and potentially work from home, but also give other people job opportunities and be able to help more families."
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