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Madonna’s ex-nanny, Perth-based Angela Jacobsen, chats to Offspring about the challenges and benefits of working for high profile families.

When Angela Jacobson decided to swap her dream of flying planes for a living for a career in childcare, she couldn’t have foreseen she’d end up dancing with her boss, Madonna, for the royal family in India, as a kind of cobbled-together entertainment. The down to earth thirty-three-year old laughingly describes the experience as her, “most bizarre nanny moment,” yet.

“When I was in India with Madonna on her family vacation, we were staying with a king and queen in a palace and all the women were forced to dance for the king, and the princes around them actually, because of the sexist world that they live in,” she explains.

“Madonna made me dance, and she made me wear a sari. That was my weirdest boss moment…I just had to. All the women had to get up and dance for the men. We were in the palace…so I, very begrudgingly, danced around in a sari.”

It was one of many strange celebrity encounters Angela experienced in her 18 months working for the Material Girl who, during her tenure, acrimoniously divorced film director Guy Ritchie. As the sole carer of Madonna’s adopted son, David Banda, Angela joined the singer’s entourage and toured with her, as well as jetting to far-flung locations from her New York base.

Madonna, famed for her discipline and work ethic, is also notorious for demanding her staff work equally punishing hours. According to media reports, the gruelling lifestyle eventually took its toll on Angela and, when she handed in her notice after a year and a half, the furious pop star told her to leave immediately.

“All Madonna’s employees work incredibly long hours, so it’s no surprise that Angela had had enough,” a source told a newspaper, at the time.

“If you work for Madonna you are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s no such thing as a weekend.”

Angela later refuted rumours of a rift with her famous employer, saying, “She was a great boss and I mean it was obviously quite a full-on experience. She was fantastic to work for and a big motivation for me…She’s very much a loving mother.”

Melbourne-born Angela’s experience as Madonna’s nanny was a far cry from her childhood goal of being a pilot. It was a dream she was forced to jettison after her parents divorced when she was seventeen, and she was left in charge of her brother and the family home.

“I didn’t foresee this path,” she says. “I wanted to be a pilot and I was in the Air Force Cadets…It wasn’t as though I set out to do this, it chose me. And as much as I’ve tried to move away at different times, it’s brought me back. It seems that’s what I am now. I’m a carer, and that’s what I do.”

“If you work for Madonna you are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s no such thing as a weekend.”

Nannies inhabit a rarefied space in families. They’re privy to the day-to-day interactions between spouses and parents and children, while being required to maintain a discreet distance from the inner workings of a family. It can be an uneasy mix, this intimacy with strangers.

“You learn a lot,” says Angela, diplomatically, of the trusted position most nannies hold.

“You learn how to treat your husband, how not to treat your husband, what to do with your kids, what not to do with your kids. It’s trial and error for everybody but you learn so much just by being in someone else’s family…I’ve got kids, now, all over the world so to speak…A lot of them are teenagers now and I’ve got them on Facebook…There’s so many positive rewards to come out of it.”

Indeed, Angela, who studied childcare, and has worked as a nanny for average families as well as elite sports people, royalty and celebrities, believes that working overseas as a nanny is one of the best options for young, travel-loving Australians, who might otherwise earn their keep toiling in a cafe or a pub.

“If you’re a nanny you get to live in a beautiful house, you eat lovely food, you go on lovely holidays…it’s hard work but everything in life is hard work. I think that for a young girl, it’s the best way to see the world and also save money. It can set you up for later in life.”

While Angela has used her earnings to invest wisely for her future, she reveals that working for a celebrity boss doesn’t necessarily mean getting paid a celebrity salary. Payment for working for a ‘civilian’ family is on a par with, for example, working for royalty in an Asian country.

“You generally get paid a weekly rate as a nanny,” she explains. “The saving side of it is just incredible. I’ve got two properties. One overseas, and one here in Australia in the city. They were from two different jobs…I basically just set a budget for both jobs.

You don’t pay for anything. You don’t pay for accommodation, or travel. I had a driver in Asia and I had a driver in America too. Or you have a taxi account. All the food is cooked by chefs and all the housekeepers are buying your food, and what have you, and they give you a phone and the internet, all that sort of stuff, so it’s a great way to save some cash. It definitely beats working in a pub!”

Not everyone is cut out for looking after other people’s children, however Angela cites flexibility and patience as the key qualities for being an effective nanny.

“She was a great boss and I mean it was obviously quite a full-on experience. She was fantastic to work for and a big motivation for me…She’s very much a loving mother.”

“You need to be very hard working, as all women do, and all mothers need to be. You need to be flexible, patient, obviously loving and caring. The upside is that it’s a job, so you can leave at the end of the day, or have the weekend free to yourself, and still have your own life, whereas mothers don’t get that break.”

The downside to the job that can offer worldwide travel, a luxurious lifestyle, numerous perks and a window into the cocooned world of the super wealthy, is leaving the children you have become so attached to.

“They’re not your actual children and leaving them would be the hardest part of being a nanny,” Angela says.

“I now put a two year maximum, because I stayed with a family in England for about three years and it just is so hard on me and the children. The baby had grown up just with me. She didn’t know anything else so it was really difficult for me to leave.

 

There becomes a lot of emotional blackmail with the parents as well, at that point, because you are going to upset their children and you are going to upset their life if you move on but, also, you’re a young person that needs their own life. So there’s a fine line.

So, now I like to go in and go ‘okay, I’m doing this for eighteen months or I’m doing this for two years’. It can’t be too short either because that’s not fair on the children to go in and only work for a few months and move on. So to have an outline of how long you’re going to stay for makes it easier…you can see a finish, because sometimes things aren’t that great. So… you…set a goal and say, ‘okay I’m going to work this long and I’m going to earn this amount’. ”

“The upside is that it’s a job, so you can leave at the end of the day, or have the weekend free to yourself, and still have your own life, whereas mothers don’t get that break.”

That focus and determination have seen Angela use her years of professional experience to develop a burgeoning, nanny-related, media career, as well as a number of side businesses. She has written two books, Baby Love and Baby Food, and is just about to start filming a new television show Family 360 (working title) in Singapore.

The show, which Angela describes as having a different focus to the phenomenally successful Super Nanny program, will see her work with local Singaporean families on any problems they may have.

“We go in at the top level, being the parents, and work out the issues that are going on there, because they obviously stem through to the kids,” she states.

“So whether it be nutrition or fitness, or what have you, we tackle it as a whole family and not just go in and put a band aid on and leave. We’ll do eight episodes with one family…and really make it more educational than drama.”

Family 360 is a concept she has discussed with Australian media personality, Steve Vizard, and Profile Talent Management, in the hope the show will be developed in Australia. It’s early days but, so far, the feedback on her idea has been encouraging. Along with her TV show, a project with Google and an interactive Nanny/Babysitting site, utilising Facebook, are also in the works.

Despite her budding media and business careers, Angela is keeping her hand in with the work she knows best and, this time, she’s staying close to home. She recently turned down a job working for the royal family in the Middle East, for a stint as a nanny for an ordinary family in suburban Noranda, Perth.

“I’ve been there and done that with the celebrities and that kind of lifestyle,” she explains, cheerfully.

“I’d much prefer to work in the suburbs of Perth…Everything’s just normal. The kids muck in and help you with the dishwasher unstacking. There’s no maids running around, and all that sort of stuff that I’d got used to.

She pauses for a moment, then laughs. “It’s kind of refreshing to be working back in Australia.”

Adoption numbers are on the rise in Hollywood. Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Hugh Jackman and Katherine Heigl are amongst the celebrities who are growing their families by adopting children. Read about what other stars are doing the same and how their life has changed.

 

Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie

“They have programs in their countries [for] each of them we’re starting…They are from their country and they are of their country and they should know that.”

A-listers Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are parents to six children: Maddox, 12, Pax, 9, Zahara, 8, Shiloh, 7, and twins Knox and Vivienne, 5.

Their three eldest children were adopted from Cambodia, Vietnam and Ethiopia — although, Angie said she’s lost track of the details. “I couldn’t tell you in my own home who’s adopted and who’s not,” Angelina recently said.

“It doesn’t cross my mind,” she added. “There is something really wonderful when you adopt a child from another country because that whole country enters your house. We have different languages in our house, we have different flags up in our house, we have different food and culture and discussions and we go to their countries.”

The Oscar-winner wants her children to one day give back to their homelands.

“They have programs in their countries [for] each of them we’re starting. There’s a TB/AIDS clinic being built for Zahara; there’s a clinic already for Mad[dox]. So each of them will take that responsibility. They are from their country and they are of their country and they should know that, it’s part of their family, we are their family but so is their country.”

 

Charlize Theron

“‘Would you please take me to orphanage, so that I can go and adopt a baby?’

Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron shocked fans with her baby news in March. The actress adopted a baby boy named Jackson.

Charlize opened up about a letter she wrote at eight years of age, sharing her plans for a future adoption.

“My mother found [it]. It said, ‘Would you please take me to orphanage, so that I can go and adopt a baby?’ I always knew I would adopt – always,” she shared.

 

Sandra Bullock

“It was like he had always been a part of our lives. All I said when I met him was, ‘Oh, there you are.’”

Not only did Sandra Bullock become an Academy Award-winner in 2010, she also become a mum. The Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close actress adopted a New Orleans-born boy, Louis, in January 2010.

Now three years old, Louis has become Sandra’s greatest joy. “He’s just perfect, I can’t even describe him any other way,” she gushed.

Sandra opened up about the first time she laid eyes on her gorgeous son.

“The first time I met Louis, it was like the whole outside world got quiet,” she said. “It was like he had always been a part of our lives. All I said when I met him was, ‘Oh, there you are.’”

 

Madonna

“I was accused by a female Malawian judge that because I was divorced, I was an unfit mother.”

The Queen of Pop has adopted two children from Malawi – David, 8, and Mercy, 6 – and has since spoken about the experience.

“This was an eye opening experience” and “a real low point in my life,” the Like a Virgin singer said of adopting David.

“I didn’t know that trying to adopt a child was going to land me in another sh– storm,” she added. “I was accused of kidnapping, child trafficking, using my celebrity muscle to jump ahead in the line, bribing government officials, witchcraft, you name it. I could get my head around people giving me a hard time for simulating masturbation onstage or publishing my Sex book, even kissing Britney Spears at an awards show, but trying to save a child’s life was not something I thought I would be punished for. . . In any case, I got through it. I survived.”

The Material Mum was more prepared for her second adoption.

“When I adopted Mercy James, I put my armour on,” the popstar said. “I tried to be more prepared. I braced myself. This time I was accused by a female Malawian judge that because I was divorced, I was an unfit mother. I fought the Supreme Court and I won. It took almost another year and many lawyers. I still got the shit kicked out of me, but it didn’t hurt as much. And looking back, I do not regret one moment of the fight.”

 

 

Hugh Jackman

“I’m working on an international campaign to shine a light on the fact that there are 153 million orphans in the world.”

Hugh Jackman is happiest, “being with my family, definitely, without a doubt.”

The sexy Wolverine star and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, have two adopted children Oscar, 13, and Ava, 8. The hands-on dad said it was a “no-brainer” for them to adopt children in need.

“When we first went to talk to someone in Los Angeles about adoption, I remember, they said, ‘What do you want?’ I said, ‘Well, healthy would be good.’ And they said, ‘Well, what about the race?’ We’d ticked mixed race. And he said, ‘Now, listen. Please don’t, please don’t just tick that because you think it’s the right thing to tick.’ And he said to me, that we turn away children every month who are mixed race, because we can’t find families for them.”

He’s also spoken of the joys of adoption.

“A while back, there was a lot of shame attached to it and parents wouldn’t tell their kids they were adopted,” he said. “What’s great is that the focus is now shifting to the care of the child. We were very fortunate and open – I can’t go into details because of the privacy of the birth parents, but I can tell you it was amicable. Adoption is a wonderful thing to do.”

“I’m working on an international campaign to shine a light on the fact that there are 153 million orphans in the world,” the actor recently said. “If that were a country, it would be the ninth-largest in the world, just ahead of Russia.”

 

Sheryl Crow

A year after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Sheryl Crow adopted her now six year old son, Wyatt. The songstress said she always knew she’d be a mum.

“There was a shift in my life when I got diagnosed, [with breast cancer] because it demanded I look at everything and redefine my life,” she said. “I always felt I would be a mum. I have strong maternal instincts.”

The singer went on to adopt a second son, Levi, now three.

“I’ve always had maternal instincts,” she said. “And there are so many different ways you can go about that. My sons didn’t have to be from me. They didn’t have to look like me. I just wanted children to love.”

“They have so much energy and they keep me young!” Sheryl recently told Celebrity Baby Scoop. “I wouldn’t change a thing. I love getting to see things through their eyes.”

Katherine Heigl & Josh Kelley

“She is a special needs baby and because of that it all moved so much faster.”

Grey’s Anatomy star Katherine Heigl and her husband Josh Kelley adopted their daughter Naleigh from Korea when she was 10 months old.

“[Adoption has] been a big part of my life and my family,” Katherine said. “My sister is Korean and my parents adopted her back in the 70s and so I just always knew that this is something I wanted to do.”

Katherine went on to talk about her now four-year-old daughter.

“She is a special needs baby and because of that it all moved so much faster. They wanted to get her to us as quickly as possible.”

The couple went on to adopt a second daughter, Adalaide, domestically, in April. “She’s great! She’s a delicious, beautiful, wonderful child,” the Grey’s Anatomy alum gushed of her new daughter.

Mariska Hargitay

 

Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay and her husband Peter Hermann endured a long and emotionally challenging journey to finally reach their beautiful family of five and now, things couldn’t be better for the happy couple.

“They’re awesome and perfect,” the star said of sons August, 7, and Andrew, 2, and daughter Amaya, 2. “My heart just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

The actress opened up to Ellen DeGeneres about her surprising second adoption.

Just months after bringing home daughter Amaya after an emotionally-trying adoption process, the couple’s lawyer called them to let them know an agency had a newborn boy ready to be adopted as well.

“It was one of those things that we were not expecting at all and my husband and I looked at each other and have never been more sure about anything.”

The Little Couple

“We’ve dealt with prejudice and many challenges.”

The Little Couple’s Dr. Jen Arnold and Bill Klein introduced their three year old son William on the Katie Couric show in April. And just one month later, they had more exciting news to report.

After years of hoping to become parents and suffering through fertility issues, the couple announced they adopted a 19 month old girl from India they have named Zoey.

“We’re so delighted that Zoey will be joining our family and that William will have a little sister coming home very soon,” the reality TV couple said in a statement in May.

Zoey also has a form of dwarfism like her adoptive parents and brother, Will.

“We’ve dealt with prejudice and many challenges,” Jennifer said of her life experiences. “I feel very lucky and fortunate that I have the wonderful life I have.”

 

 

 

Jillian Michaels

“They say, ‘We have a referral for you,’ which means they’ve matched you with a child…and in less than 24 hours she says, ‘By the way, I’m pregnant.’”

The Biggest Loser star Jillian Michaels and her partner Heidi Rhoades became parents to two children in May: A 2-year-old daughter Lukensia and a newborn son Phoenix.

“About three and a half years ago I began dating my partner Heidi,” Jillian shared on her road toward motherhood. “We had a very easy going, comfortable and no-pressure relationship. And a year or so into our relationship, I decided I wanted to adopt.”

The celebrity trainer went on to say the adoption process was not easy, and after a year and a half of waiting for a referral from Africa, she switched gears.

“I switched all my paperwork over to Haiti and I get a phone call one day,” she shared. “Heidi is now trying to get pregnant for five months now. They say, ‘We have a referral for you,’ which means they’ve matched you with a child. I was like, ‘This is unbelievable, this is great!’ I come home and tell Heidi, and in less than 24 hours she says, ‘By the way, I’m pregnant.’”