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What is a Governess? What does a Governess do?

What is a Governess? What does a Governess do?

Have you ever wondered what is a Governess or what does a Governess do when working?

Many parents consider hiring a nanny to meet the care and needs of their children. Nannies are responsible for helping the kids learn and develop skills through safe yet engaging activities. However, as the children grow older, some parents may start to consider hiring a live-in or live-out governess to work with their children. Governess jobs are varied and many are based overseas with international travel. 

Governess Work

In a nutshell, a governess is a woman who is hired to teach children in a private home.

In the past, a governess was often the only female role model in a child's life and she played an important role in the child's upbringing. In fact, a governess was once the only way for a young lady to receive an education if her family could not afford to send her to school. Today, governesses are less common but some families still decide to hire one. Governesses still provide an important service in teaching children manners, etiquette, and other important life skills.

A Governess’s duties and responsibilities are mostly to give support to a child’s education, manner, and etiquette. They are tasked with communicating with the child’s school to know how their tutees perform in class. Additionally, governors and governesses ensure that the child is reaching important milestones. The governess must be well educated herself so that she can provide a good education for the children. She usually teaches basic academic subjects such as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

In the governess role, qualified caregivers hired by parents act as personal teachers to the young children in their households. Many governess jobs look for highly educated individuals who have a minimum of two years in teaching children. Most modern governess roles only require an academic mentor and are usually not given any domestic tasks.


What do nannies do?

A nanny is responsible for the welfare of the children under their care. Families typically employ nannies to care for younger children, sometimes from birth to around 12-years-old. 

On the whole, when working a nanny job, nannies ensure that their children reach developmental milestones from birth until their school years. 

The main responsibilities of a nanny include:

  • Feeding, changing, bathing, and dressing the child
  • Planning play activities to help children reach developmental milestones
  • Aid parents in setting up a daily routine
  • Accompanying the child to play date, social events, and other appointments
  • Administering first aid
  • Supervising and caring for the child when their parents are not present


What do governesses do?

Governesses are specialised childcare workers who are hired to teach children from ages 3 and up. A full-time governess or governor is responsible for:

  • Ensuring that children complete their homework
  • Plan a routine that allows for fun and education activities
  • Teach children specialised subjects, such as a new language, history, or musical instruments
  • Ensure that the kids have proper manners and etiquette
  • Communicate with the school and parents about the child’s educational progress
  • Help prepare children for exams and assessments
  • Encourage children to behave and complete their studies
  • An overseas governess can provide tuition in a 2nd language



Historical background

Historically, the governess were single women from the middle-class who were given permission to come inside the homes of families belonging to the upper-class or aristocratic society. Her job was to educate young girls and boys. 

The position was considered a lonely job as the governess was neither family nor servant. Many mothers feared their children would prefer the caregiver because they spent more time with them. This led many parents to ignore the governess after work hours.

Governesses were most often employed to teach children how to read, write, and arithmetic operations. Young women were taught to be genteel and accomplish skills aristocratic girls were expected to have. This included having the ability to speak in another language, play a musical instrument, paint, write poetry, or embroider, among others. 

In the modern world, live-in nannies bear a resemblance to the governesses of the 19th century. However, childcare practitioners are now expected to have more specialised knowledge. The requirements set for governesses then are now what most families expect from nannies. 

Today, governesses are required to have a great educational background and certifications. They are also expected to have several years of experience in teaching children in a school setting, as well as taking care of children.