Nanny Stereotypes Need to End Now

nanny stereotypes
This lady was part of our family
When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I looked into the day care down the street and shook our heads at such extravagances like nannies. Nannies, we just knew, were only for the rich. As we were barely hanging on in the middle class, it wasn't even on our radar. And then reality hit, and we discovered three things about parenting in New York City.

1) Day care can be incredibly inflexible, and work hours in New York City can go much longer than day care hours.

2) Most day cares won't take babies until they're at least 3 months old, and even then, there's a waiting list.

3) Your baby will be sick all winter long, thus making day care an expense you're paying for but not using. A nanny with a tough immune system makes sure you don't get fired from your job.

And with that, we started a part-time nanny search and began to realize that all of the stereotypes we believed about nannies and the people who employ them are wrong.

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The most pervasive stereotype, that we also believed, is that you're rich if you hire a nanny. While it helps, it also helps to be rich when you're raising children. Duh. I was making about two dollars more an hour than my nanny was when I went back to work part-time and needed someone with a flexible schedule. If it weren't for the fact that I was trying to build a career, I wouldn't have done it. However, I needed the job for my future, more than for paying for a nanny.

Next up is the assumption that the nanny is treated as "the help" and takes care of the dirty work. Rose Arce explains over at CNN how her nanny's sadness is her own, and she's not alone in that type of bond with a caregiver. When my family moved away from New York City, we had a final farewell meetup with my children's nanny. When we said goodbye to her, both of us were in tears. She gushed about how she loved my children, and I cried so much when she left, I begged my husband to stay in New York. This didn't happen with any of my other goodbyes, but ending a relationship between our family and this woman was heartbreaking. I knew about her children, her life, everything. And of course she knew about mine. We were in it together and for the love of the kids. That's an intense and unbelievably important relationship, and it's hard to let it go.

If you hire a nanny, you're having someone else raise your child. The reality TV moms who breeze in and out of their children's lives don't help to dispel this myth, but let's remember those are women on television and they're incredibly narcissistic. In real life, it's a partnership. And every child psychologist will tell you that your child never has trouble distinguishing between his mother and the nanny. If your child gets excited when the nanny arrives and is sad when she leaves, that's a sign of a great nanny. Not a sign of your lack of mothering. Your child care choice says nothing about your parenting skills and everything about your work life and what is required so you can feel okay going to your job every day.

As some people pointed out in my post on day care and pre-school, no matter where you live if you work odd hours, you'll be hiring a nanny. If your odd hours are because you're a waitress, you may have some nights when paying the nanny takes your whole paycheck. Unlike France, where you get your very own nanny for free, we're all struggling to figure out the best way to make a living and raise a family. Consider that when you make negative assumptions about someone because they have a nanny or put their child into day care. We're all doing what we have to do, and it's an infinitesimal minority who aren't putting their children first.

Do you have a nanny?

 

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