Your Nanny Is Not Your Friend

mary poppinsAnd now, from the Clueless $hit Rich People Say files, we have this gem. Fashion designer and daughter of a Beatle Stella McCartney does not like using the word "nanny." "I find that word jarring," the busy mother of four says.

Fair enough! Most of the people I know who employ someone to watch their kids regularly don't like the word "nanny," either. It's rah-ther old-fashioned and Dowager Countessy. So they use words like "sitter" or "caretaker." But Stella, she's looking for a little something more cozy than that. "I tell her [the nanny], 'I just want to call you my friend.'"


Oh lord, can you imagine how that conversation goes down from the nanny friend caretaker's perspective?

Stella: You know, ah... what's your name again?

Donna: Donna. My name is Donna.

Stella: Right. You know, I do hate calling you the nanny. It's just so jarring.

Donna: Jarring, yes, that's one way to put it...

Stella: Right. I just want to call you my friend.

Donna: Ms. McCartney, how about you just call me Donna?

Stella: Yes, yes, I'm quite sure of this. I'll call you my friend.

Let me ask you a question: Do you think Donna, in turn, feels comfortable calling Stella McCartney "my friend?" "Oh that's my friend, the woman who pays me to take care of her children. For money, not out of the goodness of my heart." Please. Someone who can fire you is not your friend. She is your employer. And you can be friendly and supportive and even enjoy each other's company. But you are not "friends." Not with that power imbalance. (And I think this situation is really different from asking a real friend to watch your kids every once in a while.)

Oh Stella. I know this is coming from a good place. You mean well. Having servants is just so... awkward! Isn't it? And you want everyone to be happy and comfortable so they can do their best. But calling the person who watches your children -- who you are completely justified in hiring, by the way -- your "friend" is just unfair. And it's also kind of presumptuous and disrespectful.

I'm with Donna. Forget the labels. Just call her by her given name, pay her well, be clear about your expectations, and thank her for a job well done. That's all any employee wants.

Would you ever call a sitter you pay to watch your kids your friend?


Image via d4rr3ll/Flickr

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