Wednesday Opinion: Is there a Nanny Time Bomb?
time bomb *n
“ … A process or procedure causing a problem that will eventually become dangerous if not addressed: an environmental time bomb.”
Within 24 hours I can have the keys to your home, access to your computer, identity, bank details, your car and your child. I can gain access to all of this by using fake ID and bogus references or my own. I belong to an industry that generates $5 – $15 billion a year, under-reports tax, employs approximately 300,000 to 1,000,000 a substantial percentage of whom are undocumented foreign workers, and yet is never audited by the IRS. I am your Nanny.
I am a minimum wage worker without benefits or a pension. I am often discouraged and bored at my job. The children in my care are needy. I have four infants from 8am-6pm weekdays. I feel as though I’m just constantly cleaning and feeding them. I am always looking for a better paying job. I hope to leave soon. I am your daycare worker.
How can working conditions like this drill down into common (non-parental) childhood experiences?
Imagine a baby, sitting mute for hours in a stroller as her Au Pair reads a magazine or chats with friends in the park. Picture a toddler pottering about aimlessly in a crèche as his daycare worker over-sees smaller infants in her care. Think about an ADHD afflicted preteen rushed from one activity class to another by a despondent babysitter with little or no interaction. Conjure the image of a young teen playing violent video games snacking on processed foods as his Nanny cleans, cooks and runs errands for $10 an hour.
It is a sad fact that some children may never enjoy a tender moment or read a book with their primary caregiver. In fact, they may rarely get to play a game or get a hug from her. Their most consistent interaction may be one of criticism, of aggressive handling, of avoidance and/or emotional neglect. On a daily basis such children may hear:
“You never listen. Go away! Don’t touch me with those grubby hands! I don’t like you when you do that. What’s wrong with you? You always mess up. I’m busy talking. DO NOT INTERRUPT ME! You peed in your pants again? That’s nasty. You’re taking a nap because I need a break. Shut your mouth and watch TV. Stay with this lady I need to go get some lunch. Stop crying you baby. Boys don’t cry. Girls don’t show their underwear, pull that dress down you rude girl!”
For six years I observed (in Manhattan) every type of caregiver: citizen, immigrant, undocumented, male, female, part-time, and full-time. I gained entry into a shadowy subculture: Nannies that unregulated body of women and men who take care of other people’s children for money.
Through my investigation I realized that there were many factors contributing to a dysfunctional childcare system, and that there were always two sides to a story. I have sat in diners, apartments and parks talking and observing working parents stay at home moms and Nannies in childcare.
The conclusion I reached is that modern in-home childcare is in dire need of reform and people are suffering needlessly. The current industry rests upon misplaced assumptions, outdated tax laws, acts of parental faith or denial and a great deal on cheap foreign labor. Most hardworking parents trust that they’ve chosen the right Nanny or daycare arrangement. But what if that Nanny or daycare worker is ignoring or avoiding their child’s needs? How can parents tell?
Conversely, how can parents’ contribute to an environment of low-performance childcare? Are Nannies today being overworked, under-paid and generally unprotected as workers? And can this affect their care-giving abilities? Finally is our economic system, antiquated, environmentally pathological and anti-family? In my book ‘The Nanny Time Bomb’ (release date Fall 2012) I will delve deeper into what I believe are the lynch pins of substandard childcare.
The anonymous persona of Nanny X raises a red flag over the childcare industry. Her views and opinions are not a thesis on child psychology or a political manifesto. They are intended as an insider’s exploration of the industry of non-parental childcare.
Join the debate.
Nanny X is a Childcare advocate and can be reached below: