Your Nanny Is Not Your Friend (What do you think?)

Posted by Adriana Velez on March 6, 2012 at 7:00 PM

And 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?


nonmember avatar
Nonmember comment from JaneDWill on Mar 6, 2012 at 8:39 PM
I don’t like the term nanny. After reading this article, I’m not sure what to call the wonderful woman who is with my children from 8am til I get home. The whole family just has called her Ms. Lydia. And we love her.

Jessy Roos
Facebook comment from Jessy Roos on Mar 6, 2012 at 9:58 PM
As a nanny, I prefer the term nanny, but I think it’s a personal choice. Personally, when people refer to me as the babysitter it feels like my work is being devalued. In my mind a sitter is usually a teenager or college student who watches your kids for a few hours and is basically there to provide the necessities and keep them safe. As a nanny, I do that, but I also teach the kids, take them to activities, engage them and care for them like a family member. I love the kids I work with and I feel like “nanny” more thoroughly encompasses what I do and my commitment level.

TC00 on Mar 6, 2012 at 10:07 PM
I am a nanny and I’m called by my first name and that’s the way I like it.

PRIMA487 on Mar 6, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Don’t see a problem with it.This is the person that you are trusting with the most important thing in your life.Even though you pay “Donna” you are putting your little ones lives in “Donnas'” hands.Donna will be going on trips with the little ones and keeping both Stella and the kidlets happy and calm.Nothing wrong with seeing her as a friend.

Skyhook on Mar 6, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Funny, I always thought the person who raises kid from 8am til 5pm is a mom. Thats how i’d look at it if I were a kid. Children know who take care of them and raise them.

ThatTattooedMom on Mar 7, 2012 at 1:19 AM
I just say baby sitter. Although my sitter is getting quite annoying…other day I came by to drop off diapers, and she had literally eight screaming kids in the house, mine being the youngest. My son has difficulty sleeping so I was irritated. Now I know why he comes home pissed off and crying til two am, and I found out she falls asleep and let’s him sit in a room by himself and cry. Time to find a new sitter.

i.heart.nerds on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:02 AM
Sorry but I am not a ‘sitter’. I am a nanny (or was before marriage). I earned that title through schooling and experience. Besides a nanny earns significantly more than a sitter does.
Funnily enough I consider myself good friends with a few of my former employers.

Lisa Werth
Facebook comment from Lisa Werth on Mar 7, 2012 at 12:35 PM
I  am a nanny, not a sitter. As a caregiver, I have done and continue to both. There is a difference, pay scale, job responsibilites, skill set. I have also been a teacher. I go by the name Miss Lisa to my charges. Although my bosses hate being called my bosses, so I use the word employer more often now. I believe in boundaries and so I would find it awkward to be friends. That’s not to say there isn’t respect, and a family feel at times. If I become friends with a parent I worked for, it doesn’t happen until after I stop caring for their kids full time.

nonmember avatar
Nonmember comment from Laura on Mar 7, 2012 at 12:37 PM
I have had many positions in the Childcare/Teaching fields. I prefer Nanny as well. I am a baby-sitter on weekends, but that’s a whole different roll. I am not required to take on household responsibilities during this time, only to give living care to the children during baby-sitting jobs. I am not my employers friend! A friend wouldn’t pull the stuff on another friend as I have had past employers do. And I wouldn’t take this stuff as easily if I wasn’t getting paid to do it.