Wednesday Opinion: Juggling Parents
By Nanny X
‘The Nanny Time Bomb’ e-book release Fall 2012
“I totally admit I can’t make the change I know is possible. I’m too selfish. Perhaps there is an earth mother and guru dad out there who can cast that first stone, and say to me, with complete authority: “Why did you have children then, you selfish assholes.” Right, I doubt it. Nannies are the embodiments of our selfishness, (my bold) our desire to have something more than 24-7 family life, and so Nannies are a constant thorn in our side, just by being there, so available for hire, holding our children and smiling while we wander off for downtime. It’s like we dump our guilt onto them. It’s like they know our dirty little secret ‘ we pay to keep our children away from us’.
(Excerpt adapted from a NYC Blog spot for Parents)
We live in a society where we’re drip-fed fed images of ‘the perfect life’. Those Mad Men-esque advertisers have an uncanny knack of making us feel as though we’re constantly missing out. TV parents look glamorous, they have great sex lives, fantastic careers and happy well-adjusted kids. How do they get by without a Nanny in sight?
Alternatively we have Super Nanny as featured in the Nanny 911 shows. Super Nanny generally has a British accent and earns a decent salary. The show’s audience, addicted to the hapless parental failures, get to gloat and congratulate themselves “Thank God my kids aren’t like that.”
Cute healthy relaxed Family A Wealthy Caucasian Celeb Nanny
Neither model reflects reality.
Working mothers and fathers are run ragged from pillar to post. They work full-time, they organize childcare, playdates, meals, they shop, they pay bills, they go to school fundraisers, they ferry children to games and classes, and after all that, they attempt to have social lives and healthy marriages. Most of the time, their marriages, careers and children survive intact. Yes, these parents are smart and organized, but they’ve also taken the time to invest in good childcare. Good childcare either in the form of excellent Daycare or an in-house Nanny enables parents to meet their own needs adequately.
So why do some working parents consider Nannies the “embodiments of our (parental) selfishness.”? Is it selfish to have downtime with one’s partner, or time alone with a particular child (if the parents has more than one child)? When a rational mind is applied to this question the answer is evidently ‘no’. So why does the guilt persist? And can this guilt affect the way parents hire and fire Nannies?
When we speak about parental guilt, for the most part we are speaking about a mother’s guilt. Fathers have traditionally left the home from 9-5 five days a week without experiencing agonizing emotional dilemmas. 70% and upwards of mothers now work full-time. In today’s world mothers are trying to be all things to all people. Quite often they are successful in pulling it off. The key to their success is, and has always been, a good working partnership between a mother and her Nanny or childcare provider. If mom’s happy that little Josh and Sadie are being adequately cared for at home, she will be better energized in her career and in her marriage. If the family’s mother is happy it generally follows that the husband and kids will follow suit.
Let’s move onto another subject: economics. If Nannies/childcare providers (Daycare) are crucial pillars of our economy, why are so many Nannies poorly paid and under-valued? Why have they become “pariahs” invisible in the media apart from glimpses such as in The Nanny Diaries; a movie that, even then, does little to portray the actual living and working conditions of the average Nanny.
Adorable educated going-somewhere Caucasian Nanny
Heroic African-American highly-functioning Nanny from a by-gone age
The oscar nominated movie The Help went some way in introducing a concept of overt subordination, albeit along strictly racial and historical lines. Yet some things have not changed it seems. In major metropolitan areas Nannies overwhelmingly come from minority groups as the demographic they serve remain white and economically privileged.
Closer to reality: minority, low-waged, invisible yet invaluable member of our society
Many Nannies work undocumented and are hired without specific childcare training. Low salaries and social status will continue to characterize any vocation that is seen to be ‘illegal’, ‘unskilled’ and primarily ‘minority’ occupied. As a direct consequence there is little social esteem given to being a common Nanny. While indeed – and thankfully – overt racist and classist attitudes are now no longer tolerated, covert subjugation continues and with it come all the attendant social penalties. The impact of social and economic subjugation evidence themselves in the service provided by Nannies. In other words, not only are the Nannies impacted but so are the children they care for.
In our progressive world do we continue to remain trapped within cycles of economic oppression? Is parental guilt symptomatic of this system? If Nannies were seen as valued, decently paid professionals in our midst would parental guilt, economic and racial disparities dissipate? If modern families were taxed appropriately would we see more income for domestic workers? Ultimately are women, wealthy or otherwise, paying the price for open market capitalism?
By Nanny X and taken from ‘The Nanny Time Bomb’ Kindle release June 2012 .Email to pre-order here: firstname.lastname@example.org. First 10 emails get a signed paperback.