A mom asked me a most interesting question the other day: “How much one-on-one interaction should take place been a nanny and a child?”
The question is pertinent because increasing numbers of upper-middle-class parents are choosing to use nannies. I have no general opinion of this trend. Each nanny situation should be judged on its own merits.
I have personal experience with this issue because during my preschool years, when my mom was a single parent, she hired a woman to come to our flat and supervise me when she was working and attending college. Gertie Mae, to whom I grew quite attached, also performed housekeeping responsibilities, but her role was similar to that of today’s nanny. Outside of the fact that she occasionally insisted I eat food I did not like, my experience was completely positive.
I am aware that many of today’s nannies are expected to provide a good amount of stimulating and enjoyable activities for them. In a word, they entertain. I have no memories of Gertie Mae ever playing with me or providing me with entertainment. Both she and my mother expected me to entertain myself, which is one of the most important life skills a child ever acquires. The child who learns to entertain himself is also, later on, more likely to do his own homework without supervision, perform regular household responsibilities without prompting, solve peer problems without coming to adults, and so on.
None of the nanny websites I looked at used the word “entertainment” when describing responsibilities. The website www.nannies4hire.com, for example, listed preparing children’s meals, providing mental stimulation, doing children’s laundry, and reinforcing appropriate discipline as primary responsibilities.
As most of my readers know, I advocate a low-involvement parenting style where children enjoy freedoms commensurate with the responsibility they are willing to assume for themselves and their behavior. This creates a mutual state of liberation for both parents (especially mom) and child.
This is the way children were raised two generations and more ago, when they emancipated much earlier and more successfully than has been the case since.