As more mothers return to work and hire others to take care of their children, today’s mother-nanny relationships are colored by moral, practical, and emotional complexities.
With the popularity of The New York Timesbestselling book The Nanny Diaries: A Novel, the public seems to be fascinated by the mother-nanny relationship.
Written by two former nannies, The Nanny Diaries depicts New York City mothers as cold, detached dictators who operate from their lofty Park Avenue apartments, while the nannies are portrayed as their helpless, submissive servants, fulfilling every unreasonable request.
In the past, the mother-nanny relationship was idealized as the Mary Poppins-like English nanny tending to the perfectly well-behaved children to aid a doting, well-to-do mother. The modern day mother-nanny relationship, however, is colored by moral and emotional complexities as more mothers return to work and hire others to take care of their children.
As a former New York City nanny, I can attest that not all working situations are ideal. However, as with most relationships, I have found that communication and trust are essential to establishing a positive work environment and building open, trusting dynamics in the relationship. Here, several mothers who employ nannies, as well as a representative from the New York Child Care Council, share their views on how bringing a nanny into a working mom’s home can be fulfilling for both parent and child.
Before You Hire a Nanny
Ann Leone of the New York Child Care Council, a nonprofit agency that informs parents of their childcare options, stresses that parents should carefully consider their ideal childcare situation. “Parents really need to think about the fact that they’re going to be an employer … this is a formed partnership, and parents must be prepared to put in some time and do the research to figure out the pros and cons of having a nanny.”
For example, some parents find that there is not enough personal interaction and attention at daycare centers and prefer to have their child in a comfortable home environment while receiving consistent care.
If a nanny is the best childcare option for your family, it is important to evaluate what kind of experience, personality, and philosophy are important to you and your child.
For Abby, a working mother of two children in Queens, New York, the key to finding a compatible nanny was to follow her intuition. After being dissatisfied with her first nanny, Abby was determined to find a caregiver who was not neglectful of her child’s development. “You want the nanny to always engage and care about the well-being of the child,” she says. “Just follow your gut instinct. The same way when your baby criesand you know why they’re crying, you know if someone is going to be good for your child.”
Ann Leone also suggests being as clear as possible when placing an ad for a nanny to guarantee that you have the most compatible caregiver. “If you know your child loves to go outside and your person says I can’t stand the cold weather or being outside, then you really need to know if that person is willing to do these things for your child,” she says.
She also emphasizes the importance of hiring someone who doesn’t mind being with children for eight to nine hours in the same place every day. Being a nanny can be an isolating experience, and it is important to know that your nanny will not be frustrated and take it out on you or the child.
By clearly identifying the kind of caregiver you’re seeking at the onset of your search, you can build a solid foundation and open the channels of communication.