According to a recent study by the Center for American Progress, fewer than 3.5 percent of ALL families in the United States, at ALL income levels, employ a nanny for child care. Yes, you read that correctly. For middle-income families that number drops to less than 0.5 percent. You may be thinking, “So, if that’s the case, what’s with all the nanny themed books and television shows???”
Super Nanny, Nanny 911, Nanny Professor, The Nanny Chronicles, The Nanny Diaries, et al.
Whether you’re a single mother or not, a working mother or not, living near your family of origin or not, mothering is a BIG TIME job and since we’ve all learned that it “takes a village” some folks are fixated on the non-blood relation “villagers”.
Think of how difficult it can be at a new job to learn the political aspects of the workplace, then multiply that by about one thousand percent and bring it into your home 24/7 – that personal relations dynamite is a live in nanny. Factor in probable philosophical differences in child rearing practices, language barriers (if you hire someone whose native tongue is not your own), scheduling issues, etc, etc. No one wants the cell phone-obsessed nanny, the terminally-texting au pair, the boob-tube prone sitter, or the governess who ties up the house phone while the children are in a bath. Relying on someone else to act as a parent in your place when you cannot or choose not to be there is a very delicate thing. In fact, hiring in-home childcare can be compared to the selection process for a spouse or partner. It is THAT important to be similarly matched in order to avoid the inevitable pitfalls of a daily relationship where the stakes are as high as raising one’s sons and daughters.
Some people believe that just because someone employs a nanny they necessarily relegate the demands of motherhood to the nanny. In some cases that may be true, but, often times the very few people with nanny in tow are just like everyone else…struggling with deadlines, errands, traffic, time constraints i.e. trying to meet the demands of their lives and hoping that it all ends well for everyone concerned at the end of the day. Having lived in an area with a higher nanny population than most, I have witnessed countless hands-on parenting by individuals with a nanny at home. While nannies may be portrayed as substitute parents on television, it has been my experience that nothing can replace the core values of the actual parents, their approval, their investment of time spent with their child (children) or the tough decisions we all face everyday in the job of trying to make the best, most educated decisions for our babies.
While having in-home childcare may seem like a cakewalk to those without, consider how familiarity often breeds contempt, how it may feel to watch your child running to someone else for comfort when you’ve been forced to dole out parental discipline, what a mother feels when it’s her nanny watching her child take their first steps (while she’s at work paying for the privilege of missing cherished milestones)…. Despite all this, when that ideal pairing does happen and an employee becomes a member of the “family”, trust exists coupled with convenience and a cohesiveness in partnering to parent, then you have achieved what can only be referred to as parental utopia!
So, the next time you imagine how grand life would be with a little extra help and fancy yourself a prospective household for “Super Nanny” or the like, just remember, the binding on the book may appear vastly different, but the inside is mostly the same. Either way, be sure to count your blessings in what some regard as the toughest job Mother Nature can toss your way: mothering.
*Update – Karen from Hollywood Farm did a follow up post too! Love that this caused so much conversation!