Pin It
Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Nanny Wanted: Must Be Both Idiot and Expert

By
raising-global-citizens/ ganko - Fotolia.com

On a parenting message board, I compete with people named Luz Hernandez, Diana Carrillo and Alma de la Cruz. In Los Angeles, Latin nannies are ubiquitous. As I recall in New York, it is West Indian women raising the upper class. All over the world, women trade parenting. In Hong Kong, babies are raised by Indonesians, in Australia they’re Filipinos. It made me think about the amount of trust entailed in letting someone care for your children, the leap that occurs when you leave behind the most precious part of your life in your own house with a virtual stranger. It’s fascinating that people give that responsibility to those they consider so different from themselves.

 

 

In my continued exploration of the perfectionism associated with modern American parenting, my last article focused on the contradiction between parents’ insecurities and anxieties and nannies who are treated like servants. The expectation is that we are both experts and idiots at once. In Ehrenreich and Hochschild’s book, Global Woman: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy, they refer to the “Happy Peasant” as the ideal domestic worker. In all likelihood, “Blanca” is not plagued by the same parenting insecurities as her employers. She raised her children with confidence and is happy to raise yours in the same way.

 

 

Many parents are happy to hand over their children to someone who relies on traditional, “folk” parenting techniques not set out in a book by Dr. Sears but likely handed down through generations. “Blanca instantly potty trained my resistant toddler,” glowed one online reference letter. The mother makes no mention of how exactly this miracle occurred, what magic Blanca brought with her. Multicultural parenting is the norm in most of the big mansions of the hills in Los Angeles, and it’s going unacknowledged.

 

 

Multiculturalism is a modern day virtue, and I am not surprised to hear mothers on the message boards happily crow that “thanks to Maria, my child now speaks Spanish fluently.” Being bilingual is, after all, one of the best gifts one can give their children. But I am also aware of the power dynamics that are part and parcel to the nanny/mom situation, and are likely only heightened by race and class differences. I know how much of the job is grinning and bearing it. The multicultural team parenting that is abundant is not removed from the general gap in privilege that exists between the same two people outside the home. One culture is privileged over the other by definition even if in reality, due to the many hours shared between nanny and child, the nanny’s culture may in some ways prevail. Kathryn Stockett explored that issue in her novel, The Help, as did Adam Sandler in his film Spanglish. In the book, Raising Brooklyn, author Tamara Brown examines the issue from both sides of the fence as both a West Indian and Park Slope, Brooklyn mom.

 

 

I would guess the children will benefit in the long term from the exposure to nannies whose backgrounds are different from their own. The only person at risk is the nanny who is often subject to being taken advantage of thanks to the intimate and informal nature of the work. Like the great red neck swan song, I am losing jobs to people who are easier to oppress. But mostly I find myself on the sidelines of this phenomenon, having more in common with the mothers than the nannies who are my competition. In that way, I am equivalent to the medieval ladies in waiting, who serve a royal until it is their time to be a boss themselves. Regardless, I am fascinated by the unspoken give and take that is happening in so many American homes.

© 2011 – 2013, Kellen Kaiser. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


Language Resource Library for Raising Bilingual Kids

The most comprehensive list of language learning resources

Ten Reasons Parents Should Read Multicultural Books to Kids

Why it's critical all parents read books that reflect diversity

An Islamic Perspective on Child-Rearing and Discipline

Does Islam's reputation for severity and harshness apply to how Muslims raise children?

10 Best World Maps for Your Children’s Room

Because every little global citizen needs a map

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Kellen has watched other people parent for years. She has worked as a babysitter, infant teacher, nanny and in continuing education and quality improvement for childcare providers. She aspires to be a foster parent someday.

Leave us a comment!









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
Unfortunately, the school and community are no longer there. The farm is being sold and there are tentative plans for a new iteration to be set up in Costa Ric...
From How I Moved to Thailand with my Family on Less than $1000
HI! I love your website! Just read your review of books that teach about culture and food! I can't wait to try some of the recipes you've share...
From Armenian Recipe: Apricot Tart
Please, refrain from using "western /western society" for anglosaxon countries. Western can be Mexico and Spain as well, anything on the west side of the world is western ...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
We've tried to make use of, but It doesn't works by any mean...
From African Parenting: The Sane Way to Raise Children
I'm back. Sorry, I stopped caring for this magazine for a while and forgot to discuss the meat of the matter. This article, as well as the linked article from 2011, fails to discuss cultural norms ...
From What Confused Me Most about Brits
Fascinating. I have been to Germany and met this guy who was soo rude! This article explains everything!! Since all Germans are so terribly rude it should come as no surprise that I should have met ...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
@ Josep. How could you possibly comment on how Germans treat people if you have never even been there? A three-day stay in Berlin and a one day stop-over in Frankfurt was enough for me to see the ut...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
I am trying to find a Sikh triangular Nishan Sahib flag and haven't found one. Do you know where I can find on...
From Vaisakhi Craft: Make a Flag
I have tried to buy a Sikh triagular Nishan Sahib flag and had no luck. Do you know where I can find on...
From Vaisakhi Craft: Make a Flag

More Other People's Parenting