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Nannies Behaving Badly: Would You Tattle to the Parents?

Posted by on January 13th, 2011 at 10:22 am

the hand that rocks the cradle1 300x199 Nannies Behaving Badly: Would You Tattle to the Parents?

I have a part-time nanny  I share with another family which frees up a couple of days for me to do freelance work and also gives me a little break from my very high maintenance three-year-old twins. But most of the time I am a stay-at-home mom, which means I am out and about with the girls during the day, witnessing how the neighborhood nannies treat their charges. The vast majority of caregivers are excellent with the patience of saints, giving the children loads of attention, praise and constructive discipline when needed. And I’ll often mention to parents how wonderful their nannies are when I see them, as I know it’s comforting to hear confirmation that your children are in loving, competent hands all day. But what about the nannies who, well, suck?

I’m still conflicted about a situation I witnessed all last summer, and handled incorrectly. We often go to Juniper Park, right off of the Southport Corridor which has a sandbox and a little “spray pool” (fancy word the Chicago Park District uses for sprinkler). All summer this nanny would come with a little boy who was about 2-1/2, plunk him down and proceed to chat on her phone for hours. The woman is so completely unpleasant I can’t imagine who actually wants to speak to her on the phone incessantly. But I digress. She tended to the boy when absolutely necessary, but she almost never talked to him and pretty much ignored him. This wasn’t a one-time incident — it was an everyday incident. She had an overall pissed-off-at-the-world demeanor and seemed put-out when he went to her for something, usually not acknowledging his presence for several minutes as she laughed on the phone.

I was so disturbed by this I vowed to tell the parents if I ever saw them (I had no idea who the boy was or who his parents were). I figured eventually I’d see the family one weekend at the park. And I did. I spotted them and thought through what I would say as I pushed the girls on the swings as my anxiety grew. I hate confrontation and I certainly didn’t want to upset them, but I knew I would want to know this information as a parent. As I psyched myself up for the conversation, I realized the wife must have recently had a baby as they had an infant with them. They all looked so happy I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’d have another chance, I thought. Who wants upsetting news soon after giving birth? The first few months are hard enough as it is… Today wasn’t the right day; it wasn’t like the nanny was beating the kid or anything, I reasoned. And so I did nothing that day.

Next time I saw this nanny, she had the toddler and the new baby. She again was on her phone the entire time, barely making eye contact with either of them. And I felt sick that I didn’t do anything when I had the chance. I shot her a few dirty looks and rudely, without apology interrupted her phone conversation to point out the kid wanted his shoes off to go into the sandbox. But she couldn’t have cared less I clearly didn’t approve of her nannying style, and let’s face it, some disapproving mom at the park isn’t going to change how she treats the kids.

That was in the fall and I haven’t seen the parents (or nanny) since. It still bothers me I didn’t have the courage to speak out. I think about the kids with a woman all day who doesn’t speak to them, cuddle them or give positive verbal or nonverbal feedback. And I could have done something.

I’m mad at myself, I’m mad at the nanny, but (and I realize this isn’t fair) I was also briefly mad at the parents. When our nanny first started I would pop in unexpectedly to make sure how she acted when I was around was the same as when I wasn’t. I surprised them at the park. I proactively asked my neighbors how she was doing with the girls. I realize you can never know for sure, but I did everything in my power to ensure she was the loving, trustworthy person I believe her to be. Granted, my work is extremely flexible so I have the luxury of doing that. And perhaps these parents did their due diligence too. It just seems so glaringly obvious the woman hates her job (and possibly the kids) I would think with minimal effort they’d be able to figure it out.

But I realize I shouldn’t judge the parents; after all perhaps everyone around them sees it but doesn’t have the guts (like me) to confront the situation. I took the easy way out and said nothing.  It’s haunted me so much it’s definitely a mistake I won’t make again. I think any of us would speak up in a situation of suspected abuse, but what about an area that’s a bit more grey? Would you or have you given negative feedback to a parent about their nanny?

 Nannies Behaving Badly: Would You Tattle to the Parents?

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Just telling on someone is probably not as effective as actually talking to the nanny personally and giving your input. Certainly, it is necessary for you to get the message across to both parties. How about directly confronting the nanny first by taking a moment to speak to her. This does not mean being aggressive to the point that you will be immediately ignored, but to walk up to her expressing that you are a mother yourself and could not help but notice her “nanny techniques” being harmful to the child she is caring for. Suggest to her how you think it best to handle the situation for the protection of the child. Then suggest to her that she immediately take into consideration your advice. Then go to the employer and inform her that you noticed something that you felt was potentially harmful to her child. Explain that you spoke to the Nanny directly and explained the reasons why this was inappropriate. Now the employer can speak to the Nanny, with the Nanny well aware that she was caught in the action. The nanny will not be able to deny it and has the opportunity to admit her wrong, apologize and promise to never do it again. The employer has the decision to trust her or fire her. Depending on the gravity of the error, for the most part communication is key, and we should first give others an opportunity to rectify their actions.


Marta Perrone commented on Jan 13 11 at 10:57 pm

Marta — Thanks for the advice should someone find themselves in a similar situation. I should have handled the whole thing differently.

lindamarsicano commented on Jan 14 11 at 5:45 am

Have you heard of It is a blog for nannies and their employers to sound off on domestic issues and for observeres to report unacceptable and exceptional nanny behavior. I have found it to be a great resource!

Maggie's Mommy commented on Jan 14 11 at 10:34 am

I also agree it is a good idea to check in on your nanny unexpectedly. You are allowing someone to take care of the most important people in your life…your children and you want to ensure you do all your background checks, screening, reference checks, etc. to ensure you hire the right nanny. Nannies are a great benefit to families and you want to feel totally comfortable with the nanny you have chosen for your family.

Candi commented on Jan 18 11 at 12:34 pm

I would definately want someone to tell me if a nanny was not interacting or responding to my child’s needs.

Candi commented on Jan 18 11 at 12:35 pm

Such an interesting blog. And you are faced with a difficult decision. In the end though I think your gut is telling you the right thing. If you feel like the nanny isn’t paying attention to the kids in the park then she is neglecting their needs. I know every mom needs to check her phone now and then or answer a call when she is with the kids. And nannies might need to do that too. But to be consistently on the phone and not playing with the kids isn’t right. Good luck! commented on Jan 18 11 at 3:28 pm

Yeah, you blew it big time! If this went on for quite some time (sounds like it did), and you were incensed everytime, (sounds like you were), you should have done SOMETHING. Really, maybe not telling the parents was excusable as often times one gets nervous and by the time they have regained composure, the moment has passed but…you saw that Nanny again and she behaved that way again. I cannot believe you held your tongue. Even if you had just sat next to her and stared her down, you did nothing. Shame.

Kay commented on Jan 24 11 at 4:26 pm

Um, Kay? I didn’t hold my tongue. Maybe read the whole post. I interrupted her phone conversation and informed her the child needed assistance in a pointed way that communicated “you are an incompetent and insensitive caregiver.” But, hey, I still think I blew it by not informing the parents when I had a chance. So guilty as charged.

lindamarsicano commented on Jan 24 11 at 7:35 pm

I think that everyone on here can shut their big trap! Linda, your actions show that you are not a busy-body, just a concerned citizen who unfortunately missed a chance to alert the parents to the situation. As far as you know, maybe the parents know about this behavior and don’t see it as harmful. In any case, how dare ANYONE judge you for second-guessing yourself. It really wasn’t your business anyway, and you recognized the awkwardness of the situation. You have obviously learned to not handle it this way again. Everyone else can shut the he|| up!

C.H. commented on Jan 25 11 at 7:57 am

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Linda Marsicano is a former PR executive who turned to freelancing when her identical twin girls were born in 2007. She writes under the name Lulu and Moxley's Mom at her personal blog. Lulu and Moxley are what she would have named her twins if she was famous. Sadly, she's not, so writes about celebrities instead at Babble's Famecrawler blog. At Babble Chicago, she'll share her experiences with family-friendly activities and other issues on the minds of Chicago parents. Like where to get a stiff drink.

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