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?