Families, Parents, Children
Archived posts from this Category
Archived posts from this Category
There is simply no way we can ever really thank mother for all she has done for us. She is the one who will be awake all night when we are sick. Praying to God to make us well and be ever ready to bear the pain that we may be experiencing. She is the one to wake up early in the morning to make the nicest snack and endure all our tantrums. Mothers are the ones who would forever complain that we are not eating enough or not eating right. They would cook all sorts of things so that we’ll be strong and healthy. In fact, mothers worry more for our examinations than we do. They would take pains to complete our school projects leaving all other works behind while we play around with friends or just away watching movies.
For all you are doing for us, thank you mom from the bottom of our hearts.
While we honor all our mothers
with words of love and praise.
While we tell about their goodness
and their kind and loving ways.
We should also think of Grandma,
she’s a mother too, you see…
For she mothered my dear mother
as my mother mothers me.
Posted by: Anne Tergesen in Bloomberg Businessweek (www.businessweek.com).
A must read article for working parents.
“Working parents know how hard it can be to manage the all-important relationship with the person who serves as their substitute from 9 to 5. Lucy Kaylin, the executive editor of Marie Claire magazine, recently wrote a book on the topic called “The Perfect Stranger: The Truth About Mothers and Nannies” (Bloomsbury USA: $23.95). As the review from “Publishers Weekly” puts it, the book addresses “the ambivalent relationship between mother and nanny, fraught with vacillating emotions of fear, mistrust, love, dependence and subtle struggles for power that rival those in any workplace.” Kaylin, a mother of two and a Manhattan resident, spoke to me about the parent-nanny relationship.
Q: What prompted you to write this book?
A: As a journalist, you’re always looking at where the stories are, where interesting, relevant tensions are in society and culture. I realized one of the best stories was playing out in my own living room. The notion of bringing a complete stranger into your house to help raise your children – it’s just fraught. It’s interesting, complicated, and potentially a great thing — but it’s really fraught. As I talked to friends about it and read about it, I realized it’s a huge issue for women everywhere. It’s not something that just rich people do. Increasingly, it’s a middle class option. Given how many of us are two-career families, given how crazy our hours are and how thinly we’re stretching ourselves, day care doesn’t provide enough coverage.
Q: What advice do you have for parents looking to hire a nanny?
A: The first piece of advice I would have — and this isn’t always easily achieved — is that you have to own your choices. One thing that can create a big problem is when women are in denial or deeply conflicted about the fact that they are leaving their children with someone else. You can get passive-aggressive with a nanny or be resentful of her for reasons that have nothing to do with the kind of job she’s doing but instead result from the fact that you’re not settled in yourself with the choices you’ve made. Women have to get past the fear, the guilt, and the ambivalence and make this as wholehearted of a decision as it can be. Be honest: Do you want someone who is going to be your proxy or who has qualities you don’t have? It’s a hard thing to admit to yourself. A lot of us who are working women may not have been steeped in the motherly arts the way we would have been thirty, forty years ago — with sisters and aunts teaching us about how to care for babies. We don’t live up the street from our mothers anymore. Women do well to admit that what they need is someone who is going to teach them. That gets tricky: The student is the boss and the teacher is the employee. This woman you bring into your home who often comes from a very different place than you do might know a lot more on some level about your child than you do.
Q: One of the biggest worries parents have is “what goes on when I’m not there?” How can you get some level of comfort with the care your child is receiving, short of using a “nanny cam”?
A: You have to do your due diligence — check references and spend a few days, if not more, at home going through the daily routine with the nanny and making the rounds with her. See how she does things; Make sure you’re comfortable with how she handles the minutia of the day. If you go through an agency, it can be helpful in screening out people. One of the hardest things is the conflict (mothers feel about leaving their children), and the guilt that can keep them from trusting their guts and from making a choice a person with good gut is able to make. If you’re unsettled in the choices you make, you will end up second-guessing yourself. Paranoia can settle in.
As for the nanny cam: The reality is that if you turn a camera on anyone — on a mother or anyone else — for ten hours, you’re going to see some things you don’t like. That incredibly jolly person you see when you come home — well, it’s unlikely she’s been able to keep up that level of attentiveness for ten hours. If you film this woman, you will be able to find something that makes you uncomfortable. But very possibly child protective services could find something they don’t like if they turned a camera on you for a ten hour stretch. It’s the nature of this very hard job. If you can make a carefully vetted and wholehearted choice, (you’ll have a better chance of having the relationship work out). You have to let this women do her job and have some faith in her. There are checks and balances you can rely on to make sure things down the line are as good as they seem. You can show up unannounced. You’ll also have a good sense if your child is feeling settled and happy and loving towards this person. If you need to do the nanny cam, then do it. I’m all about a mom doing what she needs to do to feel comfortable. That said, we hold our nannies to wildly high standards of perfection — in fact, to higher standards than we hold ourselves. Sometimes, we have to ask ourselves if we’re being reasonable.
Q: You write that it’s important not to fall into the common trap of thinking of and treating a nanny like a member of the family. Why?
A: There is a tremendous amount of love being shared between families and nannies. That’s nothing but good and it’s real. This is a very intimate arrangement and it would be strange if feelings weren’t developed between all parties involved. I’m all for that. I would never suggest that we should all be incredibly business-like in our dealings with one another. I do think we have to be business-like in the fundamentals of the job, though. You have to be clear about what you expect. We all know you can abuse family terribly. They aren’t going to turn their backs on you. But this woman is here because she needs to make a wage. She probably has far more difficult circumstances that have driven her to this relationship than you do. The minute you disregard that or think that her love of your children is motivating her to do the job, you are making a mistake. It’s important show respect for boundaries and for how difficult the job is. Whenever I make it very clear that I am in no way going to push our nanny beyond what we’ve agreed is her job, I’ve gotten it back in spades. For example, sometimes she picks up things she knows we need on her own initiative. I would never think to ask her to pick up something that did not have to do with the children. I am always observant of the lines that should not be crossed. It breeds great generosity in her. It’s just the same in an office environment. We will go to extra lengths for a boss we respect and like. Even though there’s no end of sweetness that goes on between all of us, the bottom-line is that we’ve hired her to do a job, her time is precious, and she gets exhausted by this tough job. I will never make the mistake of thinking she’s with us for the fun of it. I get that.
Q: You’ve said that “We in the western world are outsourcing addicts, and we are outsourcing a lot of parenting these days.” Are you concerned about this trend? What are the positives and negatives for the children of having a nanny?
A: I feel like it’s a slippery slope. Anyone of us with a career knows how you can get eaten up by it. It can be tempting to hang out and schmooze with colleagues when you know the nanny is there to make sure bath time and dinner and homework and all the other stuff that’s quintessentially a parent’s job happens. You can easily find yourself outsourcing all the essential stuff of parenting if you’re not careful. You don’t want to be that person who swans in and touches base and then swans out wishing everyone good luck as you’re off to something more intellectually stimulating and remunerative. So much of parenting is just showing up. It’s the face time with kids, it’s being there with them, that are important. You as a parent stand to lose incalculably if you let that slip away.
But as much as I love parents, they are nutty. They are really very wound up about their kids: Are they doing well in school? What’s going to become of them? Did they learn their ABCs fast enough? Are they on track to the Ivy League? I dare say that 90% of a parent’s interaction with a child comes with baggage. They can see it on your face if you’re worried, if you wish they had done something else or hugged you tighter or did better on a test. Parents supply pressure on a child to perform. I suspect they get almost none of that from their nannies. The nanny is there to make sure they are well fed, clean, safe, and have a nice afternoon. I’ve seen that dynamic play out in the city countless times. You see it on the crosstown bus — a very sullen eleven-year-old with her mother, who is questioning her. There’s contempt on the daughter’s face. But when you see these children strolling around with the women taking care of them, they’re chatting and laughing. It’s a different dynamic. Which isn’t to say kids don’t have fun with their parents. But it’s a qualitatively different type of interaction.”