Just A Nanny

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.

By Lauren Hoffman

I'm not Mary Poppins or Jo Frost or a character from The Nanny Diaries. I'm Henry's nanny. Caring for him may be the most important work I'll ever do.

Often, I'm the only young, white nanny on the playground and I'm mistaken for a fellow mommy. True to playground politics, some moms back off when they learn I'm the nanny. An especially tactless mom once remarked, "Oh, sorry! Usually the nanny and the child are different ethnicities." Others stay and chat, and when they do, they start to talk about the choices they make, and the work that I do.

Some moms say to me, "I couldn't leave my child with someone for whom it's just a job." That's a bit of logic that makes me seethe. The phrase "just a nanny" is bandied about the way "just a doctor" never is.

Being a nanny is my job. What makes it more than just a job is, in part, the passion I have for my work and my belief in its importance. To me, nannying is a feminist statement, an affirmation through my actions that women deserve to have choices about their time.

But what really makes my work more than a job is this simple fact: I love Henry. I say that to moms, and they nod, and sometimes go on to say wistfully, or even accusingly, that no one can love their children the way they do.

I can't love Henry the way that his parents do. But I love him enough to sing Wiggles songs repeatedly, to dance and blow bubbles all morning long, to squeeze him tight and whisper before I put him down at naptime, "I love you. Mommy and Daddy love you. Everyone is so proud of you." I'm one more person in his corner, and that's never detrimental to a child. Trite as it sounds, it really does take a village.

A nanny isn't right -- or affordable -- for every family. I respect the choices of all parents, working, stay-at-home and in-between. We're all doing what's best for the children in our lives. I only ask for that same respect in return.

Lauren Hoffman has worked in child care since her first babysitting job at the age of eleven. She currently lives in New York City, where she is Henry's nanny by day and a graduate student in non-fiction writing at The New School by night. She is 22 years old.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  June 27, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I was a live-in nanny for a summer 20 years ago and it was the hardest job I ever did (until I became a parent). I was only with the family for 2 1/2 months (their full-time nanny had gone home to Ireland for the summer) but oh, I loved those two boys so much and I, too, sang the same songs over again until I wanted to drop to the floor. My husband and I are eagerly awaiting the arrival of an au pair in July. Part of the reason we selected that option is because of my memories of living with another family and caring for the children. It was a wonderful experience, and we still send Christmas cards.

Lauren, I hope Henry's family knows how lucky they are. I'm thinking Henry knows for certain how lucky he is!

Posted by: CK | June 27, 2006 7:29 AM

Lauren, you are terrific! Henry's family is lucky to have someone like you in their life. I'm a working mother who has been fortunate to have had some really terrific nanny's in my children's lives. They will always be a part of our family and I think my children's lives are better because of these wonderful women.

And by the way, most of our nannies have been young ambitious women like you who only left us (on average after 3 years) to move on to either graduate school or marriage and children. What great role models. Good luck

Posted by: working mother | June 27, 2006 8:06 AM

Sounds like being "just a nanny" is a lot like being "just a stay-at-home-Mom". Too bad caring for children full time isn't more respected, whether you do it for money or not.

Posted by: Laura | June 27, 2006 8:23 AM

This is very similar to my own experience as a nanny. White, educated, cute - I was a novelty and I hated when I was introduced as such. But I LOVED those two children, and it breaks my heart that the family did not keep in touch with me when they moved away.

I do remember resenting at times being a nanny for a SAHM (later became a WAHM). I didn't think that was right. Sure it was nice for her to always have a babysitter when she wanted to go shopping and such, but part of me thought that you had children, you aren't working (they were old money rich), you should be taking care of your children. But again, I LOVED those children. So much. It broke my heart when I had to deal with a temper tantrum and a very sad 3 year old who wanted to play with mommy but mommy had to go get a facial and do some shopping or talk on the phone. But it was my love for that same 3 year old (and her little brother) that made us great buddies, who took walks to the park, had grand converstions about things we saw, who baked cookies together, who cuddled and read books for hours on rainy days.

I think if you can swing a nanny, she (or he! shout out to all the "mannies"!) can be such a great asset to a child. If your family has a great match with a nanny, it's more like paying for an aunt to watch your child and less like a hired employee.

Posted by: nat | June 27, 2006 8:30 AM

That's great that many people consider their nannies family. I think it is wonderful when children have many influences and many loved ones around them, whether they are mom and dad or not!

Good job Lauren and good luck with school. Maybe you can write a book someday on the positive attributes of being a nanny.

Posted by: scarry | June 27, 2006 8:33 AM

I am literally in tears... What a wonderful entry. She could come love my Lesley ANY DAY!! It does take a village and that is one blessed little boy to have someone as wonderful as Lauren (as well as Mommy and Daddy) in his corner.

Posted by: Momma Daria | June 27, 2006 8:37 AM

Since I am a woman who intends to hire a nanny to care for her children, I am so happy to read this post. This is exactly what I am looking for. (Want to move to DC? :) I love the thought of a nanny being part of the family. It really warms my heart. Thank you so much for writing this!

Posted by: Glad | June 27, 2006 8:45 AM

OH Yes, I have seen all this posturing and nastiness firsthand. I currently work full time and have a nanny I and my kids love (and have had another wonderful one in the past). However, I was a SAHM when my kids were little. I saw how the SAHM moms congregated in the parks and wouldn't talk to the nannies. I really wanted to say "If you think taking care of your kids is hard, its harder taking care of someone else's so a little respect is in order."

I did talk to the nannies and guess what, when I went back to work I first introduced my new nanny to my nanny friends at the park. Part of the reason I chose to hire a nanny over full time daycare was I saw how hard they worked and hw much the kids benefited from the one on one supervision. Bonus: a couple of the nannies even called me at work those first crazy couple of weeks to reassure me that my daughter was doing well and was happy. They were as much part of my "village" as my SAHM and working mom friends.

On the ethnicity issue, I am South Asian and my nannies both happened to be South Asian as well. Of course, everyone assumed my kids were theirs. Looks like you can never win on this one :)

Posted by: love my nanny | June 27, 2006 8:47 AM

A wonderful story! I used to wonder how people could do what you do for a living and then one day, after my son was born, and i had spent 8 hours at work in front of my computer, I thought "i guess there could be worse things than loving a child all day!". Henry is a very lucky boy. My son is 2 and is in a wonderful daycare. The women that teach and care for him daily are a huge part of his family; they celebrate his achievements, soothe his tears, and discipline him with the same love that i do. there are truly fabulous caregivers out there and they're not in it for the money even if it IS their job.

Posted by: momof1 | June 27, 2006 8:50 AM

Glad: if that is your attitude going into your nanny search, then you are going to have a GREAT experience, as the person you hire is going to appreciate that attitude so much, that it will just be great all around for your family. best of luck!

Posted by: nat | June 27, 2006 8:51 AM

I'm a working Dad who cut back on hours to be with my children more and to make our home life more manageable. I take my kids to the playgound and to other events frequently. I'm almost always to the only Dad on at these events or on the playground during work days.

I must say that nannies are much more friendly and social towards me than the moms when we're out. Maybe as a dad in my situation, I can more easily relate to the nanny role than to the SAHM role. Sometimes we're both treated as lesser caretakers.

Anyway, thanks nannies for the good conversation and fun at the playgound. Don't worry about the attitude from some moms - it's not just you they act this way towards.

Posted by: Dad | June 27, 2006 8:57 AM

Lauren, you sound like a wonderful nanny. Don't let the mommies get you down!

Posted by: Mo2 | June 27, 2006 9:05 AM

Henry is so lucky! And so are his parents to have you in their lives. Whenever we watch a British costume drama at the movies, I always lean over to my husband and sigh: "We need more servants!"

(Disclaimer: And by "servants", I of course mean well-paid , highly skilled people who enjoy their jobs and want to be there.)

But someone just compared nannies to stay-at-home moms. You all know the difference! SAHMs take care of everyone and everything in the house, often 24/7. Nannies usually do 8-10 hours of childcare. Being paid to do the care also makes a big difference!

Posted by: granny | June 27, 2006 9:10 AM

I too can understand Lauren's perspective- I'm also 22 and babysit for a family with 3 great kids (I work full time, so it's just a weekend gig now). I love them so much and am very attached, their pictures are up in my home and office, and they make me drawings and projects to display. Their parents love the idea that I have been part of their world and now that they are going to school soon their mom told me she is confident they have all the skills they need- thanks to the great support system they have at home. As for the playground thing, these blond haired-blue eyed kids could never pass for my own, but when other people see the love and care that is provided, I like to think all the physicality disappears and they are just kids who are loved to the fullest. Bravo Lauren, and good luck to you (and Henry)!

Posted by: DC Babysitter | June 27, 2006 9:14 AM

HI Dad -- Ha! You hit the nail on the head. Thank goodness for caring nannies in households where the SAHM's priorities are those impossibly white french manicures and pedicures and tight faces rather than playing with their little ones. Maybe they don't yet know that the best facial is a good laugh and butterfly kisses.

As for nannies, just love those children as much as you do.

Posted by: Average Mom | June 27, 2006 9:38 AM

Great article. As a dad of a toddler with a WOHM, when we have a second we are torn regarding what to do.

The finances of putting 2 kids in daycare don't really work out in DC. And, Mom makes a decent salary so we're not in a "paying to work" situation.

Since we have no friends with nannies, all we ever hear are those tabloid expose's about the bad nannies. It's nice to hear that there are some good ones out there.

Hats off to you.

Posted by: Proud Papa | June 27, 2006 9:43 AM

It's a nanny love bath!

Posted by: Friend | June 27, 2006 9:52 AM

How much do nannies cost in the DC area?

Posted by: Scarry | June 27, 2006 9:54 AM

Clone her!

Posted by: BEN | June 27, 2006 9:58 AM

Any actual, current nannies on this blog? Or maybe it would not be usual for them to be web-surfing while in charge of the kids?

Or they don't know about "On Balance", perhaps.

Perhaps they could comment later in the day, Hope so.

Posted by: granny | June 27, 2006 10:00 AM

I had an interesting spin on Lauren's experience at the playground. I'm African-American and when I show up at the park in my DC neighborhood, I'm often mistaken for being the nanny. The other mom's usually don't talk to me, and, once the nannies figure out that I'm not one of them, they seem to become somewhat more formal with me (which I can understand, I don't loosen up around the managers in my office, either).

Posted by: BEN | June 27, 2006 10:03 AM

I really enjoyed reading Lauren's post and I agree that Henry is sooooooooo lucky and I hope his Mom and Dad know how lucky they are. I think if you have more than one child, a cost of a nanny in DC and a cost of a daycare is about the same but it requires for one parent to make almost a 6 figure salary in order not to "pay to work". If you want a nanny who is legal, great with kids, has a good driving record, and has great references, be prepared to pay through the nose.

Posted by: also from DC | June 27, 2006 10:06 AM

My mother was a nanny to two families when I was in high school - she'd been a WOHM when we were kids, and fell into the nanny job when a friend of a friend asked her if she'd considered it instead of cleaning houses (her fifth or so differenet menial job type over the years). She loved every minute of the first family - the little boy is still part of our 'family' - it doesn't hurt that his dad was the producer on my father's CD years later, and that his mom gave me my first job (helping her do a photo shoot at the beach). D, the little boy, still calls my mom 'Nanny Pam' and he's almost 13 now - she was with him 5-6 days a week, 8-10 hours a day, for the first 4 years of his life (from three weeks old on). That family treated my mom like part of the family - a knowledgable, valued, loved part of it. D went to the store, to the mall, was socialized and exposed to lots of exciting things. Mom cried when D went off to an amazing Montessori pre-K program and she wasn't needed anymore.

The second family had two kids, one a few months old, one in kindergarten. They were the opposite of the first family. They treated her like dirt, in fact told her that her clothes 'didn't smell right' because she didn't use the same detergent that they did and made her change into 'work clothes' when she got to their house - that they made her buy, and that she couldn't take out of the house. They wouldn't let her leave the house, except to go into their back yard - no more taking the baby to the zoo, the park, even the grocery store. They were germaphobic and overprotective. Mom hated every second of it, and felt isolated and miserable.

If you're going to hire a nanny, remember that part of the 'experience' is letting the baby be socialized and around new people - so make sure they've got a good driving record, a safe car (or loan them one if they don't), are trustworthy and responsible, and then let them have the autonomy to take the little one on occasional adventures! D still remembers (vaguely, as he was tiny) going to the zoo and seeing the elephants from the safety of his stroller, and is probably the loving, friendly child he is today in part because he got to meet the nice lady at the grocery store, the fun kids at the park, and the puppets at the library's reading hour.

Posted by: Rebecca | June 27, 2006 10:13 AM

I am under the impression that DC-area nanny is in the ballpark of $2k/month. I haven't tried to price it (yet) but that's what I've heard.

Though I am guessing an au pair would be cheaper because you can give her/him a bedroom and not charge rent. Then the person kind-of is a member of the family. Though they would certainly still not be on duty 24hours, so I wonder how that works.

Anyone have any idea about price/responsibility differences with nanny vs au pair?

Posted by: Proud Papa | June 27, 2006 10:21 AM

Lauren sounds terrific - but I'd like to also commend all the family day care home second moms out there. I used two family day care homes for my two children - and both women treated my children like they were their own. My second FDCH provider still invites my son to special sleepovers with his friends, attends my children's school plays, etc. I feel very, very blessed to have found such wonderful women.

Posted by: VA mom o' 2 | June 27, 2006 10:23 AM

proud papa,

Wow-2k a month maybe I should be a nanny. It seems high, but when you look at how much day care costs, with two kids it would probably be cheaper. PLus, you wouldn't have the aggravation of rushing home in rush hour.

Posted by: Scarry | June 27, 2006 10:28 AM

I don't know what the cost of a legal, clear criminal/background-check nanny is in DC, but in Raleigh, NC, my sister's nanny was paid approximately $30K + expenses (mileage when she took the kids on outings, food, etc.). She is a college grad with nanny experience taking care of twins, and has cared for my sister's twins for 2 years. She's not perfect (no one is), but she is super and the children absolutely ADORE her.

Posted by: CK | June 27, 2006 10:36 AM

My future SIL is currently a nanny in Stafford. She "takes home" approx. $2,500/mo, and she's a live in with use of one of their cars even when she's not on duty. She generall works 10 hrs per day, some evenings and weekends thrown in, but she's compensated for working during her "off duty" hours. It sounds like her family's a real gem!

Posted by: POV | June 27, 2006 10:40 AM

My sister and brother-in-law have had 2 nannies. The whole family made huge sacrifices to keep the first-- when she would go on 6-week trips back to her country, the whole family would pitch in (I took off work, the grandparents flew in, etc.). Soon after, the mother came home early and found the nanny calmly watching dishes with the newborn baby screaming apoplectically upstairs. Clearly against their agreed-upon rules, and they fired her the next day.

The kids love the new nanny, but when we're there visiting with our kids (the parents still go to work) it's clear she lets them watch WAY too much TV (6 hours or more) and doesn't interact with them much. We don't know whether to tattle on her to the parents or not... on the one hand, she's not hurting them; on the other hand, I think she's not playing by the parents' rules.

Posted by: When no one is watching | June 27, 2006 10:46 AM

I was an au pair for about a month when I was 19. The SAHM had 4 kids, and I was her fifth au pair. The last one left the day I started, although I was supposed to have a week crossover. They had an 'au pair' suite built on to the garage, had it nicely decorated so that when working hours over, everyone had privacy. Two of the kids were in school, one was 4 and one was 7 months. She even had someone come in and clean, while I did the laundry and made dinner four nights a week. Nice gig if you can get it ( for her!)

Posted by: parttimer | June 27, 2006 11:05 AM

I take it back, I want to be that SAHM with mentioned by parttimer.

Posted by: Scarry | June 27, 2006 11:13 AM

Dad, thanks for your comments. My husband works part time and experiences similar reactions when he's out and about with our son. He says he feels like there's a double-whammy, as some women look at him both as a second-rate caregiver (based solely on his gender) and are suspicious because he's clearly not a breadwinner either! It makes me so mad on his behalf, but I'm very proud of him and all dads who defy the stereotypes and do what's best for their families, kids, and themselves.

And rock on to all the good nannies out there. Remember that story about the nanny who saved the baby in NYC from a something falling from a construction site or building? She saw it coming down and bent over the baby in the stroller to protect the baby, and so many people reacted with surprise because she was "just a nanny." How insulting was that? Good grief.

Posted by: Megan | June 27, 2006 11:13 AM

we paid our extremely qualified (and also extremely arrogant) nanny who was a kindergarden owner/educator back in her home country $2000 a month NET for watching 1 child. She was extremely qualified from my perspective because she came from the field of early childhood decelopment and education and compared to all other nannies we were interviewing she was a professional. On the flip side, she made no friends with other nannies because she always looked down on them since they were "not professional". She was a great educator for my child but we had to part ways because we couldn't afford her anymore. $30K a year plus benefits and use of car is about right for this area. Au pairs are really hit or miss and unless you have school age children, does not work for WOHM because you are limited to 45 hours a week. And they bring a whole host of other issues which are probably not appropriate for this subject today.

Posted by: also from dc | June 27, 2006 11:14 AM

Hello there--I just wanted to mention to the guy who was not wanting to "pay-to-work" that it is a temporary situation, and breaking even on day care is not necessarily bad if you are in a career where you will get raises, promotions, etc. Day care expenses will eventually decrease, but do you actually know how hard it is if you are trying to get back into the workforce after staying home for a few years? You have the Big G on your resume. The GAP, and honey, I don't mean the clothier. If you are going to stay home for more than a few months, you need to do it with your eyes open. It is hard for people with a master's degree and three years work experience to stay home for ten years to just jump back in. For some reason, running the PTA, the annual fund-raiser and the myriad of other things some SAHM's do just doesn't garner a lot respect by the hiring guns. Not that I did those things, mind you. I have always worked part-time except for about 2 years (total, spread out over a decade). My sister, who has the master's, is the one still looking. I could not BRGIN to work as hard as she does. Work is the great escape. I love my kids, but I enjoy other things too.

Posted by: Two things | June 27, 2006 11:14 AM

I have had nannies and now we have an au pair. Nannies that are hired from an agency are very expensive. In the DC area, you pay a large fee to the agency ($2-3000) and then pay $500-800 per week for live-in and live-out. I've heard stories of nannies getting more. Live outs are good if you work 9-5 (they can work 8-6). Live ins are better if you have odder hours. Also, live-in nannies who may get a little less, expect to have their own room, a car to use even in their spare time, etc. I've always also provided health insurance. Of course there are a number of illegal immigrants who become babysitters and they get a lot less. But agencies prescreen and usually only take women with previous experience and verifiable references.

Au Pairs are a great option when you have older children (my opinion, some are baby-certified). You have to be able to provide room and board and while you pay a good sized agency fee, overall the costs are much lower. They get $150-$200 a week (agency fees are several thousand dollars) so the total cost is approximately $14-$15,000 per year. They cannot work more than 45 hours a week and they are entitled to at least one weekend off a month.

Because someone lives in your home, doesn't mean that they are your servant 24/7. They have discrete hours. We've paid our nannies/au-pair overtime if they work over their hours or outside of their usual hours. I've been aware of families who abuse their nannies and have unrealistic expectations.

By the way, we love our au pair. She's staying another year and she is definitely a member of our family. But these situations don't always work for everyone. Our first au pair was a nutcase and had to be sent home after a few months. Needless to say, this can be disconcerting to the children and to the working parents. But overall, we've been very fortunate and have had really great experiences.

Posted by: Working mother | June 27, 2006 11:17 AM

What a wonderful essay, Henry is very lucky.

My understanding is that a good DC nanny is paid about $12/hour. For a 50 hour week, that is $600/week. That does not count any fees if you use an agency or taxes. I think taxes makes it more expensive than daycare for 2 kids, but you get a lot more convenience.

The salaries of au pairs are set by the government, when I checked about 2 years ago, it was around $165/week, plus room and board. Most agencies that placed au pairs also charged a fee of around $5000. The au pair could stay a year, but I have heard that in some cases they are now allowed to stay two years.

I think the big problem is that you do not REALLY know whether you are getting a nanny who is like the author, Lauren, or like what "when no one is watching" describes. The first is wonderful, the second is disturbing.

I am personally happier with a good daycare situation, the provider never calls in sick, parents stop by all day long, and I know my daughter is loved by and loves her teachers.

Posted by: Another DC mom | June 27, 2006 11:17 AM

And I forgot to mention---my experiences with the DC nanny agencies has been rather poor. They only care about getting their fees (they are a business) so don't trust what they say, do your own reference checks, etc. If you can hire a nanny by word of mouth, that is the best. One of our best nannies we found through friends who wanted to make sure that this terrific woman went to a great family. No agency fees and she was fabulous.

Posted by: Working mother | June 27, 2006 11:20 AM

I have had two wonderful nannies, and can tell you that the cost of a full time nanny in the DC area is much closer to $3000 per month than $2000 per month, because of the salary and the employer taxes that must be paid. Believe me, it is cheaper to send two kids to daycare than to have a nanny. With three kids, it probably starts to even out. For me, it is still very much worth it, but I recognize that most people don't have the luxury of this choice. There are many benefits to a nanny vs. daycare, but there are also some down sides. In the end, the most important thing is having great and loving care, whether in the form of a nanny, in home day care, day care center, or SAHM.

Posted by: 2girlsmommy | June 27, 2006 11:23 AM

i was a live out nanny, worked 52 hours a week, and was paid $26,000/year. that's $500/week, and after taxes, it was only $372/week. in DC, that is not a lot. it was almost half what most of my friends were making at the time(5 years ago). fortunately, my employers had a car i could use during the day to cart the kids around, and i ate most of my meals over there. still, i payed rent and bills and student loans and there was not a lot leftover after that. thank goodness for cute boy hill staffers who can buy you drinks on a friday night, or there'd be no going out for me!

i have to say though, the horror stories i've heard about the nanny/parents relationship come more from wacko parents who are overly controlling and psycho and have really warped expectations from the nanny than from parents complaining about lax nannies. and remember, nannies are people too. i may be PMSing and have a headache and on top of taking care of your angels i also need to do their laundry and cook you all dinner, so sometimes you just have to park the kids in front of sesame street for an hour. a good nanny will most likely feel guilty that she does this (as most people hiring nannies don't want to pay someone to watch TV with the kid), but a good employer will recognize that these things happen. an even better employer will tell you to scrap the laundry and/or dinner if you just can't get it done on top of taking care of the munchkins.

my advice: go through an agency. yes, you'll have to pay a "finders fee" of sorts (like a business pays to use a headhunter), but a good agency is going to give everyone involved a trial period. for my job it was 6 weeks. at about 5.5 weeks, my employer and i sat down, we talked about how things were going, decided it was all good. had we decided things were not working out, they could have "returned me" to the agency to try again wtih a new nanny or gotten their "finders fee" from the agency back.

Posted by: anon | June 27, 2006 11:24 AM

Wow, $2k-$3k? The tipping point in DC has to be about $2,500 month. Sounds like if you can get 2 kids into daycare for $2,500/mth, that would still be the right financial decision, what with needing a car for the au pair and health insurance.

Granted the decision isn't just made for financial reasons. Nanny/Au Pair keeps the siblings together all day, etc.

Posted by: Yikes | June 27, 2006 11:26 AM

For two working parents families, paying for childcare of some sorts is a permanent situation until the kids go to college. This is a fact. First you pay a fortune for a nanny. Then you pay for somebody to meet your child at the bus stop and be with him/her until you get home from work. Then, you pay somebody to take your kids to activities after school while you work. In order to avoid having kids in daycare 12 hours a day, having some kind of a nanny/au pair is IMHO is a given.

Posted by: also from dc | June 27, 2006 11:28 AM

Perhaps we need to bring back the term "governess."

...And I wonder if anyone reading here today ever read my favorite childhood book, "Harriet the Spy" by Louis Fitzhugh. Does anyone remember "Ole Golly," Harriet's nanny, such a pivotal figure in the story?

Today's essay was heartening - any exposure to a caring and affectionate adult helps a child and broadens his or her horizons.

Posted by: Jill in Denver | June 27, 2006 11:39 AM

I almost cried when I read Lauren's entry. What a lovely person and Henry is so lucky. I love hearing positive nanny stories.

Sadly, a lot of these stories are not so positive, and even more scary, the parents have no clue. Every time I take my kids to the playrgound -- NICE playgrounds like "Turtle Park" in NW D.C. and Cabin John Park in Bethesda M.D. -- it does not fail that I am shocked and disgusted by some (many) of the nannies. All the little babies who spend the entire hour in their strollers sucking on a lollipop to keep them quiet, the babies crying to be picked up by someone, anyone, and the nanny just sits there and jiggles the stroller or swings the baby bucket. It's pathetic. I want to go up to them and demand they tell me their phone number so I can call the mothers of these babies and tell them what their $14/hour nanny is REALLY doing while they're at work. The other day I went to a playground -- the playground at Bradley Hills Elementary School in Bethesda MD -- and watched a nanny walk away from a 2 year-old saying, "OK, I'm a goin home now. Bye bye. I'm a leavin ya." The little boy just wanted to swing a little longer and watching his nanny, his lifeline, walk away from him, he burst into tears. I almost puked. Last week I was at Turtle Park for 3 hours with two friends of mine and our kids, and every single bench around the perimeter was filled to the rim with nannies. Where were the mommies? We were in the sandbox, pushing the swings, and chasing our kids around the wooden train. Apparently the nannies like to sit a lot and just WATCH while the 1 and 2 and 3 year-olds amuse themselves. All. Morning. Long. Oh, and there was a ~4 month old baby with an Avent bottle filled with breastmilk and the nanny was giving her sips from her brother's juice box. Somewhere in D.C. a hardworking mama is pumping in her office thinking "This sucks but at least my precious baby girl is getting my breastmilk *exclusively*." Little does she know...

Posted by: Bethesda | June 27, 2006 11:48 AM

I've been aware of families that are not considerate of a nanny's time and space. I've been told stories of families that go into their rooms, who expect the nanny to be available at all hours, etc. But I know of some nutty nannies/aupairs as well.

We had a nanny who thought we were wonderful so she told us all kinds of stories about her friends situations (in retrospect, not a good idea). She was going back home after being in DC for 2-3 years and so was trying to help us find someone to replace her. One of her friends went on and on about how horribly her family treated her. Well it turns out that was not true. The girl got pregnant her first few months in DC and the family kept her on, held a shower for her, made sure she had everything she needed for her baby and then the girl had the nerve to ask me for a job. Apparently we paid better. Needless to say I turned her down.

The relationship between nannies and their employers is a special one. It is a close, personal one and can be wonderful or frustrating. These women are taking care of the most precious things in our lives so do your homework, spend time with her with your kids and be flexible.

And about SAH mothers not being friendly with the nannies on the playground--geez, in my neighborhood, the smart mothers befriend the nannies, especially the good ones. Pre-screened babysitters, right?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 11:51 AM

Yep, there's always got to be someone who rains on our parade in this blog. Funnily enough, Bethesda, my experience as a SAHM is almost the polar opposite of yours. It's the nannies who are playing with the kids while the moms are the ones sitting on a bench or talking on their cell phones. And frankly, I have said to my 3-year old, "Okay, I'm heading home" when I have pushed him in the swing for 30 minutes and it's time to for lunch for all of us. I don't doubt that there are nannies who aren't worth what they're paid, but certainly there are moms who aren't as interactive as the nannies/au pairs. Thanks for adding to the fears.

Posted by: To Bethesda | June 27, 2006 11:52 AM

Hey, Me and my husband are moving to Kansas City, mo. Probably around Blue Springs or Lee Summit, does anyone know of any good day care centers or nannies out there.

You never know who is reading the blog, so I geuss it is worth a chance.


Posted by: Scarry | June 27, 2006 11:54 AM

"And frankly, I have said to my 3-year old, "Okay, I'm heading home" when I have pushed him in the swing for 30 minutes and it's time to for lunch for all of us. I don't doubt that there are nannies who aren't worth what they're paid, but certainly there are moms who aren't as interactive as the nannies/au pairs. Thanks for adding to the fears."

**I** added to the fears? Um... you're kidding right? It's called truth in reporting, honey. Ask ANY mother who frequents playgrounds that are nanny hot spots. I wish the mamas of these kids could be a fly on the wall. And I'm sorry you need to resort to empty threats to get your child to do what you ask. Bringing a 2 (TWO!) year-old to tears because she abruptly decided it was time to leave is just the tip of the bad nanny story iceberg.

It is possible to find a great nanny, but acting like an ostrich with your head in the sand is not a way I'd recommend.

Posted by: Bethesda | June 27, 2006 11:58 AM

I've seen that type of behavior too. Unfortunately, in my experience, it's been the less professional types (I hate to say it, but illegal immigrants for example). I know people who hire babysitters for as little as possible and they get what they pay for. To be fair, there are some wonderful nannies out there. You just need to take the time to find them.

I tended to hire younger, more ambitious women who have had at least some college education. I spent time orienting them to my children and model how I want my children treated. This takes time and effort and some parents don't do this. One of our very best nanny's told me during her interview that her life's goal was to be a wife and mother. I hired her that day. Years later she told me she couldn't believe that a "high powered" working woman like me would hire someone who answered that way. I told her that it didn't matter what her answer was, just that she had goals in life and had a plan to achieve them. Her and her husband and two kids still come over for holidays 10 years after being employed by us. She is a wife and mother and now a preschool teacher. We have been fortunate that neighbors and others have reported great things about our nannies (how they interact with our kids, etc).

So I know I am fortunate to earn enough money to provide the best care I can. This country needs to institute policies to help the childcare profession become more professional. Business/government should subsidized child care so that everyone could afford great care for their children. But with all things in this country, children and families get "the short end of the stick".

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 12:04 PM

Kids often break down at the drop of a hat and for nothing. Show me a parent who hasn't had a child in tears and I'll show you someone who doesn't spend a lot of time with their kid. I'm all for a kindler, gentler nation but I think you might be going a little far.

Posted by: Please | June 27, 2006 12:09 PM


How do you know that the nanny "abruptly" decided it was time to leave. Maybe she had already told the child it was time to leave and was being ignored. Whatever. it seems that maybe you should just enjoy your children and stop paying so much attention to what the nannies are doing or not doing. And how do you know that the benches are full of nannies? Maybe there are some moms mixed in there as well.
Some of us think that it is OK for 1,2, and 3 year-olds to be able to amuse themselves. Set your standards for yourself and stop passing judgment on others.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 12:15 PM

Dear Bethesda: thank you for your post. You did not ruin anything -- you brought us back to reality. I know what you are saying is true and that's why when I hired my nanny I hired somebody who loves children and who I can implicitly trust. She demanded more money from us on any occasion she got but she cared for our son in a professional and compassionate manner. I think that it is perfectly OK to come up to a nanny and to say something. If I were a mother of that child I would have wanted that. As they say, it takes a village......

Posted by: also from dc | June 27, 2006 12:15 PM

I feel sorry for nannies on the playground. Whenever a child throws a tantrum, or behaves badly, or has an accident, parents there judge them much more harshly than they would the parents. Sure there are slacker nannies out there, but taking incidents out of context and assuming that parents have their heads in the sand is a bit judgemental. And if the situation seems that bad, then intervene. Don't go on a blog and tell all the parents here "this could be YOUR nanny." There are plenty of examples of very good parents who have weak moments as well and do the exact same thing. And I'm sure you've put in plenty of bench time yourself...

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 12:18 PM

"Kids often break down at the drop of a hat and for nothing. Show me a parent who hasn't had a child in tears and I'll show you someone who doesn't spend a lot of time with their kid. I'm all for a kindler, gentler nation but I think you might be going a little far."

You are using unrelated generalities to dismiss my very specific example. OF COURSE little kids break down and OF COURSE they cry. Nowhere did I say "hey everybody, I saw a 2 year-old crying... he must have a sucky nanny." No. What I wrote was that his nanny abruptly (I was standing right there and with them for a while) decided it was time to go. He was playing happily (by himself, but that's another story) quite engrossed with trying to swing like an airplane on the swings. So she says, out of nowhere, "OK, time to go. I'm a leavin now. BYE BYE." He looks up HORRIFIED and starts crying. After he starts crying, what does she do? Does she fall on her knees and hug him after realizing she literally scared the heck out of him? No. She keeps going. "I'm a walkin away. Come on now. Stop yer cryin."

First, it shows a total and complete lack of understanding about 2 year-olds. They don't handle abrupt transitions very well.

Second, it shows she relies on empty threats to discipline him, and relies on fear to get him to do what she wants.

Third, it shows she is more interested in doing what she wants than in doing what is best for her charge.

Fourth, it shows a total lack of empathy for this little boy, for his needs and his feelings.

I don't want to hear about how toddlers cry and don't like to leave and on and on. Talk about stating the obvious. But even after she realized he was crying, she kept on at him. Telling him she was leaving and if he didn't want to be left alone he better get up and follow. She was oblivious. And so, I fear, is his mommy. :(

Posted by: Bethesda | June 27, 2006 12:21 PM

Very revealing. What I want to say is "Let me tell you about yourself" and go from there, but I won't. I especially liked how you misspelled words to give us an indication of the nanny's poor grammar.

I think my point is that you picked one story out of many (there are many more happy nanny stories, and I say this as a SAHM who believes that she is making the right choice to be at home with her kids) and choose to use it to try to make working moms who have nannies think/feel -- WHAT? Guilt over not being with their child? Fear that they have chosen a slacker nanny, or worse, abusive nanny? I just don't understand your motivation.

Posted by: Please | June 27, 2006 12:27 PM

"How do you know that the nanny "abruptly" decided it was time to leave. Maybe she had already told the child it was time to leave and was being ignored."

As I posted above, I was standing right there with them for a while. My kids were playing right there. Trust me, it was out of nowhere.

"And how do you know that the benches are full of nannies?"

Are you kidding??? Maybe Turtle Park is the cool new hangout for single female immigrants to come and take a load off and reflect on how cute all the kids are before they head back to their $1.5M brick colonial for lunch.

"Some of us think that it is OK for 1,2, and 3 year-olds to be able to amuse themselves."

And I'm one of them. I have kids and I think it is vitally important that I not need to be on the floor with them 24-7. But I can't help but wonder what the heck we're paying $12-$16+/hour for, if the goal of an outing to the playground is for the nanny to sit on a bench or the edge of a sandbox while her TINY charge plays by themselves all morning long or the baby they have strapped into the stroller sucks down a juice box instead of their bottle of pumped breastmilk or cries to be picked up or stares at the sky in total boredom.

Posted by: Bethesda | June 27, 2006 12:34 PM

I went back to work after being home with my 3 1/2 YO and 6 mo. old and found the best nanny ever - through networking, I found a young lady who was in an au pair situation who wanted her own place, etc. She is terrific, loving my kids like her own. Sometimes I get the feeling she isn't quite sure if *she* should trust *us* with our kids!
She loves the older one (who is in school full time, actually, so she only has him on certain days), and makes sure to say goodbye to him when she leaves. You can tell she really loves kids, and she's been such a great help around the house (making dinner every once in a while, doing the laundry, etc). It's a LOT of money, but worth it (and I can't wait til August, when my older one goes in to GA (free) PreK!).

It's been SUCH a great experience. We are sad that one day she will leave.

Posted by: atlmom | June 27, 2006 12:37 PM

I would echo what people have said -- word of mouth in the DC area seems to be what many people rely on -- it is competitive, though. And, people will pay top dollar for a great nanny so you will find that (does anyone ever watch "Desperate Housewives"? There was a very funny episode about one of the characters luring a great nanny away from another mother.). Several of my friends were in "danger" of losing their nannies to people who were paying more so they upped their pay. Also, if some of you are trying to find a good place to hire nannies, try advertising with your local community college -- many of them have early childhood development programs with students who might be interested in being nannies to get work experience -- they are in the programs because they like working with children so its a win win situation.
I also have friends who have used au pairs and have been very happy with them -- there is an au pair service in DC but the name escapes me. Just make sure who you get has experience with children and isn't just there so they can come to the U.S. -- I have some friends who have not had good experiences with au pairs.

For those of you looking at cost of care for 1 vs 2 -- several of my friends after they had their second lured teachers from their daycare centers away by being able to pay more -- it was still less expensive for them than 2 in fulltime daycare. And, they knew the teachers already so they were comfortable with them.
Just some ideas.

Posted by: typical working mother | June 27, 2006 12:41 PM

'"And how do you know that the benches are full of nannies?"

Are you kidding??? Maybe Turtle Park is the cool new hangout for single female immigrants to come and take a load off and reflect on how cute all the kids are before they head back to their $1.5M brick colonial for lunch.

Actually, I wasn't kidding. Not everyone who reads this blog lives in DC or NoVA or wherever this "Turtle Park" is located.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 12:45 PM

How do I find your clone? I was SO fortunate to find just such a loving nanny for my first child (who is now 8) and I've been through 4 in the recent past to take care of my 8 month old. I'm a single parent who has to travel for work and am desperate to find such a caring person to join our family. I'm finding that DC has a HUGE demand and not such a great supply. The 4 really didn't care about my children. They would leave the baby to cry for hours (several people called my house during 2,5 hours and heard the baby screaming), they would sleep while the baby was awake, they would allow her bum to turn bright red before changing her and had it not been for my 8 year-old, my baby would have continued to be allowed to bang the front of her head on the floor as she learns to sit up.
This area is starved for "such" nannies. Again, I ask where can I find your clone?

Posted by: Looking for THAT nanny | June 27, 2006 12:46 PM

"I think my point is that you picked one story out of many // and choose to use it to try to make working moms who have nannies think/feel -- WHAT? Guilt over not being with their child? Fear that they have chosen a slacker nanny, or worse, abusive nanny? I just don't understand your motivation."

First, I think nannies are an essential and critical aspect of women being able to continue in their high-paid or successful careers. I'm not talking about solving the childcare crisis, I am specifically talking about women with serious careers - this population at least in D.C. is made up of a lot of women with nannies. Like Lauren (the super-nanny to Henry) I think it IS a feminist statement and I agree wholeheartedly that there is nothing wrong at all with it taking a village to raise a child. One could even argue, convincingly, that it is human nature.

But as evidenced by the really horrendous nannies that are out and about just about everywhere -- they come in all colors and sizes and ages -- you need to do more than a simple background check and make sure her working papers are in order. Like a previous poster said, you need to put in real time shadowing the nanny or working side-by-side for a period of time to ensure she knows your values and vice versa and that she is a good fit. You need to check in with your neighbors (moms who SAHM are a GREAT source of information) and see how the nanny is doing.

Before you dismiss me as a nanny-bashing SAHM, I am a Partner in my firm. And I am working part-time while my kids are little before returning full-time. I have a super-nanny who watches my kids while I am in the office, and whom I worked with while on maternity leave for a long time before heading back to work. I eased back into my schedule, and I make frequent surprise visits home. My best friend lives across the street and frequently sees our nanny interact with the kids. Our nanny takes the kids on playdates with 2 of our neighbors, again, these women are friends and both stay at home. Other neighbors see our nanny at the local playground all the time. So I get a lot of feedback and have a lot of insight into what my nanny is ACTUALLY like with my kids.

My motivation is for women who employ nannies to think to yourselves, hmmm, how much do I REALLY know how my nanny is with my kids? What sources of information do I have about this? And for many of you - that nagging feeling of doubt you have that she may not be the greatest? That suspicion that maybe she's a little lax or a little harsh or whatever? It's dead on. Do something. Now.

Posted by: Bethesda | June 27, 2006 12:53 PM

The thing is, every mom I know has sleepless nights wondering if they've picked the best child care, if they should quit and stay home (those who have the option) or go part-time to spend more time with their children -- who question themselves and their decisions as moms hundreds of times over the course of a DAY. I don't know any of the moms who don't ask on an HOURLY BASIS how much do I REALLY know how my nanny/daycare provider is with my kids. Certainly there are mothers who are so self-absorbed or caught up in their own careers that they aren't giving much thought to who's minding the chidren. BUT they are by far the exception to the rule. Guilt is the seasoning of motherhood, after all.

Posted by: Please | June 27, 2006 1:08 PM

and plenty of SAHM's who are wondering if the family isn't better off with them working so they could have more income, or if they're doing enough for their kids, or if they're spending too much money on outings for the kids/lunch/the house, if maybe they could be doing more...

Posted by: atlmom | June 27, 2006 1:19 PM

Leslie, did you see Megan O'Rourke's article in Slate today on Hirshman?


Not advocating another discussion on this just giving folks another source to read...

Posted by: Uh-oh | June 27, 2006 1:23 PM

Guilt is the seasoning of motherhood, after all.

Oh my god, how true...

Posted by: Megan | June 27, 2006 1:23 PM

the only thing Bethesda is saying is get to know your nannies. I have interacted with nannies of all colors (and maybe some of them were undocumented, how would I know) and YOU CAN TELL if they love their charges or not. The ones who are attentive, responsible nannies, talk to their kids in a loving manner, their eyes light up, even if they are disciplining them they are respectful. The other ones have a vacant bored look on their faces and their body language is different. It's not a bunch of c---k -- it's called mother's intuition.

Posted by: also from DC | June 27, 2006 1:28 PM

Guilt is the seasoning of motherhood, after all.

Oh my god, how true...

Posted by: Megan | June 27, 2006 1:34 PM

"OK, I'm a goin home now. Bye bye. I'm a leavin ya."

Hey, I've done that. When my son was little, he hated leaving the playground and would not come when called. It was only when he would see me start to walk away that he would listen. It works.

Posted by: Rockville | June 27, 2006 1:39 PM

Hey Bethesda, so acording to you, being a female immigrant automatically makes one a nanny. Well, I guess now I know that other mommies in the playground are thinking I'm just another "slacker nanny" because I sit on the bench, with my obviously hispanic accent and looks, to watch my very blond, blue-eyed son play.... sigh.

Posted by: Poolesville, MD | June 27, 2006 1:41 PM

Oh, and there was a ~4 month old baby with an Avent bottle filled with breastmilk and the nanny was giving her sips from her brother's juice box.

How on earth would you know the Avent bottle was filled with breast milk? It could have been formula. I really think you are being too critical of nannies. Nothing wrong with a three year old playing independently while a nannie watches. Part of the problem with kids today is that their overbearing parents micromanage every aspect of their lives and don't teach them independence. It starts young.

Posted by: Rockville | June 27, 2006 1:42 PM

In 1983, when my first child was 14 months old, I took a job as a non-live in nanny for a 24 month old girl. I arrived just after mom left for work, and stayed in her home. This was a great boom for me, as my then husband had just started graduate school and we were living in a very small student apartment on campus. At my job, we had a huge 5 bedroom house with a beautiful backyard. The parents were initially not interested in a nanny/child combo because their only child would always be an only child and they didn't want the care and focus to be diffused.

We started on this journey - both sides with not a few trepidations. Over the next 2.5 years, the girls grew up together and we shared many, many moments, events, milestones and both parents and I have wonderful memories. The girls just thought 'this is my life' which always included the other child.

The most memorable time for me was the night I was delivering my second child. Part of the plan was that my older daughter would be delivered to my "work place" and she would stay with her "sister-friend" while I peacefully proceeded to the hospital. My bosses and charge were as excited and thrilled as we were to be part of such a momentous time in our lives. I will never forget that.

I have to say I loved that little girl. I watched many 'firsts' in her life and quickly learned there were some things I would documented for mom and dad (we kept a daily diary going which included food, naps, games, books, tv/videos and play that were consumed during the day) and some things I would NOT document for mom and dad - first complete sentence, riding her bike, roller skating - I figured she would share these events with her parents later on that night.

I was truly blessed with job I loved, decent pay ($165/week) no day-care problems of my own, and the opportunity to love and care for another human being.

One time, 4 years later while at the community pool --- a young girl from across the pool, screamed my name at the top of her lungs and swam as fast as she could toward me and nearly took me under water with her great, gigantic bear hug.

Just thought I'd share.

Posted by: Columbia, MO | June 27, 2006 1:43 PM


Don't let the blog get you down. I don't want to say this wrong or start another tangent either way, but the best teacher at my daughter's school is hispanic and she is the only one invited to watch my daughter at my house.

My kid has blond hair and gree eyes too, while I have black hair and brown eyes, I wonder if anyone ever thinks i'm the nanny!

Posted by: Scarry | June 27, 2006 1:45 PM

Regarding the au pair comments, we have had two absolutely terrific au pairs. Unfortunately, while the second one extended by 9 months and won't leave until December, she's ready to return to school (which we fully support) and we're in the process of looking for a new one. We're only hoping that lightening will strike thrice! The first au pair, from Sweden, decided after her time with us to change her career (from journalism to preschool teacher). She still calls, sends birthday presents, and has visited once. She was in many ways like an older sister to my older daughter and a younger sister to me, and very much a part of our family.

Our second au pair has been with us since I was pregnant with our second daughter, she loves my girls and they love her (my oldest calls her her Best Friend). Again, she became part of our family and we will greatly miss her. She also decided to change her career (from law to neonatology) after her time with us. That said, we have heard numerous stories of both bad au pairs and bad host families (although generally it's bad host families, understanding, though, that the person relaying the stories is friends with the au pairs and clearly there is some bias). In general, what I hear about the bad host families (usually the mothers) is that they treat the au pairs like domestic servants, requiring housecleaning, laundry, and cooking far in excess of what's supposed to be done for the children; they're overly controlling (they've been known to open au pair mail, bank statements, etc.); they don't feed the au pairs (room and board is expected); and in several instances, they isolate the au pair as much as possible. These are families who have had 4 or more au pairs in a single year, but the agency keeps allowing them to get a new one. At some point, if different au pairs keep having the same problems and leaving, it's pretty clear the problem is with the host family, not the various au pairs.

As an example, in the 14 months our second au pair has been with us, one family has gone through 4 au pairs and is on their 5th, and the last one they don't allow to use the house phone for incoming or outgoing calls (and they check the caller ID each day to see who called and she doesn't have a cell phone), if an au pair calls after working hours, they're told the au pair is not there (even though she is), they refuse to allow her to use the car (she was forced to walk 20 miles roundtrip to get her social security card, and she couldn't use the house phone to call another au pair to give her a ride), they refuse to allow her to use the internet (they told her she made the decision to come here for a year so she shouldn't expect to contact her family for that time), and they don't stock the house with food. That's not having an au pair, that's having an indentured servant! We think that they're trying to keep her as isolated as possible from the other au pairs so she doesn't have a support group and doesn't realize just how bad her situation is.

Regarding price, au pairs are a more cost-effective option when you have more kids. Regardless of the number of children, the price is the same and set by the State Department, currently $139.05 a week for a standard au pair (au pair extraordinaires cost more; educare companions cost less). Other costs are the agency fee (about $6,500), schooling ($500 per year), room and board, and costs associated with transportation (adding the au pair to your car insurance if you want her (or him!) to drive your children to various activities, school, etc.). However, you don't have to worry about taxes, health insurance (separate from what's included in the agency fee), etc. Regarding the 45 hour requirement - ha, ha, ha. Most au pairs I know work far in excess of this, and if they have a good family, the family pays extra for this (and usually the au pairs are willing to work longer hours to make extra money).

Bottom line - these are people, generally girls, to whom we as families are entrusting the most precious people in the world, our children. It just makes good sense to treat the au pair as well as possible so that she'll take the best care possible of the children. Treating au pairs like indentured servants is bound to show up in their treatment of the kids. We treat ours like family and they've had (and continue to have) a loving, caring, and commited relationship with our girls.

Posted by: allmomsworkingmoms | June 27, 2006 1:46 PM

"First, it shows a total and complete lack of understanding about 2 year-olds. They don't handle abrupt transitions very well.

Second, it shows she relies on empty threats to discipline him, and relies on fear to get him to do what she wants.

Third, it shows she is more interested in doing what she wants than in doing what is best for her charge.

Fourth, it shows a total lack of empathy for this little boy, for his needs and his feelings."

Ok, so that nanny wasn't doing the right thing. As a SAHM who often goes to playgrounds with my son, I can tell you that I've seen my share of mothers doing this too. Just because you gave birth to a child doesn't mean you have an understanding of child psychology or know how to properly care for your child.

This blog is ridiculous. I've read it for two weeks and almost every day the subject is some topic guaranteed to get people frothing at the mouth. (Does Leslie get paid $1 per post or something? The number of responses has nothing to do with the quality of the discussion.) Often the responses start off well enough, with people making good points, then inevitably someone starts asserting that their own personal story proves everyone else wrong and they are RIGHT no matter what the circumstances or situations. I'm going to stop reading this and let you continue your ill-natured sniping. There's nothing of value here.

Posted by: Leaving this ugly place | June 27, 2006 1:48 PM

Uh oh,
The slate piece was very good. Puts the discussion into perspective. Thanks for sending that along.

Posted by: working mother | June 27, 2006 1:54 PM

Allmomsworkingmoms, the family who is abusing their au pair -- and what you describe is ABUSE -- should be reported. If you know that the things you've stated are true, then I consider you are complicit in their abuse of this young woman. How can you see them treating another human being that way and not intervene? Find out the agency this girl belongs to and REPORT THAT FAMILY.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 1:57 PM

"Oh, and there was a ~4 month old baby with an Avent bottle filled with breastmilk and the nanny was giving her sips from her brother's juice box.

How on earth would you know the Avent bottle was filled with breast milk? It could have been formula."

They can look different in the bottle. Its usually obvious to people who know what pumped baby milk looks like. Besides I think Bethesda's point was that a 4 month baby was getting juice. That is was also breastmilk is even more disturbing.

Posted by: I pump too | June 27, 2006 1:57 PM

Thank you, allmomsworkingmoms, for that post about au pairs. We are really excited to have our German au pair arrive next month and you give excellent advice about being a good host family. I figure the au pair/host family relationship is like everything in life -- you usually get out of it what you put into it. The agency we're working with seems very good and were attentive to us during the decision making process. So far, so good!

I hope our experience will be as positive as yours have been, and good luck to you.

Posted by: CK | June 27, 2006 1:58 PM

Before you dismiss me as a nanny-bashing SAHM, I am a Partner in my firm.

Oh, NOW I'm impressed!! But I do understand why you are so self-important, now, partner mom from Bethesda who is apparently also a bigot.

Posted by: Rockville | June 27, 2006 2:02 PM

My mom was babysitting my son one weekday at the park and she give him a bottle of juice because it was a hot day. (By the way, she is also an immigrant). A member of the mommie police immediately stopped to rebuke her on giving him juice, and told her her employer would not be pleased. My mother is quick as lightning and responded that she was not the nanny, but the grandmother, had raised 5 healthy and successful kids of her own and did not need advice, and that she found it ironic how American moms are quick to forbid juice to their children when they are babies and then don't notice that their 11 year olds are smoking marijuana.

Posted by: Rockville | June 27, 2006 2:09 PM

To anon:

She is an au pair for another agency and my au pair doesn't know the name of the agency. What I did do was look up the Code of Federal Regulations that lists the State Department guidelines, including the fact that the agency is supposed to write up a report of all au pair/host family issues. I then wrote out a very explicit list, based on my understanding of what occurred, listing the abuses as I was aware of them and encouraging my au pair to just show up at this girl's house (when she knows the host mom is working) and speak with her about it, revise it where necessary, and submit it to her community counselor and her agency. If she's afraid to do that, then I'll have to consider sending something in myself, once I find out the name of the agency.

I also discussed with my au pairs way to get this girl a phone, including a pay-as-you-go cell phone that I was willing to pay for. However, everything I know about this particular girl is third hand, although I have known two of the other four girls and they have stayed at my house prior to going back to their home countries, sick from their experience here. Given that I've had two of them in my house for extended periods of time (each for several weeks), I'm willing to believe what's occuring in this particular situation, even though I don't know the girl. There are 2 main problems, though. First, the community counselor is friends with the host mother and not supportive of the au pair. Second, as is the case with many au pairs, they're extremely frightened and isolated, and often willing to take the "devil they know" over the devil they don't (i.e., re-match). Because of this girl's isolation, my au pair has not been able to meet with her (beyond the one time they discussed everything that was going on) to discuss her options. I'm continuing to monitor the situation to do what I can.

To CK, good luck with your new au pair! As I said, I'm hoping lightening strikes again with us - we've heard plenty of au pair horror stories (one au pair burned down her family house by accident - she was smoking when she shouldn't have been; au pairs who have gotten caught with fake IDs; drunk au pairs; pregnant au pairs; etc.). That said, the really, really important thing is the various interviews you have with the au pair prior to matching. There are abuses on both sides, but, as I said in my previous post, most of the abuses I see are on the host family side.

Posted by: allmomsworkingmoms | June 27, 2006 2:16 PM

Allmomsworkingmoms, I'm glad you're taking the steps you describe. I wouldn't have gotten so upset if you'd mentioned in your post that you were trying to help the girl. You just seemed to describe that bad situation compared to your good one and then leave it hanging.

For everyone who has a horror story about au pairs drinking, smoking, having sex in the home with their boyfriends, talking on the phone rather than paying attention to the children, you have to remember: These are young women, and in this day and age, this is what many young women are apt to do. If you hire a neighbor's daughter to watch your kids on a Saturday night, she might do the very same things. The posters who say that you need to get to KNOW your au pair or nanny are absolutely right. It's a relationship that takes time, and too many stressed-out overworked moms today can't seem to find that time.

Your child is in the care of this person, so think about who you are hiring and accept the reality that many of these young women see being an au pair as a way to come to the U.S. and have an adventure, maybe even marry a guy here. I have a friend who was a former au pair and I knew a few others when I was younger. They all admit that, while many love kids and wanted to work with children, some others were immature and not ready for the realities and responsibilities of childcare. Those girls were not interested in becoming "professionals" in childcare or teachers or anything like that. That wanted to "party" in the U.S. and being an au pair was one way to get here. Even my friend, a very responsible girl who would never have done anything "bad" when in charge of the kids, broke a few of the "house rules" from time to time.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 2:34 PM

My wife and I wanted an au pair to help with our children, but found that they were mostly unaffordable. Until we came across an advertisement from a pear-shaped au pair- who fit our budget perfectly!!! As an added plus, we never had to worry about her sneakking boys into the house when we were gone. Gotta love a pear-shaped au pair!

Posted by: Sal Selzman | June 27, 2006 2:38 PM

Hey Rockville,

I hope your mom had a few "nice" words to say to the mommy police. My goodness, juice is the devil. I can't imagine anyone coming up to me and saying are you giving that baby juice and assuming your mom was the nanny!

Posted by: Scarry | June 27, 2006 2:40 PM

Well I WAS a community counselor and I respectfully disagree with you -- the au pair/host family relationship is definitely a two-way street with abuses on both sides.

Any family going into it had better be prepared to have a lot of spare cash to smooth the way when it ends up costing significantly more than you expected. (Here's an example: You give the au pair a credit card to put gas in the car she uses to drive the kids around. She usually -- once a week -- takes it into the store and purchases cappucino's for all five nanny friends who are riding in the car in the evening, and gas regularly costs you ten dollars more than it should. Are you comfortable absorbing that shock rather than making a scene? How about if the car is a lease and she gets a boyfriend who lives 100 miles away and over the course of the year goes over your mileage limit? Are you comfortable with that? How about if her parents want to come visit and spend two weeks living with you and eating your food and being driven around? Are you comfortable with that? What if she turns out to be such a terrible driver that you end up spending five hundred dollars on driving lessons -- and taking ten days off work while she gets comfortable enough with driving to actually drive your daughter to preschool? What if your auto insurance goes up by 400 dollars next year because she has six fender benders?)

Au pairs have run up huge phone bills, totalled cars, misused host family credit cards, run off with the host family husband(!), developed drug habits, taught the kids WAY TOO MUCH about sex and a host of other things.

Host family mom, you sound like a nice person, but chances are you're only getting one side of the story. Many host families bend over backwards to make these things work and despite the best intentions on both sides, these things don't work.

And as to the person who 'poached' the au pair from another family, you ended up costing that family thousands of dollars -- since they had to pay her plane fare and recruitment fees. Nice example of feminist sisterhood. Congratulations.

Posted by: I disagree | June 27, 2006 2:44 PM

run off with the host family husband(!)...

That awful au pair. POOR host family husband, to be abducted against his will by the evil au pair. I really do feel sorry for him.

Posted by: Au Pairs | June 27, 2006 2:50 PM

I think that the point some of the posters are making about checking in on nannies and au pairs applies to just about any child-care situations - parents need to keep a vigilant eye out and check in on their child's care situations...this isn't to guilt out parents, it's only common sense. My mom taught at a day-care center for several years (this was licensed, professional - the works!); Mom was totally overqualified for the not-far-above-minimum-wage pay she was getting (multiple education degrees, teaching experience, plus years of parenting), but she enjoyed her job and worked hard for the kids. However, over time, she noticed that the day care owner was starting to skimp on care----punch drink instead of real fruit juice or milk, junk food snacks instead of fruit, toys and equipment broken and not replaced (plus high staff turnover, since no one got the raises that they were initially promised would come after a certain amount of time working at the center). My mom asked the owner to fix these problems, but the owner didn't want to spend the money to make things better.....it was only when mom pointed things out to the parents and encouraged them to complain that the day care center owner was motivated to serve healthier (and more expensive) food and replace toys and equipment. By that point my mom was planning on moving to another (higher paying) job anyways, so she wasn't too worried about the job repercussions from doing the right thing, but the parents should have been checking on this stuff on their own! This was a pretty high end day care facility for the area (not DC) - lots of business people and lawyers sent their children to this center....these were people who could afford to find the best care possible, but just weren't checking to make sure that they were getting exactly what they were paying for.

Posted by: always question | June 27, 2006 2:50 PM

tend to agree with "i disagree" seems to me counterintuitive why would a host family abuse au pair who is entrusted with the most precious possessions -- children.

Posted by: also from dc | June 27, 2006 2:52 PM

tend to agree with "i disagree" seems to me counterintuitive why would a host family abuse au pair who is entrusted with the most precious possessions -- children.

It happens, and sometimes, it's a cultural thing. In some cultures, an au pair or nanny is viewed as a servant who is subject to even the most unreasonable whim of the employer. I know a woman who has a live in nanny who is available 24/7. She is a diplomat who brought her nanny with her from her own country. I don't think the nanny is isolated, but she is certainly overworked. I do know that in some instances, if a nanny is not allowed to have outside contact, is not paid adequately, and is threatened or mistreated, the police have intervened. You cannot keep slaves in this country anymore.

Posted by: Rockville | June 27, 2006 3:00 PM

To "I Disagree"

If you read my second post, you'll see that I acknowledge to au pair horror stories as well. I've learned that there are 3 sides to every story here. That said, there are a lot of things the host family can do to try and lessen the problems. As I said, I'm going through this again, and I've always spent a significant amount of time on the phone and via email with the applicants (learned the hard way, though, to use a phone calling card, after a $600 phone call to Brazil). Several things I've learned and apply to my au pair search: (1) I'm very particular about the countries I'm willing to consider. I know the agency has to not discriminate, but there are certain countries I won't even consider an au pair from, due to the financial situations in those countries. For example, former Soviet block countries. On the one hand, I realize the tremendous financial difficulties those young girls are in there. On the other, I'm afraid that their main reason for coming to the US might very well be to find a husband and taking care of my children won't be a priority. So, I look for someone from a financial stable country, with a stable home life (i.e., they're not running away). (2) Regarding driving, I ask a lot of questions about their current driving conditions (how often they drive, what kind of vehicle, what kind of road conditions, whether they've ever driven with children in the care, familiarity with basic car care aspects (tires, gas, etc.). I received an application from Malaysia from a very qualified applicant whose first langauge is English (English proficiency being one of my main criteria), but I rejected her because she's used to driving on the left. I don't want to put an au pair in a situation of trying to drive in the DC metro area with a very active 5-year-old and a 19-month-old who at any given moment might be screaming her lungs out. It's distracting enough to have to drive with that going on without compounding the situation by expecting the au pair to react in the opposite way they've been reacting all their driving life. That said, my current au pair was driving home and she hit a deer, in an area where both my husband and I have had near misses. That's the kind of thing that can happen to anyone, it didn't happen to her just because she's an au pair. (3) I would NEVER give a credit card to an au pair for gas, unless it was fairly far into our relationship. Sure, it's easier to just give her the card and tell her to gas up, rather than having her pay attention to the gas and sometimes having to go out at night or earlier in the morning to fill the tank (which we've done) or have the cash on hand, but it just makes good sense. Don't give a credit card to your au pair and you won't have to worry about her abusing it. The convenience is not worth the hassle. (4) Phone bills - I buy two $20 phone cards for my au pairs when they first arrive and explain my experience with calling Brazil and my first au pair's experience with calling Sweden (and yes, she made a mistake and racked up a $500 phone bill, was abjectly regretful about it, proffered the money, and since she proffered all she had saved, we accepted half and took care of the other half. She learned a lesson and so did we and we never had another issue with her or the next au pair). (5) English language proficiency - unless the au pair is listed as either fluent/high standard or good standard, I won't consider her application. I do this for several reasons. A lot of problems can be avoided through good communication, and if I'm not being clear and I'm not sure my au pair understands me, I can't fault her if she misunderstands. In addition, in case of an emergency (she calls because the baby's had an accident, not breathing, whatever), I want to make sure she understands me and she can be understood if she calls 911. (6) Age-related activities. A lot of these girls are fairly young. If they're under 21, and if they like to go to clubs and otherwise could in their home country, there's a good chance they'll get in trouble trying to use a fake ID, etc. So, I look long and hard at any applications for anyone under 21. I also ask a lot of questions about their drinking habits, party habits, etc. It helps that we live further out from DC so there's not as much enticement for the girls, but so far I also haven't had any problems. The same goes for having boyfriends (if they have a boyfriend back in their host country and they admit it, I don't match with them) - too much trouble. Doesn't mean they won't acquire one here, but again, I try to minimize that by not accepting anyone I think just wants to come to the US to find a husband/escape their home country.

Choosing an au pair is a lot like internet dating. Have a standard list of questions ready and ask, ask, ask. I also had my former au pair speak with applicants I was interested in to get her thoughts as well. My current au pair will as well, since I believe applicants may be more willing to speak freely with her than they might with me. I know my current au pair loves my children greatly and thus has a vested interested in making sure her replacement will care for them as well.

So, yes, there are LOTS of au pair horror stories as well. But frankly, a lot of them could be avoided through proper planning and just not doing stupid things.

Posted by: allmomsworkingmoms | June 27, 2006 3:17 PM

"Before you dismiss me as a nanny-bashing SAHM, I am a Partner in my firm.

Oh, NOW I'm impressed!! But I do understand why you are so self-important, now, partner mom from Bethesda who is apparently also a bigot."


LOL. I love how I'm like the 10 millionth person to say that there's an issue with the immigrant-turned-nanny situation, and now I'm the bigot. Whatever. Actually, it is a real problem. You are hiring people who are motivated to stay legally in the U.S. and make good money without being trained/educated, not by love of their profession or their work, much less your children. This is hardly a) rocket science or b) my idea. Futhermore, not only am I not bigoted but I think hiring immigrants to work 60 hours a week taking care of children is a pretty backwards way of rallying for racial equality.

And the fact that I am disgusted by the quality of the nannies to whom many of us entrust our children makes me, at worst, stating the obvious, and at best, just trying to issue a wake-up call to those of you whose children I have seen abandoned and neglected (if not outright abused) at your tony little playgrounds.

OT: To the poster who defended her mother for giving her infant a bottle (a BOTTLE!) of juice because it was hot outside.... you apparently have no idea that this act would cause an entire group of pediatricians at the AAP to pass out cold. Juice is not fit for infant consumption. Period. Good for the mother who said something to YOUR mother - if only she had taken her advice. "Raising 5 children" on juice hardly makes her an expert in pediatrics, and adds her to the long list of sweet loving grandmas who have unwittingly yet nevertheless directly contributed to the ill health of Americans today.

Posted by: Bethesda | June 27, 2006 3:31 PM

Wow, Bethesda, lighten up. It's not like she fed the child Drano.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 3:43 PM

Bethesda, you are the media's dream mom -- so susceptable. Keep that fear mongering going, sister. Well done.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 3:46 PM

Wow, how did this get so nasty today? Lauren, please post here if you ever decide to move a few hours south, willya? I get the feeling there will be a bidding war for your services. :-)

Otherwise, why are we fighting? There are good nannies and bad nannies, good moms and bad moms. So what's with the fussing?

I have to say, though: my pediatrician told me it was just fine to give my 7-month-old some watered-down juice. And yes, in a bottle, as he hasn't mastered the cup yet. What's the whole public health threat thing? I never even knew there was an issue (although these posts explain why my daycare provider said "hallelujah! a mom who isn't afraid to give her baby a little juice!" when I brought it in with him). I know better than to give him unpasteurized juice, but frankly, you'd have to look long and hard even to find that nowadays.

Posted by: Laura | June 27, 2006 3:47 PM

Dear Bethesda,
While I agree with just about everything you have said, sometimes you lose points for how you say it (or write it). I am a pediatrician and a member of the AAP and I wouldn't "pass out cold" from someone giving juice to a baby. It really depends on how old, etc. I agree that it is better to give juice in a cup and preferably to infants over 6 months of age. Also, I think the writer's point was that someone was interfering with her mother because she assumed she was the nanny. I don't agree with giving juice to babies (empty calories, not nutritous, bad for teeth, etc.), but I don't give advice when it is not sought even if I am a professional and know better. Again depends. I have scolded parents for not putting their babies in a carseat, but then again I consider that more dire--I've seen babies die in car accidents from becoming projectiles.

There are bad nannies/au pairs and good ones. It's hard to judge who is good and who is not with a snapshot at the park. Moms get tired taking care of toddlers, so do nannies. That said, I too have witnessed lackluster babysitting. The nannies that take the kids to the mall while they shop and the kid looks completely bored, watching TV, etc. And it seems rather harsh to beat up working parents over this.

And I agree with you and the other writers that a parent should spend time with their caregiver and discuss values and rules. If appropriate expectations are set a priori (you can only use the car within a 25 mile radius, a certain number of miles per week, you will not take the baby to the mall, no TV, etc) and do this in writing, the relationship has more potential for success.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 3:48 PM


The point wasn't that she was feeding the baby juice it was that what she feeds the baby is no one else's business and it is rude to think that just becasuse someone is an immigrant that they are the nanny.

Also where did she say that her son was a baby? I just thought she said son?

Unless of course she was feeding him drano.

Posted by: Scarry | June 27, 2006 3:52 PM

well said Laura. No need to fight with one another.

Posted by: Scarry | June 27, 2006 3:54 PM

"Raising 5 children" on juice hardly makes her an expert in pediatrics, and adds her to the long list of sweet loving grandmas who have unwittingly yet nevertheless directly contributed to the ill health of Americans today.

Wow - How does anybody stand you?

Posted by: Rockville | June 27, 2006 3:55 PM

Just for the record, my son was about 10 months old when he got the (horror) juice bottle from his grandma. He is six now and has good teeth, and is not overweight, and is perfectly healthy. My mom's other kids are also just fine, and at least, we do not yet require mental health interventions. Bethesda, put some money away, your kids are going to need serious therapy.

Posted by: Rockville | June 27, 2006 4:00 PM

Wow, what a crazy day. I think the post from the pediatrician was a great response to the Bethesda bruhaha.

I'll just add that I think there's a huge difference between giving babies juice on a daily basis and giving a baby some in a pinch on hot day. I remember when I was pregnant and when my son was still very small thinking smugly of all the things I would never do: give my baby juice, french fries, other junk food, let him watch TV, etc etc. Well, I'm a lot more humble now dealing with the realities of motherhood - my son's had juice, loves french fries and chocolate, and has watched TV with me on occassion. None of these things are habits, but they happen once in a while, and if some other woman accosted me about it I'd sure let her know I didn't need her interference.

Posted by: Megan | June 27, 2006 4:04 PM

You women are funny!! I hope that you re-read this blog if five years. You will find out stupid, insecure, and unimportant your blogs were. All of your kids will probably turn out fine (I'm pretty sure of that) but you will regret the energy that you spent worrying about what everyone else though of you and your decisions.

The fact that you are reading and participating in this blog (daily) means that you are probably doing what is best for your children given your own circumstances. But, I must admit, as a man, that it provides a lot of entertainment for me.

Keep it up Ladies!!!

Posted by: Me | June 27, 2006 4:06 PM

"Just for the record, my son was about 10 months old when he got the (horror) juice bottle from his grandma."

I stand corrected. I incorrectly assumed, since you were responding to my post about a ~4 month old getting juice from his older brother's juice box that you were talking about a young baby. I wouldn't give any child juice in a bottle but 10 months is far different from 4 months, who shouldn't even be eating any foods yet other than breast milk (or formula if bottlefed).

LOL at the therapy comment. Guess I'll stop worrying about the poor mothers who have NO CLUE about the people they leave their kids with. It's THEIR problem after all, right? ;)

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 4:09 PM

oops - forgot to sign my above post

Posted by: Bethesda | June 27, 2006 4:10 PM

Not to revert back to yesterday's long and painful "breast is best" blog, but I must point this out:

"what she feeds the baby is no one else's business"

How come we all pretty much agree to this when it is juice v. milk, but not formula v. breast milk as on yesterday's blog? And why is personal history -I raised 5 healthy kids with juice- an acceptable response in this discussion but is dismissed as "anecdotal" in the breast is best argument?

We don't have to go off on a tangent, I just thought it was interesting to point out how inconsistent this blog is.

P.S. Scarry, I was just using your comment as an example, this is not directed at you personally.

Posted by: in-arlington | June 27, 2006 4:15 PM

"Guess I'll stop worrying about the poor mothers who have NO CLUE about the people they leave their kids with. It's THEIR problem after all, right?"

Yes, it's their problem...I think thats what everyone has been trying to tell you for the past 4 hours. I'm glad that you finally got the point.

Now mind your own business. You have a child and a marriage to take care of.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 4:15 PM

Megan, boy, ain't that the truth! I was apoplectic when my husband gave my daughter a french fry to gnaw on at around a year or so. Yet somehow, she's healthy as a horse and skinny as a stick (and sharp as a tack -- gee, how many more trite sayings can I fit into this?). Is it a daily habit? No way. But I finally learned that a little bit of "bad" stuff here and there isn't really worth obsessing over.

Posted by: Laura | June 27, 2006 4:16 PM

I am sorry I sounded harsh, but I have to say that you sounded even harsher. I'm sure your kids will turn out okay. I know lots of type A partner type mothers out there whose children are quite sane. I do agree with your main point that it is necessary to get to know your childcare providers and not blindly entrust your children to the care of others. But I also think that small things, like giving a baby juice on a hot day, are not going to result in dire consequences, and can be overlooked, especially when the overall quality of the care is good. My mother does a lot of things I would not do myself. But I figure it's her way, and I would rather let her do things her way in some things (like juice in a bottle) than create pointless conflict with a woman who has proved her worth five times over.

Posted by: Rockville | June 27, 2006 4:18 PM

"...why would a host family abuse au pair who is entrusted with the most precious possessions -- children."

That cracks me up! I know several professional women/mothers married to high-achieving men and these women act like their au pair is a big status symbol. What's worse is that a couple of them complain about the "horrible" things their au pairs do, such as talking too long on the telephone or having the TV in their au pair room on late at night. Shudder! They really complain about this, but secretly I think they enjoy it because they can talk endlessly about "my au pair" and make other moms working under them think they are so wealthy and priviledged. I'm not a mom and it makes me sick that they want to treat the young women caring for their kids as if they have no rights in their home at all.

Posted by: K St. | June 27, 2006 4:18 PM

I have used an au pair for some time now and I am continually amazed at the experience (as in, "why didn't I do this MUCH earlier"). In addition to the love and care she gives my children, and the help (and organization) she gives me, it has been an enriching cultural experience for my family. And the stipend combined with agency fees comes out to about what I would be paying for ONE child in a good daycare. (Athough, yeesh, my car insurance premium went up $300 when I added her -- I guess a sign of things to come when the kids hit teenage years...)

The poor community counselor who cited all the bad experiences -- that is what the CCs see frequently because their job is to intervene when there are problems. When all is well I don't believe they hear much. Not an easy job, for sure. But many of the problems can be avoided as the earlier poster pointed out in her very informative post.

All I am saying is that, if you do your homework, are very careful in your selection, have an accomodating home environment (having someone live in with you is not for everyone), and appreciate the experience for what it is, the au pair experience can be a great thing!

Posted by: FS Mom | June 27, 2006 4:21 PM

I agree with "Me" - it is quite amusing... and I truly mean that in a good way. It certainly gives me food for thought.


"Raising 5 children" on juice hardly makes her an expert in pediatrics, and adds her to the long list of sweet loving grandmas who have unwittingly yet nevertheless directly contributed to the ill health of Americans today."

There are truly no words for this... none. I am speechless.

Posted by: DCer | June 27, 2006 4:26 PM

I am sorry I sounded harsh, but I have to say that you sounded even harsher. I'm sure your kids will turn out okay. I know lots of type A partner type mothers out there whose children are quite sane. I do agree with your main point that it is necessary to get to know your childcare providers and not blindly entrust your children to the care of others. But I also think that small things, like giving a baby juice on a hot day, are not going to result in dire consequences, and can be overlooked, especially when the overall quality of the care is good. My mother does a lot of things I would not do myself. But I figure it's her way, and I would rather let her do things her way in some things (like juice in a bottle) than create pointless conflict with a woman who has proved her worth five times over. "

:) I agree 100% actually. You are absolutely right - these little things don't matter. And my juice in the bottle comment was uncalled for.

However, this "little stuff" is not what I was intending to post about, and is just nothing compared to the stuff I've seen, much of which I've posted about already, e.g., the cold threats of a nanny to a young toddler, leaving the baby to cry while the nanny absent mindedly jiggles the stroller, leaving babies in strollers instead of playing with them (no, not for 10 minutes.. I'm talking an hour or more), giving lollipops to little babies to keep them quiet, etc., etc. And as a mom who has had to pump myself while at work, there is no way on this planet that the mother of that LITTLE baby, a mother who is going to the incredible lengths of pumping to make sure her baby gets her milk while she's at work, knows that the nanny is giving the baby a juice box. No way.

I have thought many times that I wished I could videotape a nanny-child situation and mail it to the mother of the child. Because I am sure the mother would be shocked.

Posted by: Bethesda | June 27, 2006 4:32 PM

in-arlington, interesting point. Breastfeeding does get people up in arms in a crazy fast way! Though my guess is that when they're not in the heat of the blogging moment, most of the breastfeeding advocates from yesterday would probably not say they think they have a right to accost bottlefeeding moms in public, it seems like most people on this blog have experienced enough mommy-policing to know better!

Posted by: Megan | June 27, 2006 4:32 PM

maybe i'm crazy but i've been giving my 9 mo old juice several times over the last few months. thank goodness for prune juice! :) i hate seeing her little face get so red.

seriously a little watered down juice every now and then isn't going to hurt a baby. the important thing is that they get their milk/formula right? as long as we're not supplementing juice for milk/formula.

as to the subject of the post...henry and his family are very lucky to have lauren. as a wohm - i feel blessed to have found a daycare that feels the same way about my daughter as lauren does about henry. trusting your most precious gift to someone else is such a hard thing to do. and i feel very blessed to have a good situation. but i feel for those moms who stuggle with their caregivers. for those of us who have stayed at home for any length of time (i.e. maternity leave)...we know its not an easy job taking care of a child, no matter what age. and yet we pay our caregivers as little as we can (or as much as we can afford). i would have had a hard time living on $30K/year when i lived in DC by myself let alone with my family. it reminds me of what my dad used to tell me growing up...if we paid people based on their contribution to society - garbage men/women would be the highest paid!! i think our caregivers would be a close second. :)

Posted by: mississippinewmom | June 27, 2006 4:35 PM

I know of one mother who, on a 100 degree day had a crying dehydrated baby. She was out of breast milk but had bottled milk and some juice. She read today's blog and decided that Bethesda would report her to Child Protective Services if she gave her baby some juice. Then she read yesterday's blog and dedided not to jeopardize her baby's IQ by giving her bottled milk...

...So, she let the baby suffer. Is this what we've come to ladies?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 4:36 PM

Over a decade ago I was a nanny for a year. I started with a three-and-a-half year old and finished with a four-and-a-half year old and a newborn. It may be the best job I ever had. Everyday my work would come running out of kindergarten waving his arms over his, shouting my name and laughing. That was a pretty good feeling.
I was also the housekeeper so in addition to Sesame Street, playing in the park, rowing a boat for a captain with a blue plastic sword, fingerpainting, reading endless stories (the same ones maybe five times each with different accents, speeds, the wrong words) and so on; I shopped for groceries, cooked the evening meal for the whole family four days a week, did everyone's laundry, cleaned the bathrooms, etc.
It was often a trial, but I spent my days with one of the most creative, intelligent, good-hearted people I know. He's now choosing university courses and thinking about medicine and likes to embarrass me by crediting me with far more influence than I actually had. His younger sister still likes me too.
I too had the experience of being looked down on when the kindergarten mothers realised I was not a parent or older brother. All of that was overshadowed by surprise at the idea of a male nanny.
I am the same ethnicity as the child I nannied but that's the norm in Scotland where I was working. I've since met one other male nanny, but at the time I knew several people who were child care professionals, and they were all women.

Posted by: manny | June 27, 2006 4:38 PM

"I know of one mother who, on a 100 degree day had a crying dehydrated baby. She was out of breast milk but had bottled milk and some juice. She read today's blog and decided that Bethesda would report her to Child Protective Services if she gave her baby some juice. Then she read yesterday's blog and dedided not to jeopardize her baby's IQ by giving her bottled milk...

...So, she let the baby suffer. Is this what we've come to ladies?"

This post demonstrates a total lack of understanding about how milk production works or how breastfeeding works or even how breastfeeding-while-formula-feeding works.

1. A woman who breastfeeds is NEVER "out of milk". The breasts are always producing milk.

2. Breastmilk product works on a supply-and-demand system. The more the baby needs, the more the breasts make.

3. Women who breastfeed and also bottlefeed almost never run out of milk, and if we do, we know about it in advance and are prepared (i.e., by having a bottle of forumla supplement).

4. Babies who breastfeed on demand do not get dehydrated just because it is hot outside. Think about it. How would humans ever have survived in Africa for tens of millions of years? Breastmilk changes in composition and the baby's breastfeeding habits change (e.g., that day they might have more frequent, shorter nursings to get the more watery foremilk).

5. Giving a breastfed baby who (e.g., due to unplanned separation from his mother, or a miscalculation of the pumped milk stash or illness) is dehydrated some water is not something that anyone would ever take issue with.

p.s., what the heck is "bottled milk"?

Posted by: Bethesda | June 27, 2006 4:51 PM

You are taking yourself way too seriously. It was a joke.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 4:56 PM

You are taking yourself way too seriously"

No, I think I was taking you way too seriously.

Posted by: Bethesda | June 27, 2006 5:01 PM

"p.s., what the heck is "bottled milk"?"

Crazily enough, it's milk that comes in a bottle. ;-)

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 5:03 PM

You are taking yourself way too seriously. It was a joke.

Pretty lame one, though...Bethesda's response was spot on the money.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 5:07 PM

Wow, think Bethesda needs a break :)

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 5:08 PM

Poolesville - I had a smiliar situation, and my neighbor made me feel better. My first child has blue eyes, blond hair and paper-white skin. My hair is dark brown, dark eyes, and skin that tans quickly and dark. People asked me endlessly "where's her mother?" whenever we went anywhere - they always thought I was the nanny. I told my neighbor, who has dark skin and also an accent how annoying this was, and she said not to feel so bad. People who come to her door always assume that she's the maid.

Posted by: Mclean | June 27, 2006 5:10 PM

My question still stands.

You wrote "She was out of breast milk but had bottled milk and some juice."

The only kind of bottled milk I know of that's not breastmilk comes in old-fashioned glass 1 quart containers at Whole Foods. I'm pretty sure this isn't what you meant.

I am asking honestly... I don't know if you meant cow's milk or formula or what. Call it what it is... formula isn't "bottled milk" anymore than cow's milk is "reconstituted formula".

Posted by: Bethesda | June 27, 2006 5:15 PM

"I told my neighbor, who has dark skin and also an accent how annoying this was, and she said not to feel so bad. People who come to her door always assume that she's the maid."

That's awful! The poor woman. I live in the Chicago burbs where everyone is different! I love being around all this diffence in cultures and love it and I love that my daughter experiences it. She already, at the age of 5, has plans to go to China and India. I am basically a very pale white person but no blonde hair or blues eyes here. BTW, I would love to be able to the au pair thing if I have more kids.

Posted by: Dlyn | June 27, 2006 5:17 PM

You can buy a plastic bottle of regular milk in almost any gas station mini-mart. Not sure if that's what the original poster meant, but that's what I'd consider bottled milk.

Posted by: A | June 27, 2006 5:19 PM

...for the requisite "Please stop attacking " posts? "Leslie, will you please have posts deleted."

I am missing that staple of my day.

Posted by: Isn't it time.... | June 27, 2006 5:22 PM

Your situation is amusing. Screw people, eh? A few years ago I was food shopping with my 23 year old nanny and my baby and the 19 y.o. dork on the register was "hitting one me". He thought I was the nanny. My nanny told him "do you know how old she is". I told her if she told him, she's fired :-) On another occasion, we were interviewing nannies and a well-known DC person came to my house to pick up the nanny candidate to interview at his home. I answered the door and he made a snotty remark about my neighborhood and then said, "ok, let's go". I said "I'm Dr. so and so and I'll get the nanny for you."

I guess I shouldn't complain that I look so young.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 5:26 PM

I was a live-in nanny for the same family for four years and it was wonderful. I loved the two boys and we went on lots of adventures together (zoo, Luray caverns, various parks around town, etc.). I helped them learn to read and to tie their shoes. Please remember that a nanny is not a housekeeper. Yes, I picked up after the boys (and taught them to pick up after themselves), did a bit of laundry, would sometimes start dinner and did meals and snacks (and the requisite clean-up) for the boys, but if you really want someone there for your kids, don't have them doing the heavy housework. Also remember that this is their job and they need to be able to afford rent, food, clothes, insurance (car and health), etc.

Posted by: MEG | June 27, 2006 5:35 PM

Please help!

Whats the difference among a nanny, a sitter and an au pair?

Posted by: HankC | June 27, 2006 5:36 PM

Fifteen years ago I was the only mom at the playground in Arlington. All the other adults were nannies.

Posted by: Chris | June 27, 2006 5:39 PM


No problem!


It takes a big person to say okay, I was being a little crazy on the blog today. It happens to everyone though

Posted by: scarry | June 27, 2006 5:49 PM

A nanny is typically someone who considers themselves to be a professional child caretaker in the home. She (and it is usually a she) either lives out of the home or is a live-in. An aupair is typically someone from a foreign country who comes here to live with a family as a cultural exchange situation. They provide childcare in exchange for a small stipend each week. A babysitter is someone who watches children on an intermittant basis. Nannies use the term babysitter as a negative term for people who may be less "professional" as in those child caregivers who don't do this as a career. Some people use these terms interchangably, but a typical nanny would be insulted to be called an aupair or a babysitter.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 6:57 PM

or the requisite "Please stop attacking " posts? "Leslie, will you please have posts deleted."

I am missing that staple of my day.

PLease stop acting like a jack ass and leave people alone, even if they annoy you, have a different opinion than you, or you just don't like them, because the feeling is probably mutual.

Posted by: do you feel better | June 27, 2006 8:00 PM

Whew! I do feel better.

Same time tomorrow?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 8:33 PM

great, i'll see you then.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 8:50 PM

scarry is scary

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 9:20 PM

hey rockville - how does anyone stand YOU?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 9:22 PM

'In May 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement that advised parents to limit the amount of juice that their children drink. The AAP says that infants shouldn't be given juice at all until they're 6 months old; children aged 1 to 6 should drink no more than 4 to 6 ounces of juice daily; and older children should drink no more than 8 to 12 ounces of juice per day.'

I found this statement somewhere on the WEB after a GOOGLE search. This recommendation came out in 2001, only 5 years ago. I would guess that there were a lot more than the 5 healthy children of the grandmother in the story above who received juice in a bottle as a baby.

While I applaud all mothers who research the best everything for their babies, please remember that "less than best" is not necessarily harmful. And many years from now, when you have grandchildren, I hope noone gives you a hard time about how you are handling your grandchild. I doubt that everyone will be keeping up with all current pediatric recommendations after their own children are grown.

My healthy 14 and 18 year old children both received juice in bottles and there has only been one cavity between the two children. I think they first got juice around 4-5 months of age after I introduced cereal, but to tell the truth, I don't really remember.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 10:05 PM

You are taking yourself way too seriously. It was a joke.

Pretty lame one, though...Bethesda's response was spot on the money.*

Actually, I thought that the joke was the best I've seen on the blog that wasn't a post by fatherof4.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 27, 2006 10:09 PM

"scarry is scary"

Good one, I've never heard that one before.

So, I guess we can tell by your witty intelligence and snappy jokes that you were breast fed.

Posted by: scarry | June 27, 2006 10:46 PM

What a great day! We all slept in (except my spouse, who had to work!), had a late breakfast, tidied up the house, played with friends. Now I am awake at 12:30 because of the late sleep in! But I got caught up with the posts because I have no life! But i wanted to correct something. I was not an au pair but a nanny, unless you count being from fly-over country and going to the east coast a cultural exchange. On second thought, yes, I WAS an au pair! I have often thought how nice it would be to be a nanny again. I was quite young when I had kids, and most of my peers are now having babies while my kids are getting braces and bras. My only concern is that I wouldn't want to give them back.

Posted by: allcaughtupnow | June 28, 2006 12:28 AM

We were just married but not so young. The ferry had just left Holyhead for Ireland and we had 2 stiff seats in "coach". It was 2:30 am and bitterly cold by the time they let us board. I was muttering under my breath that my people had left in steerage and I was returning in triumph the same, when I noticed the utterly frazzled mother to my right. It was hard not to notice as she was on her own with at least 5 dirty unhappy children and an infant screaming with purple rage. I watched in horror (and with more than a wee dram of righteous indignation) as she popped open a Coke can and poured it into a bottle and shoved it into the wailing child. Today I consider that woman a hero and I remain ashamed that I did not offer her a hand.

Posted by: MMF | June 28, 2006 6:38 PM

my friend had a call at work to come and get her baby from the police station. The nanny had been arrested for shoplifting, baby in tow. True story!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 9:56 PM

Wow, are you mothers really that clueless about what other mothers are willing to do to their childcare providers? Or not do for them? I was lucky the second time around and had a great family for 4 years, but there were families who were more concerned with the housework and errands than they were with what the nanny did with their children or wanted to pay the equivalent of less than minimum wage for childcare. I interviewed for a job as the nanny for a professional midwife's children, she had 7, wanted general housework, would have given me a small room in the basement, no healthcare, no access to a car outside of working hours and wanted to pay $100/week. I love kids but I stopped being a nanny because I would never be able to afford to have my own home or even a savings account working as one. It is *not* a 40 hour a week job, it requires skills that are not appreciated (i.e. teaching a child to read, to dress herself, about culture), and people will often try to take advantage of you. Sure some nannies and au pairs are bad, but in general, they aren't the problem because they aren't in the power position. And of course there are the working moms or stay at home moms that try to use other people's nannies as free child care but that's another story. There may be two sides to every story but, in the case of au pairs, most are young and vulnerable in a country that isn't theirs and often away from their families for the first time. Agencies won't necessarily tell them that they are their families 4th or 5th au pair, families misrepresent what they are looking for and the amount of freedom/hours that are worked. I was 18 when I started being a nanny and I am fairly forceful and even I got intimidated by the "adults" who employed me.

Posted by: MEG | June 30, 2006 4:55 PM

I just wanted to agree wholeheartedly with your statement that a great nanny is one more person in a child's corner. I have lots of my own issues and questions and thoughts about being a working mother, but I know that my son's nanny loves my son and cares for him very well. I know he benefits from having her in his life, as one more person that loves him.

Thanks for your article.

Posted by: Kris | July 6, 2006 5:15 PM

I'd like to correct the impression that having your children with a nanny rather than at a child care center means that you "don't have to rush home during rush hour." Nannies also have lives, commitments, families OUTSIDE their jobs. If you want to keep your nanny happy, then you need to respect their time, which means being home on time when their shift ends just like you expect them to be on time for when their work day starts.

Posted by: bemama | July 7, 2006 1:05 PM

I am also the only white 25-year-old nanny I know in the neighborhood and on the playground, and also often am mistaken for being their mother since I'm not of a different ethnicity. Being a nanny has by far been the most difficult job I have undertaken, and it IS definitely a real job. It is also the best practice you will ever get for being a mother yourself one day. I now know how to hold and feed a baby her bottle whilst doing laundry or typing at the same time! Haha, it's a great job, but it is not for everyone, and there is a fine, fine line between caretaker and third parent.

Posted by: Zanne | August 4, 2006 6:32 PM

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