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Would You Tell?

When I first started looking for my nanny years ago, my first stop was the park. Sure, I wanted to be out and about and let the baby play outdoors anyway. But how better to look for someone good than to meet other nannies whose approach I liked? My intent was not to steal anyone's child care provider; I simply wanted to find the super nanny's friends.

What I saw was some terrific women interacting with the babies they watched. I saw, too, nannies more interested in chatting with each other than in watching the kids in their care. There was the sitter who let the kids run around the park without shoes. There was the one who was letting a teething baby suck on thin pretzels. And the one who was equating bad behavior with the devil. Nothing too egregious, but things I wouldn't have been comfortable with at the time (yes, I was a probably a bit overly protective of that first kid!).

If I'd been good friends rather than acquaintances with some of the moms, I would have raved about some nannies to their employers and been honest if asked with others. It took our family a while to find a nanny we really trusted. When people tell me good things about my current sitter, it reaffirms that we made a very good choice in hiring her.

This week, DC Urban Mom removed its forum to let parents report local nannies' praiseworthy or disconcerting actions, similar to the the I Saw Your Nanny blog.

The forum began as an experiment, said the site's owner, Jeff Steele. Before that forum started, there were two extreme instances in which postings on DC Urban Mom's e-mail list did involve nannies putting children in danger. In both cases, the observing parent gave lots of detail, enough that people were able to notify the children's parents.

From the beginning, Steele worried about creating the forum for nanny reports because of the potential for fighting among group members. After the forum launched, some parents posted positive sightings. But then, postings came in with too little detail, Steele said. They were about minor things, such as yelling at a child. Frequently, he said, the comments had racial overtones: A posting might begin: "Black nanny with white kid..." The postings would then turn into a debate about the appropriateness of entries.

Steele says the most appropriate way to deal with nanny sightings is directly with a child's parents or have someone who knows the parent talk with them.

What do you think we gain or lose by having these nanny sighting Web posting opportunities? What other ways are there for parents to communicate with each other? And what types of actions rise to the level that would make you tell another parent? If you saw a nanny doing a fantastic job, would you seek out her employer and tell them? What about if you saw a nanny neglecting a child, or smoking in a car with the baby in the back seat or yelling over a child's behavior?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  March 19, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Babies , Preschoolers
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Comments


When I was a nanny, there was one day when I had all three of my charges at the library (13-month old twins and a 4-year-old). I thought I was losing it -- too many kids, too many distractions, too few hands.

But when their mom came to pick us up, one of the other women there said "you know, I've been watching, and your nanny is wonderful with your kids. You're very lucky." That compliment meant the world to me. so yeah, if I saw a good nanny, I'd definitely speak up.

As for the bad stuff, it would depend on degree and how well I knew the nanny and the mom in question. I'd tell a good friend stuff I wouldn't mention to a stranger. But I'd definitely consider a detailed posting to an "I saw your nanny" website. At least I'd be doing something, without inserting myself too much where I don't belong.

Posted by: NewSAHM | March 19, 2008 8:08 AM | Report abuse

I also worked as a nanny once-upon-a-time, and appreciated it when the moms around the pool told my employer how wonderful I was with her children. I always try to compliment good child care providers and well behaved children. But when in comes to reporting "bad behavior", it would have to be something that a)genuinely put the child/ren at risk, and b)I'd have to be sure it was a nanny/babysitter, and not the mom.

Because in my experience, the people most likely to be sitting on the bench talking while the kids run around (barefoot or not), or feeding an infant pretzels, are often the moms and not the nannies. Good nannies know that they are being observed, and they are likely to be more cautious with someone else's child than they might be with their own. I've seen a lot more questionable behaviour from parents than from nannies.

Posted by: JBinVA | March 19, 2008 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Snitches get stitches.

Remember bad parenting or child care in others only improves the chances of your child getting into private school, having better access to healthcare, more goods and services, etc. It doesn't take a village to raise a child. It takes money, power, connections, and entitlements. That is what it's all about.

Posted by: NYC | March 19, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

fr NYC:

>Snitches get stitches.

Oh puhleeze. Maybe in a gang world, they do. Would YOU have someone "get stitches" if they reported that YOUR child was not be well-cared-for???

>...Remember bad parenting or child care in others only improves the chances of your child getting into private school, having better access to healthcare, more goods and services, etc. It doesn't take a village to raise a child. ...

Actually, it DOES. Pediatricians, dentists, school teachers, clergy, etc all work together. Get a clue and grow UP.

Posted by: Alex | March 19, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Alex, NYC has kind of a weird sense of humor. He's also a social Darwinist. This is his take on everything . . .

I think the thing about the concerned parenting by strangers and acquaintances is that the advice-giver assumes that he or she knows everything there is to know about the situation. In a perfect world, no one would ever be FORCED to put kids in a substandard childcare arrangement, or to try not to look too hard. But marriages fall apart, people lose jobs, people choose mortgage arrangements poorly and end up with really high payments -- I have a good friend who freely admits that there were times that she knew the childcare arrangement wasn't perfect but that there were bills to be paid and food to be put on the table. In that situation, having some well-meaning acquaintance (or stranger) call her up and berate her for the choices she was making wouldn't have helped -- unless the stranger wanted to chip in to upgrade the childcare arrangements. Otherwise, it would have just ended up making her feel guiltier than she already did. That's actually why I think sites like "I saw your nanny" aren't particularly helpful.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I'd worry that a lot of the "bad nanny" postings were from SAHMs being holier-than-thou about the choices of two-working parent families.

Posted by: olney | March 19, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

It is hard to always distinguish what is good or bad care since people have different standards.

"There was the sitter who let the kids run around the park without shoes" I would let my kids run around the park without shoes. Barefoot in the grass is one of my fondest childhood memories.

Posted by: lurker | March 19, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

i am a SAHM that has raved to parents about their particularly fabulous nanny, but it felt a bit odd. i believe I said something like "Your nanny is amazing-- she is an inspiration to me and she gives me such great ideas."

I got this look like "of course I got a good nanny, you think I wouldn't have?" Or maybe, "I see, so because you are SAHM you feel you are doing me a favor by commenting on my childcare arrangements."
People can be very touchy so even a compliment about a great nanny can come across as being judgmental.
And when I say "people", yes, i suppose I really mean "women".

I would never post something negative about a nanny that I wouldn't post if I knew it was a parent. And those "Black nanny with white child" post are sooooo stupid! i have two white friends that have black kids and they are really upset when people assume they are not their own kids. Be sensitive people and don't assume!

Posted by: dc mom | March 19, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I've been on enough on-line forums that turned into grudge contests that I don't have any problems with what Steele is suggesting.

Think of the parents who may have worried un-necessarily after vague postings. It's probably better to actually connect with your neighbors on this kind of issue. On-line sightings have too much potential for problem.

Posted by: RoseG | March 19, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I don't have kids, so I don't generally run into or observe nannies that often. But I did recently observe a man walking with his infant daughter (in stroller) and young son. The boy appeared to be about 7 or 8, and was whining about something as they walked down the street. He wasn't paying attention and started to cross a street at the corner without looking as a car was turning. The dad yanked him back (appropriate) and scolded him (appropriate) but his way of scolding him was to scream, "See what you did, you dumb*$$? That's the second time you did something stupid like that because you were yelling at me."

At that point, I was standing at the same street corner with the man and his kids and two very concerned looking women who were jogging. The joggers and I crossed in a different direction than the family, but we all looked back concernedly. I mean... what do you do when the person to report IS the parent? I guess, sadly, the answer is nothing, unless its very violent.?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I think the same rule that goes for kids applies:

If you're only going to get someone IN trouble, it's tattling

If you're going to get someone OUT of trouble, then tell me!

So for telling directly, if I thought a child was in enough danger I would tell the parent. If it was more a parenting style kind of issue (pretzel) then no I wouldn't.

The anonymous Isawyournanny site never has really appealed to me except for pretty extreme cases... I think those sites really just make money or make a splash because of fear and the complex relationship between parent and paid caregiver. I know that in the odd case they help kids, so that's a good. But overall I think they are not really a good tool for parents, because it's so random.

Posted by: Shandra | March 19, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I disapprove of online forums because there's literally no accountability or way to confirm.

Posted by: Liz D | March 19, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

If you want it done right, do it yourself. Raise your own children.

Posted by: Sean | March 19, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for the typo/proofing error previously. It's not easy being a product of immigrant parents, dyslexia, low IQ, and a GED. Oh and it's not easy being green as in Kermit and jealous of great parenting demonstrated herewith.

Social Darwinism is not really my thing. Though I do think Lord of the Flies offers some excellent parenting tips.

I subscribe to Constructivist Theory where learners (adults) when given new information/data/knowledge apply it to previous experiences and reflect/internalize to create new knowledge specific to them. And being that this knowledge is specific to the learner it has a greater value. Others can use didactic shrill comments to communicate. My view is less about pedagogy when I comment. As Omar (The Wire) would say 'Can you feel me?'

Bottom line. Do we learn from reflection on experiences when presented with new knowledge or comments? Or do we shut down and stop learning and thinking?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructivism_(learning_theory)

Posted by: NYC | March 19, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for the typo/proofing error previously. It's not easy being a product of immigrant parents, dyslexia, low IQ, and a GED. Oh and it's not easy being green as in Kermit and jealous of great parenting demonstrated herewith.

Social Darwinism is not really my thing. Though I do think Lord of the Flies offers some excellent parenting tips.
I subscribe to Constructivist Theory where learners (adults) when given new information/data/knowledge apply it to previous experiences and reflect/internalize to create new knowledge specific to them. And being that this knowledge is specific to the learner it has a greater value. Others can use didactic shrill comments to communicate. My view is less about pedagogy when I comment. As Omar (The Wire) would say 'Can you feel me?'

Bottom line. Do we learn from reflection on experiences when presented with new knowledge or comments? Or do we shut down and stop learning and thinking?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructivism_(learning_theory)

Posted by: NYC | March 19, 2008 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I think your standards may be unreasonable. Nannies who talk to each other at the park: that isn't cause for alarm, in my opinion. The park is for kids to interact with other kids; otherwise, just buy a playset and put it in the backyard.

Watching small kids all day is very isolating, whether for moms or nannies. The park is a good place for nannies to talk to other adults while still meeting the needs of the children. They can find friends for the kids, talk about child-raising ideas, etc. I have talked with nannies at the park and they were all conscientious even though they were (gasp) not playing with their charge one-on-one the whole time.

Posted by: middle70 | March 19, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Shandra. Sharing concerns should provide support to the nanny or children, not to rat on the nanny. I can't imagine doing this with anyone but a friend or close acquaintence (someone I see every week).

I did have the experience of discussing with a friend her au pair's interaction with her children. The discussion was on a matter-of-fact level and several interesting points were made. But here's what I took away from this experience: 1) I would never have this same discussion with a person I didn't know well; 2) the conclusions drawn were not negative regarding the new au pair (indeed, everyone liked her and wanted to know her better); and 3) the intent was not to "tattle".

As for barefoot in a park (Have you guys never seen the movie?! :), well, I'm the bad parent (but some may think I'm the nanny) who allows ny son to go shoeless in the playground. We even allow the older children to range out of our eyesight (gasp!). I think this belongs in "different parenting style and comfort zone" rather than "child neglect".

Posted by: slacker mom | March 19, 2008 5:47 PM | Report abuse

I have yet to see anything that I thought endangered the kids from anyone's nanny. Mostly what I see are women doing a wonderful job, and displaying more energy for it than I generally have.

As a mother of an autistic child, I am keenly aware of how I'm viewed by others. I'm sure that the other mothers in the park think that I'm horrible. When I had nannies, I had wonderful ones and one crappy one. I didn't need anyone to rat on her, although I wish that a couple of people had spoken up before I fired her the way that they did afterwards ("You fired her? I have to admit, I hated that woman."). What the children told me, and what I saw when she wasn't around, told me everything that I needed to know.

Posted by: bad mommy | March 24, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

(1) More information is always better. If the reported conduct is within the parents' comfort zone, they are free to ignore the report, and have a laugh over the hysteria of the anonymous poster.

(2) Silence is not preferable to the remote possibility of hurting someone's feelings. I'm a little shocked that some posters here argue for silence, because the parents might be hurt or offended. If some anonymous person reported that my daycare provider was doing something I considered perfectly fine, but that poster considered egregious, I really wouldn't care. I'd also appreciate their concern over the child of a perfect stranger--even if I considered it a bit hysterical. Let's set an example and help our kids grow some backbone by welcoming observation and opinion, instead of hiding from it.

(3) These sites are a substitute for the collective action most of us experienced as kids, where plentiful parents kept their eyes on everyone's children. I'm glad they exist.

Posted by: new dad | March 24, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

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