Yesterday a nanny in NYC stabbed two of her three charges to death. We don’t know why. NYC is reeling. The whole world is reeling.
This is what I want to say to all of us out there who’ve ever employed a nanny:
Don’t be afraid of your nanny.
She is the same person she was yesterday morning before this happened. She still comes to work every morning to give excellent, loving care to your kids. There is a reason you hired her, and not the others you interviewed. That hasn’t changed.
She is probably going to be as shaken up about this as you are. Maybe even more so. I can’t even imagine how the other nannies in the Krim family’s building and who went to the same playgrounds are feeling. They saw those children every day. They saw the nanny every day. Your nanny is probably going to be as weepy and shaken today as you are.
There are two takeaways from this, as I see it:
1. Trust your instincts. In Gavin Becker’s “Protecting the Gift” he talks about trusting that instinct we all have, but most of us squelch for social politeness. If you get a bad vibe from someone, trust that vibe. If you have been getting bad feelings about your nanny, trust those feelings. Everyone I know who has employed a nanny has ended up firing at least one because something just wasn’t right. (I fired a nanny who disappeared with my kids for several hours and wouldn’t return phone calls. A friend fired a nanny who was telling elaborate lies.) If you have nothing but good feelings for your nanny, trust those feelings. (I went on to have two of the most wonderful nannies in the world, who we’re still friends with. My friend who fired the liar hired someone who’s been a second mother to her kids for the past six years.)
2. Mental health is important. People are going to say things like “she was a monster” about the nanny who killed the Krim children. My guess is that she was a normal person who became mentally ill. Just like mothers who develop postpartum psychosis and hurt their children. Just like the man who killed people in Wisconsin this week. Normal people who developed a chemical imbalance that went untreated and caused them to do horrible things. The contributing factor in these cases was isolation. No one saw that they were becoming unstable. Or if they did see, they didn’t help. People who develop chemical imbalances can be treated.
As someone who has a mood disorder (depression), I need you to know that it is a physical illness that can be treated. If someone you knew who had diabetes started becoming unstable physically, I hope you would check in to see if they were treating their illness effectively. Mood disorders are the same thing. If someone you know is acting strange, whether they have a history of mood disorders or not, please check in. They could be in a chemical imbalance that they can’t control and don’t understand is happening. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. The vast majority of people who have chemical imbalances will never hurt anyone, but we need people to care enough about us to call us on things if we’re acting unhealthy.
Please, today, hug your children. Hug your nanny. Hug your friends. Hug your friends’ nannies. We are all in this together.
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