The shocking news of a nanny’s alleged murder of two children ages 2 and 6 in New York City devolved into a pissing argument about stay-at-home moms versus moms who work outside the home at UrbanBaby:
“All you ladies who put your career and money above your children, this is what can happen.”
“This will teach you to never leave your kids with nannies unless you have to work to put food on the table.”
“Stop getting manicures and stay home with your children.”
It remains unclear whether the mother, Marina Krim, was even a full-time working mom; it didn’t seem so from the details she provided on her LiveJournal blog Life with the Little Krim Kids (now shut down), like spending three hours with her son every morning. Meanwhile, plenty more mothers on UrbanBaby were having crises about their caregivers:
“I have to leave the house and go to work. Nanny is here playing with my 2 year old. I am late and can’t get myself to leave.”
“I’ve had mine for five years and we love her like family but right now I’m a bit freaked out!”
The details are still emerging. It seems that Marina Krim returned home late afternoon on Tuesday with her 3-year-old to find her apartment dark. She went downstairs to ask the doorman if their nanny, identified as Yoselyn Ortega, 50, had left. When she returned to her home, she discovered her oldest daughter, Lucia, and her youngest, Leo, in the bathtub with fatal multiple stab wounds. She started screaming; the building’s superintendent ran upstairs. In a nearby room, he reportedly saw the nanny stabbing herself.
What happened to the Krim family is unbearably tragic, hard to even think about. I felt nauseous as I read the news this morning, and extreme pain for the parents. Then I went downstairs and there was our long-time nanny, L., patiently giving my son breakfast. Worry? Fear? Doubt? Not a speck. I felt more grateful than ever to have her in our lives. If there’s any lesson whatsoever to be gleaned from the tragedy, it’s this: Be thankful for your nanny.
I hired L. in my ninth month of pregnancy; a friend of a friend knew I was going to need a nanny because I work full-time and had recommended her. L. had worked for one family for five years; she wanted a family closer to home so she could spend more time with her daughter. I liked L.’s quiet and sweet manner. “We’re devastated to lose her,” was the only negative her previous employer could give, and other references were glowing, too. We did a background check, we hired her, and I’ve never had a single moment of regret. My son, as it would turn out, would have a stroke at birth that resulted in cerebral palsy. L. has been there to help encourage his development, sitting through therapy sessions while I was at work and cheering him on just as much as I did. As my son took his first steps at age 3, steps we never thought we’d see, there were tears of happiness in her eyes, too.
When an unspeakably violent event like this happens, it’s going to stir up panic. But one thing people should not be wigging out about is how safe their nannies are. If you’ve trusted yours till this point, there’s no reason to not trust her now. If you’ve had doubts about your nanny and haven’t acted on them, well, it shouldn’t take a tragedy like this to force you to confront them. Instincts are one of a parent’s most important tools, even though clearly they aren’t always foolproof. What in life is?
The truth about employing someone to handle our most precious assets in life, our children, boils down to common sense and trust: Check the person’s background and references. Listen to what at-home moms, shop owners and other people who see your nanny and children during the daytime tell you about her—and ask, too. Not all nanny are good eggs, as evidenced by the goings-on at HowsMyNanny and I Saw Your Nanny, where people can anonymously report on nannies doing worrisome stuff to their charges. But if all signs are pointing to your nanny doing a good job, trust and respect her—the basis of any good relationship.
Here’s another truth: If you consider news stories of the past decade, the episodes of mothers killing their children by far outnumber the amount of stories about nanny violence (even though that, too, isn’t common). Before this incident, the only nanny violence I could recall making national headlines was the case of Louise Woodward, the young British au pair convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 1997 for “popping” an eight-month-old boy onto a bed. The number of times I’ve read about a mother killing her kids are far more numerous. The alleged nanny stabbing was a rare episode of violence.
Here’s yet another truth few want to consider: Our children are vulnerable to danger every single day, in some way or the other. You try not to think about it because the alternative is to be uber-neurotic about every little thing your child does and every little place he or she goes. And then a case like this crops and some mothers let their brains go to that dark place. I refuse to. Right now, I’m thinking about the Krim family, as well as my own nanny. I am sure many caregivers out there are worried about how they’re going to be perceived after this. As one noted on UrbanBaby, “I’m also frightened that people will start thinking that all nannies will somehow ‘snap’ and hurt children. I promise, I swear to you, we’re not all like that and some of us are just as tearful tonight as you moms are.” Said another, “Just got to work. Kids are still sleeping but looking forward to giving them big hugs when they wake up. Yesterday’s news reminds me of how lucky all of us are to have these children we love in our lives.”
When I came downstairs today and saw L. making sure Max was getting most of the Cocoa Rice Krispies into his mouth (fine-motor skills are a challenge for him), I felt a rush of affection for her. “I heard the news about the nanny and those children,” I said to L. “It’s devastating. But I just want you to know it made me grateful for you.” They’re words I hardly ever say, but should.
“Thanks,” L. said, simply. And then I kissed my son and ran out to make my train.
Today, as we grieve for the Krims, and give our children extra kisses, let’s also think about the people who so faithfully and lovingly care for our kids. Let’s stop the nanny panic and, instead, appreciate our nannies a little more. Because they sure deserve it.
Photo credit: Image Source Photography
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