You’re reading this article, which suggests you have a working Internet connection. So you’re probably asking yourself, as Gawker puts it, “Oh My Gawd! Will my nanny stab my kids?”
We can’t help wondering, because as parents we’re so laid open to the fear and horror of harm befalling a child. As Jezebel says, “The moment you become a parent, you inherit a ticker tape of fear.”
It’s sad beyond words that for this New York family, their worst fears have become a horrific reality. For most of us, though, they’re unfounded. As tragic as this terrible crime is, it is making headlines all over because it is unusual.
It also plays into our deeply held social anxieties about nannies, the caregivers whose role in a child’s life most closely resembles a proxy mother. But who am I kidding, we have deeply held social anxieties about all caregivers, even ourselves. We’re trained to worry constantly about what is happening to our children when they are in someone else’s care, and also told to worry about what is happening to our children when they’re in our own care.
Are we good enough for them? Giving them enough? Doing it right?
Probably we’re all making mistakes sometimes. But the vast majority of nannies, like the vast majority of parents, are loving, capable people struggling to do the right thing by the kids in their care. They get it right more often than they fail, and almost none of them are crazed killers.
Far from wanting to harm your children, many nannies are willing to put their own lives in danger to save the kids they’re watching over.
Nannies are heroic in small ways, too. I know. I was one for years. They perform little miracles like soothing skinned knees and deftly removing sharp objects from toddler’s hands. They learn your child’s favorite songs and how to tuck them in for naps. They inspire a lot of love and trust.
It’s scary to love and trust someone, or to let your child do so. Especially someone who works for you, whose motivations are not simply a mutual love and trust but a financial interest. Is it really OK to let this person so intimately into your life when she or he is there for a paycheck?
Well, most of the time, yes. As I said, most nannies are loving and competent. I still keep photos of the little girls I cared for long before I had my own kids. I keep in touch with the teachers and sitters who have mattered most to my girls. These relationships are real, and most of them are healthy.
It’s terrible that one person committed a horrific crime, and that she abused her position of trust and authority in these children’s lives to do it. It’s beyond terrible, it’s sickening.
But it doesn’t mean anything about the many other loving, stable, wonderful nannies out there. It doesn’t mean you should cancel your date and stay home with your kids rather than leave them with a sitter. It just means one terrible, messed up person went off the rails and committed an unthinkable crime.