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Nannies Are for the Wealthy … and Other (Somewhat Untrue) Myths

hiring a nanny, nanny myths

Myth: all nannies look like this.

Today Babble is running a piece debunking popular myths about nannies.  Despite what books like The Nanny Diaries and Jude Law’s love life would have you believe, author Candi Wingate claims,  “the truth is that millions of families enjoy working with nannies — scandal-free.”

When it comes to hiring a nanny, scandal isn’t the first thing that pops into my mind.  I thought about hiring a nanny when my daughter was born — after all, it’s what New Yorkers do — but I was sure I wouldn’t be able to afford one.  Wingate says hiring a nanny may not be as cost-prohibitive as I think, but I’m not convinced.  Here’s my take on a few of the nine common misconceptions about nannies she describes:

Myth #1. Nannies are for the wealthy. When asked their family income, 34% of our 796 respondents reported earning less than $100,000 per year, 22% earned between $100,000 and $150,000, 17.5% earned between $150,000 and $200,000, and 26.5% earned over $200,000.

For those of you with me in the under $100,000 per year category, it’s easy to scoff and say, “Sure, a third of people who hire a nanny make less than 100K annually, but a third also make more than double that.  Nonetheless, Wingate notes, “If you have two or more children, hiring a nanny may be more cost effective than daycare.”  That I can believe.  She adds, “If you don’t need full-time help, sharing a nanny with another family is a way to cut down on costs without sacrificing benefits.”  But isn’t a part-time nanny just a babysitter?  Hmm … that leads me to Wingate’s next point.

Myth #2. A nanny must work full-time. Most nannies arrange their schedules around the family’s. For the families who responded to our survey, 46.9% of nannies worked part-time, with the hours per week ranging from under 10 to 30. You can find a high quality nanny who will work with your schedule.

So, we’re talking about a babysitter, right?  A fancy babysitter, who won’t bring her boyfriend over and eat all your chips. Still, I can see how someone like this would be a godsend when you’re on a budget.

Myth #3. A nanny must make a year commitment. The only legally binding agreement between a nanny and a family is a written contract that outlines all the terms of their agreement. (Au pairs are an exception; their J-1 visas require 12 month commitments.) While these contracts are a good idea, you don’t have to have one. Either way, you aren’t tied to a nanny any longer than you want to be.

I have several friends who know all too well that often times nannies tend not to stick around very long.  (One viewing of The Sound of Music will tell you that.)  It’s great for a family employing a nanny to be able to get rid of an irresponsible caregiver, but I would also point out that kids can feel confused or resentful if there’s too much turnover.  (Which is where Mary Poppins comes in, of course.  Thank God for Julie Andrews.)

Myth #4. A nanny is not safe. A study that compared children who received home care, center-based care, and other forms of out-of-home childcare found that the rate of minor injuries was highest in center-based care, but there was not a significant difference among the three types of care for severe injuries. (PEDIATRICS Vol. 122 No. 5 November 2008, pp. e980-e987)

My money is on home care, literally. The only nanny I can afford right now is my daughter’s Grandma — loving, responsible, and she works for free.

One of Wingate’s nanny myth that I had trouble with was #7:

With a nanny, your child will not socialize with other children. One of a nanny’s major responsibilities is to supervise your child’s interactions with other kids, from play dates with friends to birthday parties, organized sports activities, and fun at the park. If you make it clear that encouraging your child’s social development is important to you, your nanny will prioritize it, too.

Yes, be sure to let your nanny organize your child’s playdates.  It’s the best way to let other moms know how very busy and important you are.  I’ll never forget the time, when my daughter was about a year-and-a-half, that she and I went to one of my favorite spots in Harlem for a coffee and a pastry, and I met a very nice mother who was there alone.  She suggested that we have a playdate sometime, and then handed me a card, saying, “Great.  You’ll have to arrange it with my nanny.”  I was aghast.  I wasn’t interested in meeting her nanny — no offense to the nanny, who I am sure was great.  I was looking for another mom to hang out with.

I recommend that you read all nine myths for yourself and see what you think. Do you have a nanny? Why or why not?

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