When Did Babysitters Become Nannies?

Yesterday I was getting my hair cut. My stylist was making small talk, but I really wasn’t in the mood to talk. You see, I go to the salon so I can listen.

I listen to everyone’s conversation. I admit it. I eavesdrop on them all. Let’s face it, though, half of the people in there want to be heard. Why else would they yell about their personal trials and tribulations over the roar of a blow dryer?

Plus, when I go to a place like the salon or a restaurant or coffee shop and listen, I learn so much more than I ever could at home. I work from home with the Hubs as my only co-worker and my two kids as my personal assistants. I don’t get any office gossip or water cooler talk. I never know what’s going on on The Bachelorette or who the Biebs is dating now. Eavesdropping is my only source of info-tainment.

Yesterday I discovered that babysitters don’t exist anymore. How could I have known? We’ve always relied on my parents to stay with our kids so I’ve never actually had to hire a babysitter. Good thing, because apparently they are gone.

Now we have nannies.

I realized this important piece of news when the stylist (they used to be called hairdressers — another profession that has gone by the wayside) next to mine was chatting up her client.

“What do you do for a living?” she asked.

“I’m a nanny,” was the reply.

“Oh.  So, you’re a babysitter then?” the stylist asked.

“No,” the woman seethed. “I’m a nanny.”

“I don’t understand. Don’t you babysit those kids over there?”

Yeah, the nanny had brought her charges with her to watch her get her roots dyed.

“I’m their nanny.”

“Do you live with them?” the stylist asked.

“No. How weird. I take care of them twice a week.”

“I guess I don’t get it,” the stylist said. “Anyway, did you see the mess Kristin Stewart is in …” and off she went about K-Stew cheating on Edward.

It got me thinking. Why so testy about the semantics of it all? I decided maybe it was just this particular woman until I overheard the client getting her hair washed.  She was asked about her kids and she replied they were at the pool with “the nanny.”

What?! Does everyone call them nannies now?

I started thinking back on conversations I’ve had with friends over the last few years and I realized there is a trend toward using the word “nanny” instead of “babysitter.” What’s that all about?

Look, I lived on the East Coast where nannies are the norm. Nannies are young women who bunk in with the kids and travel with the family so Mommy and Daddy don’t have to be bothered by their offspring. I had friends who were nannies to the rich and famous and many times they were asked to wear uniforms and eat in the kitchen so no one could see them. Their jobs were to care for the kids, supervise their education and meals and make sure they were seen and not heard. The nannies I knew didn’t go to get their roots done with the kids in tow — that’s what babysitters do.

I don’t know if it’s the babysitters who want to be called nanny or if it’s the parents who are doing the hiring. Does it sound like a more glamorous job if you say, “I’m a nanny” or do you sound more high society if you say, “We have a nanny”?

All I know is it’s annoying and pretentious and people just need to own up and stop putting fancy schmancy labels on their lives.

To the Nanny: You are not Mary Poppins. You are a 20 year old girl from Kansas City taking community college classes and watching a couple of rugrats for a couple hours every week to help pay for your classes. To the lady getting her hair washed: You don’t have a nanny. You have a neighbor kid you pay $5 an hour to come over and take your kids to the pool so you can get your hair done in peace.

What about you?  Do you have a babysitter or a nanny?  What’s the difference?

Be sure to read my daily rants at People I Want to Punch in the Throat where you’re sure to laugh and/or might be offended (it’s where you can find my R-rated rants).

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Read more of Jen at PIWTPITT — Why Does Pinterest Look Like it’s Christmas in July? and I Think Young Adult Books are Not Just for Teens and Suburban Moms’ Endless Conversation Loop


Article Posted 4 years Ago

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