The nanny factor: How it works is up to the employer

But let us not blame nannies as a contributory cause of parental neglect.

By Bikram Vohra

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Published: Tue 18 Jun 2019, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 18 Jun 2019, 10:43 PM

It was a depressing week by way of local accidents and tragedies especially the ones involving young children. Despite ongoing advisories and initiatives not just from the police and civil defence and campaigns to inform and instruct the window to disaster still gets opened.
Whether it is the loss of children left unguarded in a pool or the negligence of leaving latchkey kids at home or even the horrendous marooning of a child in a car or a bus, each such incident underscores a certain loss in connection between parent and child.
There have to be several factors that go into the mix. From over-dependence on maids and domestic staff to the surrogate usage of technological gadgetry replacing quality parental time to the breathless involvement in the rat race and the social whirl of gathering status symbols, the neglect per se is of the children.
 But let us not blame nannies as a contributory cause of parental neglect. On the contrary working mothers, single parents find salvation in nanny support and would not be able to manage without them or give their children a good life. There is a qualitative and quantitative difference between handing over your child to another and continue to glide through life on a parallel track, that being tantamount to a total dereliction of parental duties. And the hardworking mother who multi-tasks between work and travel and yet supervises the 'supervision' of her children, obtaining security and comfort from an adult presence.
In both scenarios there is one common element. The relationship between the nanny and the family that hires her has to be chiselled and its contours maintained by the parent who hires her. Where there is mutual respect and understanding, the nanny can and does become a member of the family. To this extent as we heard in the case of the 29-year relationship of a nanny in UAE the lines blur and both sides integrate.
Shudder to imagine the upheaval in so many families where both parents work to make a living and give their children the best of life, an aspiration for any mother or father if the nanny factor was seen as a detriment.
 It is in the overdependence that things can go wrong. Whether from sheer sloth or indifference to the activities of a child's growing years handing over the child or children to domestic staff and literally not being there is what causes problems.
For each such tragedy that we hear about there are several near misses that we do not visit. Children can be placed in imminent danger not just by parents but even by support staff. Add to this a child's natural fearlessness of danger and you have to seek a physiological reasoning for it. Why do the young think they are infallible?
Especially at a time when young people today are attracted to dangerous web games ranging from vacuum packing themselves in black garbage bags or engage in the 'birdbox' challenge where you run around the house blindfolded or the extremely stupid game of jumping out of running cars and dancing to the song "In my feelings." Much of it is traced to the relatively immature region of the brain called the right ventrolateral prefrontal part of the brain that at this young age is not able to cope with feelings as it does in later life when all passion is spent.
Several areas of the brain make teens more sensitive to the neurochemical rewards of peer acceptance and approval, resulting in a strong desire to impress friends and an increased willingness to take risks by performing risky and "exciting" behaviours.
In many cases parents are not aware of these distinctions and cannot understand why kids are unruly or indisciplined. Sometimes the nanny factor can play a defining and positive role because an adult presence can exercise control and ensure safety measures.
Leslie Neadal writing in Good Housekeeping says her children have imbibed a fresh culture, made the family stronger and the children happier. And they are safer than if there was no nanny.
It is a bit of a lottery but those who win it discover it was worth it. A bit of prejudice does kick in. Don't get a 'pretty nanny' was the subject of a major New York Times article that traced the role of nannies in the loss of privacy and even the breaking up of marriages especially in Hollywood. There is also a great deal of paperwork and an awesome sense of responsibility because her problems become yours.
Well, we cannot all get Mary Poppins or Maria from The Sound of Music but don't blame the nanny because you don't know how to handle her.
bikram@khaleejtimes.com
 



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