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The Bad Caregiver: Why It Need Not Be A Nanny

Posted: August 15, 2014

Dual working parents often do need to depend on paid nannies for childcare help. However, bad caregivers can be anyone – not just nannies or non-family members.

From the diary of a nanny

6.30 a.m – I leave home. Have been up since 5.00 a.m doing my chores. No time for breakfast.
7.15 a.m – I miss my bus and reach fifteen minutes late. Memsaheb is waiting at the door (she has an early meeting). She is rocking the baby and looking tired. She rushes out.
7.25 a.m – I realize that Memsaheb’s breakfast cereal is half-eaten. I feel sorry for her.
7.35 a.m – Baby wakes up, howling. Baby’s father is sleeping through this din.
8.00 a.m – Fed baby. Changed diaper. Put clothes in the washing machine. Saheb wakes up, demands cup of tea. He also asks for toast and eggs. Eats it without asking if I would like to make some for myself as well. (My job is just looking after Baby, not cooking…but he does not know/care).
9.00 a.m – Saheb rushes out. The cook has not turned up. I cannot put the baby down… teething…..so crying continuously. Naturally cannot cook myself anything.
10.00 a.m – I eat bread and butter with one hand, standing. Rocking the baby with the other. My head is aching. Back is aching.
11.00 a.m – Memsaheb calls. Hears Baby crying. Sounds very, very worried. Seems to be on the verge of tears herself. I reassure her.
2.15 p.m – Baby is sleeping. Finally. I put the wet clothes to dry, then put the cooker on for some dal-chawal.

Okay. Let us all take a deep breath!
How many stay-at-home mothers (SAHMs) reading this diary said, “Gosh, she left her teething baby to rush for a meeting! Terrible.”
How many working mothers reading this piece said, “OMG, poor nanny. Tough day. Also, I can order in a pizza or something, maybe leave the washing for later, but not the nanny.”
How many women reading this piece wondered, “Why is the father uninterested in the fate of his offspring and its caregiver?”
How many men reading this piece wondered the same?
How many parents/nannies with a terrible start to a day like this could remain composed, un-irritated and un-frazzled?

When a mother decides to leave her home and pursue a profession, she has to leave her precious child in someone’s care, because she cannot be in two places at once.

This is the inevitability of life. Let us face it.

If the caregiver is a grandparent, we do feel reassured and happier. Very often, this is not the case. Nuclear families, distance, etc. means that a caregiver not related to you is caring for the baby.

Caring for the caregiver

a. Grandparent- Even they might need help from a nanny-like person due to the physical difficulty of caring for a young child.

b. A stay-at-home mother – One look at the nanny’s schedule tells us that it is startlingly similar to what a stay-at-home mother goes through. A gruelling job, indeed.

If we can sympathize with the grandparent and stay-at-home mom, why not with the nanny? She looks after the baby that she is paid to look after, then heads home and does her share back there, as well.

c. Nanny- It is true that many nannies look at the entire process only as a job. They do not turn up for work, are slack when they do, may have pay issues and lack professionalism as a whole.

But – if you DO find a good person to care for your child, treat her well. Pay her well. A good, caring nanny is worth her weight in gold. You are handing over one of the most precious parts of your life to her every morning. If she is happy, it reflects in the way she does things for your child.

Sadly, there is no standardisation for child-care in our country, whereby we are reassured that a person trained in child care, a careful-about-hygiene person is caring for our child.

But then again, this reflects in the non-standardised payment we give, the flexible hours they work and at times inhuman treatment meted out to many. The Devyani Khobragade case highlighted this difference amply.

What about the role of fathers?

Very few fathers are hands-on. More emancipation is needed before they evolve from sperm-donor and bystander roles to actively looking after their off-spring. But, humane treatment of our child’s caregivers is surely not a stretch.

Be it a nanny, SAHM, working mom or grandparent, everyone needs a break from continual diaper changes, feeding, rocking, watching, burping, thrown-up food, cleaning up, potty training, cooking, reading out, grizzling during teething, post vaccination blues, skinned knees, mysterious fevers, runny noses and so forth…

Being busy, preoccupied, tired, hungry and irritated are human traits; common to fathers as well as caregivers. If you have a rough day at the office, then imagine it twice as rough for the person at home. And pitch in!

The bad caregiver

A recent incident in Pune where a nanny was seen battering a baby (on spycam) threw open an animated discussion about nannies.

The first reactions:
Working mothers – Should I install spycams?
Fathers – Resign from your job, dear!
SAHM – Thank God I am not working!

This smugness and the belief that plugging one hole of uncertainty is sufficient, is certainly a naive one. Mere presence in the vicinity of your child does not translate to a better childhood.

What is certainly more common than nannies being the culprit is that fathers, mothers, grandparents often batter babies. Other family members are unaware of or complicit in the abuse. Upon discovery, the shame and horror is most certainly there, but the incidents are rarely reported with the alacrity that one would reserve for non-family.

Sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children is commonly perpetrated by persons known to the family, not necessarily unrelated by blood. And it can happen in schools, playgrounds, your own home, homes of friends, relatives, neighbours, etc.

It helps to look at all caregivers (family or employee) as human with their frailties and problems, and also take care of one’s child with the same degree of vigilant affection and ‘taking nothing and no one for granted’ attitude…whether one is a SAHM or working mother.

Pic credit: kongharald (Used under a CC license)

I am Ujwala Shenoy Karmarkar. I love reading, meeting people, listening to music, watching plays,

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