Friday, February 12, 2010

Nanny Speak

There was an article last week in the New York Times called, “How to Talk Nanny,” (, which really got under my skin. The point of the article was that there are a growing number of high powered executive women who employ nannies but are constantly frustrated with them because the nannies don’t do what they say because the women executives don’t know how to talk to their domestic help and aren’t communicating their needs to them. First off, apparently, if you based it on what you read in this article, no fathers employ or deal with nannies. Secondly, only wealthy corporate climbers hire nannies. Thirdly, there is an implication that somehow the nannies are at fault and that the employers have to find special ways to communicate with the help and their limited abilities to comprehend things. The article even talks about consultants, workshops and psychologists who are sprouting up to address the problem, specializing in improving communications between parents and their nannies. Really? You need a consultant for this? A therapy session with your maid? Really?

Here’s what I’m guessing - just because these moms are on the corporate fast track doesn’t mean home is the only place they don’t know how to communicate with their employees. I’m thinking the same people needing nanny speak instruction are probably pretty inarticulate, passive-aggressive, demanding or simply unavailable to give instruction (you fill in the appropriate blank) at work as they are at home. Their problem communicating their needs isn’t unique to dealing with their domestic situation – it probably is an issue in many areas of their life. It just bothers them more at home because it’s their home, they have to return to it after the rigors of the day, they’ve entrusted the care of their children and household to someone else and they want it to be right. I get that, but making it seem like there is some communication issue that is unique to the parent/domestic help relationship is absurd!

Trust me, I’ve had my own nanny issues. We won’t even go into detail about the one who locked my 2 year old in a car on a hot day while she ran inside the store to pick up something and then didn’t understand what the problem was when I found out later and spoke with her about it. I think her response was something like, “I was only in the store a minute.” Needless to say, that was her last day in my employ. I’ve never been a fan of having someone else in my home handling my children or doing stuff when I’m not there. Inevitably and often through no fault of their own, they’re not going to do it exactly the way I want it every time. I’ve learned to either accept that or go crazy. If they can follow the instructions I’ve given and gotten close, then we’re good. If I didn’t ask, instruct, inform and they did their own thing – then that’s on me.

“How to Speak Nanny,” really should be titled, “How to Communicate and Get What You Want… or At Least Close To It.” But that isn’t anywhere near as offensive as “How to Speak Nanny,” and doesn’t give these moms suffering from this communication malady an out to imply that the problem is really with the nanny and not themselves.

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