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I must admit, I'm impressed at how thorough they are.
January 9, 2013 3:32 PM   Subscribe

"Hiring a nanny is nervewracking. You want someone who's great with kids, who can speak three languages, and who has impeccable virtue, yet you also want someone who will work for free. It's a delicate balance. One Queens, NY couple has a very specific idea of the kind of adult in whose care they will leave their children: a lost soul who's willing to tackle the epic quest of slogging through their 65-question survey."
posted by zarq (203 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Poor kids.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:37 PM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


26. If you ever smoke weed, how many smokes do you typically have on a social occasion? If you never smoke, please skip this question.

A friend of mine smoked three marijuanas once and thought he could fly. Marijuana, not even once!
posted by Ad hominem at 3:37 PM on January 9, 2013 [56 favorites]


My friend in college in New York was a stoner and the best goddamned nanny on the planet.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:40 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'll admit I skipped it the first time to get to the survey, but this isn't even a full time job. $15/hour for 2 days/week (no benefits).
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:41 PM on January 9, 2013


Eek. And here I was feeling bad that I wanted an Asian babysitter who could speak my native tongue.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:42 PM on January 9, 2013


> 43. When you are finished with your workday, how would you leave the house?

I was surprised none of the options for this question were "Through the window, with my umbrella," but then I realized I'd misread the question.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:42 PM on January 9, 2013 [72 favorites]


Why
49. Have you graduated high school?
but
51. Have you graduated from college?
This is clearly a social-climbing, over-reaching couple, but they can't make up their minds how to ask if someone has received a degree from an educational institution? I'm being overly harsh about them, I guess, because I have an instinctive dislike of this level of compulsion.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:42 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


TBH we don't know if maybe they are looking for someone "420 friendly" or maybe they are looking for someone they can pay in blow.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:43 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


You are a magical Mary Poppins, a wizard, or a giant spiky Triceratops.

Because only magical, fictional characters would select this answer...

I don't currently live in New York City, but would move if I got the job

...for $15/hr for two days a week.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:46 PM on January 9, 2013 [17 favorites]


25. How often do you smoke weed?

☒ I'm smoking it right now.

☐ Daily

☐ Weekly

☐ Monthly

☐ Only on social occasions

☐ Once or twice per year

☐ Never
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:47 PM on January 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


I find this infuriating. I mean, asking intimate questions about your health? Asking for doctor's notes? Asking if you've "traveled to more than 30 countries" for a $15/hr job in New York? Fuck that. This exhibits the same kind of delusions of grandeur/entitlement that rich kids who start media and design firms but can't really afford to hire help have when they post those "Are you a social media Rockstar? Do you code in all languages and are you well-traveled and do you have a huge web presence? Well then great! We are looking for an unpaid intern."

I mean, obviously it's important to screen your nanny - but this precious snowflake couple has lost perspective. I mean, I get that the aspiring actress liberal arts college recent grads will do almost anything for rent money at 22, but this is sort of beyond the pale to me.

I don't know why I care so much. There's something about privileged young yuppie families in NYC that really brings out the grar in me.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:48 PM on January 9, 2013 [48 favorites]


...for $15/hr for two days a week.

But no holidays! Don't you DARE think of leaving town! Or using scented body wash! Or growing out your fingernails! I don't know what kind of candidates they're going to get, but they can certainly kiss my (citrus-scented, OH THE HORRORS) butt.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:49 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


At least they're considerate enough to make sure you know just what special hell you'd be in for by taking that job.
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:50 PM on January 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


Lutoslawski: "Poor kids."

Definitely.

But you know... as someone who employed a nanny for 2.5 years, I'm a little sympathetic. Just a little. It's scary as hell to hire people to take care of your babies because you have to work, especially if they're infants. You're entrusting a virtual stranger to be alone with your tiny, defenseless kid(s) for many hours every day. It's scary as hell, especially with stuff like this in the news.

Looking back, there were questions we should have asked and didn't. We were very lucky.

On the other hand:
8. How often do you do the following?
- Shower or bath
- Wash your hair


Is... just... wow.

Run, nanny.

Run.
posted by zarq at 3:50 PM on January 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


This has got to be some kind of NYPD/CIA/FBI/ATF/USCIS/OSHA joint sting operation.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:51 PM on January 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


"How many tickets have you received in the last 7 years"

"How often have you missed work due to a hangover (either from drinking or recreational drugs)?"

Why would anyone answer these questions honestly?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:52 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, how much information do [many of] our employers already [want to] collect about us, even before we're hired as toll-booth attendants or janitors. Getting fingerprinted, getting our picture taken, getting our time, date, and location of vaginal birthing recorded, marital history...
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:52 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Craigslist is full of ads for illicit things disguised, thinly or otherwise, as legitimate ads for unrelated items. I wonder if this is a sort of thing where you fill out what drugs you want and how often.
posted by brenton at 3:54 PM on January 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


Seriously, I'm not exactly sure why they go into detail about the types of drugs one may have consumed. GHB? Ketamine? Can't you just ask "Have you taken hard drugs at all in the past x years?"

And what's the deal with the birth order stuff? Are they going to do my star chart?
posted by inturnaround at 3:54 PM on January 9, 2013


Some of these questions? Yeah, obnoxious.

But I regularly end up having to fill out 50+ question "personality profile" quizzes on job applications that ask stupid or inane things like "How would you rate this statement on a scale of 1 to 5: I perform well under pressure," sometimes multiple times on the same questionnaire. They all say "there are no right or wrong answers," but then they ask questions like: "How much do you agree with this statement: the customer is always right," where you just know one way or the other the question is loaded. Every time I fill one out I feel like I'm jumping through invisible, insubstantial, moving hoops, and being graded for style points.

In summary: job applications suck.
posted by JHarris at 3:57 PM on January 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


Isn't this straight-up illegal? Hiring a nanny is like hiring any employee and the same laws apply, including ones prohibiting asking questions abouter personal medical information.
posted by GuyZero at 3:57 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


The nanny relationship is both professional and intensely personal. It does matter whether your nanny is pining for the home country or on the phone all day. However, the potential for entanglement of the personal and the money is why my kids have been at daycare for their entire lives even though we could have hired a nanny. Also the professional screening, oversight, and state regulation.

And frankly, reading the nanny section of this DC uberparenting site in CD, which I believe zarq posted to about 6 months back, soured me on the whole concept.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 3:57 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


The more of this shit I see, the less I'm inclined to raise my kids away from extended family. I think most ills in Western society can be traced back to the complete lack of support from, or completely absence of, your extended family. Does that make me a social conservative?
posted by legospaceman at 3:57 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well asking about US citizenship right off the bat is a bad sign. Isn't that basically a blatant indication of employment discrimination? Obviously nothing wrong with asking about having the legal right to work in the US, English proficiency, cultural knowledge, etc..., but are they actually looking to exclude a permanent resident who's lived here for practically all his/her life?
posted by zachlipton at 4:00 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Isn't this straight-up illegal?

I think so. Not just the medical questions, but also the one about marital status.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:01 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


And PS: yes this survey is crazy, but something about the nanny-parent relationship brings out the latent crazy.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 4:01 PM on January 9, 2013


If you want this choice position
Sit down for this inquisition
Twice a week...or so.
Play games (no blow)

Mustn't be high, that's a pity
Job might drive you from the city
Telephone calls, not allowed
'Cept nap time (not loud)

Don't expect holidays or vacation
Wait we've got another question!
Recreational prescription drugs or
Their derivatives?
Heavy housework's not imperative...

Hurry nanny, many thanks...
Mary Jane and Ketamine? Cranks!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:02 PM on January 9, 2013 [31 favorites]


Exposing these people to the fact that I've never had a hangover, but average about a beer a day (sometimes more) would probably rip a hole in the space time continuum.

Reading the rest of their questions, I think I'd be good with that.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:02 PM on January 9, 2013


What's the point of living among a permanent underclass if you can't get them to jump through hoops for a crust?
posted by pompomtom at 4:03 PM on January 9, 2013 [38 favorites]


This reminded me of one of my favorite blog posts, containing a nanny survey that's much more my style.
posted by peep at 4:03 PM on January 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


But no holidays! Don't you DARE think of leaving town! Or using scented body wash! Or growing out your fingernails! I don't know what kind of candidates they're going to get, but they can certainly kiss my (citrus-scented, OH THE HORRORS) butt.

I knew somebody would zero in on this. It actually is one of the more reasonable questions. Fragrances can be a trigger for migraines, asthma, and other medical conditions. I could not hire someone to work in my home who wore perfume or used scented lotion.

Overall, of course this is ridiculous.
posted by not that girl at 4:03 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


The question about my drug dealer's marital status was just beyond the pale.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:03 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I had a whole string of babysitters growing up in New York. They ranged from incredibly dedicated grandmother types to the bottom rungs of society. About half of them smoked cigarettes. Some of them probably smoked weed. Hell some of them were probably high while watching me. I had one woman in her fifties that was functionally illiterate, I had to read stuff to her. I had one teenage kid who gave me fireworks and playboys. I had one who took me with her to her boyfriends social club until it got raided and shut down. How would I have turned out if I hadn't had all those great experiences. Well, I probably wouldn't smoke for one thing, so I agree with that. Probably shouldn't chain smoke Pall-Malls around the kids.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:04 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons: " And frankly, reading the nanny section of this DC uberparenting site in CD, which I believe zarq posted to about 6 months back, soured me on the whole concept."

Yep, I was the one who posted a link to the DCUM board. All things considered, I'm relieved to see that people responding to the "nanny showers too much" question are giving the OP a reality check.
posted by zarq at 4:04 PM on January 9, 2013


I also don't think you can ask about arrests, only convictions.
posted by dave78981 at 4:04 PM on January 9, 2013


I especially liked the breastfeeding question, where there were no neutral or nuanced answers, only "I support breastfeeding 100%" and three clearly-wrong pro-formula options.
posted by not that girl at 4:05 PM on January 9, 2013


What, no analogy section?

"quixotic : jejune :: sanguine : ____________"

"Cymric : Gaelic :: __________ : Urdu"
posted by mosk at 4:08 PM on January 9, 2013 [25 favorites]


please check one:

__ tastes great

__ less filling
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:08 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


How would I have turned out if I hadn't had all those great experiences. Well, I probably wouldn't smoke for one thing, so I agree with that. Probably shouldn't chain smoke Pall-Malls around the kids.

I never had a babysitter who smoked in the same room as me. But the smell of smoke on an older woman causes just about the most comfortingly weird physical response because of those who did when I wasn't around.

I especially liked the breastfeeding question, where there were no neutral or nuanced answers, only "I support breastfeeding 100%" and three clearly-wrong pro-formula options.

When fake-taking the test, when I got to that question, I felt like I was cheating and the last ten years on the Internet had given me a crib sheet.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:10 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Our son is in daycare, but it was closed January 2nd and we both had to work. My employer offers a backup daycare program where they'll find a caregiver for you and subsidize the cost on days your regular caregiver is unavailable. So I signed up to have a nanny come to my house (would have preferred a center, but the ones nearby were all full) She called in advance to introduce herself and seemed very nice. I left before she got there and my husband said she got there on schedule and off he went to work, too. Then I spent the rest of the day wondering, who is this stranger in my house?! I know her name, I know she works for an agency that vetted her properly (in theory), but...what else? Will she shake him if he cries? Will she watch TV for hours and ignore my child? Will she let him chew on electrical cords? Is she terrified of dogs or cats, did she lock them in the closet? Is she going to steal all my jewelry? I came home and the baby was perfectly fine- happy and well-fed. The pets were snoozing in their usual spots. Jewelry accounted for. She had even washed all the dishes in the sink and scrubbed our dirty stove(!). All in all, a good day. But I definitely get the temptation to go overboard in screening the caregiver who will be caring for your small, non-oral children alone in your home. The mind can wander and when it does, eesh.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:13 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


46. What would you do during our child's 2 hour nap?....Run a quick errand?

LOLOLOL
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:14 PM on January 9, 2013


I also love how they're trying to get a nanny (who also does housework, because that's what the help does).
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:14 PM on January 9, 2013


My favorite bit is that the position only pays $15/hr two days a week. I think coffee shops pay that here.
posted by gagglezoomer at 4:16 PM on January 9, 2013


46. What would you do during our child's 2 hour nap?....Run a quick errand?

Don't be silly. My 2-hour errand can hardly be described as "quick."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:18 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


At least half these questions would get me in serious trouble with HR if I were to ask them to a candidate...
posted by wildcrdj at 4:18 PM on January 9, 2013


So I'd really like an answer about this - if it's an independent employer like a single family/individual, can they be legally barred from asking questions about your medical history and such? Or is it the kind of thing where they can ask, you can refuse to answer, and if they don't hire you you can't prove that it was because you refused, so they get away with it?

Nannying is one of those jobs where I'm constantly amazed that people expect you to be a better caretaker than you yourself are, in many cases, but value the work at $20 an hour or less.
posted by nakedmolerats at 4:18 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


$15/hour, two days a week, probably expecting that you stay on your feet all 8 hours scrubbing the house when the kids are busy. And in NYC, to boot. Even if you had a PT nanny job lined up for each other day, you wouldn't be a very financially secure individual.

Is it too early to call it neo-feudalism yet and these advertisements calls for peasants to live dependently and subserviently to a 'generous' landed family?
posted by Slackermagee at 4:18 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I came home and the baby was perfectly fine- happy and well-fed. The pets were snoozing in their usual spots. Jewelry accounted for. She had even washed all the dishes in the sink and scrubbed our dirty stove(!). All in all, a good day.

[Stynxno, wearing a prosthetic mask, a wig, and an oversized housecoat over padding, opens the door]

Stynxno: Helllooooooooooo!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:21 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Isn't that basically a blatant indication of employment discrimination?

Only employers with more than a certain number of employees (50?) are covered by the EEOC. These folks can ask anything they want.
posted by KathrynT at 4:25 PM on January 9, 2013


As long as we're talking nannies, can I ask an etiquette question? So the backup nanny, the one that came to my house through the agency through the back-up care program at my employer (the program is run by a nationwide daycare program, so I think the full chain is My Employer -> National Chain -> Nanny Agency -> Nanny, just to be clear). I thought she did a good job, and would be willing to work with her again; I'd certainly request her by name through the program if I need an at-home nanny again for work purposes. Would it be proper to also ask for her phone number for jobs outside the agency gig (like, evenings when we went to go out)? I couldn't decide if it was rude to ask (she's with an agency! she has a job!) or rude not to ask (she's a childcare provider on a one-day job, maybe she'd like the extra work, maybe she thinks I didn't like her). I didn't ask, still not sure if that was the right decision. Please weigh in.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:26 PM on January 9, 2013


Gygesringtone: "I also love how they're trying to get a nanny (who also does housework, because that's what the help does)."

In their defense, many nannies (in NYC at least) do at least some housework. Ours was asked to keep the kids' area and things clean, neat and tidy, and let us know if she was running low on supplies, such as diapers, wipes, shampoo, etc. She voluntarily did all the dishes, not just the ones the kids' used. She also went out of her way to scrub the bathroom including the tub before we could get to it every week.

We did not ask her to do their laundry, but it was something she expected to be required to do. She'd had to do it at other jobs. She told us more than once that she liked not having to worry about it.

What was awesome for us (and especially me, Mr. Clueless Parent,) is that with her in the house during the day, we were new parents who suddenly had an in-house baby expert. She'd already had three kids of her own and been a nanny to several singletons and two sets of twins here in the city.
posted by zarq at 4:27 PM on January 9, 2013


Anyone want to bet that the house is covered in nanny-cams and any successful candidate would be fired after a brief time on the job for one or more of the following offenses?
  1. Just once, not sanitizing hands before changing diaper
  2. Taking prescription birth control and/or taking a Ricola without employer permission
  3. Saying "I miss you" to your mother, who lives in Toronto, during a phone call while the children nap (evidence of homesickness)
  4. Biting on a hangnail briefly
  5. Straining after carrying a 60 pound stroller up the stairs (wtf??)
  6. Personal consumption of non-organic peanut butter cracker
posted by zachlipton at 4:28 PM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


ThePinkSuperhero: "Would it be proper to also ask for her phone number for jobs outside the agency gig (like, evenings when we went to go out)? I couldn't decide if it was rude to ask (she's with an agency! she has a job!) or rude not to ask (she's a childcare provider on a one-day job, maybe she'd like the extra work?). I didn't ask, still not sure if that was the right decision. Please weigh in."

It's absolutely not rude to ask. The worst she can say is no. She shouldn't be insulted that you want to hire her privately. It's a good thing.

Worth noting: for tax purposes, working with an agency is WAY easier if you're going to be paying her more than $600 for the year (on the books.) But that's applies more to someone you're hiring part time than as a once in a while babysitter.
posted by zarq at 4:31 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Only employers with more than a certain number of employees (50?) are covered by the EEOC. These folks can ask anything they want.

15
posted by Garm at 4:35 PM on January 9, 2013


Only employers with more than a certain number of employees (50?) are covered by the EEOC. These folks can ask anything they want.

It's more like four employees under NYC law, and some provisions cover even the smallest employers. New York State law may have different thresholds as well. I certainly can't say whether they are actually breaking any laws here or not, but some of these questions are definitely on the shady as heck side.
posted by zachlipton at 4:39 PM on January 9, 2013


Ours was asked to keep the kids' area and things clean, neat and tidy, and let us know if she was running low on supplies, such as diapers, wipes, shampoo, etc. She voluntarily did all the dishes, not just the ones the kids' used. She also went out of her way to scrub the bathroom including the tub before we could get to it every week.

Cleaning up after kids is certainly part of watching kids, and if your nanny did that other stuff, I'm sure you were appropriately grateful. Heck, I wouldn't even mind if it was an ad for Nanny\housekeeper. It's the assumption that the nanny would do housework that bugs me. Like in question 9. where it's listed as one of the times you would wash your hands; or in the one about what you'd do when the kid was napping; or the bit about how comfortable you are cooking from a recipe (not cooking, but cooking from a recipe, especially since lunches will be pre-made or things like sandwhiches); or for that matter how they'll happily hire someone who won't do heavy house work, like it's some sort of generous gesture on their part that they won't make you do the really nasty stuff.

It's like when the owner of a liquor store I worked at tried to make it seem like he was doing the cashiers a favor by making them watch his daughter for ONLY an hour instead of longer.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:42 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I used to work as a liquor store unstock boy.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:45 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's the assumption that the nanny would do housework that bugs me.

That assumption is endemic in the SF Bay Area community in which I live, and that boggles my mind. When I am with my toddler, I can barely multitask. Why would I expect someone else to -- especially since my nanny is usually watching two children to my one? (We share our nanny with two other families & rely on a spreadsheeted schedule to make sure our nanny never has more than two kids at any one time.)

I've told our nanny repeatedly that her job is to be present for the girls, and when they nap, she should relax, recharge, scream into a pillow, whatever. Having two hours of downtime in the middle of a ten-hour day with two people under age 3 is not a perk, IMO, so much as it is a decent working condition.

(That said, our nanny does clean up all kid-related messes, as any parent would do over the course of the day.)
posted by sobell at 4:53 PM on January 9, 2013 [17 favorites]


In Illinois, employers may ask about arrests, as well as convictions. That's why we have an expungement process for arrests (without convictions) and sealing (for arrests with convictions). and that's why I volunteer doing it
posted by crush-onastick at 4:56 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


> ...where you just know one way or the other the question is loaded.

"So, you'd let those ten people DIE????"
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:59 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Given all the turmoil we went through before we found our Awesome Babysitter, I'm sure the only response they'll be looking at is "Is $15/hour enough?" anyways. Seriously. We paid some slackjawed college kids about that to sit in our house and make my TiVo think I liked reality TV in return for them making sure the house didn't burn down around our sleeping 6 month old and we're nowhere near NYC.

We now have our Awesome Babysitter who is happy with less (but worth more) who seems excited to play with our 2.5 year old. We've made the mistake of sharing her info with other parents in the area, but after reading this, no more. We'll need to double down on the tips and gifts and extra food for her in the fridge, plus a bronze statue in the yard.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:02 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've never had a hangover

You fucker.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:06 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, you can make fun of these people all you want, but in the end, it's their family. There was a VERY high profile murder of two children a few blocks away from me on the Upper West Side several weeks ago. The mother took the third child to her swim lesson, and when she came back, the nanny had stabbed her two other children to death and then slit her own throat.

This was a nanny whom the family had known for years; they had shared vacations together, and I believe the employer and her family had even spent time in the nanny's home country with her family. But evidently, the nanny had psychological problems that weren't being treated.

These are your kids. You do the best you can for them.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:11 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder how that nanny that stabbed up those kids in NYC would have done on the survey
posted by Renoroc at 5:12 PM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


You know, you can make fun of these people all you want

And I will! Just because you managed to procreate doesn't mean standards of sanity and decency no longer apply to you.
posted by eugenen at 5:22 PM on January 9, 2013 [21 favorites]


None of the questions on this survey, many of which are repulsively intrusive, would protect against something like the tragic nanny murder of last year.

Fuck these people. And as someone who gets migraines from many scents, it's perfectly reasonable to require that no scents be worn when the employee is on duty, but utter bullshit to think you can dictate what the employee does the other five days of the week.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:34 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


This survey is insane. But my wife and I were just talking about how crazy the nanny--parents relationship is. It's incredibly intimate, incredibly privileged, and incredibly important. It's hard to keep perspective, in large part because for many people it's both their first child (which is just fucking a crazy fucking thing to try to negotiate, every day, all the time) and also the first time that they've ever hired anyone to work for them.
posted by OmieWise at 5:39 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gygesringtone, I agree completely.
posted by zarq at 5:41 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


But my wife and I were just talking about how crazy the nanny--parents relationship is. It's incredibly intimate, incredibly privileged, and incredibly important.

This is what really gets me - that parents can simultaneously think this and yet only be willing to pay much, much less than they themselves make, in many cases (not you, particularly, here). I wonder how much stay at home moms would value their labor per hour at.
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:45 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Have you ever smoked crack? How was it?
posted by symbioid at 5:46 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


My hat goes off to anyone who applies for this job and lies/forges their ass off during the hiring process.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:49 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is what really gets me - that parents can simultaneously think this and yet only be willing to pay much, much less than they themselves make, in many cases (not you, particularly, here).

Well, exactly, that's what makes it incredibly privileged. But the labor market basically makes this true for any job, in almost any situation. Employers pay what the labor market bears, and they do not pay whatever it is that zeros out their ability to add to their own take-home pay. This is true, by the way, for day care as well, which ends up meaning that the only ethical position is for one of the parents to take stay home and take care of the kid. But there are political problems with this as well. I know that in my house I am the primary bread-winner, which I don't love, but is actually a situation set up by my wife because she is happier working in a job that pays less (not in a gendered way, in a these-kinds-of-positions-pay-less-across-the-board way). So, if one of us were to take care of our kid it would be my wife, which is not optimal for all kinds of reasons. The whole thing makes for a very complex situation, not easily solved by castigating the participants.
posted by OmieWise at 5:57 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


This was a nanny whom the family had known for years; they had shared vacations together

...so if they had a similar questionnaire, how would that have helped?

I missed the 'Do you have any latent issues which may lead you to stab the children after several years' question.
posted by pompomtom at 5:58 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thank God I only spent most of the day and evening in jail! To think - just a few more short hours and I'd be disqualified.
posted by pecanpies at 6:02 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


30. Are you comfortable pushing (not carrying) a 70 pound stroller.

Who, in this day and age, has a 70lb stroller?
Is this some sort of hipster retro cast-iron Perambulator thing?
posted by madajb at 6:13 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


To get a good nanny, you have to pay more and, if you want a young, well educated woman, you might also have to make concessions to meet the nanny's goals. I know of two such good relationships.

In one, the nanny moved across the country in order to stay with the family--and her boyfriend later moved there, also. She has been with this this family ten years. In the other, it's the nanny I know. She's young, well educated, a talented music and art teacher, and beautiful. She has a studio on the grounds provided by the family to make her art and she nannies and teaches the kids. She makes good money and gets generous time off. She's been with this family six years.

Both of these nannies got together with these families by knowing someone who knew the family. And because the families knew their families. If it didn't call down the wrath of all and sundry, I'd be tempted to say this is one of the things Southerners tend to get right.

I don't think this family can find what they want for $15/hr part-time using that scared-stiff, passive-aggressive questionnaire.
posted by Anitanola at 6:15 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


What is really crazy is that all this effort guarantees nothing, or even reduces potential risk to your child. You might as well ask, "Would you ever lie on an application to get a job?"
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:26 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never lie.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:30 PM on January 9, 2013


This has got to be some kind of NYPD/CIA/FBI/ATF/USCIS/OSHA joint sting operation.

Any sufficiently advanced sting operation is indistinguishable from parody.
posted by mhoye at 6:37 PM on January 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


You might as well ask, "Would you ever lie on an application to get a job?"

[] yes
[] no
[] this answer is a lie
posted by mhoye at 6:38 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't envy parents this task at all, but qualifying people with this ridiculous survey isn't going to get you a child development expert for babysitting money.

Employers who want everything - but not enough to compensate you adequately for it - is fucking toxic, and not the kind of relationship you want with someone who is helping raise your child.

If you want a professional, hire a professional, then treat and pay them like one.

Leave the idiot surveys to tv guide.
posted by Space Kitty at 6:40 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


but qualifying people with this ridiculous survey isn't going to get you a child development expert for babysitting money.

That's not the goal.

The goal is to get someone easily pushed about.
posted by pompomtom at 6:51 PM on January 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Who, in this day and age, has a 70lb stroller?

Someone with any sort of double stroller, once the weight of the kids is added. Even a large toddler will get you to 30 lbs.

As someone who has had a few part time nannies before finding my current one, I have to assume they either drove away the others with the crazy, or are doing this for the first time and completely don't understand the market. I hope for the kids' sake it's the latter.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:22 PM on January 9, 2013


Someone with any sort of double stroller, once the weight of the kids is added. Even a large toddler will get you to 30 lbs.

It's true, I didn't think of a double stroller for one 2 year old.
posted by madajb at 7:40 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Christ, reading this thread I feel like the most fortunate two-professional family ever.

I opened my email at work one morning to read "Hey, I heard your wife's pregnant. Are you guys looking for an incredible nanny?"

Maria's been part of our family for 4 years now. Her kid has grown up with our kids, they have sleepovers together. We started her at 14 an hour but she makes a lot more now, *and* we started providing health insurance, not because we feel we have to, but because we are so incredibly grateful our kids are growing up with this wonderful woman and we want to show our appreciation.

Fuck this couple so much. The first rule of child rearing is Fucking Relax. Otherwise your kids grow up as neurotic as you are. Interview them. Ask about obvious things, discipline techniques, how have you dealt with an emergency, do you plan on smoking around the kids? I think you can get as good a sense as you are going to get whether someone's going to show up drunk or steal your jewelry in an hour over coffee. Hire someone, and intervene early if things are going off track.

Queens Yuppie Couple: you are doing it wrong and you are bad parents, who are raising a bad child. Stop it.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:48 PM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Man. I work as a babysitter (four afternoons a week, usually 15-20 hours) to supplement the income from my new small business, and I would not touch this family with a ten-foot pole. I found the family I currently work for when I put up a post on the local listserv, and it only took about a half-hour, low-key interview for both myself and the family to decide we'd be a good fit. I provided references, of course, and they were checked, but I have a lot of experience working with kids (five and a half years in after-school programs, a year as a special-needs classroom aide, LOTS of babysitting) and you can usually tell which families you want to work with pretty quickly.

And I get paid $17 an hour, in an area that is not nearly as expensive as New York. These people are nuts.
posted by nonasuch at 7:56 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The survey appears to be closed.
I do not think they like this attention.
posted by Mezentian at 7:58 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


My nanny sends me videos like this during the day, and I didn't even make her fill out a questionnaire. I don't think she speaks three languages, though.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:25 PM on January 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


None of the questions on this survey, many of which are repulsively intrusive, would protect against something like the tragic nanny murder of last year.

Sure. But people are funny that way. A whole slew of potential realistic laws would not have prevented the Sandy Hook shootings, but that doesn't keep plenty of folks from advocating passionately for them.

Those people sound pretty wacky, for sure. Makes me wonder how many bees they can attract with a pile of shit.

This is one of those things where I think, "How much do I really want to know?" Going down that rabbit hole can lead to unhealthy places. I'm sure plenty of folks would have taken exception to my choice of babysitter. She was a Muslim, for crying out loud!
posted by 2N2222 at 8:34 PM on January 9, 2013


I hate it when nannies have only visited 29 countries.
posted by Area Man at 8:38 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


My nanny sends me videos like this during the day
Child is too cute to be real. This is obviously a rendering.
posted by ftm at 8:57 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was a nanny while in college. I liked my job; I loved the kids; I was good at it. But I was not paid well. I did not have health insurance. I had to pay taxes as a contractor.

When my own kid was born, I decided to stay home. Not because I wanted to quit my day job (I didn't). Because I knew I couldn't afford to pay someone what I was worth.
posted by BlueJae at 8:59 PM on January 9, 2013


"What is really crazy is that all this effort guarantees nothing, or even reduces potential risk to your child. You might as well ask, "Would you ever lie on an application to get a job?""

At one point, while I was being fired from a rather terrible job, my former boss said, "I asked you in the interview if you were detail oriented, and you said, 'Yes.'"

And I thought, "Of course I did. I needed the job and no one ever says 'No' and gets it!"

(What I said was something about hoping that they wouldn't oppose my unemployment or some nonsense.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:03 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


This survey is closed, but I'm always curious about the priorities and baggage revealed by this sort of thing. Usually they assume the applicant is honest, but fail to ask any of the questions the parents should want to know the answer to in favor of questions that aren't really important to the job at hand. Is the applicant a pedophile? Does the applicant want to eat human flesh? Does the applicant think they'll be competent at the job? Instead we get things like: Would you smoke a joint three weeks before you take the job? Have you ever gotten a traffic ticket for driving recklessly with no one else in the car with you?
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:07 PM on January 9, 2013


This is true, by the way, for day care as well, which ends up meaning that the only ethical position is for one of the parents to take stay home and take care of the kid.

I've read your comment twice now and I still don't understand why the ethical position isn't to pay the nanny a fair wage, rather than the lowest that the market will allow.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:11 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


We should all apply for this job. And be totally honest.
posted by fshgrl at 9:17 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


It doesn't make economic sense for someone who is an attorney earning $150/hour to leave that job when they can pay an experienced caregiver $30/hour or whatever the current gold standard compensation in the field of childcare might be.

Of course parents might choose to leave the paid workforce to focus on parenting, and more power to them if that works for them, but I fail to see anything immoral in one person paying another a fair wage for the work they do. As it happens, what's considered "a fair wage" differs from profession to profession, but one person quitting their job and not hiring a caregiver isn't going to change that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:01 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is what really gets me - that parents can simultaneously think this and yet only be willing to pay much, much less than they themselves make, in many cases

$15/hour is roughly $30,000/year (based on 40 hours/week).

How can people afford this? I mean, you'd have to make, what, $90,000/year just to split your take home pay with someone making $15/hour?
posted by agog at 10:53 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's not just the potential cost of three to four years' salary for many parents who choose to hire caregivers rather than leave work while their child is young; it's the lifetime cost of taking that time away from a career advancement track.

It may well be worth it to a parent to take a financial hit or break even if it means they continue to advance up the career ladder.

And then, of course, there are single parents who don't have the option of leaving the paid workforce to parent in most cases in the US.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:01 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd also imagine that plenty of people manage to split that $15 per hour by having the nanny watch more than one kid.

(That's part of why I'd support free workplace or neighborhood day care, paid for by the state. It makes a huge difference in leveling the playing field for working poor parents, and does so doubly for women who work. Socialism+feminism=love it even though it doesn't help me directly.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:05 PM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'd assume that a sensible nanny would run a mile from anyone who talked about wanting a 'Mary Poppins;' plenty of employers secretly want an impossible fantasy of perfection and - even more - devotion from their employees, but the ones who admit it straight out in an ad sound like serious trouble. I look after my own son, but I'd consider it rather a cheek to talk Mary Poppins if I did advertise for a nanny. I love my boy, but I am 'practically perfect' in no way whatsoever, and I don't think it's reasonable to expect a nanny to be magically better than I am. 'Kind and sensible' is about as much as you can ask.

But more generally, I think it's a big mistake to neglect the importance of the relationship between the parents and the carer.

I grew up with live-in au pairs. Every year, an overseas student studying English would come and live with us and do a certain amount of babysitting and housework in exchange for her board and some pocket money; there was a bedroom on the ground floor a bit away from everybody else's so she got a bit of privacy. And it was great - I got to play with these wonderful big girls who were really nice to me, and for their part, quite a few of them are still family friends. Two of them, who'd looked after me when I was one and four respectively, came to my wedding.

But the main difference is that my parents, and particularly my mother (who worked from home and did most of the organising in hiring), were extremely firm on the subject of respect. Emphatically these girls were NOT servants (and boy did I get jumped on if I ever tried acting that way); they were enterprising and smart young women who had the initiative to study abroad, and they were not to be taken for granted. My mother had very trenchant things to say about 'middle-class ladies who thought they could get a cheap servant.' They were also young girls - usually in their late teens - for whom my mother considered herself somewhat in loco parentis. I think her attitude is best summed up by the time when she found that an au pair had sneaked in a boyfriend to sleep over. Her response was not to fire her or ban boyfriends, but to take her firmly to the doctor to get her set up with some proper contraception.

And one of the upshots was the intermittent reminder that unreasonable employers do exist. It wasn't uncommon for an au pair to say, 'Hey, my friend's employer is taking advantage/yelling at her/picking on her, could she stay here for a few days till she can sort her plans out?' (I can think of at least one young woman who ended up staying on to au pair for us after that happened.) It didn't happen all the time, but it certainly happened - and this was young women who came through an agency that was pretty firm on employers treating the girls decently.

All in all, my parents got on well with au pairs. And as their child, this benefitted me tremendously. The idea of being sat by someone who resented my parents would have really frightened me as a child; even if they didn't blame me, it would have put me in an impossible position, because kids love their parents, they want to love their carers, and being put in the middle is too much for them to cope with. Being sat by someone who was on good terms with my parents, on the other hand, made the house feel safe and family-like no matter who was looking after me.

Parents can forget, I think, that children can tell what adults think of each other. People should treat their employees with respect because it's crappy not to, of course, but when those employees are looking after your children, it matters even more. What you want above all is for your children to be safe and happy, and if you can't sustain a cordial relationship with a nanny, then no matter who good at childcare that nanny is, he or she can't fully provide that.
posted by Kit W at 1:08 AM on January 10, 2013 [20 favorites]


at breakfast, looking up from my tablet and asked Mr. X next to me "So how did you hire your Nannies?"

"Service. Her Mother suggested them, interviewed them to see if they were a fit for the family, do you see yourself doing this long term, what courses did you enjoy best if they where younger, that kind of thing, plus we paid for a trial day to see if the kids liked them, why do you ask?"

No reason I say, as I go back to my tablet.
posted by The Whelk at 1:15 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


(That's part of why I'd support free workplace or neighborhood day care, paid for by the state. It makes a huge difference in leveling the playing field for working poor parents, and does so doubly for women who work. Socialism+feminism=love it even though it doesn't help me directly.)

It does help you directly! Kids in good preschool and day care programs tend have less problems down the line with socialization and education, It's totally a long term investment in building better, stronger communities. I firmly belive that the single great ROI we could get would be free, easy to access early child care. It would solve so many problems at once.
posted by The Whelk at 1:41 AM on January 10, 2013 [16 favorites]


aw - is there a copy of it floating about anywhere?
posted by kev23f at 4:00 AM on January 10, 2013


Can't say I blame them for taking it down; I wouldn't want to work for them or anything, but I suspect the Net reaction was a bit of a shock to them...
posted by Kit W at 4:07 AM on January 10, 2013


I've read your comment twice now and I still don't understand why the ethical position isn't to pay the nanny a fair wage, rather than the lowest that the market will allow.

That's absolutely an ethical position, and the one my wife and I take. I was responding to a comment that I thought implied that the only ethical wage would be the same as the wage paid to one or another parent, hence my response.
posted by OmieWise at 4:41 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Queens Yuppie Couple: you are doing it wrong and you are bad parents, who are raising a bad child.

This last part is out of line. There's absolutely no evidence here that there's anything wrong with either of the children, and I've known many perfectly nice people who had bad parents.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:53 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Who, in this day and age, has a 70lb stroller?"

I thought it must be a double stroller with both kids in it -- my kids weighed about 60 pounds together before we stopped using it frequently, and the stroller weighs 26 lbs. (amazon claims) -- but I can't figure out the NEXT question, about the empty stroller going up the stairs weighing 60 lbs! So ... it's a 10-pound child and 60 pounds of some kind of armored SUV stroller to protect your child from assassins?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:12 AM on January 10, 2013


A 70 lb. stroller would totally have saved that baby going down the stairs in Battleship Potemkin, tho.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:20 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not just nanny jobs that have laughably invasive screening processes. A friend of mine encountered this last week on a job application for a position as warehouse manager:

"Please write a testimony of your faith in Jesus Christ giving date of conversion and place. Use extra sheet if needed."

Don't tell me that The Powers That Be aren't happy with high unemployment rates because they can get away with this kind of shit when we're all desperate for work.
posted by workerant at 6:27 AM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Queens Yuppie Couple: you are doing it wrong and you are bad parents, who are raising a bad child.

This last part is out of line. There's absolutely no evidence here that there's anything wrong with either of the children, and I've known many perfectly nice people who had bad parents.


Actually, there wasn't even really any evidence from the survey that they were bad parents either. Bad employers, possibly. We don't know--they asked about drug use, but they did not say "You won't be hired if you smoke the weeds on your day off." They wanted someone for two days a week only, so they said up front there was no paid time off. Their expectations seems a little wonky, but not wonky for parents, just for employers. I expect parents to want their child's caretaker to be tidy, sober, interesting, engaged, and concerned about the parents and the children's comfort level with the caretaker.

I don't know that this is the best way to find such a caretaker, but the awkward survey really doesn't show that they are bad parents. Unless you assume anyone who hires a caretaker for their child is doing it wrong. Which I don't.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:48 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't figure out the NEXT question, about the empty stroller going up the stairs weighing 60 lbs!

That's a 25 pound stroller and the 35 pounds worth of grocery shopping they're expecting you to do.
posted by mhoye at 6:49 AM on January 10, 2013


Actually, there wasn't even really any evidence from the survey that they were bad parents either. Bad employers, possibly. We don't know--they asked about drug use, but they did not say "You won't be hired if you smoke the weeds on your day off." They wanted someone for two days a week only, so they said up front there was no paid time off. Their expectations seems a little wonky, but not wonky for parents, just for employers.

Exactly. It wasn't a well-thought-out job ad, but there's no reason at all to assume they're terrible parents, or even terrible people. They might be excellent parents; after all, they clearly want their children to get good nanny care.

People are way too quick to assume other people are bad parents.
posted by Kit W at 7:11 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


$15/hour is not bad at all. Not amazing, but not bad. Two nine hour days would get you $270 which is about what a whole week of retail or food service gets you. It pays for a whole week of daycare plus a little extra. When I go back to school I'd love a gig like this.

15/hour full-time, off-the-books is about $675 a week, often more; a 45-50 hour week is normal, partly because nannies are paid when other hourly workers would be taking unpaid breaks and lunches and partly because they have to work as long as their employers do plus the time it takes for their employers to commute.

Assuming %15 in taxes, that's equivalent pay to a more than $40,000 a year job. Of course, you don't get the protection of being on-the-books...
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:47 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I missed the 'Do you have any latent issues which may lead you to stab the children after several years' question.

Actually, you didn't. The nanny in question, if I recall the newspaper stories right, had several things that this extensive survey does seem to be screening for (though hard to say as it's been taken down): unstable family life, non-citizen, strong connections to homeland, her own children, depression...none of those make someone a murderer, but those could be considered issues that might add up to not the level of emotional attachment and commitment that they want.

What most people seem to want in a nanny is an educated, competent person who speaks great English, is amazing with kids, though has none of her own, and has few to zero other commitments outside the family who hires her. Someone who won't ask for or take days off. I think most people would actually prefer someone who lives at the house, if it weren't I think illegal due to the accumulation of overtime.

Essentially, they want the idealized version of a Victorian servant-nanny, at the payscale that it would have cost. (And the control over those people's lives, and how 'respectable' they were, was absolute.) But there are a lot of reasons that domestic help got much more expensive, such that most middle-class families could no longer afford it, and those reasons are still real. Factories paid more and offered other options.

So it's not that these people are crazy in what they want - I'm sure lots of other people want the same thing. But they are crazy to think they can get it for $15 an hour, 2 days a week, in this time period, in this country.

They could get it in Central America, easily, but then they'd have to actually live there.
posted by corb at 8:18 AM on January 10, 2013


Yeah, all the people saying they should pay more are making me choke on my soda a little. I'm actually in the market for a nanny, and my husband and I make good money as scientists in aerospace industry R&D, but to pay someone $30,000+ per year (we're looking for a full time nanny) is not easy, however much they might deserve. And yes, one of us could quit our jobs and stay home, but since we both have physics PhDs, that would be a waste of a lot of years of effort, and the end of a dream.

Day care? Sure, but the ones in our area range from $12,000 per year to $24,000 per year per kid. We have two kids. And we tried (but didn't like) the $12k option. The one we really like is about $16k per year per kid, so we're talking over $30k per year even with daycare. (If you have more than two kids, I think it becomes impossible...) Besides, they both have a genetic condition that requires carefully monitored diets and which makes us extra worried when they get sick, which happened all the time in day care.

So I never thought I would be a "nanny" person, but I am one. And while obviously these parents are nuts, the idea that they should be willing to pay someone the whole salary of one of the parents, offer vacation days (which means they use up all *their* vacation days covering for the nanny, and never get to take a vacation of their own), and not ask too many personal questions of the person who is going to be living in their house alone with their child and taking a huge chunk of their take home pay... I dunno.
posted by OnceUponATime at 8:21 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I never had a babysitter who smoked in the same room as me.

I was one of 8 spawn, and my mother convinced my tight-wad father that she needed a housekeeper. Her name was Barb, and she had a tattoo of her husband's name on her arm, wore bright red lipstick, and her hair was piled into a beehive. And she chain-smoked. A vivid memory is of her bent over the ironing board with a Pall Mall hanging from her lower lip. Second-hand smoke exposure? You're talking to the poster-boy.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:31 AM on January 10, 2013


What most people seem to want in a nanny is an educated, competent person who speaks great English, is amazing with kids, though has none of her own, and has few to zero other commitments outside the family who hires her. Someone who won't ask for or take days off. I think most people would actually prefer someone who lives at the house, if it weren't I think illegal due to the accumulation of overtime.

And actually, quite a few of the things on that list were what I grew up with with live-in au pairs. They didn't all speak perfect English, particularly when they arrived - they were students, the whole point was to get better at it - but that did me no harm at all: they spoke enough to get by, and it was an education to me because they looked to me to tell them the right way to say something if they got stuck, which meant my own understanding of grammar had to be pretty good. Being a de facto teacher stimulates a child's brain. Plus it was an education for me to live daily with the evidence that:

a) 'Doesn't speak perfect English' doesn't equal 'stupid'.

b) Being from another country is a perfectly normal thing to be.

Most of them were extremely nice to me, fairly to very intelligent, perfectly competent as far as I could see, and had a level of commitment to their studies and social life that was what you'd expect from a foreign student - I wasn't their only interest in life, but they were consistently there, and they didn't have any dependents they'd have to run to in a crisis.

The drawback to all that from a parent's perspective, of course, is that:

a) You have to be willing to have a comparative stranger live in your house for a year, and more than that, be prepared to make friends with them and take responsibility for their wellbeing, otherwise you're exploiting them.

b) You need a house large enough that there's a bedroom for them.

And the latter, in particular, is just not as available in this generation. My parents could afford a house with lots of bedrooms; I'm in a house with two bedrooms and lucky to afford it thanks to a legacy and a lump sum from selling movie rights to a novel. Even if I wanted to have an au pair to help with my son (and I can see the appeal), there's just nowhere reasonable I could offer such a person to live. House prices are such that the expense of housing a live-in au pair or nanny far exceeds the cost of hiring someone with a home and life outside your small zone.

So yeah, you get what you pay for, and what people can pay for, they're often not comfortable with when it comes to their children's welfare. We really need better state support for working parents.
posted by Kit W at 8:36 AM on January 10, 2013


"offer vacation days (which means they use up all *their* vacation days covering for the nanny, and never get to take a vacation of their own)"

… or take vacation at the same time and take the kids with them.

And fundamentally, I understand the financial pressure on what you can offer, but on the other hand, you're asking someone to be a surrogate parent to kids with special needs. That's worth paying someone a professional wage for if you want it done right.

I also realize that all sorts of class anxieties are bound up in this, but frankly, plenty of poor people manage to have day care and the kids turn out OK. So maybe holding out for the $16,000 daycare is a luxury, not a necessity.
posted by klangklangston at 9:22 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some poor kids (especially those with special needs) don't turn out okay. Price doesn't necessarily reflect quality of care, but quality of care does matter.

A nanny getting 15/hour with decent working conditions is not being exploited to nearly the extent that the people in the kitchen at your favorite restaurant are being exploited. Are you going to stop eating out?
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:16 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


My favorite restaurant is a taco stand staffed by its owners, so I don't worry too much about their exploitation.

And while I take your point, I'd argue that raising kids probably demands more skill and qualification than making me a taco.
posted by klangklangston at 10:22 AM on January 10, 2013


Essentially, they want the idealized version of a Victorian servant-nanny, at the payscale that it would have cost. (And the control over those people's lives, and how 'respectable' they were, was absolute.)

Yeah, I think that this right here is the problem I'm having. The idea that because you pay someone's wages you are in fact not only their better but also morally justified in making sure they live their lives in a way that you think is right.

but to pay someone $30,000+ per year (we're looking for a full time nanny) is not easy, however much they might deserve.

So, I'm a professional musician, and have worked all sorts of gigs, and been offered all sorts of gigs. I don't really ever care how tough it is for the bar to pay us.

Being a parent means making tough choices, and hiring somebody to watch your kids is one of the toughest choices you can make, both financially and emotionally. I've been there, and am not judging you in the least for needing what you need and only being able to afford what you can. It's just worth remembering that the person you're hiring needs to pay their bills too, and if $30,000 is a lot to scrape together for you, think about having to live on it (in a situation that probably doesn't provide any other benefits).
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:53 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I nannied, I told people the interview screening process was so intense that I would be asked for a DNA sample were such a thing feasible/legal. I've never done a questionnaire this intense, but my history is so boring that I'd probably be pulled for "totally lying" and possibly "doesn't wash hands enough." For one of my more recent jobs I had to do a full background check - criminal and driving record, and a full credit check. And I had my fingerprints on file at the local PD as a childcare worker.

I loved my job and always thought I'd go back to it. But... since my son was born, I've come to realize that taking care of someone else's kids is a thousand times more stressful than taking care of my own. Sure, I'm on duty 24/7, but I'm not half as exhausted as I was nannying. I have some vague plans for what I'll do when my kid(s) are in school, but it's not going to be nannying again.

$15/hr to be sure I'm doing everything "right" and the kiddo ate all the veggies and to have to call and check in about every sniffle before giving any Tylenol and be hyper vigilant about playground safety... Not a chance. It was great until I had the freedom to spend the day at the Children's Museum or on my own damn couch and if he gets a few bruises on the slide, he'll live. Not going back, no way.

My mom friends ask me if it was easier being a nanny, because they hope the answer is hat being a mom is *so much harder* but no. Being a nanny is an order of magnitude more difficult than being a parent.
posted by sonika at 11:03 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


BTW, I made $24,000 a year working 50/hrs a week caring for children. If this sounds to you like I was overpaid or that I didn't *earn* every cent, I have some choice verbs for what you can do to me, starting with "bite."
posted by sonika at 11:08 AM on January 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm torn about this the way I am when I hear sex workers defending their john's. As a former child care worker I relate to both how hard it is and also how much more enjoyable I find it to work as at a montessori school, as a babysitter, or as a nanny compared to food service or other job's my credentials and experience qualify me for.

I think being a nanny pays much better and is much more enjoyable than many other low wage professions.

But the amount of intimacy and trust that builds between people who are often from two radically different levels of quality of life is, to me, quite similar to the kind of defense I have for some older guys I have been with who think they had good intentions toward me but the ethics of what transpired don't really add up. I WANT that to be the case, and I was a participant so I don't want to have set up someone I cared about to do something unethical. But I can't necessarily fix power imbalances or the sketchiness of taking advantage of them.

It's a strange situation and it brings to light class issues in a way that many other professions don't because there is more of a wall between classes intermixing and building real trust and intimacy with each other. The trust that is built is, I think, ultimately imbalanced and often the people hiring the nanny and even the nanny herself don't see it until being further removed from it.

When I hear people saying, "Some people treat their nannies right and take care of them" it somehow reminds me of people talking about how some john's are really nice and even see "their sex worker" as a human being and care about her.

There's just something innately... imbalanced and the well intentioned desire to make it into something that is "healthy for everyone" seem to not quite make the cut.

That said, the world is imbalanced. I hope we change that eventually, but the reality is that many people cope with awful professions, terrible pay, and difficult life conditions- while others have high salaries, good social connection, health and abilities and a pretty happy quality of life.

The goal (to me) is to make that possible for everyone. So far, no one anywhere has been able to fix poverty. I don't think the rich carry more responsability to fix it than anyone else, but that we all should put forth some investment to fixing poverty, disease, disability, and lack of access to meaningful employment and quality of life.

Like Sonika, I would not ever be a full time nanny again because ultimately I find that I am embarrased for people who hire nannies when one of them could stay at home with their child and clearly don't want to. Or "don't have the money to" when they expect the nanny to work on a fraction of ONE parents salary. If hanging out with the kid all day sounds like an unpleasant experience for the child's own parent, do you really think it's funner for someone unrelated who is being video taped and managed to be more perfect than most mom's expect themselves to be?

I think we have always valued "real" work more than "women's work" i.e. caregiving and nurturing. I wonder how many people would want to be in the workplace if the pay were equal to the cost of nanny. If some women or men wanted kids but were unsuited to daily life with kids, then hiring a nanny while one parent works and paying the entire salary to a nanny makes sense. We decided to get women in the workplace and with equal pay which is awesome. TRULY awesome. However, we neglected the reality that many women were already doing valuable and difficult work. Work that is STILL undervalued for the men and women who do it.
posted by xarnop at 11:20 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I actually think that parenting help is a good profession and that every family should have help with child rearing. I do think there is a way to make the profession ethical and to ensure that families in general (even those with low incomes) have access to some degree of household help with the duties of housecleaning and caregiving and nurturing while ALSO making that profession a real profession with a living wage and benefits and the same degree of pay and social respect of many other salaried professions.

I think it can happen.
posted by xarnop at 11:26 AM on January 10, 2013


Like Sonika, I would not ever be a full time nanny again because ultimately I find that I am embarrased for people who hire nannies when one of them could stay at home with their child and clearly don't want to.

Whoa, that might be how you feel but it's not how I feel at all. Families who hired me could have afforded to have one parent stay home but didn't because they both enjoyed their careers and didn't want to take time off - which is a totally valid decision. I am absolutely not embarrassed for people who hire nannies and recommend nannies to friends with kids who are dissatisfied with their daycare options. I just don't want to BE a nanny again.
posted by sonika at 11:27 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sorry, that sentence was worded badly. Edit: Like Sonika I would never be a nanny again. My personal reasons (not related to Sonikas) are....

I didn't at all mean that to come out as us having the same reasons.
posted by xarnop at 11:32 AM on January 10, 2013


Ultimately, I think wealthy classes everywhere are blind to how much imbalance there is in their relations with people of lesser means. I actually feel like this is innately human and forgiveable. We don't see that which we aren't experiencing. I'm not as harsh on the middle and upper classes as it sounds.

I think I have a role in the suffering of people with less means than me, and that I do not understand how difficult many people's lives are who I may unfairly profit from the labor of without seeing. This is common to most all of us. I want to work against this force of ignorance and apathy to poverty and unpleasant working and living conditions, but I don't really think people should be shamed for it in many ways. Individually and even collectively we often have very limited ability to actually fix poverty or difficult conditions for others. Somehow we have to reconcile with that fact and decide whether to enjoy our lives even though others are suffering or to be perpetually unhappy and guilty for the sake of others we can't really help anyway.
posted by xarnop at 11:38 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've read your comment twice now and I still don't understand why the ethical position isn't to pay the nanny a fair wage, rather than the lowest that the market will allow.

That's absolutely an ethical position, and the one my wife and I take. I was responding to a comment that I thought implied that the only ethical wage would be the same as the wage paid to one or another parent, hence my response.


That was my comment and I didn't mean to imply that a nanny should necessarily be paid the same wage as the parent, rather that $15 an hour is a pretty big disconnect from the amount of dedication and professionalism parents like in the OP seem to ask of their nannies.

Yeah, all the people saying they should pay more are making me choke on my soda a little. I'm actually in the market for a nanny, and my husband and I make good money as scientists in aerospace industry R&D, but to pay someone $30,000+ per year (we're looking for a full time nanny) is not easy, however much they might deserve. And yes, one of us could quit our jobs and stay home, but since we both have physics PhDs, that would be a waste of a lot of years of effort, and the end of a dream.


And this is an example of the disconnect, to me, that you acknowledge that they might deserve more but you can't pay more. I'm not trying to say you're a bad person, or that you actively want to pay people less, but rather that we as a culture are willing to pay less and expect more of a whole lot of people from 'lower' social classes. Our culture encourages the choice to underpay people for a whole lot of caring labor because we don't want to do it ourselves. And I'm not saying you or anyone doesn't "want" to parent their child, but people of upper educational or work classes often make the decision to pursue their careers or dreams, based on the often underpaid labor of someone else, and that is kind of a crappy system.
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:01 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I feel my equation to sex work may have made my accusations sound more harsh than I meant them too. I think any person who is in need of a living wage should have access to a profession that they can do that pays a living wage. Until then, I don't think sex work can be ethical, but once that is made available I don't see anything wrong with it when all participants are on equal footing with access to quality of life and tolerable employment conditions.

I feel the same about childcare-- that many people are well suited to it and it should be well paid. As it is, many women wind up in childcare because they can't find a better job. That's not only bad for women, but that can't be good for kids either. The root problem is that we aren't very good at helping human beings develop and use the skills they really have in the workplace, which I think should involve more societal involvement than just telling people to "figure it out" when the education system itself is failing to help many children find the skillsets they need to have salaried pay and a quality of life that used to be the American Dream.

So the problem is not that middle and upper classes who have quality of pay and benefits and choice buy labor from people who feel trapped in a worse quality of life, but that we aren't providing internships, training, and hands up into salaried pay, nor ensuring that many needed professions even HAVE salaried pay, job security, and benefits. And some people who are differently abled (which I would count a large portion of the struggling lower classes among for a variety of reasons) might need help identifying what their strengths might enable them to do, such that their labor could be both beneficial to society and match their actual skills (and results in pay that gives them quality of life).

I also don't want to work in childcare at all at this point in my life because I am simply all stocked up on trying to maintain a loving emotional presence for children while coping with a very difficult life. I would be faking it and it's against my integrity to pretend I can be better than anyone elses mothering when I know my own faults and weaknesses too well. I think children deserve more. If I felt like I could maintain the kind of presence children deserve I would absolutely consider working in childcare again but I would want to be paid well for the service and have job security and benefits. The expectations of emotional health and well being in women with no insurance, no psychological help, and difficult living circumstances is a weird aspect of many childcare positions with no long term job security or benefits.
posted by xarnop at 12:07 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am embarrased for people who hire nannies when one of them could stay at home with their child and clearly don't want to. Or "don't have the money to" when they expect the nanny to work on a fraction of ONE parents salary. If hanging out with the kid all day sounds like an unpleasant experience for the child's own parent, do you really think it's funner for someone unrelated who is being video taped and managed to be more perfect than most mom's expect themselves to be?

You brought a whole truckload of your assumptions to your reasoning about why people hire nannies rather than just stay at home. I think my wife goes to work part-time because otherwise she would have to terminate providing therapy to the rape survivors she specializes in working with and who she has worked with for years. She arranges her day so that she can come home to nurse, and she cries when she has to leave our son.

It's true that we don't pay our nanny, who cannot speak English very well at all, and has no other employable skills, as much as my wife gets paid by the hour, but it's also true that between business overhead, and a variable caseload, my wife isn't bringing any extra money home. It's also true that our payment to our nanny is the only income she has, and that it's a much more direct wealth transfer from the middle class to the working class than anything else we could do with that money short of actually hand it to someone for no reason other than to hand it to them. But as comfortable as we are, we already engage in other forms of wealth transfer (we're both social workers who work on sliding scales when possible, work at moderately-low-paying jobs for our level of education and experience, and work multiple jobs) that make it unlikely that we would be able to give someone else several hundred dollars a week with nothing in return.

This is a touchy subject, and, as I said above, an intimate one. If you think for an instant that having a woman from the developing world taking care of our son, in our middle class home, is not something that we've thought long and hard about, is not something that we agonize about for all kinds of reasons (some selfish and some less so), then your view of human nature is much less well developed than you would apparently like to consider it. I certainly don't think that having a nanny is an unmitigated good for any of the people involved, but nor do I think that "women's work" is not work that can only be done by the mystical parent. There is obviously a question of how to value it, one we struggle with, but to talk about it as if it needs to be done by a parent is to make it into something that is valued for the wrong reasons, in my opinion.

I certainly haven't agreed with everything the people defending the nanny economy in this thread have said, but I think corb's point (I think) that the salary rivals fast food work deserves repeating. I know that the woman who cares for my son has literally no other job prospects. This is not why we hired her, we hired her because she is a child care professional who we trust. We pay her a wage commensurate with that professionalism and that trust. But were we not to hire her, she would not have work. Or she would have work elsewhere in the nanny economy. She is not a sex worker, with all the baggage that sometimes goes with that regarding consent and danger. She is a nanny, and a good one, and since this is what she does that is what she is paid for. The discussion about whether we, as a society, pay enough for child care, or whether we have an adequate childcare apparatus is really a separate discussion. And I will say, just as a point of context, that if we did have an adequate childcare apparatus as a society my nanny, who, again, has no other skills, would not be able to work in it. She would likely get paid less because she had to work in an underground economy (or one more underground than the one she currently works in.)
posted by OmieWise at 12:14 PM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


"The discussion about whether we, as a society, pay enough for child care, or whether we have an adequate childcare apparatus is really a separate discussion."

For you, it might be.
posted by xarnop at 12:17 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I also realize that all sorts of class anxieties are bound up in this, but frankly, plenty of poor people manage to have day care and the kids turn out OK. So maybe holding out for the $16,000 daycare is a luxury, not a necessity.

So, your advice is that I send them to the $12k per year daycare (total = $24k per year) which we thought had substandard care, offered by even more poorly paid part time daycare workers whom we didn't know? I mean, is there any reason to think daycare workers are less exploited than nannies on average?

And no, poor people generally don't afford daycare. If they don't have friends or relatives who can provide care for free, the mother goes on welfare and stays home.

The options suck.
posted by OnceUponATime at 12:33 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


(I should say, assuming that the family cannot survive without the mother's income, they are forced to go on welfare.)
posted by OnceUponATime at 12:44 PM on January 10, 2013


aw - is there a copy of it floating about anywhere?

+1. My wife is a sociology professor, and really wants a copy of that survey to show to her class on writing surveys (but it dovetails with many other interesting social science issues, which is part of why she wants to show it to the class); I forgot to save a copy for her before it went down. Google cache doesn't have it, and it's way too young for wayback. Any other suggestions?
posted by thatnerd at 1:00 PM on January 10, 2013


For you, it might be.
posted by xarnop at 3:17 PM


No, it is for everyone who cares about this issue more than they care about political and social grandstanding or personal advancement. Until we live in a different economic system there will be disparities in salary and income. Our goal should be to minimize those disparities.

I've been pretty clear about my own investments here, probably too clear, but I pay my nanny a fair living wage, well above market average, totally in line with both my political investments (which are progressive) and my ethics (which are communitarian). And, most certainly, in line with the preciousness of my child to me.

But thanks for your series of dismissive comments.
posted by OmieWise at 1:05 PM on January 10, 2013


I can tell you're defensive and your response kind of raised my blood pressure a little because it feels as though I could feel the rush of your internal battle with having hired help come out. I'm, right now, typing on a computer made in China, wearing boots that were made in China.

But I bought the boots at a thrift store for 6 bucks. So, my defense, is that I think a lot about conditions in China and my purchasing and participation in what goes on there. This defense doesn't really make any positive change in and of itself but it makes me feel better about power imbalanced trade I have participated in.

But I would never try to stiffle the words of a former Chinese factory worker discussing what that experience was like for them and what they hope might be done to remedy the conditions experienced by both Chinese factory workers and the conditions that exist for Chinese who AREN'T working in factories but face the poverty and strife that drives them to accept sweatshop labor conditions.

Again-- I am on your side in that the root conditions that drive people to difficult labor conditions are the problem. I'm a heretic, a sinner, and full of fault, vice, and character flaws. You don't have to defend your choices to me, I understand,and from your posting history would see the person you portray here as a very ethical person (who I agree with on many points). I personally believe that most people are doing the very best they can given what they know, what skills they have, and what they've been through. That doesn't mean we can't all work for change, whatever our involvement in profit or imbalanced trade from others strife may be.

I am delighted that many people have high quality of life, meaningful employment, and job skills that enable some degree of security about keeping a job or finding a new one if needed. That is GREAT and I would rather that we celebrate wealth and quality of life while helping everyone else make it there, than hating those with good lives until they (what? Give up all material possessions and live as peasants?)...

The ridiculous questionare, to me, probably brings up exactly those issues of inequality in American life and who gets paid what to rear children and care for needy humans in general.

Being a nanny is way funner and better paying than working in a child care facility (especially one that is understaffed which by my definition most are).

So truly, I can see many sides of this and I while I am indeed, embarrassed for people who could EASILY stay at home but don't want to and expect a nanny to want to for very little pay---this is also because I am just a wee bit embarrassed for people who are extremely wealthy and not actively using that for good in general. Not in a MEAN sense. In a generally, I think they are likely really good people but their actions in a few areas are maybe not so good and I feel a bit embarrased for them,especially since their is such an undercurrent of hatred for the middle and upper classes by people who face more difficult circumstances. I know many wealthy people I would defend against that hatred despite that in many ways I can see where the hatred is valid and understandable. I feel embarrased that I am, as an American, innately a participant in imbalanced trade with other countries and people within this country and I think likely I should be a bit embarrased about that and do what I can to change that whenever possible.

But then again I believe in harm reduction for all human behaviors. We are where we are at any given time and we can't change all or even most of it at once. Small change is often all we can do, and sometimes minute change is all we are able to do.

If I had a salaried job and had never worked in childcare or struggled to get through school or worked as many underpaid service jobs as I have, I would not have the awareness that I do. I am in no way any better than people who are unaware what it's like to know you really can't get through school or do basic math reliably and very low paying service jobs are your future. I would have been such a person myself if I had different experiences. And I believe in protecting the wealthy from the wrath of the underclasses. Despite that it is often justified. But I believe in peaceful means of resolving imbalance wherever possible.

I also believe that poor decisions and lifestyle choices ARE often part of poverty itself. I don't think it's unreasonable for people who worked hard and made good decisions to observe that often poor people are poor because they are drinking too much, because they chose to give up on school instead of sticking with it, because they partied too much instead of studying, etc etc. If we look deeper, wemight find trends in which people who are abused, neglected, and under parented participate in unhealthy coping behaviors more than others. Meaning that often our "choices" are more a product of coping with circumstance than made as freely as we think. I believe in radical forgiveness and am not actually much of fan of either guilt or shame as concepts. Yet the force behind those emotions--- that suffering exists and we should act in favor of changing it, preventing it, and replacing it with good experiences-- should be a valued emotional state. I think many people call this emotional state compassion.

Anytime we up the desired behavioral requirements of members in a society we should be merciful of the reality that humans tend to go along with whatever they were previously taught is ok. This is a terrible thing. It can be the force behind abusive or neglectful or inappropriate parenting, it can be the force behind alienating and disenfranchising whole populations of people. It's scary what how much humans go along with what seems ok at the time and what feels good.
posted by xarnop at 1:08 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ok. I was certainly not dismissing your experience, I was commenting only on your assumptions about what drives the nanny-parent relationship. It may drive many of those relationships. I sure hope it does not drive mine. I am defensive about it precisely because I recognize it as a potential problem. I don't think I am simply rationalizing the choices my family has made. I'm sure we could have made different ones, but the ones we made were made with eyes wide open and with every effort to align those choices with our politics and our ethical commitments. That does not excuse that those choices exist within a system that is exploitative, but it does hopefully mitigate our own involvement in that. The normal human selfishness that drives the choices we all make is certainly present in my life and my wife's life, but these were not choices made easily, without forethought, or without personal sacrifice and consequence.

I do believe that we are aligned in wanting many of the same political goals here.
posted by OmieWise at 1:17 PM on January 10, 2013


Yeah, daycare workers are often paid very poorly.

I'm definitely not defending everyone who hires a nanny at any price or saying that exploitation doesn't happen. Nannies are often very vulnerable. What I am saying is that $15/hour is not some kind of abysmally awful wage.

And sure, that taco stand is run by its owners. Who picks the lettuce? I'm guilty too, of course. It's a sick system. It's very easy to point to something that you don't do, and a lot harder to accept the unfair benefits that you get from inequality.

I say this as someone who works as a nanny and has a kid in daycare. Believe me, inequality is not lost on me.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:21 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, all the people saying they should pay more are making me choke on my soda a little. I'm actually in the market for a nanny, and my husband and I make good money as scientists in aerospace industry R&D, but to pay someone $30,000+ per year (we're looking for a full time nanny) is not easy, however much they might deserve. And yes, one of us could quit our jobs and stay home, but since we both have physics PhDs, that would be a waste of a lot of years of effort, and the end of a dream.


Wait, so you know a nanny deserves more money but you're not willing to pay her because it's not a priority for you to spend that much on childcare? May I suggest two things: #1- It's tougher to live on $30k than it is for you to pay your nanny and #2 - If you truly can't afford it or don't want to budget for a nanny's salary, send your kid to daycare.

(PS: I was fine w/my salary and understood how much my employers had to work to pay me.)
posted by sonika at 1:34 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Omiewise-- for me harm reduction would mean that you are as kind to the people you make trade with as you are able to at this moment in time, and that you act in awareness of improving root conditions of inequality where possible. That doesn't mean that you have to cut your nanny off from her job while in a foriegn country to "fix inequality". It does mean being involved in understanding why working conditions are so abysmal in some countries (and in this country) and what we can do, as a country, and as individuals, to make a positive impact on that. And being on her side in hoping and helping her achieve empowered living conditions (obtaining legal status and learning english better etc) Which I believe you that you do.

That kind of social change is almost always long term, and never a quick fix. You can be part of slow moving actions steps for change while still working with the imperfect system at hand.

I eat meat and I think it's wrong. I also think my body is not AT ALL healthy without meat. I was a vegan and then a vegetarian for many years and it did not suit me. I don't think there is anything I can do that makes it ethical to eat meat. I just do it. Any other jumps I make in my mind are there to make me feel better, but are kind of unecessary. We all do at least a few things that suck and cause some amount of harm, and I hope we can be merciful to ourselves and each other about that fact, while encouraging positive change WHEN possible.

In many ways, all employers that cut back hours, pay themselves a bunch, and hire a bunch of minimum wage grunt workers who often don't have much of a way up--- are kind of milking difficult circumstances of others. It's really the way our system is set up right now and the way our values work. You can support change on the large scale while still piddling away with your own individual choices that might not be ideal. I actually don't think this is hypocritical at all. I support research into making vegetarian diets equal in health value to meat eating for people with consitutions like myself. I can believe in and support better conditions for animals and a trend toward vegetarianism while also making my own individual choices that work for me right now but cause suffering for animals.

If all of us imperfect vice filled beings worked together to make changes in spite of our vices-- instead of against each other because of them-- we could make miraculous things happen.

To be honest, I think one family I worked for were just so awesome and they themselves were struggling with the inequality of my situation. I did indeed care about them very much, and part of my desire to not be in an imbalanced situation like that is that I think good people often feel very bad participating in inequality. I don't want to enable behavior that good people will feel bad about within themselves if I can avoid it. It actually makes me feel like a user in a sense I can't describe. It feels awkward to be dependant on the wealth of others in such a vulnerable way and honestly I feel that it changed me to the point I could have said many things about how good the conditions for nannies are and how wonderful it is and how much I care about the people while also knowing there was an imbalance there. It just, makes me feel like I can't tell where I am truly caring about a family I work for and where I want that to be true because I need money. That is what is confusing about that kind of relationship-- to me. I feel like itdamaged my ability to trust my own caring and where it was true or not and that hurt because I value integrity toward others deeply. Now that I don't need their money, I know I do in fact still care about them, but I feel able to sort out where the difference is.

I.e. I don't care about them in the family sense people kind of want their nannies to care about the family. That doesn't mean I don't care, but, I do feel I was forcing an amount of unreal caring that felt fake and made me feel bad andnot trust myself, and I think made them feel bad because they themselves were embarrased their circumstances were so much better and were very ethical people who worked toward addressing inequality in many ways. That's a lot of guessing, but that's how it was on my end.

At one point I worked for a woman who was, from what I could tell, a sex worker. It was so strange to be the domestic servant of a woman who was a domestic servant of men. There was a strange level of bonding in surviving the difficulties of single parenthood there and I still think about that family often. I could never handle sex work, in some ways she was like a warrior facing the difficulties to bring home money. But that's what the alcohol is for. It makes things better.

And inthat since I can see the sugar daddy as benevolent provider as well. Sure I think she deserved help without having to give sex, but no one really wants to help single moms have the quality of life of stay at home married mothers. If the sex provides the incentive, I guess it's something.
posted by xarnop at 2:07 PM on January 10, 2013


Heavens to betsy, I apologize I am too wordy today. I'm going out. Cheers to all for magnificent discussion as usual.
posted by xarnop at 2:10 PM on January 10, 2013


"So, your advice is that I send them to the $12k per year daycare (total = $24k per year) which we thought had substandard care, offered by even more poorly paid part time daycare workers whom we didn't know? I mean, is there any reason to think daycare workers are less exploited than nannies on average?

And no, poor people generally don't afford daycare. If they don't have friends or relatives who can provide care for free, the mother goes on welfare and stays home.

The options suck.
"

You don't want to hear my advice. You want to be told that whatever you're doing is just peachy and that these are very difficult decisions but that you're doing the right thing and your kids will be Rhodes Scholars due to your love and diligence. I can't speak to substandard care — especially since I'm not sure whether the standard you refer to is yours or whether you mean standard as norm — but it does stand to reason that nannies, being more frequently undocumented and under-the-table would tend to be more exploited, generally, than daycare workers, who are at least covered by OSHA. But of course, paying your nanny $30k is out of the question because you don't value the service that much or because you're too bourgeois to exploit anyone so don't worry about it.

I will mention that since you talked about both of you being doctors (I assume profs) that generally universities and colleges have pretty great child care options that are pretty affordable for faculty. But who knows, maybe that's substandard too.
posted by klangklangston at 2:41 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've also worked in daycare. Yeah, it's no great shakes, but you have the benefit of being on the books and protected in that sense even if you don't get paid enough to end up paying income tax. (Seriously, I got paid more to make coffee which I think says a lot about how much society values childcare.)

I honestly switched from daycare to nannying so I could earn enough money to pay for health insurance. Which, yes, I had to pay for myself out of pocket. Childcare is hardly a gold mine, I worked with kids because I'm devoted to a career in early childhood development, not because it was great pay or flexible hours.

(That sound you heard was my snorting with laughter at "flexible hours." I took three sick days in two years and only took a half-day to get married.)
posted by sonika at 3:49 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is an interesting discussion for me. We just hired a live-out nanny who started Monday. We live in an area where jobs are hard to come by, but at the same time a lot of people want to live here. We were lucky enough that both of us have found good jobs with good companies and feel that the opportunity for my wife to go back to work after 2 years out was too good to pass up.

We posted an ad and had dozens of applications within a couple of days. We were lucky enough to find someone who seems (at this point) a great fit, but after paying her, I'm only pulling in about $10/hr on top of what we're paying. There are tax implications in Canada (I, as the lower earner, can deduct up to $7k per kid per year) that help, and we don't have to worry about health insurance, but it's not like we're raking in the cash. That money pays the mortgage on the house, though, and we need it if we're going to stay here.

This is worth it to us, although it was a bit of a struggle ethically. Like OnceUponATime above, we did the daycare with two kids vs Nanny cost comparison, and it was a no brainer.

We're doing our best to be a good employer - this woman is taking care of our kids after all - but I in no way feel like she is exploited, being paid less than the going rate, or that we're taking advantage of her. She was very happy that she got the job, and we're happy that she accepted.
posted by sauril at 5:23 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Queens Yuppie Couple: you are doing it wrong and you are bad parents, who are raising a bad child.

This last part is out of line. There's absolutely no evidence here that there's anything wrong with either of the children, and I've known many perfectly nice people who had bad parents.


Oh yes there is evidence. And the people who disagree with me are also bad.

Lighten up everyone, it's not like I just compared people who have nannies to people hiring prostitutes.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 4:24 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Slarty the reason I think it's similar is that I know plenty of Sugar Daddy "Maybe we care about each other" "maybe this is about money" type relationships.

The way the lines get blurred between people actually caring about each other and being intimate and actually just needing a money or wanting a service, albeit an intimate one, is why I see a similarity.

Have you ever been a nanny? I do feel like it's selling love and therefore a strange service to be on a capitalistic market when motherhood itself is extremely unsupported.
posted by xarnop at 7:21 AM on January 11, 2013


klangklangston, that got personal in a way that really upset me, and I told myself I really just shouldn't reply. However, I'm feeling calmer now, and I want to clarify a few things:

1) My husband and I are not professors.

2) have also always paid my nannies (including my sister, who is working for me as a nanny this year in between college and her volunteering in Ecuador next year with a nonprofit) on the books. They are indeed protected by OSHA, do not work more than 45 hours per week. We generally do offer health insurance because health benefits are not taxed, so it is cheaper to offer part of the compensation as health benefits rather than just pay. With Obamacare, though, many nanny-candidates are still covered by their parents insurance, and not very interested in this kind of compensation. Also we've had quite a few request to be paid off the books (which we have refused) since then they don't have to pay payroll taxes.

3) I am planning to pay the ~$30,000 per year which I think is the going rate in this market (with employer contributions to payroll tax, unemployment insurance, etc, I'm afraid it might be more). I'm not saying I won't. I am not arguing that I shouldn't have to, or that the person I eventually hire won't deserve it. Indeed, as I said, I think they deserve more. But I can't pay more. I'm not even sure how long I can pay that for. I haven't said how much I make and it feels like a bad idea even to say this, but that is more than half of my take home pay.

Maybe I should have no problem paying all of my take home pay, and working for the pleasure of working. I'm already more than half way there, and some working moms do that... But know that if that's what you're insisting is the only ethical way of hiring someone to care for your kids, then there won't be many moms (or very many women) in the workforce for very long. And taking time off to care for children really hurts many women's careers as it is.

I didn't really have a point to make about the topic of this thread, which is why my original post trailed off into "I dunno." I just wanted to offer a perspective I hadn't really seen in this thread yet -- of the nanny-employer as someone who isn't all that rich, and can't necessarily afford to pay what the work really deserves, but doesn't find daycare or quitting work to be very palatable options.

But a couple of more points...

4) If you really want to know, the reasons we thought the $12k daycare were substandard were very high turnover among the employees (most of whom were very young and had little training), poor facilities (it was in an old elementary school and I thought it was cold and the floors were too hard and dirty to allow babies "floor time" -- they tended to just be moved from swing to bouncy seat to crib to bumbo chair...) and we didn't think it was sufficiently sanitary, especially considering how constantly our daughter was sick while there. And now that I have two kids, it's not that much cheaper, even, than a nanny. So I really don't understand why you would think it would make sense to suck it up and send my kids there, of all places. Especially since they both havea mild form of PKU and need protein-controlled diets.

5) Of course it's possible to take vacation days at the same time as the nanny. I get ten per year. Now assume my nanny calls in sick two or three days. I'm down to seven. (I definitely don't want her coming to work sick.) So when I want to visit my parents out of state, can I take five of those, or do I have to save them in case the nanny gets the flu or wants to visit her parents? This has been the number one hardest issue.
posted by OnceUponATime at 8:57 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


OnceUponATime - I don't know if it helps you w/#5, but the families that I worked for were really explicit in when they would be on vacation and it was understood that this was my one real window of opportunity for time off. We worked out my vacation time months in advance and I never asked for additional time. Planning way, way ahead saved them a lot of trouble.

It's also possible, especially if you work with an agency, to get a back-up nanny for a few days if you can plan in advance for time your nanny needs off. Sick days obviously are harder, but this could help you plan vacation time.

(Also, I was really considerate and even scheduled my pre-natal care during their off hours, but that's just me. I imagine most good nannies are used to working around their employers' schedules.)
posted by sonika at 1:12 PM on January 11, 2013


I also realize that all sorts of class anxieties are bound up in this, but frankly, plenty of poor people manage to have day care and the kids turn out OK. So maybe holding out for the $16,000 daycare is a luxury, not a necessity.

Do you have children? I ask, not because I think only people with children can have opinions on this, but because I think often people without children haven't seen the realities of the daycare industry.

When my daughter was a newborn, ten years ago, childcare (not EVEN in New York City, not a Montessori, but just plain-jane childcare) was over $1000 a month (inflation calculators place it at around $15,000 a year now). I was horrified to learn that what that bought me was, in fact, fairly low-quality care. Diapers weren't changed as-needed but on an hourly schedule, so the babies would have to sit in their own feces for up to an hour if they happened to go at the wrong time. They were fed on a schedule, not as-needed, and if they were crying, they were often left to scream in their crib. $16,000 daycare is not "luxury daycare", that is often "bare minimum standard."

They also are notoriously bad at dealing with kids who have any needs in diet. I was nursing my daughter and provided them with adequate breast milk, only to routinely show up and find them feeding her formula, because it was somehow easier than going to the refrigerator and pulling out already labeled bottles. I can't imagine kids with actual allergies to stuff.

There really aren't any good choices. And someone who can only afford to pay a nanny $30,000 a year is not doing it for the giggles, generally - it's what they have. No matter what your class, the amount of money you have to pay is what you have to pay. Not to mention that often, those daycare workers might be making even less than that or right around the same amount, for lower quality service.

This doesn't make it okay to be jerks to the people taking care of your kids, but it does mean that everyone who hires a nanny is not automatically Joe Exploiter. Nor does it mean that people who hire nannies don't like their own kids. Not everyone can afford to stay home, nor can everyone afford the stress to the relationship of choosing who stays home while the other person supports them, and all the dependency involved in that.
posted by corb at 1:16 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


"But know that if that's what you're insisting is the only ethical way of hiring someone to care for your kids, then there won't be many moms (or very many women) in the workforce for very long."

Why is it so terrible to think parents could parent their children instead of being in the workplace? I mean, is being in the workplace inherently a more worthy cause than rearing children? If it's just more enjoyable than rearing children, it probably should pay LESS than the cost of a nanny. Right? Because it's like taking a break.
posted by xarnop at 1:21 PM on January 11, 2013


If it's just more enjoyable than rearing children, it probably should pay LESS than the cost of a nanny. Right? Because it's like taking a break.

What.

You've got to watch your assumptions. Even if the only metric is preference, and its not, finding more overall fulfillment in being both a parent and in an outside career in no way implies that the reason for that is that one or the other is a "break."
posted by OmieWise at 1:38 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Xarnop, what you are saying is basically "women belong at home, not in the workplace." Personally I want to work because I love science, and I also want to rear children, and if men can do both, I think I should be able to as well. But I'm the one who gets pregnant and I'm the one who breastfeeds and if one of us stayed home it would definitely be me. It would always be the woman.
posted by OnceUponATime at 1:38 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why is it so terrible to think parents could parent their children instead of being in the workplace? I mean, is being in the workplace inherently a more worthy cause than rearing children? If it's just more enjoyable than rearing children, it probably should pay LESS than the cost of a nanny. Right? Because it's like taking a break.

xarnop, you quoted a comment about "moms" and "women" and responded with a comment using the word "parents." I think you are missing the gender equality issues here. If women don't have the option of staying in the workplace, that has huge implications for their abilities to earn money, advance in their careers, and have power in society.
posted by Area Man at 1:44 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


The other thing to remember here is that male and female payscales are not equal. So if parents are deciding that one person should stay home to care for the children, are they more likely to have the higher salaried person stay home, or the lower salaried one? Pure economics would dictate the lower salaried person would stay home - but since this is primarily the woman in the relationship, it puts a huge onus on women to stay home with kids.

Which would in turn lower their salaries, because the bosses would figure they're more likely to stay home with the kids, which would only compound the problem, and it's the 1950s again all the way down.

Also, I think the idea that people love to work because work gets them out of the hard job of childrearing is essentially flawed. Many people work rather than stay home with their kids, even when they love their kids and would greatly enjoy being with them for that period of time, because we live in a society where the things you want for your children require money, which must be earned or otherwise acquired.
posted by corb at 1:56 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well maybe we should find a way for mothers (or fathers) to have the opportunity to parent their children while still having power in society, be finanfically stable, and be able to make other contributions.

Why is advancing careers important? Because of money or ego? Advancing careers is usually about security, social status, and money. If the goal of advancing careers were actually to make human life better, the work place would look very different. I'm not sure why advancing social status and climbing to the top of workplace ladders is more important that children being parented?

I'm not at all sure I understand why gender norms require women to be the ones who parent children. If the mother wants to be in the workforce and the father wants to stay at home with the children, why would salaried nannies stop that from happening?

In general due to pregnancy and nursing, many women WANT to be the ones to stay home and it's often more practical, but if the woman wants into the workforce instead of being at home with the child, how does that stop the father from doing the child rearing?

Right so the financial incintive is why a lot of people work. Meaning we price child rearing as lower than most other salaried jobs. That's what I'm saying the problem is. And if most people would rather be home with the kids but can't because they are too impoverished to do this, isn't that a social problem itself? Why are we celebrating dual working homes as the norm when it isn't even what people want?

I think parenting is hard and I am in favor of all parents having help. Some people AREN'T well suited to time at home with the kids and I think it's fine to work with that by hiring help. But I think we should value the rearing of children as valuable work equal to that of other jobs in society.

I just genuinely don't understand why we find it important that child rearing or parenting be viewed as less valuable work than other respected and well paying positions in society.
posted by xarnop at 2:10 PM on January 11, 2013


What if both parents want to be working parents?

And yes, it would be great if we could all afford to pay our child care workers as much as lawyers and doctors get paid, or not have them at all, but in practice for most people the only option would then be "not have them at all." And then it's the moms who end up doing all that poorly paid (unpaid) insufficiently respected childcare labor, whether they want to or not.

Our current system doesn't work well for parents or childcare workers, but I don't know how to design one that does, without infinite resources.
posted by OnceUponATime at 2:27 PM on January 11, 2013


Well, think if you can't afford a nanny and you choose to have children anyway, then ins't that a choice?

Accidents happen which is very understandable to me, but I don't understand why people's desire to have children they don't actually want to rear on a daily basis is more important than paying ethical wages for childrearing?
posted by xarnop at 2:37 PM on January 11, 2013


Why are we celebrating dual working homes as the norm when it isn't even what people want?

How do we know that's true? I haven't seen any good data and personally know plenty of parents who want to be in the workplace. I also know moms who'd like to be home, and can't afford to be.

You seem to suggest that people shouldn't have children until after The Revolution comes and everyone receives an "ethical" wage and complete gender equality has been achieved. I think that point of view misses the strength of the human desire to procreate. People are going to have kids. You can say that is not as "important" as other priorities, but your sense of importance misses the fact that lots of people are eager to bring kids into an imperfect world. They are going to muddle through.
posted by Area Man at 2:45 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, I am thrilled to know that I don't rear or parent my kid. Guess I won't be waking up with him at 5am tomorrow, or buying his food, or ensuring his financial security, or making sure he is appropriately dressed, or taking him to doctor's appointments!

What I will do with all this free time that I spend not rearing my child? Probably go back and invest even more time into my super-success career ladder of nanny ambition!
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:48 PM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


My point isn't that people don't rear their children in the evenings, but I am saying if it's a luxury for some people to get have children without having to rear them during the day time, that shouldn't come at the cost of some people being paid unethical wages.

Unethical is, as always, debateable.

But the point is, paying an unethical wage is not the solution to wanting kids and not wanting to have to rear them 40 hours a day. (lol-- during the forty or whatever hour work week)
posted by xarnop at 4:03 PM on January 11, 2013


Why is it so terrible to think parents could parent their children instead of being in the workplace?

Wait, what? Why does parenting mean you have to stay home? What about people who WANT to work in childcare - should we all be out of jobs because parents suddenly revert to 1950? This is totally ridiculous. Dual career families are a totally valid choice and quite a lot of parents don't want to stay home for any number of reasons.

Accidents happen which is very understandable to me, but I don't understand why people's desire to have children they don't actually want to rear on a daily basis is more important than paying ethical wages for childrearing?

Rearing children is about being that child's parent throughout their lives, not about hanging out with them 24/7. By your logic, my husband is less of a parent than I am because he sees our son less, to which I call bullshit. Parenting is about providing a loving and stable home, not about being in the same room with your kid every second of the day.

I really can't believe that in 2012 I'm having this conversation. I stay at home and I'm glad as hell that it's a CHOICE. I fully support my working mother friends in having a family AND a career. One of the goals of feminism is that no one should have to choose either/or. Men have almost never had to sacrifice having a family for having a career, women shouldn't have to either.

Paying for childcare is rough, but a lot A LOT of families thought they had the finances worked out and things changed. After the stock market crash in 2008, my hours were cut back when one of the parents I was working for was laid off. Shit happening is no reason t to have children who are loved and cared for.
posted by sonika at 4:13 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I guess what I mean to say is I think some people are planning a luxury for themselves while assuming less ethical pay for others should supply that. That's the assumed part of this that seems crappy. I know some people feel that working in the workplace is a luxury they would like to have and I think we SHOULD make it possible for people who want to.

Unethical pay is not the method by which it should be made possible.
posted by xarnop at 4:15 PM on January 11, 2013


xarnop, I've danced around this, but I'm going to come right out and say that you don't really seem to know what you're talking about. That is, you know what it is like to be a nanny, but you don't seem to understand what it's like to be a parent, or what the consequences of our current political economy are. You are right, of course, that we should strive to not pay unethical wages, but as soon as you stray from that point it reads very much as if you haven't given any serious thoughts to these issues. Which is ironic, because your position seems to be precisely the opposite of that. I'm not sure how to square those two things, except to suggest that it's precisely your own experience being a nanny that may be blinding you to other considerations.
posted by OmieWise at 4:23 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Look, xarnop, I work AS A NANNY but you are maintaining that the only reason people use childcare is to have a luxury. It is classist and ignorant in the extreme to maintain that for parents, working is a luxury, when for many it is an absolute financial necessity.

You then went on to say that because it is a financial necessity that I work, that I should not have had my child. You refuse to believe that working and parenting are not luxuries, but instead, basic components of life for the vast majority of human beings.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:51 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am a parent. I know this reality sucks for parents, especially low income single parents. So the idea that making it on one parents 30,000 dollars is "hard" is what is lost on me.

I have never earned that much in my life. I think having money is WAY better for kids and families than not having it, and that staying at home or having a nanny is better for kids than daycare (personal opinion, don't begrudge those with other opinions). So I understand why people want nanny's over day care.

I just think claims that families who have one salaried earner CAN'T have one parent stay home are absolutely false. I do it as a single parent for a fraction of that. Not saying that's ideal, trust me, I do agree having money is a very good thing, but the word "can't" is simply not accurate because low income people do it all the time. There's this disparity here where it's assumed that parenting is really hard so I don't understand how hard it is and how unfair it is to have to pay nannies a decent wage when some nannies are mom's too. How are they supposed to live on 15,000 a year when the family paying them believe it's terribly unhealthy for kids to live on one parents 35,000 a year? I don't think 15 dollars an hour is terrible or horrific pay, could be better, some nannies DO make a great salary and I think that's as it should be.

Don't say I don't know how hard it is or what sacrafices have to made.

I know.

I think the whole system is wonky and I don't think any individual person who hires a nanny for low pay is to blame, but that our thinking about nurturing and caregiving and how to support it and what it's worth is out of whack.

On my end I don't appreciate the push to get low income mom's INTO the work place over being at home with their kids if they want to do that often comes with this empowering "get women inthe workplace!". If I'm going into the workplace to work in childcare because I like hanging out with kids, then why on earth do I need to earn 1200 a month to pay all of that in housing and day care fees just to say I did it?

I want the option to work or stay at home to be accessible for all parents. I just think the option of staying at home should be more valued--- meaning that we should value child rearing and the support of people who do it to make it option for those who want to and well paid for those who want to do it as a job so that other women can work.

It sounds pretty priveledged to be talking about going to work just for the fun of it to begin with, so that might be why my attempts at understanding it don't add up.
posted by xarnop at 4:55 PM on January 11, 2013


If I'm going into the workplace to work in childcare because I like hanging out with kids, then why on earth do I need to earn 1200 a month to pay all of that in housing and day care fees just to say I did it?

You are ignorant in the extreme.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:13 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Uh how is describing my past situation ignorant? I couldn't afford to work and pay for day care and housing so I took a nany job and brought my son. I can appreciate deeply the benefits this provided to me despite the low pay while also believing our culture is wack in how it values mothering and child care those who do it.
posted by xarnop at 5:18 PM on January 11, 2013


Work for the fun of it? I think thats a pretty dismissive way to think about it. I've known women doctors, engineers, artists, and ministers. People whose careers are important to them in part because of the contributions they make. There are very real costs to society if one parent always has to stop working. Is the world really a better place if an oncologist takes years off and gets rusty?
posted by Area Man at 5:28 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I guess that's my point--- but isn't the nurturing of children an important contribution to society as well? I think the idea people who are at home with the children aren't doing anything important for society is what is out of whack.

There are very real costs to society when children are underserved.
posted by xarnop at 5:30 PM on January 11, 2013


xarnop, I think I misread your comment, I apologize. I admit to being a bit pissed off at your assumption that everyone is working because we just hate our kids or are lazy or something.

Not everyone can take their kid with them to work just because you can.

You seem to be ignoring the fact that your life is not everyone's life, and think that if you can do it, everyone can do it. The vast majority of single mothers work outside of childcare and have their children in childcare because they have no other choice. A significant number of two-earner families are in the same situation, or in a situation where one parent earns a lot but the other parent is the only one with health insurance, or any number of situations that you are not personally privy to. Your assumptions are extremely uncharitable and rude to parents who use childcare for their kids.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:34 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes I know that most people work because they need money and and use child care because they have to.My point is that most people would rather rear their kids and can't and THAT SUCKS and that we should values mothers who want to stay home and care for their children with financial resources to do so.

And value child rearing/caregiving as a valuable and well payed service.
posted by xarnop at 5:37 PM on January 11, 2013


I think your reading of my writing is clouded by you feeling defensive right now combined with my difficulty with expression.

I think most parents HAVE to work. But it was proposed in this thread that some parents WANT to work instead of be with their kids and personally I think that is a luxury desire to assume lower earners should take lower than worth pay to make that possible.

I think it's a case of already high earners wanting lower earners to earn even LESS to supply a want that is not a necessity.

I think the solution to parents who want to stay at home with their kids but are concerned needed developmental items and services might be missing should be served by better infrastructure to support families having a parent at home and still having access to enriching and developmentally appropriate activities and services.

Not for caregiving to be undervalued and those who do it underpaid to make the lives of people with already higher income better.
posted by xarnop at 5:50 PM on January 11, 2013


When a couple decides to have someone stay home and care for the kids, that decision does not somehow increase the income or wealth of nannies or daycare professionals. Nor does the decision to have both partners work full-time somehow result in nannies and other childcare professionals earning less. I think the states with higher rates of workforce participation actually have more expensive daycare and higher earnings for daycare workers and nannies.
posted by Area Man at 6:10 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know the original post brought up so much memory of strife during the time I needed help to care for children and was facing grinding poverty while trying to fit the standards of middle class nannying that I both wrote too much here and too much emotionally driven and unclear content. I've been trying to avoid doing that but for me reading those invasive questions while thinking about dealing with an apartment where people were beating people up and the porch was rotting out and ...gosh so many problems... I think my exacerbated emotional responses are rooted simply in the way that people with good lives have this expectation that they can hire people for hourly wages, many of whom are currently facing poverty, and are expected to not have any signs of those exposures or difficulties.

I never worked for anyone who asked questions like that and never tried to. I liked the families I worked for a lot, and the thing I disliked the most is that I very much liked them and just didn't like the financial dependance that made me feel confused about my own integrity vs financial need in the kind of intimate relationships that can happen in domestic service.

People who are paying nannies more than 15 dollars per hour are waaay within the realms of ethical pay I have mentioned for a nanny who is truly respected and given a realistic work load, I'm sure it sounded like I want nannies to be paid 50,000. It's more that I think the work load and treatment of and vulnerability of nannies who may be seeking asylum from how crappy the rest of hourly wage labor is--is often little understood by people who started earning decent income early in adulthood.

I think people absolutely can be good employers to nannies, if you're paying your nanny a salary then that's really excellent. This questionnaire just brought up all the angst I felt reading some of the lists of required duties that would be on the table for sometimes 8-12 dollars per hour. Fortunately for me I cared about and valued all the families I worked for and when I said I was embarrased for them, I literally meant that I know what it's like to BE in the middle class and hire help and that was embarrassing for me. I feel like for good people, facing inequality is itself a little unsettling and I just don't like to be a source of that discomfort for people.

In any case, I already feel I took up too much of this thread to form my thoughts better, I feel I might finish off with something I hope is better formed. I don't think some of how I stated content here even matches my thinking on it. Ultimately all I kept saying about supporting motherhood is not that nannies need to be paid 60,000, but that we should consider supporting parents who want to stay at home in the first place with structural supports to parent well and in a healthy enriching way even within a budget. I think there is a better way to support and value caregiving and the people who do it both as unpaid and paid contributors.
posted by xarnop at 7:56 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just think the option of staying at home should be more valued--- meaning that we should value child rearing and the support of people who do it to make it option for those who want to and well paid for those who want to do it as a job so that other women can work.

While I don't disagree that childcare workers should be well paid, the reason staying at home isn't as valued right ow as working is that we only recently moved past a point where women HAD to stay home. That women CAN have high power careers and also have children is, in the scheme of history, pretty recent.

So, we haven't figured out all the kinks yet - but saying that childcare is a luxury and parents who can financially afford to should stay home out of some moral obligation is a huge step backward, societally speaking.
posted by sonika at 9:23 PM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


sonika-- I didn't say that AT ALL.

You misunderstood and I can tell Iwas unclear because many are hearing me wrong.

I'm trying to say that is IS a luxury to see work as an option you don't really have to do.

THAT is the luxury. If you don't have to work, but WANT to, then assuming that already lower earning women should work FOR EVEN LESS in order to make it possible for you to work when you don't even financially HAVE to, is luxury thinking at the expense of people who don't havea choice about needing to work.

If a family has one earner with 50,000 than to say "Oh but that's just NOT ENOUGH! We can't live on that! So childcare workers should take whatever pay we can afford so that both of us can work and also not pay too much for childcare!"

That IS luxury thinking at the expense of women who will be doing the work of rearing children for a fraction of that. Because what are you saying, that women who earn muchless just shouldn't have kids? It's like this huge amount of compassion for just how terrible hard it is to raise a family on 50,000 without any compassion for the fact you're basically saying women who are childcare workers just shouldn't be paid enough to raise children adequately either.
posted by xarnop at 7:01 AM on January 12, 2013


The women who are getting low wages to do childcare so that wealthier families can have a higher quality of life for their children are somehow not part of this concern about how hard it is to raise children.

It's like everyone ELSE is supposed to arrange their life and child planning around these obstacles. A childcare worker is expected to have either married into money, or just pick a different job even without the skillset or just you know EARN MORE! Somehow, in order to havea quality oflife for her kids... but the dual earning homes can't consider they also could plan their families without assuming they should be able to pay someone low wages to do childcare work.

I just feel like saying, "It's so unfair to expect families with dual earning salaries to pay well for childcare!" it's completely neglecting that if you balance that "unfairness" by paying crap wages for childcare, that TOO is completely unfair and damages the families of mothers who work in childcare.

It's like fighting for quality of life of people who already have skill sets, assets, education and money in society at the expense of people who often don't have the same skill sets and might NEED to rely on childcare as a career. And for them, are they just expected to not have kids or raise their children in poverty? Why is it ok for them to raise their kids on one parents salary of 30,000 but unthinkable that middle class families could raise their children on that?

When awareness about how detrimental it is for children to be raised on 30,000 comes at the expense of asking women who do childcare work to work to therefore work for less, it just seems out of wack. I DO think it's hard to raise children on 30,000 but the solution to that isn't to make childcare wages lower so that middle class families can have what I will say IS the luxury of a dual earning home.

Single mothers don't have the luxury of a dual earning home to begin with, so yes I see having the option of having two parents work to increase the wealth of the family is a privaledge.
posted by xarnop at 7:12 AM on January 12, 2013


I think that's the disconnect. I am calling the option of a dual earning home a luxury, because to me it is. An even HIGHER luxury is to have one parent with enough money there can be a stay at home parent if desired. But many families make the choice to do this on one parents 24,000 salary job.

It can be done. And single parents live on that and less all the time. So having the option to send two parents to work to earnway more than that is a luxury that should not be made possible at the expense of paying childcare workers less.
posted by xarnop at 7:22 AM on January 12, 2013


Apologies, xarnop, I was misunderstanding you.

I do agree that it is a luxury to have dual incomes and have enough money to be able to say "I could pay for childcare, but don't want it to be too expensive."

However, I'll also put it out there that I don't know too many families in this position. Most people I know have a budget for childcare that they really can't afford to go over. I do get irritated when they grouse about paying for childcare and how it's sssoooooooooooooo expensive to send kids to daycare because, hey, you're paying for someone to care! for your child! Isn't that worth the money?
posted by sonika at 7:48 AM on January 12, 2013


But Xarnop, if someone who doesn't have a family (or doesn't have one yet or has a grown-up one) can help out someone who does, is that necessarily unjust? I mean, when I was 26 I earned $25k per year. I can't hire another 26 year old for $30k? What's to say she won't earn more later? (Ok, admittedly I was in school, but then, so are some of our nanny candidates, at least part time or online.)

Or a stay at home mom whose kids are grown up, or even a stay at home mom who needs a job where she can bring her young child along?

Different people have different expenses at different times in their lives, and different dependents and responsibilities and circumstances.
posted by OnceUponATime at 8:04 AM on January 12, 2013


I do see exactly what you're saying one uponatime and I do think there are alternatives that address the concerns I'm presenting to childcare being a low paying career compared to others and some of those solutions include:

-Leaving childcare a low paying career but better infrastructure/social support to support single parents or low earning families

-Better family planning services and access to birth control and sex education with a greater social push toward either marriage before parenthood or single parenthood once a person can earn enough money. The reason this option concerns me is that it places parenthood as a privaledge of the wealthy and takes it out of reach of lower earners-- again leaving low earning childcare workers without social permission or resources to parent well

- And of course, my preference which is to both see child care work and caregiving (for elderly or disabled) as valued professions that pay decently and offer on the job training (Caregiving frequently becomes a profession done by people who struggle with the school system and might be excellent at caring and nurturing despite having learning disabilities or low levels of excellency in school performance)

-While ALSO- supporting families with access to healthcare, quality diet, enriching activities, and social connection in general and helping families who need in home help get access to that without removing decent pay for care giver professionals.

I think EVERY family, regardless of income should have access to doulas, midwifes, mommy (or daddy!) helpers and flexible work schedules that allow at least one parent to still have a decent paying job while taking time for their families as well. I think that life and health issues often present a literally need for in home help that should be a social service accessible to all families during times of illness, mental or emotional difficulties, or just plain the stress that comes with life situations making family life difficult.

You may say that I'm a dreamer...
Hey we might not get there but one thing is sure, we DEFINATELY won't get there if we don't dream the dream and keep it alive.

I think my concern is mostly that I see caregiving DOES wind up being done by people who struggle with the school system and have a hard time advocating that their trade and skill set deserves salaried pay and benefits and job security.

I have seen this happen frequently for nurturers and caregivers who are very skilled at empathy and awareness of others emotional states and nurturing and bringing joy and support to people, but not as highly skilled at the school system or climbing career hierarchies to turn themselves into high earners.

So I would like society to see caregiving as a skillset that deserves to be cultivated and supported as a decent paying career that people could do and earn enough to support their families.
posted by xarnop at 8:14 AM on January 12, 2013


Well, xarnop, it's rather hard not to be defensive when you say that people who use childcare aren't rearing their children. It's a touchy issue, and your repeated statements that are essentially personal attacks on other parents (especially mothers) do nothing to forward the discussion. I am more than willing to discuss the broader issues if you can discuss them without implying that other mothers are selfish, power-hungry, egotistical, don't raise their own kids, etc.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:22 AM on January 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I made no such attacks and I think you're reading into my words what you want to hear.

I do think that privaledged women who want to improve their families situation on the backs of lower earning women ARE being selfish. Yes. But that doesn't mean I think women who are better suited to work outside the home than caregiving are bad for that. I do think that assuming other women should take low pay to do the work they don't want to do for them is being selfish, yes.

I think some women are better suited to caregiving than others, (as are some men) but devaluing and under paying caregiving is not the solution to the fact that someone women prefer work outside the home than caregiving for children during the day.

I think the movement to get women out of parenting and into out of home careers came at the expectation that caregiving was not real work and should be paid very little for. And that hoisting up women with skillsets to be high earners came at the cost of devaluing caregiving as a social contribution.

So yeah I do think that making life better for the middle class on the backs of lower earners is a crappy thing. If you're hearing anger from me it's about that, but not about the fact that all mothers and fathers deserve a lot more support. I'm dyslexic and I wish gender didn't exist, I don't care whether we use mother/father/parent whetever. I think you're also making assumptions about what I'm trying to say based on word choices that aren't being strategically applied to force gender norms at all. Nurtururs are nurtururs whatever their genitals are. I associate that with "female", yin, caregiving, loving-- but that's an arbitrary gender association due to females having wombs and lactating devices and hormonal instincts often but not always associated with that. A trans man who carries a child in their womb and is a nurturer and lactator deserves the same protection I apply to "woman" which is again, just a construct that helps us describe reality but becomes limiting when we don't acknowledge the imperfections of it's descriptions.

That which is described as "women's work" works because you know what I mean. When I say female trades we know traditionally that includes caregving and nurturing which I think has been undervalued in a capitalistic society that values "real" earners who go through measurments and hoops to prove their worth and to do work that carries esteem and access to money and social services.

I think nurturers deserve these protections as well and that children (and many adults) could use more nurturing than we currently value in our culture that now wants all people to be measured only on their scholastic and out of home work potential. Often stay at home mothers had a different value for human worth-- i.e. caring for the disabled and the elderly and children. Having some people who are free to love outside of a financial transaction I think is a valuable thing for society. That doesn'tmean it needs to be women. It just means there are social contributions that make society and human life a better world that don't fit well into capitalistic models of measuring human worthiness of food shelter and money.

It's exhausting to discuss the nuance of gender every time, but when it comes to parental nurturing, I DO think children need more of it than we value now that we want all parents to work and for children to be unaffected by that. Poor children have always been at risk of parental absence and lack of nurturing but now we want all parents to be more absent and for paid employees to fill in the gap. Love and parenting for pay is different than love and involvement from a parent.

One fourth of the American population is said to have mental illness. Much (not all) of that illness can be traced to connection with poverty and home conditions. We like to think children are resiliant and that as parents we can do whatever we want and it won't affect the kids because it's what we want, but while people are resilient in terms of staying alive, humans are indeed very likely to have their personality and capacities and natures affected by their exposures and life and family conditions. Many mental ill people are from families with money. While it's easy to say then "Oh well the parents are nice and have money so the cause must be totally random" this is not at all true either. My parents were dual earners and stressed, miserable, and unavailable. They were loving and had good parenting values and tried to be available but when both of my parentsentered the work force my brother and I's lives were detrimentally affected.

I had previously had a stay at home dad, so I'm not saying it needs to be a mother. I'm saying that kids will be affected by what they are affected by, not what we THINK they should be affected by because it feels good to parents. All that said, people live with mental illness andfind happiness and joy at life all the time. It's not the end of the world. But our family structures do affect the kids and lack of nurturing does and has always affected children. There are literally millions of variables that affect health and personality development, but that doesn't mean health and personality isn't shaped by these factors and more.

I think you're getting pissed off at my lack of writing all of that out every time I say "nurturer" or "mothering" when I think "mothering" is more a set of behaviors traditionally ascribed to females that fathers can also do and is an imperfect word but takes less time than writing out everything I just did.
posted by xarnop at 9:53 AM on January 12, 2013


xarnop, you did absolutely say that people who use childcare are not rearing their own children. Maybe you meant to say it differently, but the young rope rider and I both took your statements this way.
posted by sonika at 10:47 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will go ahead and quote the things that you have said that are highly inflammatory:

Why is it so terrible to think parents could parent their children instead of being in the workplace? I mean, is being in the workplace inherently a more worthy cause than rearing children? If it's just more enjoyable than rearing children, it probably should pay LESS than the cost of a nanny. Right? Because it's like taking a break.

Well maybe we should find a way for mothers (or fathers) to have the opportunity to parent their children while still having power in society, be finanfically stable, and be able to make other contributions.

I just think claims that families who have one salaried earner CAN'T have one parent stay home are absolutely false.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:00 AM on January 12, 2013


Oh and this:

Why is advancing careers important? Because of money or ego? Advancing careers is usually about security, social status, and money. If the goal of advancing careers were actually to make human life better, the work place would look very different. I'm not sure why advancing social status and climbing to the top of workplace ladders is more important that children being parented?
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:03 AM on January 12, 2013


I don't see anything inflammatory there at all. I think parenting is an action and that infants and young children need parenting during the day.

Someone needs to parent them during the day. Some people don't want to do that portion of the parenting and so they need to find a replacement. Of course that doesn't mean they don't parent in the evening and on the weekend or that bonds won't happen. But, yeah, if you don't want to parent your children during the work week, someone else has to.

Again I think this is coming down to word choice issues raising hackles because I'm refering to "parenting" "mothering" and "nurturing" as the acts of caregiving children need and relationships and bonding that are part of child development.

I did not state anywhere "parents who hire nannies are not parenting"

I did state that people who hire nannies are not wanting to the parenting... and that should haveincluded the qualifier of "during daily life". Which I still think is true. Many parents don't want to do the weekly parenting and want someone else to. That doesn't mean they aren't parenting the other time, but it does mean they are sharing parenting duties with other providers.
posted by xarnop at 11:06 AM on January 12, 2013


I still stand by what I wrote. I think you're interpereting it in a threatened way when there is no reason to.

I watched my parents choose career climbing and money over time with their kids. I have seenother parents do the same. I think I can have whatever feelings I want about how that has affected me and other people in my life.
I do think someone needs to be spending time during the day parenting the kids and that if both parents are working some of that is often missing.

Nannies can make that fact BETTER. So, as I said, I think caregiving is a valuable profession. But it needs to come from somewhere and cramming into supper time and the weekend is really not enough for many kids.
posted by xarnop at 11:09 AM on January 12, 2013


But it needs to come from somewhere and cramming into supper time and the weekend is really not enough for many kids.

Are you criticizing daycare here or...? Do you think children in daycare literally don't get care? Studies show that children in high-quality daycare do just as well as children with high-quality parental care.

I watched my parents choose career climbing and money over time with their kids. I have seenother parents do the same. I think I can have whatever feelings I want about how that has affected me and other people in my life.

Okay, well, as long as this conversation is solely about you...I'm done here.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:38 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way, if you are someone who wants to stay home with a child but can't, I am not refering to you when I refer to people who don't want to be with their children during the day? I think most parents, including a lot of men, would like to have more time with their kids while also having a career and ensuring their family is financially provided for.

I had to put my son in daycare before I wanted and feel nothing but sympathy for parents faced with that as the only plausible option before they feel their child is ready or that they can afford the kind of day care that provides the quality of teacher/child ratios and care they want for their child. I think daycares, like nannies, can be done well but the good ones with low ratios and a lot of attentive care are very pricey.

Ido think that people in the middle class feel constrained in their options in ways that don't make sense to those of us who survive on tiny amounts of money. Some people feel they CAN'T stay home with their kids, when they could, it would just mean lower quality of life and access to resources.

Which poor people cope with and find ways around that middle class people often don't see as possibilities so sometimes I think people are chained by limited thinking about survival on small budgets more than that they CAN'T create an enriching and healthy family life on a small budget.

That said, money is a great thing and ultimately a requirement for all health and happiness and love that may accompany humans who have it. I want us all to have more of it.
posted by xarnop at 11:41 AM on January 12, 2013


It's not solely about me at all. You're inflammed by my opinion that spending time with kids during daily life is important for some kids well being, to which you are entitled that feeling. Sometimes kids needs don't get met, which doesn't mean parents are bad, but it just happens. I think that the kids in day care's I've worked who were there for 50-60 hours did have a hard time toward the end of the day.

I think it is too long for young children to be without parental love and holding and affection, and the comfort of being at home itself, that just isn't even really a part of the way most day care's are designed.

I think that preschool is healthy for toddlers and young children in smaller doses than that. I also think that's a long day for children of any age and it makes it much harder in the evenings to do anything but cook dinner, eat it and go to bed. People find beauty and meaning in all sorts of circumstance and people cope. People survived being left in the house while their whole families was gone in the fields all day in plenty of societies of the past and present. People also die and experience poor development in such circumstances, so it just depends on the persons needs whether they will be resilient in the environment their in. I think some people are special needs in terms of need for affection, holding, care, and involvement and those children are not served as well by the day care and after school care model unless the programs are designed to meet those kinds of needs.
posted by xarnop at 11:53 AM on January 12, 2013


My point is that most people would rather rear their kids and can't

I'd be surprised if it were true that most people want to be full time parents and not do anything else. Because this seems to be saying that if you have another job, you are not rearing your kids.

I do think that assuming other women should take low pay to do the work they don't want to do for them is being selfish, yes.

So do you rail against this for all other issues? If you don't want to cook, is assuming other people will take low pay to make you food wrong? If you don't want to sew? If you don't want to shave your pet's fur, is it wrong to go somewhere that they hire people at less than your hourly wage to groom pets?

I do think that there are huge societal problems with how we treat childcare and childcare providers, and the confused messages about mothering and parenting and work. But that doesn't mean that it's selfish to work if you [are female and] have a child and wouldn't all die of starvation if you didn't work.
posted by jeather at 12:59 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well yes I am opposed to low paying work in general, or at least the way in which many are trapped without the option of increasing pay due to skill sets not being valued.

I am essentially opposed to capitalism and prefer economics with a human face; i.e. interference with the free market to ensure prices reflect the impact of trade on the humans participating and future society rather than just what people are willing to pay at that moment and what that does to individuals and society.

I think you can find me ranting about poverty, low pay, and ensuring professions provide decent quality of life all over the place in my comment history.

At least I'm consistantly an unrealistic idealist.

Don't even get me started on food service. Isn't this the wrong thread for that? Yes food service should pay more- or at least have the infrastructure to train people on the job to move up in pay over time to earn a living salary that can support a family. Absolutely. Eating out is a valuable service that should not be taken for granted.
posted by xarnop at 1:11 PM on January 12, 2013


Ah, I'm not saying it's selfish to want children and also to work! I'm saying it's selfish to devalue the love and nurturing and care that someone else will have to provide if the parents don't and assume that work should be done for cheap to make the dream of the dual working home and "having it all" come true.

I'm still seeing this as the feminist movement essentially using the lowest class women (who are usually the gender of the childcare workers) to ensure that women with higher education and status have more opportunity and choice.

That is a good cause!!! More choice is good!!!! Just not at the expense of making caregiving a devalued profession for the people who tend to make up the servant work classes and be trapped in it. As long as the feminist movement has a parallel movement to ensure people are skilled at caregiving andnot much else have a way to earn a decent living and provide for their own children, it's great to want all parents to have more choice and options in both career options and time with children without having to compromise having some of both.
posted by xarnop at 1:21 PM on January 12, 2013


I think this thread has largely turned I to xarnop talking circles around herself. Look, what you're saying IS inflammatory and there's nothing wrong with sticking by your opinion - don't keep putting it on the rest of us for reading you wrong.
posted by sonika at 2:30 PM on January 12, 2013


Oh, well if you are understanding me and find it inflammatory then we are at an impass. I should have realized that may have been the case sooner. I wish I could understand what my words sound like to you because I really don't understand what you're seeing that's inflammatory. Ok, well you're right I've certainly described my views as well as I can and we either disagree completely or just aren't going to understand each other.
posted by xarnop at 2:38 PM on January 12, 2013


I wish I could understand what my words sound like to you because I really don't understand what you're seeing that's inflammatory.

I wish you could too. You make firm and detailed statements of opinion that you then claim have been misinterpreted by every single person who tries to engage with you on those subjects. After the first dozen or so times, it is nearly impossible to imagine that the problem lies with how others interpret your words.
posted by elizardbits at 9:33 AM on January 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well the part that confuses me is that on clarification that I do not think parents who use childcare are "not rearing their children" I'm still being accused of claiming that.

I'm a parent who uses childcare. I'm just not seeing why it's important to insist that because a sentence was worded poorly that my intended meaning should be defined by a word choice error that raised hackles. I will not apologize for "attacking parents who use childcare" because I haven't, but I will apologize for error of word choice resulting in miscommunication.

I do not believe that parents who use child care are not raising their children and the "implication" I do was simply because it takes even longer than the many words already used to try to write out "parents who do not want to raise their children during the week at which time someone else is doing the rearing but parents are otherwise doing the rearing during the times they are with their children."

I think the desire to decide my meaning is inherently that parents who use childcare are not rearing their children over and over dspite that I have repeatedly said that is not my meaning and if you adjust my sentence to add three different words "during the week hours" the problem seems to be fixed.

I don't think it's selfishto want bothkids and work, but it's selfish to want that on the backs of cheap labor. Ultimately I think all problems should be solved through more support of families, but I'm a big socialist so that's just me. I'm not saying people are bad if they need to survive however they survive but I think we should come up with some alternatives to allow both women and men towork that values the people who do the childcare work during the week instead of assuming bad pay is the solution to make everyone else happy.

I think people are determined to see my meaning as one sentence of error in typing, which is fine, but it seems kind of uneccessary because I've been attempting over and over to clarify.
posted by xarnop at 4:57 PM on January 13, 2013


[This is the point where we stop going in circles around one single user, yes? Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 5:23 PM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thank fucking god.
posted by zarq at 6:27 PM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another point to ponder on the issue of dual income parents is that even when women with children can afford to stay home with them on a male partner's income, that assumes the stability of that family in a way that is not realistic with current circumstances.

A woman who has stayed home with her children has few abilities to gain employment without work experience. For many women, working, regardless of what the male partner does, is the only way they can guarantee their children will be free from hunger.
posted by corb at 1:18 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


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