Looking for the 'perfect' nanny: Experience or up-to-date 'expertise?'(Read article summary)
A nanny's years of experience raising children wasn't enough for one mother looking for the 'perfect' childminder. Have babies changed so much in the last few years that child-care providers need the most 'up-to-date' expertise?
Matthew Cole/The Annapolis Capital/AP
Our Â beloved nanny who worked for us for five years â Joan â recently called to say sheâs on the job market again. Sheâs been working for the family after ours for the past decade, and theyâre helping out in her job search, of course, but could we help, too?
With pleasure! I put a notice on a local parenting website: âOur extremely kind, smart, warm, funny, organized nanny seeks new full-time job.â I got a call from a woman who had been tasked by her pregnant daughter-in-law to help out in the nanny search.
Great! I told her how Iâd met Joan when I was home on maternity leave and hanging out at the same playground where she took the kids she was babysitting at the time. We became friendly, and I dearly wished she could be my kidsâ nanny â thatâs how much I liked her. Then, lo and behold, the family she was working for moved away, just as I was getting ready to go back to work. Such serendipity! Joan came to work for us, and I got to be a happy, non-stressed mom going back to my job, because I felt my kids were in such capable hands.
The lady on the phone was listening to all this but finally interrupted: âSo you say she hasnât worked for you for 10 years?â
âWell, then she hasnât worked with a baby in that long?â
No, I explained. The ânewâ family she went to work for eventually had three kids. The youngest is 4 or 5, so she worked with a baby about three or four years ago.
âIâm sorry,â said the caller. âThis isnât going to work. My daughter-in-law wants me to find someone with recent baby experience.â
âWell, four years is kind of recent, isnât it?â I swallowed and tried not to let my voice go shrill. âI guess I should have mentioned that Joan didnât only help raiseÂ myÂ kids, sheâs raised four of her own. The youngest is in college now. So itâs not as if babies are something new toââ
The woman apologized again: âI see what youâre saying. Believe me, I understand. But my daughter-in-law made me promise to find someone who is up on the latest baby information. You know, so much has changed in just the past few years. She wants a person whoâs up-to-date on all the new things. This is such a crucial time for the babyâs development.â
If thereâs a spanking new version of the Diaper Genie or the car seat (and Iâll bet there is), Iâm sure Joan could master it. But is there really a ânewâ way to raise a baby? Has human evolution taken a sharp turn in the past 36 months? Do nannies and parents really have to be up on the latest studies, products,Â programs, manias and mantras to do their job âright"? Does that mean anyone who raised her kids before 2012 did it wrong?
The grandma couldnât hold out anymore. âI completely agree! But thereâs no way I can tell her this. I promised Iâd look for someone with recent baby experience, and I have to shut my mouth.â
That I understood. It is hard for anyone (especially a mother-in-law) to tell a new parent anything that isnât in the latest book or magazine. And it is hard for a parenting magazine not to endorse all the new products and programs that grace (and pay for) its pages. And itâs hard for the media not to flog some new, surprising study as the most important stop-whatever-you-were-doing-before thing to do for your kids.
But the latest, greatest thing to do for your kids is also the oldest and boldest: Trust yourself; trust your kid. Babies do not need everything to be perfect. And besides, whatever is âperfectâ today may be denounced tomorrow. (Remember when we were supposed to use trans fat-filled margarine instead of butter?)
Thank goodness that our kids are far more resilient â and brilliant â than pop culture tells us they are. Believe it or not, they donât even need a black-white-and-red heartbeat-playing mobile above the non-drop-side crib.
The grandma apologized again, and we said our goodbyes. Off she went to find the âperfectâ nanny. And even though that means Joan is back on the market, it also means she dodged a bully. Er, bullet.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs.Â Lenore SkenazyÂ blogs atÂ Free-Range Kids.