Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Guest Column by: Chick
Disdain? Discomfort? Dismay? There has to be some sort of appropriate term for the strange and unsettling reception given me by many of the moms I see on my daily rounds as a nanny.
Generally, I'll be chatting with a woman while at the park with the kids, or while waiting for a charge to finish a class, and she'll say something that makes it clear she assumes I'm the mom. At that point I'll tell her "I'm their nanny." Then the weirdness starts. And this happens at any time, from 15 minutes to 6 classes into a friendly discussion.
I'll get an "Oh...really?", a blank stare, or nervous laughter, and then, 80% of the time, conversation stutters to a halt, leaving nothing but an awkward silence. The mom will soon make a vague excuse before walking away, or will turn to the woman on the other side of her to start a lively discussion.
In my novice nanny days, I thought perhaps I was simply somehow boring or annoying, and the realization that I was a nanny was an out for moms who weren't really interested in a friendly conversation. But now, I am forced to wonder why THEY have an issue with me. I was fine to talk with when I was presumably one of them, but as a nanny I am somehow not worth the effort.
Because I am generally curious about what makes people act the way they do, I have come up with 3 possible reasons for the "Mom Freeze": they feel scorn toward my momboss for not being home with the kids, and therefore I get the brunt of that disdain; they feel that they don't know how to relate to someone who's "just" a nanny, and they get uncomfortable; or they are concerned that developing a friendly relationship with me will be awkward, since we presumably have little in common.
There have been moms I have wound up talking very comfortably with, who don't seem to give a flip what I list as my IRS occupation and just kind of enjoy casually talking with me. I am always happy to be seen as a person, rather than as my occupation. I just wonder why I am taken as I am so infrequently.
Now, the theories I have may be full of hot air, so I am curious to see what you all think. Moms, do you feel awkward talking to nannies, having them over for playdates, or otherwise interacting with them? Is there an ethnic or cultural compoment to any discomfort you have? Nannies, have you experienced "Mom Freeze", or are your stories different from mine? Could it be a regional issue, or a product of the American awkwardness with "domestic help"? Toss your ideas into the mix, and help me out!