Strangers behaving Badly...

Monday, October 4, 2010
reader submission
Nannying can be a strange job. Odd hours, difficult clients (especially when they're teething!) and exposure to an awful lot of bodily fluids. That's a breeze for me, but I find that for some reason when I'm out and about with my charges, strangers get... weird. Does anyone else get this, or am I a strangeness magnet? Here's a few examples:

* For going on two years when my previous charge (we'll call him Spud) was between the ages of two and four, a Belarusian woman took a fondness to him and tried to engage him in chat at the bus stop before we went to collect his brothers from school. She had almost no English, so any chat we had usually ended up as a subtle game of charades while Spud hid from her behind me. This happened three days out of every week for two years. Her English never got any better. I learned three Belarusian phrases before I gave up.

* While out with the twins I look after now, the girl twin got a bit upset while we were wandering around a shop waiting for a Mommy and Me group to start.I picked her up and held her across my chest for a few minutes until she calmed down. After about ten minutes or so, a shop employee came over and told me that someone had complained about me breastfeeding(!) in the shop and I couldn't do it there. After I pointed out that it was illegal to remove someone for breastfeeding, I remembered to point out that she isn't mine and I wasn't breastfeeding her. I have big breasts and she did snuggle into them when I picked her up, but I don't know how anybody could have thought I was feeding her.

* Every person who comments on the twins as I go past them says some variation of 'you have your hands full there!' On average I hear it at least three times a day.

* A couple of people have said that Spud or the twins looks just like me. I think it's only because we all have chubby cheeks. Seriously, they look nothing like me.

* On the train with the twins, I was singing 'Morningtown Ride' to them (you know, 'cos we were on a train) when a woman interrupted me and spent the rest of the journey talking about all her favourite bands from the sixties. I just kept nodding and trying to amuse the babies, she didn't seem to notice.

* With another set of children (ages five, two and seven months) we were waiting for a tram after a trip to the museum when a man who was so drunk he could barely stand up (and judging by the marks on his arms, also a frequent heroin abuser) lurched over and tried to engage the five-year-old in conversation. When I politely dissuaded the man from getting any closer he insisted on giving the child a chocolate bar he got from God only knows where. After he was gone I threw it in the bin and had to listen to the child whine about it all the way home. As far as he was concerned, a nice stranger gave him something nice and his mean nanny couldn't have that.

* With the same three children, an elderly man stopped me walking back from the school, called my charges 'the best three men in the country' and gave them a handful of notes to spend on treats. I tried to say we couldn't accept the money, but that started the five year old crying and he wouldn't take no for an answer.

* When Spud was less than a year old, I was walking him in the buggy when a teenager flying by on a bike suddenly shouted 'Stupid baby!' and was away before I could properly react. I think he may have had Tourette's.

* Now that the twins are crawling, they tend to wander off in two different directions. At a recent toddler group I was in the middle of changing the boy's diaper when I heard his sister's distinctive cry from across the room. I was elbow-deep in poo and couldn't leave the boy half-naked on the changing mat, so I quickly finished up and ran to find her. There were a couple of mothers looking around for whoever was meant to be minding her (and some of them looked pretty mad) but when they saw I had two pre-walkers they changed their tune and actually apologized to me (!) for not keeping an eye on her.

* Women who don't immediately twig that I'm a nanny assume I'm a teenage mother (I'm 27, I look 17) so they either take pity on me and strike up a conversation about how hard it it raising children, or I get ignored altogether. Bus drivers, on the other hand, and other men I come across in the line of work either flirt with me or treat me like their daughter. Teenage girls just look terrified to see me out and about with twins in a double buggy.

So, is it just me? Or do other nannies have strangers behave strangely around them?


Bostonnanny said...

For about 8months a mother who I'm friendly with at a sing a long thought my charge was my son, even thou I refer to myself as his nanny and meet up with other nannies at the same sing a long.
Every stranger I meet assume my charge is mine, since I also look like I'm about 15, I receive dirty looks and the occasional pity comment. Somethings it works to my advantage especially when I have to displine (time out, letting him cry)him in public. No one ever says anything to me.
When he was a baby I would get the weridos who thought it was okay to touch him. People have also told him to be quiet multiple times, and I normal tell them off.

AlmostDoneAsANanny said...

I've noticed that mothers frequently strike up conversations with me, thinking I am the mother. Yet once they find out I'm the nanny, they try to excuse themselves from the conversations as quickly as possible.

Jane Doe said...

As a nanny, most everyone was decent. I was at time astonished that so few people would assist an individual with a double stroller in holding doors open.

As a parent, I have an issue with one of the postal workers at the post office. Once, he threatened to spank the children and although I've only seen him four times en total, he thinks it's up to him to always ask the children if the are behaving. I'd report him the the higher powers of oour local postal service, but he's too creepy to entangle with at all.

Phoenix said...

I really don't think that this is a nanny issue. People are just strange, period. I've had wierd comments thrown at me all the time. Mostly because of my physical traits. When I am with my step-son people give me dirty looks all the time because he is Mexican and I am Irish. I've had people talk bad about me in spanish. I've had people stare at me and say "You couldn't be his mother because you have a wonderful figure." And in front of my ss (whos 10 now) one man asked if my boobs were real and if the carpet matched the drapes." (That was the most uncomfortable ride home. I couldn't even bare to look the kid in the face, and he kept asking what that guy meant!
And those are the non-x rated comments. Luckily my step-son has learned to tune them out. I think the older he gets the more he understands and knows that it upsets me. At least he's learning how to be decent to others.
People are just strange. I've been commended for my step-sons wonderful behavior and I've been ridiculed for not allowing him to get a toy he's begging for.
It is not a nanny issue. The only thing that I felt was really wrong that happened to you was the breast feeding thing. That is just strange, but people will be people. They like to engage in conversation and children usually will make people more open to conversation. Don't take it personally we live in a strange world. You are not a stranger magnet. I really don't know where people get off saying or doing the things they do.

TC said...

I get stuff like that all the time

The OHH your son/daughter looks just like you! used to bother me but I've gotten over it and just smile and say thank you. We both have the same light skin tone, the same blue eyes and now the baby has the same dark hair as me! so there is no trying to explain, it just takes too long.

The only thing that bothers me is the people that don't treat me like a person as soon as they find out I'm the nanny. I used to be very forthcoming with people but I've learned to keep my mouth shut. I can't tell you how many times mother's are nice to me and talk to me about the kids and then the moment they find out I'm the nanny they avoid me like the plague and usually they won't allow their children to play with mine. It's sad really, my two are pretty well behaved children.

JustAMommy said...

I'm a mom and people are often pretty weird around me and my kid too. Most of them are nice, but they ask questions that are definitely none of their business, make comments about how he is or isn't dressed, and generally consider him community property because he's a little kid. But he enjoys the attention, so I don't mind.

Redmond Nanny said...

I'm a male nanny, I work with two girls and it is always assumed that I'm their dad. I adore my charges to no end and have felt the same towards every charge I've had, but this is getting silly. I'm a white guy, my current charges are Indian! (As in, their parents are from India!)

Before them, I worked with three Chinese boys, who I still babysit for. I get the oddest looks from people when I correct them, "No, I'm their nanny."

That's not what bothers me most however. I have my charges then. What bothers me is when it comes to looking for a new position, when I get female executives trying to explain to me that their not sexist for not considering me because I'm male. My brain has to reset every time I come across that argument.

Those times are infinitely worse than the active attacks I have received from time to time, or even the lack of response to most emails I send. Although I may repeat phrases, I never copy and paste my replies. Each one is unique, so it can be frustrating from time to time.

I am bent on doing good in the world. I am three to nine months from transferring into a university as part of a six year plan. It would have been eight, but I already have an Associates. When I transfer, I will no longer be a nanny.

I shall miss it a lot, because all the odd looks, backwards arguments and missing responses can't diminish the magic of laughter and hugs. Or even the surprising pride one can have walking through a store with milk on the back of their shirt! (my newborn twin days)

It's been fun.

Redmond Nanny said...

* they're not their

mom said...

I have a four year old daughter and I would hire a male nanny in a heartbeat.

Someone's Nanny said...

There aren't many nannies in my area, so it's usually assumed I'm the mother. When people find out I'm a nanny I get a ton of questions. They have asked everything from my hours, to if I'm having an affair with the dad. Most people are just curious, but there have been a few weirdos too. My last family had twins, so no matter where we went, somone had a comment or a question. I guess people just love twins. Now when people see me coming with three under three, they are more than willing to hold the door for me, often compliment me on my cute family, and tell me I have my hands full.

Happy Nanny who loves what she does said...

I usually get the " your baby is so cute" it pulls at me a little (I cant have my own kids- nanny is the next best thing) but I always answer the same way- Wish baby was mine, but...

ChiNanny said...

I get the same situation as others. Moms are friendly until they learn I'm the nanny. Then the conversation is over.

The other situation I run into a lot is that people think I'm a huge expert in all things child related. I get asked advice all the time. While I appreciate the respect (and I do know quite a bit about child development/raising) I always feel a little self conscious and uneasy giving a stranger advice.

Bitsy said...

I'm a nanny in Scarsdale, NY; a suburb in Westchester County. When people find out I am the nanny,they scoot in closer and ask me who I've worked for and what I know.

Jack'sMom said...

People just get kind of weird with moms & kids in general. It starts when you're pregnant and complete strangers think it's ok to feel your pregnant belly or touch your baby after it's born. Usually they're well-meaning, because there truly is something a bit magical about pregnant women and babies. But, it still feels really creepy when it happens to you.

Twins'nanny said...

I also work with young twins and get "you have your hands full" every single day! They are girl/boy twins and loads of people ask if they are identical. Clearly not if they aren't the same gender!

People always assume I am the mom as well. Since I work for 2 gay dads, it really confuses people as they can't work out who is the dad! I look very young too so it really throws people! 2 older men, one young lady and 2 babies - doesn't get crazier than that!

TC said...

Got a funny story to share with you guys

I used to take my oldest to gymnastics and there was two moms there that I would talk to while the kids had class. The both seemed really sweet and I had long ago decided that I would of course never lie but I'd never be forthcoming with the information that I am the nanny. There were MAJOR hints...the biggest was the oldest called me by my first name but there were other smaller hints but I never flat out said I was the nanny. If they asked me questions about the kids, like birthdays, when they started walking, if they threw temper tantrums etc. I'd always answer them but I just never let on I was the nanny.

This went on for an entire year, they never knew I was the nanny. Well one of the moms saw something about a bad nanny on the news and just went on and on about she couldn't stand nannies, they were just a bunch of lazy good for nothings who couldn't get a real job, she would never trust her kids with a nanny....she just went on this tirade of how horrible nannies were. I stayed very very quiet as did the other lady and let her spew her hatred and once my charge was changed and we were headed out the door I said Ohh by the way Mrs. ____ I am their nanny. The look on her face was priceless and I'll never forget it. She never did bring her daughter back to class and I heard through the other lady that she put her daughter in another class.

Joy said...

I think the most interesting things happened when I had the newborn twins and the 3 y/o. I went to the mall and had a man tell me (in a flirty creepy way) "you make beautiful babies" that was a "thanks, bye" moment. I also got lots of dirty looks and snide comments about being a teen mom. Lots and lots of strangers who would comment on how fast I got my figure back, and sometimes I would correct them and sometimes I just figured it was none of their business anyway.

I have also found that alot of people ask me for advice on anything to do with children. It's like yes I went to nanny school, yes I have a few years of experience, but really, I'm 19, I don't consider myself an expert, and you really should be asking your childs' pediatrician that.

sister of Tourette's said...

What does Tourette's have to do with someone shouting something dumb from a bike?

formernanny said...

I recently took care of an 8-year-old. I'm 23. I had loads of people assume we were brother and sister, and even more assumed I was his mom (and judged me hard!). Luckily, I was in NYC so people were used to the "oh, no, I'm his nanny" reply.

NannyM said...

LOL this was great.

When people find out I'm the nanny I usually get asked if I like it, what's it like, oh ARE THE PARENTS RICH is a question I get ALL the time.

I can't count how many times strangers have insisted on giving my charges candy. I try to refuse, but have even been told that I was 'racist' if I did not accept. I tell the kids they can have the candy in the car, after dinner, etc and try to not have them remember (they're 2 and 4).
But as soon as I pass a trash can...they're history!

pearlsandpolkadots said...

I am a nanny and there is one thing I notice CONSTANTLY. I will be at a playgroup, storytime, etc. and be in great conversation with moms, nannys- any group of people. When the moms find out that the child is not mine, they will immediately disengage from the conversation. It happens all the time. I don't understand why mothers have this inner disrespect for nannies...or feel like they are not 'good enough' to engage them in conversation. Most of the time, the nannies conversations with other nannies are more engaging anyways, because they don't consist of diaper stories and pre-school comparisions. But, regardless...why do moms feel the need to act so prideful around nannies?!?

a mom said...

I don't get this post - there are weirdos everywhere and strangers make bizarre comments to me a lot too when I am with my children - one woman asked me if my dd was adopted because "she sure doesn't look like you" (she isn't adopted btw). I don't think it has anything to do with your profession as a nanny.

TheOriginalDenverNanny said...

Yes people are wierd in general, but I think many people have odd reactions to nannies, perhaps because they are sure how to behave. In some cases, I honestly wonder if the mom/dad is a lil jealous they don't have a nanny.

I haven't gotten any offensive comments with the kids...mostly just uneducated or inappropriate. I care for triplets and took them with me to pick up their mom & dad from the airport when they were only 6 months or so and had multiple comments about how amazing my figure was. Granted I went with their grandmother, who is Hispanic and the babies looked a lot more like me, but still. And many times I've been asked if they are identical: two girls, a boy, and one of the girls has Down Syndrome--do they look identical??

I have been offended by MANY moms who chat me up until they find out I'm the nanny. A few moms & dads think it's "cool" and ask legitimate questions: how did you find the family, do you have a contract, etc. I've had a lot more parents make comments about how rich my employers must be, rude comments about how much nannies cost (without any knowledge of my income), a few not-so-subtle attempts to steal me, and many, MANY parents ignore me as much as possible after finding out I'm the nanny. Even when I was chaperoning a field trip, the other moms would separate themselves.

NannyAnnie said...

I was one of two nannies for a family with newborn twins, who wanted one on one care for the babies. My fellow nanny and I took the babies out one day and we had lunch at a sidewalk cafe. A pair of old ladies seated next to us smiled and "ahh"ed at the twins- they were seriously gorgeous kids- and then finally one asked, "So which of you is the mom?" I answered, "Oh, neither of us is their mother," and the woman replied, without skipping a beat, "Oh, how nice that they let you people adopt!"

Anonymous said...

OP here!

*What does Tourette's have to do with someone shouting something dumb from a bike?

The way he said didn't sound like he was deliberately insulting the poor child, it was like he had to spit it out in passing. It only occurred to me later that he might have had Tourette's, I've had abuse shouted at me in the street before and this was so mild I wondered why he'd bothered at all.

I know people are strange...I'm around strange people all the time, but it seems like I get a whole different kind of strange when I'm working. Thankfully, a lot of mothers are very welcoming towards me and I don't have as much of a shunning problems as some of the other nannies have described. The first thing my employer did when I started work with her was to introduce me to the local baby group and get me into their club.

cali mom said...

NannyAnnie, LOL!!!!! That's the best story here.

TC and Redmond Nanny, 2nd place :) TC, you must have had such a laugh at that woman. Serves her right for being so mortified she had to rearrange her whole schedule.

Redmond Nanny, there was a debate on this board a few months back where someone was basically saying exactly what those executive women you talked to were: that they were not sexist for refusing to consider a male nanny, just..."careful", "sensible", and other silly euphemisms.

Nervous Nanny said...

When I'm out with kids people think I'm the mom all the time.
I used to take my charges (infant and 4 year old) to story time at our library and at first I corrected people that I was not the mommy, but I got sick of it and just ignored it. Then one week we went in and the librarian acted all huffy with me since the kids had come in with their mom that weekend and apparently the librarian embarrassed herself. She actually asked the mom if she was grandma! (The mother was in her mid-forties, I in early 20s). I had to laugh, just not in front of her.
I have a sister 14 years younger than me, who I am very loving with (lots of hugs and kisses in public). From the time she was born I got weird looks. Even now, I take her places like stores or theaters, and people assume I am her mother-often asking how old I was when I had her. When I was younger it used to offend me, now I think it's pretty funny.
I've also had her, plus two children I babysit who are around her age, out in a restaurant together and asked not once, not twice, but three times by different people about "my children". The waitress even rudely asked "they're not all yours are they?".

CuriousDad said...

Try being the guy who is dating a single mom. Who has kids in tow. The wierdness that happens before people know the kids are not yours and after they know the kids are not yours.