The Kids are all right. Really.

Rebecca Nelson Lubin
guest column I have a favorite family that I only see once or twice a year when they visit their Northern California home. For the past ten years I have been Nannying for them on weekends every June for their summer visit, and for the last few years, they come for the Christmas holidays as well. We have a great rapport, the parents and I, for the most part because I have total respect for the way they run their household. They abhor media exposure for their four children, and beyond the laptops that their kids do study programs on and to Skype friends and family (myself included), there is no exposure to speak of. No TV. No iPods. And definitely no social networking. Their oldest daughter, now a freshman in High School, has been trying to test the boundaries of these rules. Namely, she has wanted a Facebook page. Badly. Last August, after their visit, and many discussions of why her parents didn’t want her to socialize online, but rather pursue other forms of childhood entertainment such as reading and playing and artwork, I got a strange e-mail from Facebook telling me that “Don’t tell” wanted to add me as a friend. It didn’t take me long to figure out who “Don’t Tell” was, for even though she hadn’t put up a photo, her only other friend was one of my friends – the lovely young college student who was their main Nanny at home and had been travelling with them for several years. I clicked “ignore” and made a mental note to follow up later with her parents, because, as I wrote, they are completely against their young teenagers embarking on an online existence. Well, I got crazy busy at work that day, and had forgotten about the entire e-mail when my darling little “Don’t Tell” sent me a Skype message. I wrote her back and asked her directly about it, and she said that she had tried to secretly have a Facebook page, but had gotten busted in about ten minutes by her Dad, and had gotten a stern talking to and had learned her lesson.

There was more to the story, however. This Christmas, as the parents and I were catching up in the kitchen, I mentioned the Facebook fiasco to them and they said what really had bothered them was that it was their college aged Nanny who had set up – and encouraged – their daughter’s Facebook page. They were wounded that a long-term employee would go so blatantly against their wishes. They had felt that there was no choice but to let her go as they no longer trusted her with following the values that they had so strongly set up in their home. I agreed with their actions, as I’ve seen this before, this behavior of Nannies, where they think that they know better for their charges and go completely against the wishes of the parents.

I think the most extreme example of this would be the Nanny who preached veganism to her three-year-old charge – the middle child of my old nanny family I worked with when I still lived in New York – to the extent that the toddler was totally conflicted with every meal placed in front of her – for years.

As a Nanny, I always try to follow the example – and values – and household rules – of the parents. Even when I don’t agree. And there have been times when my ideals and the parent’s ideals totally clash, but I fall in line for I am the employee and they are the parents. I like to say that I have extremely definitive ideas on the proper raising of children. And someday – if and when I have my own children - I will follow those rules to the letter like my very own scientific experiment. And then we shall see how right I am really am. But for now, it’s the way of the parents or the highway. I do not choose the highway.
Rebecca Nelson Lubin is a writer and Nanny who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. You may read more of her articles at


slb3334 said...

I am curious, are they home schooled? Reason I ask is that I know when I was in school, we had to watch some programs for social studies (mostly presidential speeches and such). Don't think teacher would have taken that we weren't allowed to watch tv as an excuse.

Nom de Plume said...

This past year my middle charge was hurt to find that someone had created a FB account in her name. She was 10 at the time. Of course we had it shut down. She knows she's old enough nor ready for a social networking account. It saddens me that so many of her friends are so anxious to grow up.

SLB, not all schools require their students to "watch" things on TV. I'd say in 20 years of working as nanny, less require it. Also in this day and age, you can stream speeches via the internet.

whyyyy said...

I find it really difficult to understand parents like this, who try to put a "ban" on things that, in moderation, are not bad for kids at all, like dessert or "the media". Seriously, I watched plenty of TV and played video games when I was a child, but I balanced it out by playing outside with my friends. I also eat a fair amount of sweets, in addition to a lot of healthy food. And, believe it or not, I did not turn out to be a drug-addicted, sex-obsessed social misfit (or whatever it is these super-strict parents are afraid of their kids morphing into), but rather a well-adjusted student at an Ivy League university. Can't these parents see that, when they absolutely forbid something that does not appear to actually be harmful, something that their kids see all of their friends doing, their kids are not going to be like "Thanks Mom and Dad for protecting me from that evil, evil Facebook!"...they're going to sneak over to their friends' houses and be like "My mother and father are evil dictators who won't let me just be a normal kid. Can I use your computer to log onto my secret Facebook page?"

Obviously, certain things do need to be heavily discouraged by parents (drugs, premarital sex, failing classes, etc.), and I think that really young kids should not be allowed to have Facebook pages (since there are so many creepy people on the Internet) or fancy gadgets like iPods, but to put an outright ban on all media..just because? Come on! Their kids are really going to resent's clear the oldest one already does.

However, I commend you, Rebecca, for not friending the girl and talking to her parents about it. She needs to know that, even though you are close with her, you are not her peer and are not going to conspire with her against her parents' wishes.

Also, I apologize for the rambling/disorganized nature of this post...still haven't had my coffee yet :)

sharon said...

Interesting story as usual, R.

Reminds me of a kid i watched with a temp agency, "Ric". Really intelligent kid, i felt more like a big sis than a nanny. When he was 15 and his parents went out of town they told me in front of him "Ric is not to drive the car at all even with you while we are gone"

Ok, you know what's coming.

I knew Ric whas going to drive the car,it was a foregone conclusion. I caught him by placing a penny under the tire - HA!- so i knew the car was moved. ( Boy was he put out by being outsmarted!)

To his very articulate, conspiratorial, puppy-dog-faced plea that i not tell his parents, I agreed.

I said, "No, Ric, I am not going to tell them - YOU are"

At first he was going to be mad - then i saw the wheels turning, when they got back I said "Ric has something to say" and went in another room

His whole family are lawyers and he had his parents eating out of his hand putting the right spin on it- as i knew he would.

Whew! Way to get out of that one.

TinyDancer said...

I completely agree with you! As long as the children's safety isn't at stake, what the parents say goes. I also would like to say that as a person who recently removed tv from our house there are a lot of affects you don't even realize (one thing I've noticed is that we don't feel a need to buy as much anymore, I guess comercials were getting through to us more than I thought). And we don't miss the tv one bit! I'm not saying it's for everyone but for some it can be great to cut out a little media and technology from their lives!

slb3334 said...

I realize that not all schools require kids to watch tv. Wish I had had the option to say we don't have one as I always hated those. That was long before computers.
In my current situation, there is no tv, which I don't miss. I get all my news on the computer.

LovingNanny said...

I don't see a difference between watching something on the computer vs the tv. I once worked for a family who didn't own a tv. The little boy was so proud that he wasn't watching tv, but he was allowed to watch movies on the computer. Now I ask you, where is the difference? I don't see it!
He is sitting in front of a machine, staring at it for about 90minutes. Sure, there is no advertisement, except for the movie previews.
Anyway, if you are proud of not owning a tv, be honest to yourself and check, if you just switched your tv habit to a computer habit:)! All shows on tv are available to watch online.

As a parent/caregiver you are responsible for what your child/charge is watching. If they watch one show a day, that is educational and inspires their imagination that is all right. That was the rule in my parents house, when I grew up. I never ask for me tv, since I knew that that was my show and that's it.
Again, don't fool youself. Check how much time you spend in front of the computer/Ipad. You might be suprised!

nycmom said...


ITA. It is one of my pet peeves to hear people proudly brag about not owning a TV, but are instead simply watching streaming Netflix online or Hulu.

I also agree with "Whyyyy." I'm a believer in moderation in all things. A little TV, a little dessert, a little video games, a little relaxing. Of course the key in parening is to maintain the moderation balance and that absolutely can be hard, but is worth it.

Nanny Rachel said...

Nycmom, you sound like a great mom and employer. I always love your posts!

LovingNanny said...

I would love to read a guest column by nycmom! I value her opinions and believe she would write interesting stories.

Nanny Rachel said...

I agree with LovingNanny! Nycmom should do a guest column!

San Diego Nanny said...

I would also like to see a guest column from "mycmom"!

Rebecca said...

I too would LOVE to see a guest column from nycmom! Her comments are always incredibly insightful and well written and I look forward to them. nycmom you sound lie a really cool lady and I would love to meet you for a cup of tea when I'm in NYC in March.

sharon said...

By Acclamation Then !! A Guest Column By Nycmom!! We Shall Await!

nycmom said...

Thank you all for the kind words. I would love to write a column, but am quite sure I'd fall short of expectations! I certainly will see if I can think of something interesting, but it will take a while as we have just moved (within nyc) a few days ago. As I'm sure everyone can relate, there are few normal life events as stressful as moving, especially with three kids! I am once again reminded that my nanny, whose duties clearly don't extend to helping with moving, has once again gone above and beyond and somehow made this chaotic time manageable.

Anonymous said...

from sharon! -when you have time - write about that!

MissMannah said...

Well done, Rebecca! I love this week's column and I think it is posted just in time. I know we always have this problem but it seems to have come up more lately: nannies thinking they know better than the parents.

You're right, the parents make the ultimate parenting decisions and, as long as they are not abusive or neglectful, the employee (because that is what we are) needs to go along with it. In most cases, the kids will be all right, no matter what your opinions are.

Having said that, I do think these parents are doing their children a disservice by not allowing them to be on the internet for anything other than schoolwork. I don't know about you guys, but I love doing a bit of "independent learning" that comes from just random surfing. These kids just aren't going to be as well-rounded, socialized individuals as their peers, I'm afraid, and it will really cost them when they get to college.

Just my opinion. ^_^