Rebecca Nelson Lubin
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 http://www.abandofwives.ning.com/