Stranger reports nanny's misdeeds to mother...

opinion 2
Dear ISYN readers.

I was stunned last week when a stranger with kids of her own approached me in the park to tell me that she'd seen my nanny with my kids several times over the months, yelling and generally being cross with them. She and I had never met but she told me that she thought I should know because as I parent she would want to know. I started to ask for more details - basically she says that she just "yells at them all the time." I was too stunned to talk more but have been mulling it over the weekend and I don't know what to do next. My struggle is that this just seems completely out of character for our nanny.

Our nanny has been with us for 2 years, taking care of my son and daughter who are 4 and 2. She's older (60s), raised 7 kids of her own (!) and indespensible. We pay her on the books, quite well compared with the rest of the neighborhood (according to her), paid vacation (officially 2 weeks but it ends up being 3 weeks paid), sick days, petty cash on the counter for whatever activities she wants to do during the day with the kids, $1000 bonus at Christmas, $500 on her birthday, etc. Raise of $1/hour this past year even though her responsibilities decreased a bit as my son started full-day preschool. She tells us all the time that she's happy with us, we tell her the same. I give this background because all indication points to a good working relationship and I have no reason to think she'd be unhappy with her job - she and I are very open about what she needs and what we need and it has always been mutually agreeable. She's not "perfect" in the sense that she has been a bit forgetful from time to time (forgetting her keys, or forgetting a diaper bag, minor things like that, certainly nothing that ever made me concerned for her or my kids safety) and after raising 7 kids of her own she doesn't do much running around on the playground, but those are hardly major offenses. If someone had approached me saying that they were concerned that she had forgotten something major I could buy that, but yeling at my kids all the time? It just seems so implausable.

So I don't know what to do next? I don't want to be an ostrich with my head in the sand if something is really going on but I don't want to overreact either. Now that I have a clear head, I wish I had asked this mom to describe her so that I could be sure she had the right person but she seemed to recognize my kids and we don't have any other babysitters so I don't know who else she would have seen with them. They do have a neighborhood network of three other nannies that all hang together so maybe it was someone else? I really do trust my nanny and to ask her about this conversation just seems so insulting to her. I would love any advice from ISYN readers - nannies and moms both please!


j. said...

If you're worried the mom might have been right, maybe you can drop in on them somewhere and take a look for yourself.
Or the mom could have seen how great your nanny is and it trying to get her fired so she can have her?

I wouldn't just say something to the nanny. Especially since the mom didn't have any specific things to say except that your nanny generally yells. Does you nanny usually speak louder than normal?

MissMannah said...

Maybe ask a close friend of yours to spy on the nanny next time you know she and the children are going to be at the park. Your friend will know exactly who to look for and will report back honestly.

alex said...

I agree with what has already been said... just to give you peace of mind (either way) you should either drop in on her or have someone else drop in on her. I think parents should drop in on their nanny from time to time anyway just to make sure as there is so much that can go wrong and I am a nanny. :)

Now it is true she may have been mistaken or maybe is blowing things out of proportion. I don't know if I would go so much to ask your nanny as she may get offended and while yelling isn't nice or kind it is not something that is putting your children at risk.

I am also wondering if since your nanny is much older if her child caring ways are different than that of what others consider appropriate now. Or not so much a problem of appropriateness but this mother may feel completely different in her child rearing.

That being said, it did concern her enough to approach you so I definitely would not ignore it. You said your children are 4 and 2 so could you ask them? The 4 year old should at least be able to vocalize somethings to you.

TC said...

I like MissMannah's suggestion about having a friend that the nanny doesn't know about 'spy' and see what really happens.

Have you talked to your eldest child about the nanny?

The other thing that you can do is to just be straight with her and tell her someone approached you and explain what was said and see what she says

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

OP you have gotten some great advice already and I agree that you should have someone spy on her. Sounds mean I know, but just to relieve that nagging doubt you must have, I would for sure do that. Have a friend or neighbor spy once or twice and let you know if anything looks awry.

I would not assume this person who told you is 100% correct so do not approach your nanny since this may strain your good relationship. Also, since a complete stranger told you all of this, keep in mind she may have her own agenda for doing so. Perhaps she wants to "steal" your Nanny or maybe she has some other reason.

And yes, do speak w/your four yr old and try to get some info from him.

My gut feeling says that your current Nanny is doing a fine job and that this whole situation is a hoax.

TC said...

I do want to point out that yelling might mean something else.

I have a hearing problem due to constant ear infections and a burst ear drum that had to be fixed, it constantly sounds like I have cotton in my ears and I do get loud at times, especially when it's loud around me. I was actually fired from a daycare for yelling at the kids even after bringing a note from my audiologist explaining what was happening.

Now I'm not defending the nanny, but take that into consideration as well, it may not be yelling, but I'd still investigate

MissMannah said...

Good point TC. This nanny in question is in her 60s, so she might be losing her hearing a little. I was just now over at my mom's house and kept having to remind her that she doesn't need to shout. She can't hear herself as well anymore so I guess she thinks the rest of us can't either!

I was also just having a discussion about how childcare workers should unionize so we can't be fired over trivial things like "yelling" when there's proof otherwise. I was also unnecessarily fired from a daycare for reasons completely unfair. A public school teacher would never have to put up with that.


OP said...

OP here

Thanks for the comments so far - for those who ask, part of why I was surprised to hear this is that our nanny is a gentle soft spoken type. Even in the midst of crazy tantrums, she's calm and collected and so I just can't see her yelling regularly in a mean way. I just can't see it.

I did ask my 4 year old in a casual way but I didn't want to be leading, nor did I want him to say anything to her and basically he says she doesn't yell.

My instinct says it's BS but I will take the advice of getting some other spies on board. Any other thoughts welcome and thanks to everyone who responded already.


Mrs. Billy Lamar said...

I agree with you OP. Just to be safe, why not err on the side of caution and have someone observe your nanny on a couple occasions? Things are probably okay, however I know as a parent, if you choose to ignore what this stranger confided in you, you will always be wondering in your head, "What if?"....

And yes, I also agree that you should do everything in your power to not let your nanny know she is being spied upon. She sounds like a fantastic nanny and it would be a shame to lose her over one stranger's remark.

Good Luck. I hope things turn out well.

Village said...

She could be two faced, presenting a calm side to you, and then venting on your children when you are not around.

I would definitely get spies if you can. You can't be sure what is going on from one report. And get them to film the behavior.

If you see the lady at the park again, be sure to exchange numbers, and ask her to tape the behavior as well.

Ruby said...

I think you should drop in on her. A day that you know they'll be at the park and she doesn't know you are coming. Stay out the park and observe her. I think it would be better for you to see what's going on yourself. No hear say or second hand info.
I personally don't like the idea of spying on her, because it can destroy a relationship. If she finds out she may feel that you don't trust her and if she's so great it will be very difficult to replace her if she decides to leave.
Also some people can be very nosy. I had an incident where I had made friends with a woman who worked away from her home but had decided to become a SAHM. She had a few different Nannies in the 3yrs that I met her, while I've had the same Nanny since my daughter was 3 weeks old.
Long story short she started feeding me loads of silly ' helpful info' (by her standards) which gradually created friction between myself and my Nanny. I was so clueless that I didn't realize she was jealous of the relationship I had with my Nanny and was trying to get my Nanny to quit or me to fire her (which ever came first).
I took a step back re-evaluated the situation. Needless to say I stopped hanging with the SAHM and my relationship with my Nanny was repaired and things haven't been better.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

First, did this stranger give you excellent descriptions of your children and/or nanny? If not, it's possible this is a simple case of mistaken identity, especially if there are any other "grandma age" nannies in your neighborhood.

BUT, to reassure yourself, you should check things out. You could either ask the SAHM's that you are friendly with to keep their eyes open when they see your nanny and kids out and about (Tell them someone told you something silly about your nanny, and you want to be able to defend her!), or stop off at odd times yourself to check in. "Forget" important papers and drop by the playground to say hi on your way back to work, or what have you.

In your shoes, I would be slightly concerned, but not worried unless there are specific distinguishing characteristics your nanny or your kids have that were mentioned by the woman reporting this issue.

oh well said...

I would not tell the nanny anything.
Anything is possible at this point.
Go to the park unnoticed or ask someone you trust to go and have a look. You might want to do this more than once.

Manhattan Nanny said...

If she is in fact yelling, the question is, WHAT is she yelling? Is she berating the children in an angry voice, or is she simply communicating with them from a distance that requires a loud voice....Muffy, come and get your sand toys. Buffy, use two hands on the ladder honey. The woman who spoke to you may find this annoying if she is next to her on a bench and on her phone for example.

I do agree with those who recommend having a friend or neighbor observe her.

another nanny said...

The fact that this good samaritan couldn't be more specific than "she yells all the time" would make me wary of jumping to conclusions. People have different concepts of what "yelling" means, anyway, and it's possible that your nanny is simply calling across the playground to your children (sometimes you have to raise your voice at the playground to be heard if the kids aren't right beside you). Nonetheless, I agree with previous posters who suggest having a close friend pop in to observe if possible, and let you know what's really going on.

Nicki Babysits said...

If your kids are old enough to talk, you could ask them... if not, do they seem comfortable with their nanny? If she treats them much more harshly than you do, they won't be used to it, and they'll complain or act upset around her. If she treats them similarly to how you would, with gentleness and firmness, they'll seem happy and comfortable with her.

update said...

I always wish OPs would update...

Any news? I sincerely hope this was a jealous mom who simply (selfishly) wanted to steal your nanny.

However, if this were me (and my children) I would always error on the side of caution and MAKE sure nothing was happening (sending in "spies", dropping in unexpectedly, asking oldest child more than once etc etc) Some people are two faced (I've learned that lesson more than once the hard way) so I honestly feel you can never be too safe.