Emma*, 38, believes when it comes to teaching your children right from wrong, it’s a parent’s job
Two years into our marriage, my husband and I both had thriving careers, but with the birth of our children I made the decision to leave my job and concentrate on motherhood. We agreed that our priorities lay in their upbringing, even if that meant losing some income.
The way I see it, watching your child grow up is something you get to do only once. I don’t understand how anyone can choose to give that up if they have another choice. Although I’ve had temporary domestic help since becoming a parent, I’ve never met anyone who I would trust enough to help me raise my children.
The bottom line is that a nanny is an employee. You pay her a salary to look after your child, but if that child is disobedient or throws tantrums, it would be tempting to coax the child into behaving (be it with an extra hour of television or a chocolate-chip cookie) for some peace and quiet. While most mothers understand the negative consequences of giving in to unruliness, you can’t expect a member of staff to have the same long-term concerns.
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There is also the issue of respect. Having witnessed children of friends of mine, who are predominantly raised by nannies, I have noticed there can be times where children simply refuse to pay attention to these nannies. In this case it would be unrealistic to expect that, in the event of bad behaviour, the nanny would effectively be able to bring the kids into line. Teaching your children the difference between right and wrong is a job that has to be done properly and not being hands-on could result in problems down the road.
Another concern is the children’s education. With me around full time, there is always someone nagging them about their school work (because let’s face it, most children will wriggle their way out of homework if allowed to). While I concede that a lot of nannies care deeply for the wellbeing of the children in their care, mums are hardwired when it comes to things like getting homework done and checking grades are on track.
In our case, we also decided against hiring a nanny because we were worried about cultural differences. For example, if the nanny comes from a culture that traditionally indulges boys or shelters girls there may be contradictions with our belief system. Recently a friend of mine discovered that her daughter’s nanny was teaching her to pay attention to everything her elder brother said, simply because he was a boy. That sort of superior/subordinate attitude goes against my beliefs and it is the type of behaviour I would discourage.
According to Carmen Benton, a Dubai-based parenting educator, children who are co-raised by nannies can often grow up confused. “We give far too much responsibility to complete strangers by letting them do tasks we should be doing. While it is unrealistic for parents to spend all their time with the children, it is important to understand that if they leave their children with someone else for too long, they are co-parenting with that person.”
Of course, I don’t want to judge, as I understand that in some cases there isn’t always another option. Some parents might both have to work in order to keep a roof over their heads. However, there are a lot of people making this decision purely because it’s more convenient and allows for a higher joint income. The way I see it, no car, house or luxury holiday could match up to my children’s long-term welfare.
Elizabeth*, 36, says it’s not always a choice and people have to make the best decision open to them
When my daughter Sarah was born, I didn’t think twice before leaving my job. I wanted to be a full-time mum so it was a no-brainer. Fast-forward six years, one more addition to the family, Sam, and I’m back at work.
When I tell people I’m a working mother, the first question I invariably face is, “Who’s taking care of the children?” The answer? “We have a nanny.” At this point I’m usually subjected to a variety of assumptions about my children. I’ve even been asked outright if they are selfish, spoilt and difficult to manage as a result of me “not being on the scene”?
I take exception to this because my children are my top priority. When I made the decision to return to work, I spent a long time selecting the person who was going to help me and my husband raise them, and I was lucky enough to find Jenny*.
Jenny, who is a mother of five herself, is from the Philippines and has similar views to us on discipline. She doesn’t believe in smacking and instead uses a variety of techniques, such as the time-out and the naughty step, to get Sarah and Sam to toe the line. Ultimately, she is genuinely concerned if their behaviour is bad and acts accordingly.
According to Maria Chatila, a Dubai-based family and relationship coach, a nanny relationship is a special one and for many parents she is not an employee, but another member of the family. “A nanny is not a replacement for a mum but an active role model the child can feel comfortable with at home when mum’s at work.”
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While I’d have loved to be a stay-at-home mother, it just wasn’t possible – we needed my salary as well as my husband’s – so hiring a nanny was the only choice. There is the option of day care, but I rationalised that by taking this route I’d still be expecting someone else to do the disciplining, so what’s the difference? I also felt there were added bonuses to having a nanny, for example, my children will grow up to respect various nationalities and cultures as they are being co-raised by a woman who comes from a different background.
There are, of course, many other prejudices people have about hiring a nanny to help raise their children. One that I have faced time and time again is that nannies lack education. While I cannot speak for the entire profession, Jenny is a trained nursery school teacher, but after moving here from the Philippines, she failed to find a position in education, so instead applied to work as a nanny. She uses the skills she learnt in the education arena to correct my children’s behaviour when they’re being naughty, and I’d go as far as to say they are much better behaved than many children who are raised by full-time mothers.
The other thing that really bothers me is the assumption that because we have a nanny, my husband and I have ditched our responsibilities. Just because Jenny is in charge of their behaviour during the day, it doesn’t mean we don’t play an active role. Once we finish work, our real job at home begins. We bathe the children, have dinner with them, tuck them in and read them a bedtime story until they fall sleep. Occasionally they play up, but they’re children, and that means they sometimes misbehave, so we don’t blame ourselves.
In an ideal world I’d be raising my children full time, but circumstances make this impossible. In the end, hiring a nanny you trust to instil good values and discipline your children when you’re not around is a respectable second choice.
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What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
*names have been changed. This article was originally published in Aquarius magazine.