Nannies are famously absent from the stories and photos that parents often share from their lives.
Maybe that’s because people are afraid to admit they can’t actually be two people (an employee of a business and an at-home parent) at the exact same time. Regardless, open conversations about nannying can sometimes cause a real stir.
Like when country star and actress Jana Kramer said she wouldn’t hire a “hot nanny.” Another celebrity, one time Bachelor contestant Ashley Spivey, objected online. She now works as a nanny and said, “After a long day of nannying I can assure you that the last thing we want to do is seduce a husband.”
Kramer’s idea that women who hire attractive women may be asking for trouble, which reflects a longstanding problem of how women are talked about or set up as each other’s competition. When jobs traditionally held by women are already undervalued, the idea that some of those women are “dangerous” just adds insult to … insult.
After an online back-and-forth, Kramer apologized. “It’s not about how hot the nanny is … It truly is about having healthy boundaries with your spouse.”
And, we might add, have healthy boundaries with your employee, and an understanding of some sexist stereotypes that might be bubbling under the surface.
“Maybe the nanny’s not the problem,” said Marrisa Senteno, the director of the Enforcement Program at the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), with an eyebrow raised. Sexualizing women is something that both men and women can be guilty of.
So maybe for (straight) moms who are hiring a woman to work in their home, the first place to “look for trouble,” so to speak, isn’t in the nanny’s profile pictures, but at what unconscious biases they’ve been carrying.
In the US, we’ve been conditioned to think about women–and certain professions dominated by women–in harmful and untrue ways. There’s the sexualization. Scandals and babysitter-fantasty porn aside, the reality is that childcare providers who work in private homes are vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault, and only recently (thanks to organizations like NDWA and others) has it come to light how widespread those experiences are.
If you employ anyone who works inside your home, be clear about who else may be at home when they work. Communicate with them if strangers or new people will be showing up. Encourage visitors and family members to give the workers space if they are home at the same time—they have work to do.
There’s also the idea that care work is a “labor of love,” which can lead employers to overlook the usual boundaries and expectations that govern a workplace. Maybe it’s avoiding giving benefits or a raise, or not offering a written job description or contract. When an employer thinks of an employee “as family,” they run the risk of starting to treat them like family—as in, a volunteer—instead of as a professional with whom they have a intimate work relationship.
A nanny is someone who is taking care of an employer’s precious family member. Are her employers thinking of her that way? Are parents treating the position they’re hiring for like it’s a serious job? That means thinking about wages, a work agreement that spells out job expectations, and paid time off. You know, real-job stuff.
Because if taking care of kids isn’t work, we don’t know what is.