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Everyday Gendering

Gender Neutral Parenting: 5 ways to Avoid Implicit Sexism

Here is a great article which pinpoints the dangers of naturalized sexism. “Naturalized” sexism is something that most of us unknowingly perform, or take part in daily, even women.

“In one experiment, mothers were asked to guess the steepness of a carpeted slope that their 11-month olds would be able to crawl. Then the children actually crawled the slope, and the difference between actual and mother-predicted angles was noted.

The results showed that both boys and girls were able to crawl the same degree of incline. However, the predictions of the mothers were correct within one degree for the boys and underestimated their daughter’s ability by nine degrees.”

Character Matters

Tall Nanny, Small Nanny, Slow Nanny, Fast Nanny: How many different nannies you meet! 

How to choose a nanny:  This is the topic of conversation in Park Slope. Speaking with parents on this subject has led me to believe a lot of parents go into the process of finding a nanny, with, well, not much of a process at all.  This shocks me because Park Slope parents are notorious for being overbearing in every other aspect of child rearing. Parents spend hours, weeks, maybe months, carefully choreographing their 5 month-old’s weekly class schedule (dance, music, art, etc.)  Yet, not much thought seems to go into the person who will spend 40+ hours a week with their child.

Of course parents think and care about who watches their children, but without a clear structure, or rubric to choose a nanny they become overwhelmed, the process becomes something akin to shopping in a grocery store: pick one important “no” ingredient i.e. high fructose corn syrup, and ignore the rest.

Looking back about a year and a half ago, before I got my current job, I put myself on SitterCity, a website designed for nannies and parents.  I remember the submissions by parents including such things as “flexible hours, experience,” but then the requirements often leaped to language… “Must be fluent in…” most popular being Spanish, but because I’m in New York, more obscure languages such as, Hungarian, Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Russian enter into the mix. After hours, wage, language, and maybe education, that’s about it in terms of job requirements.  The process is similar to any other job someone may get (Cook, Lawyer, Waitress, etc.,) unbiased to personal character.  The problem with this is that being a nanny is not like any other job, your character does matter, or it should.

I think choosing the right nanny should, ideally, include elements of character (values, lifestyle, religion, etc.,) The key is for parents to decide, even loosely, what’s important to them, both as an employer and parent (monetary vs. character).  This part can be difficult because it takes time to decide what is important to you in someone’s character, should their values, religion/non-religion, match yours or do you want variation?

The truth is, if you have a full time nanny that nanny is going to have a pretty significant impact on your child, in more ways then you can see.  It can be small things or big things, maybe you’re an atheist but your nanny is a god-loving woman or man and is preaching the Bible all day.  Maybe you don’t want you’re child to be a racist, because, who wants their child to be a racist? But, guess what, your nanny is a racist. Maybe you’re healthy, but your nanny eats all day and is extremely over weight? This is not only a safety issue: what your nanny is physically capable of in terms of protecting your child from harm, it also becomes a character issue: will your child also learn to over eat, or use food for comfort? All of these things matter, your children will learn from the behaviors of the person near them, meaning parents, and also caregivers.  So be critical of their character, because unlike other jobs their personality and character matter.

So, what would this look like? Below is a loose list of what is most important to me, and my partner, that is, if we were in the market for a nanny.  You’ll notice that business (salary, sick days, paid vacation, etc.) is the last item, this is in an ideal situation where financial constraints do not apply, where I can choose my child’s nanny based on her character and experience, not on her low rates.

  1. Character matters: I would want my child’s nanny to have similar values as my partner and I.
  2. Experience.
  3. Parenting: I absolutely would want my child’s nanny to have a similar parenting style as my partner and I.
  4. Dietary:  I would want my child around someone who is healthy; carnivore, vegetarian, vegan: I don’t care. But I do care if they eat all day, and go to McDonalds with my kid.
  5. In Shape: I don’t mean a muscle builder, just someone healthily mobile. If my child runs into the street can my nanny run after him?
  6. Doesn’t watch TV on the job
  7.  *Business:  This includes salary, time off, paid vacation, sick days, Health Insurance, etc.             *And, yes, these should all be included for a full-time nanny position.

What this means:  I want my kids to have a consistent upbringing. For others this might be different, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it is important to think about, and figure out, what is most important to you as parents.  Obviously money comes into play for most, which may limit your options, or may not because low and high salaries do not necessary correlate to the dedication/character of the nanny. A lot of nannies don’t know what they’re worth (please don’t take advantage of that,) and some nannies think they’re worth way more than they are.

When you’re getting ready to hire a nanny think about what you want: make a list of character traits you want your nanny to have, and a list of more business end things: experience, flexibility, job duties and pay. When it comes time to open your pocket book remember that this person, the person of your choosing, who ideally matches your criteria is spending 40+ hours a week with your child. The nanny you choose will play a significant role in building your child’s character, emotional capacity, education, etc., so pick your nanny wisely and pay accordingly. And if you’re not sure you can afford certain rates, consider your life style.  Maybe it’s worth it to give up some extra luxuries, like a fancy car or cable TV in order to ensure your child has a proper upbringing.