Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Why have a nanny?

Is choosing to have a nanny a status thing?  Certainly some of the arguments going on about 'middle class welfare' and funding for childcare at present in Australia have a overtones of this idea.  But from my experience in the industry, I believe that is far from the motivation of the families using our service.

I think the reasons most people have nannies are one or more of the following:
  • Convenience, for both the parents and the children.  It is far easier to leave the house at say 8am and go straight to work, leaving a nanny responsible for waking, dressing and feeding children, and perhaps taking an older one to school than having to wake children, get them fed and dressed and deliver them to childcare and before-school programs then heading off to work.  And at the other end of the day, too, with 6pm pick up times generally the latest available there is great pressure on working parents to get their children on time after work. Another aspect of convenience is the care of sick children.  Nannies routinely do this as part of their work, whereas a child who is ill is excluded from formal care centres until they have recovered.  This means that a parent either has to take time off work or depend on friends and relatives to provide emergency care.  In the last few days I have noticed complaints from centres about parents dosing sick children up and trying to pass them off as being well.  For children, there is the advantage of being cared for in their own environment, playing with their own toys, and at least in winter, not having to leave and return home in the dark.
  • Lack of places for children in family day care, childcare centres and before and after school care.  While in overall number of places, the government may well be right in saying that there are adequate places, they may not be available in areas where families need them, particularly in inner and middle ring suburbs, or for the age groups of the children, particularly those under 2 years old.  And for families able to access places in the outer suburbs, the travel times to the work mean that the limited and inflexible opening hours make them difficult to use.
  • The possibility of individual attention for children, particularly when they are very young makes having a nanny an attractive proposition.  Although there are higher staff ratios for young children, and staff members may have particular children assigned for their general care, during the day rosters mean other staff members will be involved in the care of each child.  Nannies work directly with the children in their care, giving them the sort of one to one attention a parent would give.  The same person is involved in their physical care and in meeting their developmental needs, with good professional nannies providing a well rounded program of activities tailored specifically for the children in their care.
  • Since the nanny has been chosen by the parents and is working directly for them, there is far greater chance of nanny and parents 'being on the same page' as far as values and child rearing practices.  We encourage the use of work diaries and good communication the ensure this continuity of care so that children are not confused by different limits and attitudes.
  • Strangely enough, cost is also a good reason to use a nanny, especially if there are two or more children in the family.  It costs as much to have a nanny for one child as it does for more than one, whereas in other forms of care, the cost is per child.
  • Sometimes nannies are placed in families where the main caregiver is ill, and on occasions dying, to supplement the care of the parent and to bring some stability to the children in a situation which is very stressful and demanding. The nannies who do this work, sometimes funded through the federal government In Home Care Program, and sometimes privately funded, have particularly demanding jobs and are much appreciated.  A recently bereaved grandmother described the nannies we provided for her dying daughter's children as 'two angels'.
Most people who come to our agency looking for a nanny are working parents who are looking for a solution to their childcare needs and their motivation falls into one or more of the above categories.  I have yet to meet anyone who wanted a nanny because they thought it was the only appropriate option for someone of their social class! 

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