The Nanny Conundrum

To have a nanny, or not to have a nanny?  That is only one of the 2,874, 524 questions.

Part time or full time?  Live in or live out?  Burmese, Thai, or Filipina?  A nanny who strictly helps with the children or a nanny/housekeeper/cook all in one?  A nanny who is fluent in Chinese or reads and writes English?  One who can juggle like the Cat in the Hat while cooking Pad Thai and making Lego castles with your children or one that can sing lullabies like Jewel, make baby food like Jamie Oliver, and clean like Mary Poppins?  Heck, why not just all of those things.

Whether or not to employ a nanny is inevitably one of the first issues you face when you arrive in Thailand and it is not an easy one.  As a parent, I cannot imagine loving anything more than my children.  The very act of trusting someone with them that is not part of our family is difficult.  No, beyond difficult.

When we first arrived in Bangkok, my husband and I were both working;  however I was only part-time.  Our options were to hire a nanny to care for then four-month old Logan part time or find a daycare for him to attend.  Or the best option of all – import one of our mothers to live with us for three and a half years in Bangkok to help us with some of the child care – but we all know this is not entirely feasible.  Because of the affordability of one-on-one care, we opted to hire a nanny who doubled as our housekeeper and cook when Walter and I were not working.  When it became clear that some time after Logan’s birth I would have to return to work full-time, I made the decision to resign.  At that point, our nanny became much more of a housekeeper and a cook than a childcare provider.  In fact, I questioned many times whether I even needed a nanny.  I did resign from one of the world’s most awesome professions (a shout out to all of my Foreign Service friends) in order to be a stay-at-home mom, so you better believe I was going to be a damn good one.  But then I thought that there were times when Walter and I would like to go out to dinner at night and it would be nice to have a babysitter.  Or that I’d like to go to the gym or get my hair cut and leave Logan at home napping while someone could watch him.  Or show visiting friends the hustle and bustle of Bangkok for a few hours at a time without a baby or toddler in tow.  And that is when I realized that having someone at home to care for my child on select occasions would be a good thing.  After all, we don’t have the option of letting our children spend time at their grandparents’ houses.  There is no dropping them off for the night or for a few hours one day in order to run errands.  If we didn’t have a nanny we wouldn’t have one single solid second to ourselves or for each other.  So having a nanny isn’t something we should feel guilty about, right?

Well in my case – wrong.  I still feel the guilt.  And this is why I call it the nanny conundrum.  I could sit here and justify to myself all day long why it makes sense to have someone at home to help me with Logan and Katelyn, but at the end of the day, any time that I’m away from them and they are awake, I feel guilty.   Making the decision to hire a nanny is such a difficult thing.  I have many stay-at-home mom friends that choose not to have a nanny at all and I am constantly in awe of them.  And I know some people who prefer for the nanny to do all of the parenting.

Now I realize there are different strokes for different folks.  And I know full well that people are working under different conditions and have to make difficult decisions regarding work-life balance.  However, I’m going to be judgemental here for a minute, as the need to write this post has been weighing on my heart for a long time.  I am saddened when I see stay-at-home parents choosing to allow nannies to raise their children for them.  When a child is at school all day and the mother sends the nanny to pick the child up at the bus stop because she cannot be bothered to do it herself.  When a mother brings her child and her nanny to a play group or a swim class and prefers the nanny do the activity with the child.  When working parents who do not see their children much during the week opt to have the nanny Saturdays so that they can enjoy some “me time.”  (I know I’m going to get flack for that last one).

Whether working parents or stay-at-home parents, we owe it to our children to spend as much time with them as we can.  We owe it to them to teach them right from wrong.  To share with them our values and traditions.  To experience new things with them.  This is not something that should be left to someone else.  And a little piece of my heart always breaks for the child who is learning from a stranger when there is a parent around that can be teaching them instead.

So while we, the Braunohlers, certainly don’t have this gray and very awkward nanny area completely figured out,  we do always make sure to put our children first.  And like everything, it is about striking a balance.  Finding the right thing for you and your family while giving your children the proper love, adoration, and attention they deserve.  Hiring someone to help care for your child while you aren’t at home is huge.  And you will never find anyone who is absolutely perfect.  But at the times you are present, you can always make sure that 100 percent of you is there for your children.

Phew, I feel better.  Thanks for hearing me out.  And mega-props to all of the amazing parents I know out there doing the right thing.

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Logan and our nanny Mai at the park

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7 thoughts on “The Nanny Conundrum

  1. Ami says:

    Way to put yourself out on the line and say what needs to be said. (I am even rethinking some of my choices. As time goes on here, I become more comforable with the nanny and have had her waiting at the bus. My excuse is that the bus is unpredictable and I could be more productive in the home. There is always an excuse I suppose.) Again, I love your message. Children out there thank you.

  2. Ana Gaby says:

    It’s the never ending guilt-trip… I totally understand where you are coming from. I feel the same way, often. But then I think our nanny is very loving and caring and I would rather leave the boys home while I go grocery shopping since I will very likely get stuck in traffic for at least an hour each way. You are an amazing mom and your kids will appreciate every sacrifice you are doing for them! Big hugs!

    • lobrau says:

      Ana Gaby – First of all, miss you and your beautiful family so much! I cannot believe Joshua is over one year already! Secondly, I do the same. Usually when I take one of mine out, I leave the other one home so as not to subject them to the horrendous Bangkok traffic (which I imagine is even worse in Jakarta)! An hour each direction to get to the grocery store? Yikes!

  3. Margaret Friar says:

    Great blog! I think this pretty much sums things up for me as well. Wow! The line of “being selfish” with your time and just needing to do things w/o baby is such a grey area and so often leaves me in such a guilty mess! I am happy at least that our nanny loves our baby like her own so we know he is always in good hands.

  4. sandra says:

    Love it Loren. We shouldn’t have children to let someone else raise them. A nanny/housekeeper should be the support to make you a better parent, not a substitute. That said, I certainly have seen some nannies out there that do it better than the parents! Trust and direction are the key. You have to be able to trust the person watching/nurturing your kids (and that requires working with them and knowing them) AND you have to lay the direction and boundaries for them. As any manager (and the parent should manage the help they have) you have to set the standards and provide the vision of what you want that person to provide. Sometimes follow up training and redirection is needed, but this requires the parent to be engaged and to pay attention. Your kids are very lucky, my dear!

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