Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tibetan Nannies are Hot!

MSNBC is reporting that nannies from Tibet are "all the rage" for New Yorkers hiring child-care workers. According to the article, Tibetan women are "very balanced and Zen," and can aid in the "spiritual development" of their young charges.

When I left New York City five years ago for the greener pastures of Philadelphia, nannies from the Philippines were all the rage, but I guess times they are a changing.

On the surface, this story doesn't surprise me. It almost sounds humorous, imagining how people cling to misguided stereotypes about people and/or cultures to select a nanny. But the thoughts and mindsets fueling these trends are quite alarming and ignorant. Shouldn't you pick the person who is most qualified for the position instead of the one who fits your Maria from the Sound of Music/Big Mama/subservient Asian/loving Latina/Caribbean queen image in your head? I'll never forget the story I read in the New York Times a couple of years ago, about a woman who hired a "proper English nanny" only to find out later she was a convicted murderer in her own country. But she was blind to seeing the woman's true character (even after her own kids complained) because she was fooled by the Mary Poppins accent. And lest we not forget Louise Woodward.

Is there ever a time when looking for a nanny of a specific racial background is okay? I think so. I for one wanted to find a "nanny" (FYI, I hate that word as it connotes a certain elitism that doesn't sit well with me.) that speaks Spanish to watch my son so he would have more opportunities to learn the language. My Korean friend who works 1 billion hours a week specifically looked for a Korean nanny who did not speak English so her son would be forced to learn Korean and would eat Korean food, etc. This was especially important to her as her own parents, the keepers of their family culture, live in another state.

Turns out, I hired a woman from the island of Grenada who spoke not a speck of Spanish to watch my son because I liked her the best. And I committed myself to reading more books in Spanish to my son.

What do you think about this trend? Is it okay to select a nanny/baby sitter based on her ethnic heritage? What has your experience been in this arena? I personally think about this stuff a lot. It's actually what inspired my new novel, Substitute Me, coming soon to a bookstore near you.



Anonymous said...

I remember when nannies were called babysitters! Seriously, I think too much responsibility is put in others when it comes to raising your children. There also tends to be a mindset of 'if you have one or that, then I want one or that. Even as adults, we often get swept up in a storm of whats popular. As long as they treat your children well then its all good.

The Golden Papaya said...

I think your instincts are right. In theory it may be nice to pick and choose what cultural or linguistic riches your nanny (or babysitter, or whatever) will impart to your kids, but when it comes down to it, what matters is that it's a loving person who shares your values and whom you trust.