Should I Tattle on a Nanny?

BY  |  Wednesday, Aug 03, 2011 9:30am  |  COMMENTS (31)

I’m not sure whether to speak up or keep quiet. Recently, I stopped in Starbucks to eat lunch. While there, I saw a little girl I know because I’m friends with her mother. She was with her nanny, a woman I have met a few times at drop offs and pick ups.

The child, I’ll call her S, was eating her lunch quietly. Her nanny was engrossed in texting. I thought, ‘Okay, texts happen, no big deal.’ Five minutes later, I walked over to say hello to little S. The nanny kept right on texting, not even looking up to see who was speaking to her charge. I sat back down to finish eating. Twenty or 30 minutes went by, and the babysitter only stopped texting to talk loudly on her phone. The child still sat quietly, looking quite sad and lonely. When I left, the nanny was still on the phone, completely ignoring S.

Was the child in danger? Probably not. But if I’d seen my babysitter texting and yapping the whole time she’s supposed to be having lunch with my daughter, I’d be upset. The scene still bothers me. But does it bother me enough to tell on the nanny? I’m not sure if my friend would appreciate my opinion or be put off by it.

What would you do?

31 Comments

  1. POSTED BY fraublucher  |  August 03, 2011 @ 9:45 am

    And this is different from parents doing the exact same thing?

    I always feel for kids when I see parents engrossed in their phones rather than their kids. They’re little for only a short time. Pay attention and take it in! That text or call or email can wait.

  2. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  August 03, 2011 @ 9:47 am

    How much is the nanny being paid?

  3. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  August 03, 2011 @ 9:55 am

    I would absolutely say something. If this woman is really a friend she would appreciate your concern. Children are usually unable to speak for themselves, so we have a responsibility to advocate for them.

    I agree, too many parents do exactly the same thing. That however does not justify the nanny behaving in this fashion. It doesn’t justify anyone ignoring a child.

  4. POSTED BY walleroo  |  August 03, 2011 @ 10:13 am

    The child still sat quietly, looking quite sad and lonely.

    I imagine Kristen watching this sad and lonely child, as her own children sit nearby, neglected…

    Was the kid in danger? No. So just chill.

  5. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  August 03, 2011 @ 10:37 am

    Good Grief! It’s totally none of your business, ever. Unless you witness actual abuse or activity that puts a kid in danger.

    For all you know, she’s the perfect Kristin-approved type nanny all the rest of the day but needs a half hour break each day.

  6. POSTED BY hrhppg  |  August 03, 2011 @ 10:47 am

    “The nanny kept right on texting, not even looking up to see who was speaking to her charge. ”

    That is the part that bothers me. You never know who the freaks are but they are out there and this person is getting paid to protect the child. And warn the next hire why this one was sacked and let them know you won’t tolerate them chatting (via text or call) while they are working.

  7. POSTED BY Liz George  |  August 03, 2011 @ 10:57 am

    How much is the nanny being paid?

    If she took the job, I’m guessing she’s being paid something she found acceptable.

  8. POSTED BY herbeverschmel  |  August 03, 2011 @ 11:07 am

    Maybe the nanny was dealing with an important issue like a sick relative, emergency back home (who knows) in this case. Unless the nanny was abusive or put the child in jeopardy I would ask S. if she was ok and move on. If it happened again I might say something depending on how close you are too S. parent.

    Flaubulcher is 100% correct.

    Next, any else need advice from Dr. Herb?

  9. POSTED BY jsananda  |  August 03, 2011 @ 11:09 am

    The Nanny was totally oblivious. That’s how children disappear. Tell the parent.

  10. POSTED BY pgar  |  August 03, 2011 @ 11:11 am

    You don’t need to frame it in terms of “telling on” or “tattling.” I would view it in terms of giving more information. I would say to my friend, “I didn’t know whether to talk to you about this or not, but (and then tell her what happened).” Then you can say something like, “I’m not trying to be nosy or interfere – this is just something that if it happened to my child, I would be grateful that someone told me.” Then the ball is in her court. Heck I’m haunted by this sad and lonely kid now, and I didn’t even witness it.

    And as far as the nanny pay question goes, you can say that a nanny isn’t being paid enough to do laundry or housekeeping, but I can’t imagine how little you would have to pay someone to justify not interacting with a child.

  11. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  August 03, 2011 @ 11:13 am

    “If she took the job, I’m guessing she’s being paid something she found acceptable.”

    Oh, liz is that how it all works? I think the level of care and involvement will be directly proportional to the pay. You will find people who will be a nanny for $7 an hour and ones who charge $20. I’ll bet you’ll find a different level of skills and involvement too.

  12. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  August 03, 2011 @ 11:16 am

    hrh,

    Kristen says the nanny is “a woman I have met a few times at drop offs and pick ups.”

    “The nanny kept right on texting, not even looking up to see who was speaking to her charge.”

    Perhaps she saw Kristen and knew it was she who was talking to the child?

  13. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  August 03, 2011 @ 11:25 am

    (12 comments in 2 hours. That’s a record!)

    But ROC, the kid was not entertained the entire time while at Starbucks. If there’s a definition of abuse, I think that’s it. And if not abuse, the kid could disappear, you know. So Kristen had only one thing to do– BUTT IN and save the kid from this clear, imminent danger.

  14. POSTED BY Kristin  |  August 03, 2011 @ 11:26 am

    Herb brings up a good point – and I agree with hrhppg about the neglecting to look up when someone it talking to the kid. That’s the only part that actually bothers me. Did the Nanny ignore you when you said hello to her?

    Personally, I would not say something. If I saw it again (and you’ve met the nanny before, so is it a usual state?), maybe I’d mention it. But I see parents doing the same thing, and I wouldn’t tell them “Your kid looks like she wants to make eye contact.” I think it also matters if you have a close or acquaintance-level relationship with the parent. A close friend, I’d say something because I’d know what his/her own values are. An acquaintance, not so much.

  15. POSTED BY Liz George  |  August 03, 2011 @ 11:27 am

    Oh, liz is that how it all works? I think the level of care and involvement will be directly proportional to the pay. You will find people who will be a nanny for $7 an hour and ones who charge $20. I’ll bet you’ll find a different level of skills and involvement too.

    You can pay someone $20 and this happens, too. I’ve heard enough stories. I don’t think it’s about $$$ as much as it is about judgment. Last time I checked, most people can lift their head up to talk or acknowledge someone while texting.

  16. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  August 03, 2011 @ 11:29 am

    Moreover, I think Starbucks should have a policy that states that folks with kids ARE NOT permitted to text for more than 200 characters over 3 texts.

    (Although, if one knows the parents, I would say yes. Tell them. But from this, it doesn’t seem that Kristen knows them well enough to “butt in”.)

  17. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  August 03, 2011 @ 11:42 am

    “Last time I checked, most people can lift their head up to talk or acknowledge someone while texting.”

    THAT’S really the sin here, isn’t it?

  18. POSTED BY hrhppg  |  August 03, 2011 @ 11:47 am

    If the nanny was “dealing with an important issue like a sick relative, emergency back home” then why were they out in public having lunch? Why not make a sandwich at home and let the child play in their own home ?

    If the nanny was “dealing with an important issue like a sick relative, emergency back home” then taking the child out in public while they were distracted is even more irresponsible !

    And kids are taken by people their families know. It is not unheard of ! The nanny’s job is to protect the kid and she wasn’t doing that. If a fireman was standing on the front lawn of a burnish house texting would we all be happy about that too ?

  19. POSTED BY hrhppg  |  August 03, 2011 @ 11:48 am

    sorry should be burning house…

  20. POSTED BY Georgette Gilmore  |  August 03, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

    If it was the child of a very good friend, then I would say something. Otherwise, I would mind my own business in this case.

  21. POSTED BY hrhppg  |  August 03, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

    Just ran out to grab lunch and this question popped into my mind – if she couldn’t put down her cell does that mean she was chatting or texting while driving with the kid in the car?

    Or if under such duress over a sick relative that she can’t put the phone down to do her job would/should she be driving with a kid in her car ?

  22. POSTED BY Right of Center  |  August 03, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

    “Or if under such duress over a sick relative that she can’t put the phone down to do her job would/should she be driving with a kid in her car ?”

    Good thinking Hrh! What about pedestrians? Would/should she be allowed to drive at all?

  23. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  August 03, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

    22 posts!!!!

    Kristen knocks it outta the PARK!!!!

  24. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  August 03, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

    hrhppg,

    Funny, this just popped into my head:

    If she couldn’t put down her phone at Starbucks, would she be able to put it down if she were walking on a tightrope across Niagara Falls AND texting, while holding the kid?

  25. POSTED BY hrhppg  |  August 03, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

    I know I’m strict prof but I babysitting was my life when a teen and even when I drive I took my wards care seriously. And that was before texting while driving deaths, Casey Duggard or any of the 1000 other modern horrors we have to face now.

    So what about my other question – If a fireman was standing on the front lawn of a burning house texting would you happy about that?

  26. POSTED BY ihateplaydates  |  August 03, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

    No matter how lovely, gracious, and hardworking, a nanny cannot do the same job as a parent. I know this is seen as an inconvenient truth, but it is a truth. I’ve seen a thousand examples of this–not outright abuse or neglect, necessarily, but definite lack of attunement, empathy, connection. And I think this affects kids in big ways throughout their lives. As a stay at home mom who worked right up until my first child (and has worked part-time, often at night, since), i can say that parenting is the more difficult, if not downright torturous, job at times. But I still submit it is better for the child to have Mom and/or Dad around most of the time for the first ten years. (P.S. People often ask me why my kids are so calm, confident, and well-behaved. I say it’s ’cause I stayed home with them as much as possible.)

  27. POSTED BY lcast  |  August 03, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

    I work from home a lot and sometimes have my head in my Blackberry way too much around my kids, but I will tell you that it’s DIFFERENT. I know when to stop — like when someone is speaking to my kid or she says to me “Mommy, look at this!” PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell your friend. This woman is being paid to be keep the child safe and to interact with her. Would any of us really be happy with one and not the other? I would want to know if it were my child. At the very least, tell her you saw X and the nanny at Starbucks and X looked very sad. A good, involved mother will want to know more. I fear this kind of thing plays out in houses and cafes all over the place and it makes me so sad for our kids.

  28. POSTED BY Kristin  |  August 03, 2011 @ 6:10 pm

    When people ask me why my kids are such weirdos, I tell them it’s because they have to be around me all day. And that’s pretty much it.

  29. POSTED BY kay  |  August 04, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

    Hm. It would depend on how the child normally behaves whether I would say anything or not. There are two sides to every story although usually my first reaction is to go out there and kick some butt I try to breathe and look again. (except when stooopid people turn left from the right lane for no reason whatsoever. next time that happens I am going to go straight just for the hell of it and smash into the left-turner. OK maybe I will wait until my lease is closer to being up. but still.)

    anyway, if the kid is normally a rambunctious child maybe she just got yelled at for running out into traffic, and the nanny is furious at her for almost getting run over. If the child is a well behaved, normally charming and gregarious girl maybe she had asked to go to the diner where she knew she might run into so-and-so, and be able to chat with people, but the nanny said no and insisted on yucky ol’ Starbucks where all they have is ickle tuna fish.

    The mom should be guided by how she normally sees the child behaving.

    so I guess if I knew the mom pretty well, I’d probably mention it.

  30. POSTED BY msmr  |  August 04, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

    Really? No parent here has been engaged in a task for half an hour and more or less ignored the kids (beyond making sure they were safe and present as this nanny seemed to have done.)

    (P.S. People often ask me why my kids are so well-rounded and sociable. I say it’s because they have two working parents and have been exposed to a variety of people to care for them.)

  31. POSTED BY bestnannynewsletter  |  August 04, 2011 @ 9:02 pm

    Always speak up when a child is in danger! As a nanny I strongly feel adults must protect children from neglect and abuse.

    This issue of nannies and au pairs texting while working is what we have been discussing this week at Be the Best Nanny Newsletter.

    Today, 27 nanny industry experts were asked: When Does Personal Cell Phone Use and Texting Become Too Much on the Nanny Job?

    http://bestnannynewsletter.blogspot.com/2011/08/26-nanny-industry-experts-say-limit.html

    27 nanny and au pair industry experts agree that nannies and au pairs should limit their personal cell phone use and texting at work.

    The experts note that any employee at any profession should limit their personal calls and text when working, but those responsible for the safety of children have a greater need to be alert and not distracted.

    They all agree they are an important part of our lives and cell phones are great for emergencies or planning playdates or staying in contact with employers (the parents).

    Some of the experts suggest parents and nannies discuss expectaitions about cell phone usage long before the nanny accepts the job and to be sure to include what is and is not acceptable in the work agreement.

    One expert recommends that nannies put special ringtones on important numbers. That way she never has to look at the phone to know if she must take the call or not. All other messages can go to voicemail.

    Plus, like in any other job, nannies should tell their friends and family their work schedule and encourage them to only call before and after work if possible.

    Some nannies said they wouldn’t accept jobs if the parents restricted their personal cell phone use:
    http://bestnannynewsletter.blogspot.com/2011/08/are-you-reading-this-blog-at-work.html

    And we challenged nannies and au pairs to put down their phones and not look at it (or the computer screen) for one entire work day.

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