On Babysitters, Blogging, and A Hard Day's Work

This whole nanny blog thing just creeps me out. (The nanny in question's actual blog is here.) Possibly because I had a dodgy babysitter experience; possibly because another potential babysitter happened to include her blog link in e-mail correspondence, and I had to fight not to be unnerved by what I read; or possibly because I myself am a regular blogger (and I've posted about the vomitous feeling the dodgy babysitter inspired), I've been thinking a lot about the article and the response over the past couple hours.

There are many things to be creeped out about in Helaine Olen's piece, but the three I find most creepy are (a) that Olen read the nanny's blog so obsessively, (b) that she doesn't seem to see the hypocrisy in writing about her experience—hyperbolically and occasionally libelously—in the New York Times, and (c) that the straw that broke the camel's back—the thing that led to the nanny's firing—was that the nanny considered watching Olen's children "work". Um, I've got news for you: caring for children *IS* WORK.

I know that some families want a babysitter/nanny "who'll be part of the family," as one of our current sitter's references put it, but the fact is that you are PAYING this person to watch your kids. (Incidentally, we weren't looking for someone to be part of our family, though I can totally see how our sitter would fit that bill if we were.) This person may love your children and treat them as if they were her own, but she's not your mother or your sister or your aunt. She's trying to earn a living watching your kids, not doing you a favor.

Watching kids is hard. Keeping them entertained, interested, fed, changed, and generally cared for requires patience, imagination, strength, and stamina. How do I know? Because when our sitter isn't here, it's what I do—and it's at least as challenging as the software engineering that I do when the sitter *is* here. It's actually surprising to me that babysitters don't charge more per hour for all this effort. When I first talked to my friend Jean about how to go about hiring a sitter, she mentioned that the going rate in San Francisco was $50/hour. This would have been tough for me to manage, but honestly, it wasn't completely shocking. I was prepared for anything. It was only when Jean mentioned that some nannies charge $20/hour for two children that I realized she'd said $15 for one, not $50.

Would I want my babysitter to blog about us? Well, probably not. But if it were really important to me, I'd probably make it a stipulation of employment: no blogging about this job. I think I'd feel somewhat hypocritical doing it, however, given that I write about so much of what's going on in our lives here, so I've never made such a request. (I did request that the former babysitter not post photos of Austen on her site, however.) As for blogging in general, what our babysitter does on her own time is her business; I'm actually more comfortable not knowing all the details of her life, so if she had a blog, I wouldn't seek it out anyway. I know enough to feel that Austen's safe and well-cared for in her company, and I see evidence of her common sense, good judgement, and strong work ethic on a daily basis. Anything else I need to know, I'll ask her. And as long as she never lies to me, tries to pass off complaining as conversation, or asks me to write her another check because she misplaced the one I wrote her yesterday, I'll never vomit on her—in person, online, or in print.

Posted by Lori in bloggity goodness and news/media and parenthood at 4:59 PM on July 20, 2005