Why I Couldn’t Let One Nanny’s Bad Behavior Go

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It all happened so quickly. We were crossing the street. I was on one corner and she was on the other. I was waiting for the signal to change. Cars were zipping through the intersection. I noticed her edging her stroller into the street, trying to gauge whether more cars were coming. Then I saw that she was wearing headphones. She didn’t seem to be paying close attention to what was happening around her. Next thing I knew, she had started walking across the street against the signal. A car sped through the intersection just seconds after she had crossed; it was a horrifyingly close call. What if the nanny had tripped, or gotten distracted, and that driver couldn’t stop in time?

Those few seconds terrified me. And then I saw her face and the baby in the stroller. It was my friend’s new nanny, with her dear sweet 4-month-old. I knew in my gut (and in my heart) that my friend would probably want to know about this. I know I would, if our roles were reversed.

Trust me, I do not like to play the tattletale. I do not like know-it-alls, especially when it comes to other parents. I worried that my friend would be offended or upset, and I worried that she would think I was intruding. But, ultimately, I decided I had to speak up. It was an issue of safety. I called my friend later that night. We had a very constructive talk, definitely aided by the fact that out of all my friends she is probably one of the lowest drama mamas I know, and she thanked me for my candor. It turned out that she had already spoken to her nanny about rules for walking with the stroller at the busy intersections in our neighborhood. And she had secretly shadowed her own nanny one day and saw her walk against the grain of traffic. She was disappointed by what I told her, but not too surprised.

The next day, she spoke with her nanny about the incident. When her nanny denied it, she fired her on the spot.

Sure, when it comes to this stuff, not all situations are alike. In this case, because it was my friend’s kid and I felt the nanny was acting in an unsafe manor, I felt personally compelled to tell my friend about what I’d seen. But, I’ve decided that there are definitely other situations that don’t so easily warrant an alarm to blast. In other words, there are moments when it’s probably better to keep my mouth shut!

When I used to live across the street from a playground, for example, I’d run into the same nanny and the girl she watched back then most days. I’d watch as the nanny would park a large City Mini-type stroller behind the swings, at a comfortable distance so she could still push the little girl in the swing. She would get the girl in the swing, then sit down on the stroller behind her and start texting and looking at things on her phone while she mindlessly pushed the little girl. There was zero engagement happening with these two. One day, the little girl, who I figured was about 2-years-old, was asking over and over for a doll. It took a while for the nanny to even acknowledge her. Then, she absently handed the girl the doll and went back to her seat on the stroller, texting and pushing.

The whole thing would make me incredibly sad — mostly because I wanted that little girl to be talked to and then be giggling and smiling because someone was engaging her, treating her more like a kid and less like a job. But was the girl in any real danger? No. And I didn’t know the girl or the parents of the girl. In this case, I never went further than making silly faces at the little girl when I saw her at the park and waving hello to her.

This has all got me thinking more and more about when it’s okay and not okay (or necessary) to tell on a nanny or caregiver. And then, recently, I stumbled upon this site, called “I Saw Your Nanny” (it was featured in The New York Times several years ago, and it’s still going strong today). Anyone can anonymously post a nanny or caregiver incident, and you’re encouraged to snap a photo. What do you think? Would you post something about your friend’s nanny? Or even a stranger’s nanny?

What have you witnessed on the playground? Have you spoken up? Why or why not?