There’s a new benchmark for what it means to be a ‘good’ mother and here it is: you can’t have any help. And if you do, you must lie about it. Specifically, you must say “I don’t have a nanny”.
This is compulsory if you want to be considered anything other than a neglectful shrew who shirks responsibility for taking care of her own kids.
Announcing that you have no nanny has become the new humble-brag, particularly from celebrity mothers.
And, frankly, it’s bullshit.
I was reminded of this today when I heard what my favourite comedian Ali Wong said in an interview this week about being a new mum.
Fred Armisen: How do you balance family and career?
Ali Wong: How do I balance family and career? People ask me that all the time. Men never get asked that question because, they don’t. They just ignore the child and that’s perfectly, socially acceptable.Advertisement
But dads get so much praise for doing so little. My husband occasionally changes diapers and people, they can’t believe it. They’re like, Oh my gahhhd. I cannot believe that your husband changes diapers. What a doting, modern father. When my baby girl was first born, I would do skin-on-skin contact to bond with her … she’d shit on my chest. Where’s my trophy at?
Real talk: This is how I balance family and career — I have a nanny. Yes, I have a nanny and then I work my ass off to pay for the nanny. She’s $3,000 a month so I gotta hustle. My husband and I, we both got to work very hard to not take care of our child ourselves. Thank you.
I love this because it’s true. All of it. Especially the part where she takes comedic aim at the people who believe having a nanny is somehow an abrogation of your responsibilities as a parent.
The nanny not so Insta-sharable.
Ashton Kutcher: “We just want to know our kid. We want to be the people who know what to do when the baby’s crying to make the baby not cry anymore. I think the only way to do that is by being the one who is there.”
Eva Mendes: “I’m a very hands-on Mom. I don’t have a nanny. No matter how tired I am, I just do it.”
Nick Cannon (when married to Mariah and raising their twins): “Nah, we’re not for all the nannies and stuff. No offence to anyone who is but my wife wants to be as hands-on as possible”
[If you want more here is a handy list of 15 celebrities who have (pretended) they have no nanny]
I would really like someone to do the math here. If you work outside the home and you are lucky enough to have a partner and he/she is lucky enough to also be employed outside the home…….someone has to take care of the kid(s) during the hours you’re both working.
And if you’re a celebrity who has to go on tour and spend months on tv and movie sets or recording studios, how is it physically possible (unless your partner is a full-time, stay-at-home parent) that you don’t have any help?
More importantly: how exactly does paying for childcare make you a bad parent? Or, let’s face it, a bad mother because nobody ever asked Brad Pitt or Keith Urban or Karl Stefanovic if they have a nanny.
Yeah Keith, where’s your nanny?
And yet admitting you have a nanny is somehow an admission of….. something bad.
I had nannies when my kids were small. I had to. My husband and I both worked full time. My hours weren’t crazy but often they were irregular. I might have to do a morning TV interview at 7:45am or speak at an evening event. Sometimes I had to travel. Sometimes my travel required me to stay away overnight or for a couple of nights.
This is the part where I want to make a whole bunch of disclaimers:
But I never had a full-time nanny! I often did school drop-offs or pick ups myself! I always put my kids to bed! I LOVE MY KIDS! I REALLY LOVE THEM!
But I’m not going to say any of that because the truth is that another woman’s childcare arrangements are not your concern. So long as children are loved and nurtured and have a stable environment where their physical and emotional needs are met by responsible adults then you’re doing great as a parent in my opinion.
Sometimes, if both parents are working outside the home – which means the vast majority of families – then paid childcare is a reality.
While we’re at it, there’s a few things we wish our daycare would do… Post continues below.
Mark Latham has long been snide, sneering and openly hostile towards women who work outside the home – ironic, since he’s married to a lawyer. Wait, not all women. The women he’s most contemptuous of are women in the media who call him out for being a sexist throwback to the stone age. For a while there, when he was on a particularly obsessive rant about working mothers that lasted for many months, journalist and TV host Annabel Crabb and I were two of his favourite targets. One of his favourite weapons to use to attack us was that we had nannies. He often liked to call them an ‘army of nannies and helpers’ which sounds absolutely delightful if only it were true.
The thought of an army of nannies is surely the fantasy of every mother? I’m imagining them dropping out of planes with little parachutes and coming on boats and via chopper, ground troops and by sea and air…..armed with little snap-lock bags of snacks and water bottles, backpacks filled with craft supplies and story books…..WHERE ARE OUR ARMIES OF NANNIES, WE NEED THE ARMIES.
Malcolm Turnbull, please divert the defence budget into nanny armies and deploy them across the country immediately, thanks, bye.
I was never clear about what he was trying to say. That we were somehow lesser mothers because we had nannies? That we were rich? That we were princesses? Yeah, childcare is expensive. Really expensive. And when you have more than one child in care it can be more cost effective to have a nanny and far more cost effective to have an au pair (which sounds super fancy but actually means you have a foreign student or local backpacker living in your garage for free and you pay them a wage and supply them with board and food in exchange for some childcare).
Is that the nanny in the back, snapping a pic?
Also, as anyone with a child knows, between school holidays, daycare holidays and sick days, there are weeks and weeks in every year where you can be caught very short when your children are being taken care of outside your home.
And there are only so many times you can do what is commonly known as the Demazin-Dump (dose up your child with medication and drop him at daycare hoping the fever is masked long enough for you to dash madly in to work, put out whatever thing couldn’t be cancelled and wait for the phone to ring with the request to turn around and pick him up).
So why the denial? Perhaps the word nanny (and those who employ them) has become a euphemism for people who choose to out-source as many of their parenting responsibilities as possible. Perhaps. I’m sure there are some families that fulfil the myth where the nanny really does raise the children. But in the vast majority of cases, particularly here in Australia, that is not the case.
People who have nannies make the decision to spend a vast proportion of their household income on this type of childcare in the same way other people might decide to spend a large chunk on renovations or holidays or a new car or fancy clothes. We all have to make the decisions that are best for our family.
Must be the nanny’s day off, right Kim?
For ours, for many years, that was having a nanny who could be the third parent in our children’s lives. And I’m proud and grateful to say that’s what we had. Our children’s nanny Mel, was part of our family for a long time and always will be. Her influence on my children was wonderful and I’ve always been eager to share credit for that influence because the more great role models a child can have and the more people in their lives who love them, the better. There is literally no downside to that.
So I would love it if more celebrities could be honest about the help they have. Because this idea that as women we must have exciting careers, have kids, have loads of sex with our partners, cook paleo, sugar-free meals for our families while wearing a bikini to show off our ripped abs is a garbage fire.
And every time a woman pretends she has less help than she actually does, she is Photoshopping her life in a way that’s actively bad for other women.
All women – famous or not – have to get real with each other about what it takes to make a family work. It takes a village and if that village includes a nanny or an army of nannies, you’re very, very lucky and you have nothing to hide.
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