parent opinion

“You’re the most ungrateful little sh*t!” Yesterday, I knew I had to dob in my friend's mean nanny.

So, I dobbed on a 21-year-old woman yesterday, and I feel like a bit of a traitor. She will most likely lose her job because of what I told her employer. I’m genuinely sorry about that.

But then again, perhaps it will make her think twice before she verbally abuses a seven-year-old child, especially one who she is being paid to care for.

I was late to school pick up yesterday, which I felt bad about because it was pouring with rain, but I knew my 12-year-old son had the Smiggle umbrella he’d badgered me into buying a few months ago.

As I pulled up to the curb and he was putting his gear in the back of the car, we saw an exchange between a girl in year two and her nanny. (Yes, we know the family.)

The nanny threw the child’s umbrella on the ground and yelled at her, “You’re the most ungrateful little sh*t!”

My son and I stopped and stared in shock.

“Just shut up! I’m sick of you already!”

Mamamia Out Loud host Holly Wainwright discusses why parental equality isn’t just a woman’s issue. Post continues after video.

Just thinking of that little child’s face crumbling breaks my heart all over again.

Because it was so late, there weren’t any other parents around – which is why I guess this nanny felt comfortable expressing her thoughts in this way.

As my kid jumped into the front seat, he said, “Mum, did you hear that?”

Ah, yes. Yes I did.

By this stage, the nanny and the child were in their car behind us. It had happened so quickly, I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d seen and heard. And then I realised what it was: I’d seen and heard verbal abuse.

Now, I know school pick up can be stressful, because kids are exhausted/hungry. I know it’s inconvenient in the rain. I also know, from being a parent for 12.5 years, that there will be times when you will lose your sh*t with your child. You will say things you don’t mean. You will shout things they don’t deserve to hear.

Or, maybe they do – but unless it’s sustained abuse, every parent can and will lose it a little at some point. And that’s okay, because that’s parenthood. That’s family. It isn’t always perfect. And it’s bloody hard. But I don’t apply those concessions to someone who is literally being paid to look after your child.

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They have one job – to care for that little person. Usually it’s for a limited time, like two to three hours. Unlike parents, their only duty in that time is to ensure the comfort and safety of their charge.

A babysitter or nanny doesn’t have to multi-task like we do. They’re not juggling any emotional loads; they’re not thinking about what they need to do for their families in three days’ time. Their job is to be in the present.

Of course, they are also people, who have lives and bad days. But what I witnessed wasn’t a nanny having a ‘bad day’. The child was told she was ungrateful, a sh*t, and that the person who was looking after her that day was sick of her the moment she was collected from school. Can you imagine what that felt like?

The thing is, with children, you don’t get second chances. They remember how you made them feel. Always.

I once had a sitter who doubled as a maths tutor. My son told me she was giving him the answers to his homework from her calculator – which annoyed him, because he was really trying to understand.

I explained to her – again – that she had been engaged on the basis of her own maths skills (which were vastly superior to mine) and she was meant to be enhancing my son’s. She apologised and said she would try harder next time.

The next week, as soon as the door closed behind her as she left, my son told me she had demanded to know why he had dobbed on her to me, and was stroppy with him all afternoon. Meaning that she asked my son, in his own home, in my absence, why he told his own mother the truth about someone I was paying to be with him.

How childish – and completely unacceptable.

Side note... if you have a nanny, is it appropriate to ask them to deal with nits, or is that job solely a parent’s? We discuss on our podcast for imperfect parents.

I actually chased her down the street as she walked to her car, to tell her what he told me and ask for my house keys back.

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Having had that experience, I know how it feels to find someone you think will be a great fit, and then have that trust betrayed. So, witnessing that nanny’s tirade yesterday, I became angry. I was so angry for that little girl. And I was so angry for her mum, who was at work, thinking her daughter was in good hands.

Parents often experience enough (unnecessary) guilt as it is leaving their kids with someone else why they work; the last thing they need to worry about is their kids being scared.

But I’ll admit, I was also conflicted. Was it any of my business? Would this information make the situation worse in some way? This nanny would most likely lose her job; was I making my friend’s life harder? Should I feel sorry for the young woman who might be just learning about how to deal with kids?

Would my friend ‘shoot the messenger’?

The answers to those questions didn’t really matter, because I knew one thing for sure: I would want to know what happened. I would want someone who witnessed my son being yelled at on the street to tell me. It was a conversation I didn’t want to have with this friend, but I also didn’t want to have this on my conscience.

I called her. She already knew – from her daughter. That was the silver lining: her child had trusted her mum enough to speak up.

It made me think that if that seven-year-old had been brave enough to do that, the rest of us should be, too.

Nama Winston has had a decade-long legal career (paid), and a decade-long parenting career (unpaid). You can follow her on Instagram: @namawinston and Facebook: @NamaWinston.


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