Janel Moses: Caring For Those Who Care For Us

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Nannies provide essential services to the families that employ them, and while some are cherished, others are ill-treated. Janel Moses has heard their stories.

“I’ll get you fired!” I once heard a nine-year-old tell her nanny, who was working to feed children of her own. As a teacher and small business owner, I have interacted with thousands of parents, children, and their caregivers. I am often privy to dynamics that play out behind closed doors.

A decade of discreet dialogues and confidential confessions suggests there are nannies who should not work with children and there are families who should not employ nannies.

Nannies have called me sobbing, unable to buy groceries or pay rent because their employers have forgotten to pay them. It is humiliating to ask for compensation owed, particularly when a family’s record-keeping is sloppy; errors reduce wages. “Didn’t we already pay you?” Families have asked.

Nannies often absorb losses when their employers enjoy vacations and they are not paid. Caregivers lose compensation and employment due to illness and workplace injury.

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Nannies may leave their children in suboptimal situations while nurturing the children of another. When they are let go, nannies mourn their inability to watch their non-biological children grow. “The family won’t answer…how is she doing?” I hear.

Caregivers I know have been accused of stealing money and jewelry later found in pants pockets and underwear drawers. They have been fired after a death in their families, when grief darkens their sunny dispositions.

In this unregulated sector rife with labor abuse, I am inspired by families who hold caregivers in high regard. I know families who have paid for their nannies' healthcare and housing, gym memberships, English classes, car or college studies.

Families on tight budgets have invited nannies to bring their children with them to work. They share meals, professional expertise, offer their caregivers' friendship, gratitude and support, whenever, however they can.

The nanny-family relationship is complex, often fraught, but it is also a unique and beautiful opportunity to teach our children to care for those who care for us.

With a Perspective, I’m Janel Moses.

Janel Moses is a longtime teacher of Spanish to children and youth. In her spare time she volunteers helping nannies find employment. They often share confidential work experiences in the process.