Nannies are humans too

As parents and employers, we should familiarise ourselves with laws that regulate the employment of nannies.

We have all heard about her: the nanny that lets the baby fend for herself while she sits and watches TV. The worst one is the nanny that steals the house supplies in the absence of the homeowners.

The one story that made me extremely upset was the nanny who left the house when the parents went to work to go stand around the corner and beg for money. The parents realised that their baby was getting sunburned and did not understand why. She only realised what her nanny was doing when a friend noticed her baby next to the robots. Can you even imagine your child being used as bait for coins?

But have we heard about the parents? They who make the nanny set an alarm every 10 minutes during the night to check if the baby is okay or needs a feed. The parents who let the nanny stand on her feet the whole day taking care of the kids, and at night still expect her to work throughout like she is not human and is unsusceptible to fatigue.

My nanny was unemployed when I decided to hire her to take care of my daughter when I was going back to work. She had just left a lady she worked for for two months as a stay-in domestic nanny. This means that she looked after the child and took care of the household by cleaning and doing the laundry.

I wanted to cry when she told me about her experience in the hands of the previous employer. She told how upset the mother would be when she slept, even if the house is clean and the child is sleeping. She was still expected to wake up regularly during the night for no reason.

My nanny’s cousin just arrived in the country from Zimbabwe a week ago, and my nanny recommended her to a lady in the complex with three kids, the youngest being eight months old. Apparently, this lady has gone through four nannies this year alone. My nanny only knew that these women were leaving because the mother was only paying R1 500 a month for this job. Her logic for a recommendation? R1 500 is better than no salary at all.

A week later, her cousin was dismissed because she dared ask what time she knocked off on that Friday. She got kicked out like a dog because how dare she want to knock off after a week of washing the laundry by hand, sleeping on the floor, not eating regularly, waking up consistently during the night to take care of the kids, cleaning and cooking for a family of six?

She came to my apartment in tears because she could not understand how cruel people can be. Her employer went out to buy take-outs on Wednesday and the whole family ate in front of her, and she was starving, but no one bothered to give her something.

Yes, there are really terrible nannies out here but there are equally terrible parents who use, abuse and underpay their nannies. The logic makes no sense for me.

We expect these women to assist us to maintain our house and take care of our children as well as we would, but then we turn around and treat them unfairly and pay them peanuts. And then we cry when they eat our food or steal from us.

Like any other employer-employee relationship, it does not always work out. This could be due to various reasons, including a cultural misfit, an issue with competency, poor work ethics or any other offence that leads to dismissals or a mutual separation.

As parents/employers, we should familiarise ourselves with laws that regulate the employment of nannies. We should also view these women as mothers working for their children’s well-being. If we feel that the relationship is not working, then it is better to separate.

Parents should make sure that they pay their nannies accordingly, structure their working hours so as to not overwork them, give them adequate leave and treat them in a way that makes them feel happy and appreciated – because a happy nanny is a happy baby and happy home.

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