Getting Nannies while Black? - Granite Grok

Getting Nannies while Black?

TMEW (The Most Esteemed Wife) has her degree in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Ed, worked in the Day Care field for years, owned a small Day Care center for a few, and she also has worked as a nanny. Thus, I think I can safely comment on this story from the NY Times:

Nanny Hunt Can Be a ‘Slap in the Face’ for Blacks

I have news for the NY Times – it’s a pain in the butt here in central NH as well, and it doesn’t matter what your skin color is. The story basically goes on and on about how hard it is for Blacks to obtain the services of a reputable Nanny for their children.  I think that I agree with LaShawn Barber on this topic:

Parents should raise their own children. Period.

Parents should be forever in their childrens’ lives. Nannies and day care teachers and workers, and au pairs, and the like, will not.  It is jarring at the least to see a child’s face when they realize that their "someone special" has left; it is soul crushing at the worst.  It doesn’t matter to the child that the reason was higher pay, burn out, a feeling of being fed up with dealing with someone else’s ill behaved children, or silly governmental regulations, the person who your child may identify with most (and I have seen, with TMEW, that children sometimes want her over their parents – a reverse parental separation syndrome).

If parents really understood this most fundamental flaw in the "child care" system, perhaps they’d listen a bit more.  Or not – the "ME" generation has successfully passed down the idea that my wants and my needs come before my child’s (no matter the rationalization).   My need for a career comes first versus my child’s need for me and my love.

Anyways, let’s review the story. 

Last month, Jennifer Freeman sat in a Chicago coffee bar, counting her blessings and considering her problem. She had a husband with an M.B.A. degree, two children and a job offer that would let her dig out the education degree she had stashed away during years of playdates and potty training.

But she could not accept the job. After weeks of searching, Ms. Freeman, who is African-American, still could not find a nanny for her son, 5, and daughter, 3. Agency after agency told her they had no one to send to her South Side home.

Sorry – this is not "years" – she’s just started!  3 & 5?  Stay home.  Be with the kids.  Downsize your expectations of what YOU want or YOU need – YOU made the decision to have those kids….now the responsibility part kicks in….the part that started to get "kicked out" with the 60’s generation.

And yes, we did do that with our two.  We made the decision to:

  • Not have kids until we had bought a house (marriage was a given)
  • When the kids were small, TMEW stayed home (as a software engineer, I made more money) to care for the kids – THEY needed a parent more than WE needed the next "new" thing"
  • We deliberately downsized our needs so as to attend to theirs…..THEY came first.

With that said, I realize that in single parent situations, the rules change.  But I digress.. 

As more blacks move up the economic ladder, one fixture — some would say necessity — of the upper-middle-class income bracket often eludes them. Like hailing a cab in Midtown Manhattan, searching for a nanny can be an exasperating, humiliating exercise for many blacks, the kind of ordeal that makes them wonder aloud what year it is.

Hiring someone to watch your kids is NOT a fixture, NOT a need, but a WANT (and NOT a necessity)!  This is simple narcissistic philosophy at work (and I don’t care if you are green with purple dots) – YOUR WANTS should be subservient to your CHILDREN’s NEEDS.

Otherwise, you shoulda gotten a cat.

“We’ve attained whatever level society says is successful, we’re included at work, but when we need the support for our children and we can afford it, why do we get treated this way?” asked Tanisha Jackson, an African-American mother of three in a Washington suburb, who searched on and off for five years before hiring a nanny. “It’s a slap in the face.”

Boo-hoo.  This is simple "I want it and I’m mad that I cannot get it"-ness.  There is absolutely NO sympathy from me on this point.   You don’t NEED the support, you WANT it.  It doesn’t matter that you can afford it, that you are successful, or anything else.  Period.  Getting someone to watch your kids is not an entitlement.

Numerous black parents successfully employ nannies, and many sitters say they pay no regard to race. But interviews with dozens of nannies and agencies that employ them in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Houston turned up many nannies — often of African-American or Caribbean descent themselves — who avoid working for families of those backgrounds. Their reasons included accusations of low pay and extra work, fears that employers would look down at them, and suspicion that any neighborhood inhabited by blacks had to be unsafe.

Black on black racism?  Where’s Reverend Al?  Al, where’s the bullhorn? Jesse, are ya listening to this plight? Get the Rainbow Coalition in there….start those marches….start that shakedo….oh, never mind….

The result is that many black parents do not have the same child care options as their colleagues and neighbors. They must settle for illegal immigrants or non-English speakers instead of more experienced or credentialed nannies, rely on day care or scale back their professional aspirations to spend more time at home.

You cannot force people to work at a given place or for a given person (at least for long).  

I love that use of the word "settle" – So these parents are willing to "settle" for something far less than optimal for their kids?  Are they, and this NYT reporter realizing what they are saying?

Yup – the kids do not come first.  Nor second or maybe not even third if they are willing to "settle" on something less than ideal.  And break the law doing it (re: illegal immigrants). 

Bingo – yes, scale back your professional aspirations! 

“Very rarely will an African-American woman work for an African-American boss,” said Pat Cascio, the owner of Morningside Nannies in Houston and the president of the International Nanny Association.

Many of the African-American nannies who make up 40 percent of her work force fear that people of their own color will be “uppity and demanding,” said Ms. Cascio, who is white. After interviews, she said, those nannies “will call us and say, ‘Why didn’t you tell me’ ” the family is black?

"Uppity" knows no racial barrier as far as I know…..I know a whole bunch of white folks I wouldn’t want to work for either!

Agencies represent only a small slice of nannies; most work through informal arrangements, further out of reach of civil rights and labor laws. (Because so many nannies are illegal, no one can say with certainty how many work in this country, let alone work for black families.)

Great, just great…let’s let our children be taken care of by lawbreakers….. 

In visits, telephone calls and e-mail exchanges across the country, nannies of all colors spoke of parents in sweeping ethnic generalizations: the Jews this, the Indians that. Viola Waszkiewicz, a white sitter in Chicago, has cared for black children, but explained that many fellow Eastern European nannies would not.

“We come here, and we watch TV and the news, and all we see is black people who got hurt, got murdered,” she said. Most of the nannies she knows “think all black people are bad,” she said. “They’re afraid to go to black neighborhoods.”

Ah yes, blame it on the media!  Boy, doesn’t this give a lie to the media folks that are constantly just saying that the media only reflects society and does not mold it?????


One sitter, a Caribbean woman living in Bedford-Stuyvesant, asked about the “colored” people in the Boones’ neighborhood, Clinton Hill. A Russian sitter said enthusiastically that although she had never cared for a black child, she could in this case, because little Emerie Boone, now 7 months old, was light-skinned. All sitters expressed surprise that a black couple could afford a four-story brownstone.

“There were points where I got so frustrated that I picked up my child and I said, ‘Tomasina will show you out,’ ” said Mr. Boone, who is African-American and serves on the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The Boones now use day care. It is inconvenient — the center closes at 6, often forcing Mr. Boone to race to Brooklyn and then back to his Midtown office. But “there is no way we’re doing the whole nanny thing again,” said Ms. Boone, who is African-American and Puerto Rican.

Mr. Boone said, “To have someone refer to other black people as ‘colored,’ what does that teach your child about race?”

This is more than amusing.  This guy is upset that a Caribbean woman used the word "colored" to a black man, when he works for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People?  Hey Dude, get a clue!  If you work for an organization that uses that word, deal with it!

I’ll be politically incorrect here: how many adjectives / nouns can you remember having been used in the past (and I don’t mean the REAL derogatory ones!).  I can remember colored, black, Afro-American, and Negro.  I bet there are more.

My point is that the language keeps shifting…I certainly am not going to stay at the top of the PC  rumor mill to figure out which word is OK and which is not at any given time.  I will try my best to use what ever seems to be current, but if I get it wrong…..sorry!  I’m just not that hip, I guess…. 

Like Ms. Freeman in Chicago and Ms. Jackson in Maryland, the Boones worry that nanny troubles could limit their professional advancement.

Oh, it IS all about you then, isn’t it!  My needs come first, what I want comes first….. 

In earlier generations, Ms. Jackson said, “We were the nannies.” Now, blacks “want to have it all,” working and raising children. “But to have it all you need help,” she said.

TANSTAFFL – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.  Life is full of trade offs – very, very, very few people can actually have it all, and even then, there is a prioritization that has to be done.  The cold, stark truth to this story is that, for the most part, you cannot have it all.  Life in general doesn’t work that way for the vast majority of us.

Don’t make your kids suffer for it.  A Nanny, even a good one, will NEVER love your kids more than you. And if you do get a great one, you may find out that your kids may love them more than you – I have seen it happen

And that means qualified help. “How can you do a background check when someone doesn’t have a driver’s license?” Ms. Jackson said. “I’m not going to take this nanny just because she’s the only one I can get.”

In an exception to the usual stroller parade of black sitters with white children, some white nannies do care for black children — and experience slights because of it. Margaret Kop, a Polish sitter in Chicago, said that on a recent playground visit, “one of the other nannies asked me, ‘Where did you find that monkey?’ ” On the way home, Ms. Kop cried, stung by the insult to the child she loved.

Some black sitters, both Caribbean and African-American, said they flat out refused to work for families of those backgrounds, accusing them of demanding more and paying less.

“It seems like our own color looks down on us and takes advantage of us,” said Pansy Scott, a Jamaican immigrant in Brooklyn, basing her conclusions on working for a single black family years ago. Ai-Jen Poo, lead organizer for Domestic Workers United, a labor group, said, “Domestic employees are at the whim of their employers,” good or bad. “If they happen to run into an employer who for whatever reason is not respecting their rights,” she said, they may draw wildly broad conclusions.

Gee, is there a real for the stereotype to exist?  When it comes to money (and good nannies are not cheap), the truth will win out. 


Ms. DaCosta is an African-American parent herself. She and her husband, who is Caribbean, have successfully employed several nannies for their three children. Still, the hiring process has been tricky. They preferred a black sitter, who would instantly understand matters like how to do their daughter’s hair. At one point, Ms. DaCosta scouted playgrounds, so she could spy on nannies’ skin color as well as behavior; another time, she placed a race-neutral ad, and hid by the window as the prospective nannies drove up, sighing with relief when a black one appeared.

Now, let me get this straight – it is illegal to discriminate in housing, rentals, jobs, et al.  Um, what are we seeing here?  Is not what is good for the gander good for the goose as well?  Why should there be a double standard here? 

Ms. DaCosta and her husband now use au pairs, checking the photos on their applications and announcing their own race at the start of the phone interview. “We don’t want any surprises,” she said.

Racism is alive and well.

But back to the main point I wish to make….Parents, stay home with your kids…..the sacrifice is worth the result.  Your kids need you more than you will ever know.  Take it from me – the time you have with them is short, real short.  Delay your gratification – for years if necessary.  

It’s called responsibility – the biggest one that you will ever have, or love.