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It Takes a Village (of Nanny Tattlers)

It Takes a Village (of Nanny Tattlers)

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I suspect that this is probably not so much of a problem as I am making it in my head, but it’s been really bugging me and as a level-headed fellow mother of boys I’m hoping you might be able to send some of your wisdom my way!

Here’s the deal; I have two boys, aged 6 and just-turned 2. During the day the youngest is with a babysitter, who also picks up the eldest from school and watches them both until dinner time when we get home. She also watches the two of them during school holidays, sick days, random weather days, etc. They both adore her. She is always ready to kick a ball around, climb a tree, go on treasure hunt, etc. She has my two-year-old recognizing letters already, taught my terrified-of-water six-year-old to swim (I still don’t know how she did that but he LOVES to swim now), and has found a ton of great community activities for both to get involved in, most of which we didn’t even know existed.

As far as the kids, my husband and I are concerned she is wonderful. I’ve had some comments from other moms, though. Moms who I suspect don’t entirely approve of our two-working-parents dynamic (I work four-days a week, mostly by choice although we would be on a tight budget if I quit entirely). One mother has told me in a very concerned voice that she saw our babysitter reading at the park while youngest was playing. Another has reported back that she saw babysitter take youngest to McDonalds (which, incidentally, that mom was obviously there with her own child when she saw this!). Other comments have included that youngest calls babysitter ‘Mama’ and that she lets both kids do things they are too young for (going down the big slide at the park, sledding down the steep hill, etc.).

The thing is, none of this bothers me. Babysitter does occasionally take youngest to McDonalds, but she cleared it with us (it’s for the play area as it’s our town’s only indoor play option). I don’t mind if she reads at the park as long as she keeps a good eye on my son, which she always has. In my opinion, it is good for him to do a little independent play since he gets so much one-on-one adult attention. (I suspect this opinion is not shared by the mom who ‘reported’ this to me). Ditto the big slide and steep hill sledding and other activities that stretch their limits a little. I believe kids should get a few scrapes and bruises, as long as she is not forcing them to try things they don’t want to (and there’s no indication she ever has) then I’m for a little adventure. 

(The Mama thing is admittedly a bit odd, but he has never called me Mama and he seems to have decided it is a general term of endearment for things he loves as he also calls various beloved stuffed animals Mama.)

So, what do I say to these women? They attend a lot of the same playgroups, toddler gyms, music classes, etc. that my babysitter takes our boys too and I don’t want to make things awkward or risk them not letting their kids play with my kids. But I also don’t want to make it seem like I agree with them that babysitter has done something wrong. Do I just keep smiling and patiently explaining that we like our babysitter? Do I tell them to mind their own business? Ack, I hate confrontation and awkwardness!

Thanks for any advice!

Ugh! Busybodies. I seriously cannot imagine tattling on someone’s nanny about such innocuous, low-level “concerns.” Let the woman do her job, people.

We used a part-time nanny for a couple years when the boys were littler, and I had one neighbor who liked to talk about her with me. And she said all good things! So much praise! Which was great! But it was still a funny thing, I thought — she was clearly watching our sitter and felt like she was doing me a favor by reporting that yes, yes, she was doing a good job. Don’t worry. All is well. I’M ON THE CASE, AMY.

I wouldn’t give this too much more thought, honestly. These moms are just not Your People, and that’s cool. They sound pretty helicopter-y, and you aren’t, so chalk this up to a difference of parenting styles and try not to read too much more into it. Maybe they are jealous or disapproving or just plain bored, or maybe they do think they are doing you a solid by “keeping an eye on that babysitter” for you. You would want to know if someone spotted your nanny doing something genuinely reckless or neglectful, but clearly these moms’ standards for what counts as reportable behavior does not jibe with your own. Bleh, whatever. Judge away, ladies. I have CONFIDENCE in my childcare choices! (Z-snaps! Freezeframe jump!)

But really, just smile and keep it short and sweet. Yep, she cleared the McDonald’s trip with us. Yep, our boys are quite adventurous at the playground. Yep, he calls his stuffed animals “Mama” too, isn’t that cute? Yep, we love and trust our babysitter, and I usually sit and play Candy Crush on that same bench, HA. Then change the subject and ask them a question about themselves and/or their kid(s).

If any one of them gets especially concern-trolly about some complete non-issue, feel free to just laugh and tell her flat-out that you don’t care about things like that, sorry. Different parenting strokes, man. Maybe she’ll get a little huffy, but I bet her only retaliation against you will be Well I’m Just Not Going To Tell Her About The Things Her Sitter Is Doing Wrong Anymore. And We’ll See How She Likes That, HMPPH!

On the bright side, at least you don’t have to worry that any of these women are going to poach your nanny.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • MR

    July 2, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    lol This sounds like me and our nanny. If someone had told me worriedly that they saw her take my kid to McDonald’s I would have replied pretty much like Amy said, “Yep, I know.” I did have someone comment about her taking the kids to Target, but it wasn’t stated like an outright concern, just a casual, “I ran into her and the kids at Target”, but said in a way that they weren’t sure I was ok with her taking them there. I just casually replied, “Oh yeah, she runs errands for me all the time, and I don’t have a problem with her swinging by for stuff for herself either, since it is the same type of thing I would do if I was with them.” We were also pretty big believers in letting our kids try things independently without hovering (unless necessary). And both my kids also occasionally called our nanny mommy, just like they occasionally called me by her name. I didn’t take it personally, and took it as a sign that they were well loved by her, which is what I was looking for. And that is what I told people when they asked about it – that, since I couldn’t be there, I wanted to find the next best thing – it was my goal to find a provider who would love them like I would, and we were so incredibly lucky to have found her. She is like family, and I made no apologies over that. She moved away a year ago when her husband got transferred. We still miss her terribly and keep in touch. She truly was my girls’ second mom. Basically – make it clear that your kids are incredibly happy, and you are incredibly happy with her, and then don’t worry about it. If they are being THAT judgmental, then you don’t really want to be that good of friends with them anyway.

  • Lindsay

    July 2, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Have you asked your nanny if these other mothers have said anything to her face when they run into her out and about? I can’t imagine anyone actually doing this, but these women sound pretty judgmental, and it would be a shame if they said something to your nanny to make her feel like she’s not doing a good job. I’d be concerned about making sure the nanny knows how much you value her, despite what the Stepford Moms might say. And, by the way, you have FAR much more patience and social grace than I do, because I probably would have told one of these women by now exactly what they can do with their snarky ‘concern’ :O You’re a good mom to set your children up with such a great person to provide care while you’re working. 

  • Melanie

    July 2, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    I babysit two girls a couple days a week and one of them calls me mommy a lot. I try to correct her just because I know it would break her mom’s heart but she’s two and she just forgets. She knows my name and that I’m not really her mom so it’s not really a big deal. I wouldn’t worry about that part. Also these other moms seem annoying! Great advice Amy. 

  • Molly

    July 3, 2014 at 12:37 am

    I am a k-2 teacher, and a minimum of 50% of my class calls me Mommy on the regular. It’s not a thing at all — they’re just happy and excited and associate feeling that happy with being with you, so they accidentally call whoever they ‘re with by your name. Unless someone is encouraging your kid to call them something strange, it’s tooootally developmentally appropriate and means nothing at all about mommy confusion!

  • Caroline

    July 3, 2014 at 5:44 am

    I’m like you – but I have 3 boys – and really do try and take a laidback approach to general life. Your babysitter sounds lovely and normal and as though she’s a huge benefit to your children’s lives and development. Depending on what people say, I’d just counter with ”yes and….” and look really expectant like, surely, there must be a big thing they’re leading up to, right? So… she was at McDonalds and… and… AND…?? Oh. Well, was she doing the same thing you were doing there or something different? Either that or flat out say that unless there’s something actively dangerous going on – reading a book does not count – in which case they are to do what they would do to any other caregiver in the same situation, and that is to intervene directly in preventing your child from drowning or jumping into an open fire or whatever, but otherwise, please, you love your nanny, she does a good job and everyone is happy… well, them maybe not so much because they don’t have an exciting job and a great nanny AND a day each week with their kids, so maybe their a teensy bit bored and gossipy, but you, you’re fine!

  • Kaycee in Texas

    July 3, 2014 at 8:41 am

    One more suggestion on the McDonald’s comment, how about responding with something like, “Yeah, isn’t their indoor play area great!” 😉

  • M

    July 3, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    “Oh yeah, I do the same thing, haha” re: the playground reading and the McD’s trips. That should give the message that you’re aware and comfortable with it, and that no further discussion is needed. Maybe she’ll think you’re reckless but as Amy says, likely only result is “I won’t tell her anymore, HMPH.” Our daughter is in daycare so I don’t get these comments, but I certainly behave this way myself on weekends and don’t see any problem with it at all. I think it’s better for my daughter to have alone time sometimes. Just a small example, but I used to discourage her from climbing up into one of the high barstool-type chairs we have at our kitchen island because I was worried she would fall. One day she just did it while I had my back turned and now I know, wow, she’s a pretty good (yet careful, thank goodness – still makes me nervous!) climber. Same for on the playground – have at it, holler if you need help.

  • Mona

    July 3, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Wow! It sounds like you have a fabulous nanny who is helping you raise independent and well adjusted kids. And some others (friends? Neighbors?) who have some sort of parenting POINT to make / axe to grind. I wouldn’t say a thing to your nanny- she shouldn’t be made to feel awkward. But I would make a point of responding to comments with a quick shut down “yep, isn’t she the BEST?!” Any comments beyond that make it clear the commenter is really trying to make a dig at you directly (in a special, non direct, passive aggressive way!). No one needs that! Sounds like both you and nanny have this child raising business on lockdown.

  • amy

    July 4, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    I don’t have kids, but I was a nanny years ago and see lots of them in action now that I’m a children’s librarian. Your nanny sounds excellent. In fact, she sounds a lot like a young woman I poached a few years ago to work at the library.

    Your “concerned” moms sound like dicks. The nannies they should be concerned about (and the ones I’ve called moms about) are the ones who sit and mess around with their phones while babies wander into the parking lot by themselves.

    But having solved all actual problems, they can’t resist sticking an oar in about McDonalds visits.

    Everyone’s advice is right on.

  • Ann

    July 5, 2014 at 3:47 am

    Sometimes when my toddler is upset and I’m holding her she wails “I want Mama” it’s pretty funny. Kids are weird