Let's treat our nannies well; they are human too

When you hire a good nanny, your life and that of your children thrive.

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How we treat our domestic help greatly determines if they will return the favour. And in the times we are living in, where it is difficult to trust someone with our young ones, and our spaces in general, how we treat our house helps could determine how they treat us back.

Getting good domestic help is hard. In some cases, even if you are using domestic help agencies, the nanny you get might work for just a few months and leave, seemingly having gotten the pay they wanted, while others could be inept in her chores. 

Yet, for working people with young children, house helps are important in their households.

When you hire a good nanny, your life and that of your children thrive. 

As a parent, I do many things. I work, I cook, I clean, I dote, and I worry and discipline a person who is shorter and younger than I am. Most mothers will agree with me that it is hard to be pregnant, hormonal, and terrified of becoming a mother. It could be even harder to say goodbye to a small baby and leave them in the hands of another person.

I was in the hospital a while ago with my son for a check-up. And while we were at the waiting bay, I couldn’t help but notice a woman holding her baby and another young woman next to her who I assumed was the nanny.

I was taken aback when the woman shouted “nilikwambia ueke uji ya mtoto kwa bag kwani huwezi tumia common sense, lazima ukumbushwe kila kitu?” (I told you to pack the baby’s porridge. Can’t you use your common sense, or must you be reminded everything?). The whole time, the nanny was just saying “pole mum”.

Everyone was quiet in the waiting bay as the nanny struggled to fight back her tears. She fumbled through her bag as if the porridge would miraculously appear.

The mother moved to the bench I was sitting on and she picked a conversation with me.

“I recently installed surveillance cameras covering every room in my house, so that I could watch what she does throughout the day. The only thing she does best is to watch TV," she told me. “I have made sure she knows about them, so she's aware I am watching her. I even want her to leave; I know I will get another nanny from our village in an instant.”

I didn’t know what to answer. Thank heavens I did not have to, as just then she was called in to see the physician. As she went into the room and the nanny followed her in, my mind was filled with many thoughts…

Do we give our nannies reasonable working hours? Do they get enough sleep, and enough food to give them the energy need to handle a demanding child? Do we appreciate them for their work, giving them a reason to love and care for a baby in a manner a mother would deem appropriate? Do we treat them with kindness?

I also questioned the societal misconception of house helps and the thinking that it is really easy to replace them whenever they err. Yet, we are all human beings and we all make mistakes.

If we do not give them enough food, what will prevent them from eating your child’s food? If you do not care for her needs, what will make her be attentive to your baby's needs? If you emotionally abuse your help, what will prevent her from using the power of words to tear your child's self-esteem to shreds – without you ever finding out?

Threats and mistreatment are not the answer; treat your nanny well and she will return the favour. If not for the nanny, then at least for the defenceless baby who is left under the nanny’s care.