The Nanny(less) Diaries

Did you grow up with a nanny?

I, for one, did not. We had our Doris who came over every day to help out with house chores while my mother was at work and my brother and I were at school. She was our maid (aka domestic helper if you want to be politically correct because… you know… South Africa) and she was, and still is, seen as a part of the family. Then there was my grandmother who would pick us up from school and take care of us while my mom was out.

Dubai is different. So, so different. And I get it. Most of us don’t have the support of grandparents or other extended family as you would back home so it is more common than not to have a nanny (or two) once you have children. Dubai being the expat country that it is, the vast majority of nannies have to obtain a visa by the sponsoring family.

Although each case is different, hiring a nanny would require the below basics;

1. A visa – this is applied for on an annual basis and costs approximately AED 10 000 (around R 38 000)
2. Monthly salary – this can range from AED 1000 to AED 5000 depending on the family and responsibilities.
3. Accommodation – a live-in nanny requires a room on the family property whereas a live-out nanny would need accommodation allowance or an external room paid for by the family.
4. Medical aid insurance – this has only recently become a  compulsory requirement in the emirate and must cover all basic medical expenses.
5. Flights home – again, depending on the family it is usually an annual return ticket to their home country with thirty days leave.
6. Extras – some families provide a car or transportation allowance, personal care and food allowance, paid overtime or take their nannies along on family vacations and overseas trips.

The second option is to hire a nanny (or also known as a babysitter) from a licensed company. This can be done on an hourly, daily, weekly or even monthly basis depending on what is required. Prices usually start at AED 30 – 45 per hour. A downside to this is that you may not always get the same nanny each time which makes it hard for you and your children to build a relationship with them.

The responsibilities of a nanny varies from only looking after the children, to cooking and cleaning the house. However, there are also families that hire people for specific purposes only such as a tutor to help the children with homework, a maid for all house chores and a driver (sometimes all four- yes, really!)

Here’s where I stand in all of this.

When Adam was born, I took maternity leave (all 45 days of it!) and found a live-in nanny as I was preparing myself to go back to work straight after. She was a lovely lady in all honesty but I found myself leaving my sleeping child at 6am to come back to my sleeping child at 9pm. On weekends, Adam would start crying and only she knew how to calm him.  I started becoming disconnected and I could feel it.

It killed me knowing that my own child was being raised by another person but at the time I felt that I had no choice. Then something happened;  a little over a month later she left back home on apparent emergency leave and never returned. I took a leap of faith and put in my resignation. I became a stay at home mom and raised Adam at home until he joined me at nursery a year later.

Since then, we have never had a nanny. It’s not that I am against parents that choose to get one, it’s that I’m against parents that don’t know how to raise their own children. Hold on, put away the pitchforks and hear me out!

A nanny should never be a replacement for a parent. Having extra hands when it’s needed most or knowing that your child is being looked after by an adult you trust while you are out or at work is fantastic but I am (personally speaking) SO against a nanny being left to basically raise the child on her own while the parent is fully capable to do so.

I’m not talking about the times you leave your children with the nanny while you shower or go to gym or even have a nap but when a child runs to the nanny first before the parent at school pick up, cue the little red flag.

It is, unfortunately, a slippery slope. Parenting becomes a convenience rather than a necessity. Of course, everyone wants the rainbows and butterflies side of it but that’s just not reality now, is it? I’m not one to judge as I believe that each to their own but if you are a parent with a nanny I have two pleas to make to you;

1. Make time often to be fully present for your little ones. Technology, work commitments and social events flood our daily lives. You may be under the impression that they are still too young to understand the difference but trust me, they are extremely aware of their environments and may know more than you think.

2. Treat your nanny as you would want to be treated. I’ve seen so many instances where  nannies are ordered, shouted at, expected to push trolleys or carry heavy bags with no help. It’s shameful and my heart goes out to these women. Remember that most of them are with your children just so that their own have a chance for a better life back home.  Even just a please and thank you goes such a long way.

More and more modern-day  women are shying away from the do-it-all supermommy stereotype which can lead to exhaustion, burn out or even depression but the polar opposite is just as dangerous where the role of the mother is scrutinized.Whether you choose to have a nanny or not, what is most important is that you are able to ask for help when needed. Try to strive for a balance that works for you and encourages a happy, healthy bond between all family  members (nanny included!).

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