Good to be here again and thank you to all who have been following and reading my columns. I was going over some articles I had written about two years ago and it shocked me because they are all so relevant now. So, I have decided to share it with you.
They are like men: can’t live with them and can’t live without them. Has it not amazed you how all of a sudden nannies have become essential commodities in our lives? Nowadays, even with housemaids almost every home in the country with kids has nannies. Even housewives go all out to look for these female that have become substitute mothers. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to talk about such a sensitive issue but with the things that are happening around, it is becoming so alarming that there is a need to look into it.
I have often wondered when this whole nanny craze started and whether our mothers and grandmothers employed these people. It just seemed like the whole thing started when the “Career Woman” mentality began in full force, but later I began to feel that it was as a result of the decline in the economy.
I know that there was a time when the man of the house would go to work and provide for his family and all the woman had to do was stay home and look after the children, but after the economy suffered a decline and the problems of maintaining a standard of living surfaced, men started encouraging their wives to work so they could both make enough and jointly provide for the children. When this happened, it gave rise to the employment of both young and elderly women who would take care of the children. This is not the case with everyone though.
Anyway, I just wanted to share some things with you concerning this nanny issue. It is important to have someone to stay with your kid(s) while you are away, especially if they are young and need attention but my own worry about the whole thing is that a lot of us are not careful enough in choosing the right kind of nannies. I remember that some time ago, women used to get them through their parents from villages, but all of a sudden it became a lucrative business where we now have people who call themselves ‘agents’ for ‘domestic staff’. If you have noticed, most of these agents hardly have offices or contact addresses, just a phone number. So, how are you able to track them down in case you can’t reach them on phone.
I got talking to one of these agents and started asking some questions and I was shocked at her response. First question I asked was:
1) These nannies that you send to people’s homes, do you ever go to their homes and talk to their people, to really know the kind of people they are?
Her response: “Ah, they are too many of them now! How can they be going to their villages and houses one by one to investigate? Do you know how long that will take? Who will pay for all the movement?”
2) So how do you know the kind of women you are sending to people’s homes?
Her response: “We just interview them and pray that they are good girls.”
3) What if they turn out to be thieves or do something harmful to the children and escape, what happens?
Her response: “Most of the time they come to arrest us but then this is Nigeria we have a way of bailing ourselves out.”
I would have asked more questions but at that point I knew that if I had continued, I would probably have been so furious that I may even become rude because she responded like “these things happen all the time, why are you looking and acting surprised”?
I’m talking about this now as a result of some incidents that happened on the Island some weeks back.
A 34-year-old woman lost two of her children to HIV because the nanny spent all her salary buying recharge card for her driver boyfriend, and could not afford to replace her worn-out tooth brush. So, she decided to share the children’s tooth brush and to worsen it, she would make the children do the brushing for her in form of a game “who can brush aunty Sumbo’s teeth better”? The nanny had Gingivitis and did not know what it was, so did not complain and it was left untreated.
It was reported in the papers that the son of a local government chairman was infected with a sexually transmitted disease by his nanny, though he was only 12 years old.
Another woman who lives in Ajah attended an event where I performed and was lamenting to her friends how the driver and the nanny would go and pick the kids from school, but instead of taking them home they would drive to a “short time” hotel, leave the children at the reception for two hours while they take a room and “arrange themselves” if you know what I mean, not caring what could happen to these kids in those two hours.
Or is it the ones that go into homes with a mission to steal your husbands, sometimes actually using diabolic means. But the truth is, even with all these, we still need them in our homes. Some people might not agree, especially the men but that is an argument for another day.
Before I forget, my sister attended a church where she heard that some children had died due to the carelessness of domestic staff and there was a woman there who started distributing some fliers. When my sister brought it home I found some interesting information in there that I want to share, it reads:
Beloved parents, I know we love our children and want what is best for them, but does our lifestyle truly support what is best for them? Or do we expose them to physical, emotional, spiritual and social risk?
Ensure that care givers (nannies) we leave them with are safe and carry out our instructions for our children to the letter? It does not matter if they are relatives or not? Please read The Guardian of Thursday Feb 21, 2008 on Sexual Abuses being suffered by children through care givers.
Ensure that young children (male or female) are accompanied by responsible adults when they are being taken to school by the driver?
Familiarise ourselves with TV programmes; internet sites and reading materials our children patronise to ensure they are wholesome and safe?
Know their friends and listen closely to their view in order to understand your children as individuals?
Teach them life principles and strategies for survival by providing answers to questions they might otherwise find wrong answers for from outsiders?
Put our family first before our careers and less important social goals or do we mortgage quality time with our spouse and children only to wonder where we went wrong if the children or our relationship with our spouse turns out wrong?
Most importantly teach our children about God our father, leading them to the foot of the cross to meet our saviour Jesus Christ so they are armed with protection from God? Choosing a nanny is one of the most important yet one of the most difficult decisions you will make as a parent. A lot of people advise that going with your gut is most effective but after speaking to loads of parents we discovered that you must follow most if not all of these tips:
As soon as they walk into the house for their first interview please look out for body language. Can they look straight into your eyes when you talk to them or do they look away? How about the way they answer your first few questions?
Please always ask about their experience, how long they have provided such services and their last place of employment. Then proceed to ask for the reason why they left. You are most likely going to hear things like my boss and his family got transfered or relocated, or my boss stopped working or was sacked and sent me back to the village because they could not afford my salary. The funniest one I have heard is, “my madam was very wicked to me and she did not like me because her husband gave me money to give my mother so she beat me up,” and so on. At this point, you need to ask for references; make sure you have contact details of a member of her family apart from that of the agent which is mandatory. Try and locate the address of both parties in case anything happens.
On that first day, ask them about their history, all they do for a living especially their number of siblings and if their parents are alive because I know of some of them whose mothers died twice and they had to go for burial.
Chat with your kids and get them to be free around you. Ask them about events of the day but make sure you do that when you are alone with the kids.
Ask your nanny to lead the prayers, at least once a week, regardless of your denomination. Guide the prayer points so he or she will follow that line.
Very importantly get an identity card for them and keep a copy with you. Prepare a document with all their particulars and have them sign it.
1) Take her to your hospital and do an HIV test, pregnancy test and test for any disease that may be serious.
2) Make sure you know at least two persons that are her relatives.
3) You need to know where she lives (family house or her base)
4) Get guarantors and confirmation from the last person she worked with.
5) You might want to take her to your place of worship for prayers.
6) I don’t think it’s advisable to let her sleep in the same room with your kids till at least after the first month.
7) Try and be responsible for her toiletries and do a routine check through her things. This might sound harsh and old fashioned but you might be shocked at what you might find.
If you have a son who is about ten and above you might want him to start doing things himself because they are normally victims of sexual abuse.
If she has no reason to enter your matrimonial bedroom then let her stay out of it
9) Short dresses, tight jeans, eyeliners, lipsticks and weave-on, these are things that you might allow unconsciously but think about this – who are they trying to impress, why is there a need for all that when their priority is to the job, which is to take care of children?
10) Do not encourage off days too frequently without knowing where exactly they would be.
11) Look out for skin discoloration and bloating.
These are not meant to scare you but just for us all to be more careful because the world is no longer what it used to be. I am not claiming this will prevent anything, but I believe it’s a step in the right direction. And trust me, the safety of our children is worth all the trouble. Good luck to you all