A couple of weeks ago I came across this blog post, in which the author states that children should be raised entirely by their parents (and especially by the mother); she also condemns the practise of nannying and says it is not something Christian families should consider, or Christian young women do.
As a young, Christian woman myself, who has moreover spent the past summer as a nanny, naturally this caused me to stop and think. Are her claims correct (and more importantly, biblical?) Was I wrong to spend my summer caring for someone else's children? The issue has been bothering me ever since, but I think I've come to a conclusion, so I'm going to inflict my musings on all of you :)
First, let me say what I do agree with "Lady Lydia" about: a child's parents, if at all possible, should be its primary caregivers. I don't believe a mother should, if not financially obliged, leave her child with a nanny or at daycare all day, every day, and not spend any quality time with the child. That's not parenting. (Obviously, if a mother must work to support herself and the child, that's a different matter.)
But hiring someone to watch your child on a part-time basis? I don't see the problem in that. I'm not a mother myself so maybe I don't have enough experience to make such claims, but from my own observations, it's a whole lot easier to do the shopping by oneself, rather than with three active children in tow. If you're a gym sort of person, surely it's more comfortable to go alone. If you have the means to pay someone to help watch your children, why not? It seems little different than paying a babysitter to stay with the kids while you and your husband do out for dinner.
Lady Lydia also seems to be implying that the practise of nannying is completely a modern invention; that the historical record shows nothing but sweet pictures of mothers with their children. Which, if you examine history at all, is not so. The very poorest people, of course, did not employ nannies - but they don't know, either. The wealthy have always had nursemaids, governesses, and other servants to help look after their children, and until very recently most middle-class families would have had at least a nurserymaid as well. Certainly the medieval habit of children almost never even knowing their parents is not ideal. But again, there is a huge body of historical evidence for mothers hiring other women to help feed, clothe, care for, and discipline their children. Again, I am not saying this is the best way to do things, but certainly the idea is not a new one.
In my own experience, I watched two children (one just turned three, the other an infant) three mornings a week in their home all summer. Sometimes their mother was out running errands or working out; other times, she took the opportunity of my presence to do chores or work around the house which would be difficult with children underfoot. She was present, available for her kids, and never did it feel that my presence was undermining discipline or family rules.
One of the objections Lydia raised is that a nanny will teach your children habits, morals or even religion opposed to the family's beliefs. The solution to this seems obvious; screen and interview potential nannies carefully, ask questions; hire someone you know and trust. If rules, methods of discipline, etc. are made clear at the outset, the problem of bad habits is solved, and if one hires a nanny whose morals and beliefs are in line with one's own, there should be no issue.
This brings me to her statement that Christian young women should not be hiring themselves out as nannies. Before I address her main concern, may I say that, if one believes that children of necessity absorb the morals and religion of their nanny, then more Christians ought to be nannies?
My greatest trouble with Lydia's view, though, is the reason she gives that young women should not e nannies. She says "Young women need to marry and have children of their own, rather than desiring to become nannies. They can then be the nanny for their own children. If young women spend too much time raising other people's children, they [can] be discouraged from having their own children. Mothers need to take care of their own children, because they were created for it." This view presents so many problems to me that I hardly know where to start -- and I'm a very conservative woman myself. I'll give the main three:
1). The sole purpose of a woman is not necessarily to marry and bear children. Paul speaks of some being given the gift of singleness (1 Corinthians 7) -- presumably this is not limited just to men!
2). Even if one is intended to marry, what if one has not yet met the man God intends? (I believe this is my own case...) Why should a young woman not be a help to a mother, while learning valuable lessons about child rearing, and doing useful, paid work meanwhile?
3). It seems a huge generalization to assume that every woman who nannies will lose the desire for children of her own. I suppose if the children are wretchedly behaved this might be a deterrent -- but then what is to say that one's own kids will be likewise wretched? I myself am more eager for children after spending a summer watching "my" two grow and learn and explore.
I suppose, then, that I agree with "Lady Lydia" in her most basic point: children are better off with their own mothers as much as possible; a 24/7 nanny is probably not the best idea. But I disagree that every young woman should marry immediately and start having her own children -- again, what if she hasn't met the right man yet? -- and certainly I see nannying more as a good way to learn about child rearing than a deterrent to having children at all.
But I welcome the responses of others. As I said, I'm not a mother myself. Does that make a difference?