Looking for the 'perfect' nanny: Experience or up-to-date 'expertise?'

A nanny's years of experience raising children wasn't enough for one mother looking for the 'perfect' childminder. Have babies changed so much in the last few years that child-care providers need the most 'up-to-date' expertise?

Matthew Cole/The Annapolis Capital/AP
One mother wants the "perfect" nanny to have the most up-to-date expertise on babies. Has caring for children changed drastically in the last few years? In May, nanny Becky Katafiasz and twins Barrett and Alyssa Moretzon, 2, attended story time with Chesapeake Children's Museum founder Debbie Wood in Annapolis, Md.

Our  beloved nanny who worked for us for five years – Joan – recently called to say she’s on the job market again. She’s been working for the family after ours for the past decade, and they’re helping out in her job search, of course, but could we help, too?

With pleasure! I put a notice on a local parenting website: “Our extremely kind, smart, warm, funny, organized nanny seeks new full-time job.” I got a call from a woman who had been tasked by her pregnant daughter-in-law to help out in the nanny search.

Great! I told her how I’d met Joan when I was home on maternity leave and hanging out at the same playground where she took the kids she was babysitting at the time. We became friendly, and I dearly wished she could be my kids’ nanny – that’s how much I liked her. Then, lo and behold, the family she was working for moved away, just as I was getting ready to go back to work. Such serendipity! Joan came to work for us, and I got to be a happy, non-stressed mom going back to my job, because I felt my kids were in such capable hands.

The lady on the phone was listening to all this but finally interrupted: “So you say she hasn’t worked for you for 10 years?”

That’s right.

“Well, then she hasn’t worked with a baby in that long?”

No, I explained. The “new” family she went to work for eventually had three kids. The youngest is 4 or 5, so she worked with a baby about three or four years ago.

“I’m sorry,” said the caller. “This isn’t going to work. My daughter-in-law wants me to find someone with recent baby experience.”

“Well, four years is kind of recent, isn’t it?” I swallowed and tried not to let my voice go shrill. “I guess I should have mentioned that Joan didn’t only help raise my kids, she’s raised four of her own. The youngest is in college now. So it’s not as if babies are something new to–”

The woman apologized again: “I see what you’re saying. Believe me, I understand. But my daughter-in-law made me promise to find someone who is up on the latest baby information. You know, so much has changed in just the past few years. She wants a person who’s up-to-date on all the new things. This is such a crucial time for the baby’s development.”

New things?

If there’s a spanking new version of the Diaper Genie or the car seat (and I’ll bet there is), I’m sure Joan could master it. But is there really a “new” way to raise a baby? Has human evolution taken a sharp turn in the past 36 months? Do nannies and parents really have to be up on the latest studies, products, programs, manias and mantras to do their job “right"? Does that mean anyone who raised her kids before 2012 did it wrong?

The grandma couldn’t hold out anymore. “I completely agree! But there’s no way I can tell her this. I promised I’d look for someone with recent baby experience, and I have to shut my mouth.”

That I understood. It is hard for anyone (especially a mother-in-law) to tell a new parent anything that isn’t in the latest book or magazine. And it is hard for a parenting magazine not to endorse all the new products and programs that grace (and pay for) its pages. And it’s hard for the media not to flog some new, surprising study as the most important stop-whatever-you-were-doing-before thing to do for your kids.

But the latest, greatest thing to do for your kids is also the oldest and boldest: Trust yourself; trust your kid. Babies do not need everything to be perfect. And besides, whatever is “perfect” today may be denounced tomorrow. (Remember when we were supposed to use trans fat-filled margarine instead of butter?)

Thank goodness that our kids are far more resilient – and brilliant – than pop culture tells us they are. Believe it or not, they don’t even need a black-white-and-red heartbeat-playing mobile above the non-drop-side crib.

The grandma apologized again, and we said our goodbyes. Off she went to find the “perfect” nanny. And even though that means Joan is back on the market, it also means she dodged a bully. Er, bullet.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Lenore Skenazy blogs at Free-Range Kids.

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