I am constantly meeting and interviewing Nannies. It’s a favorite part of what I do, in no small measure because I too was a Nanny, for many years. So just the other day, I’m interviewing a Nanny who, after ten years with her current family, is leaving. When I asked why, she replied, “Well, the kids are older now, and they’re self-sufficient, which is nice.” We discussed those ten years she spent with the family as she helped raise the children, and we got to talking, Nanny-to-Nanny, about caring for infants, and how, in just ten years, so much has changed: everything from which way the car-seat faces to how long we let a baby cry it out – even when to introduce peanuts!
Of course, we’re all well aware that there are no hard and fast rules to raising children; there’s no “instruction manual,” as the old joke goes. But doesn’t it seem like no matter which parenting styles and techniques we’ve embraced as a Mom or Dad, Nanny or Caregiver, there’s always someone, usually an expert, ready to refute it? Maybe you saw it on your favorite website, or on Oprah, or on Oprah’s favorite website. There are always going to be new studies with new data and new guidelines. Remember those “studies” that linked MMR vaccines to Autism? Or, did you know that, only fifty years ago, well-respected pediatricians instructed parents to actually “sun” their babies, believing that it was healthy! Today, we know that a severe sunburn is not only unhealthy and dangerous – it can also be considered neglectful.
If you’re anything like me, what’s most frustrating is that we won’t ever know it all. No matter how many years you’ve worked, no matter how many kids you’ve raised, no matter how many articles you’ve read or workshops you’ve taken – no one knows it all, not even Dr. Spock, and certainly not your chatty neighbor with the 8 “perfect” grandkids. Childcare is not finite and unchanging. Just as children are always – always – growing, changing, and evolving – so too is childcare; it changes and evolves, much like our children. And, lest we think it’s only the children who are growing, changing, and evolving – we do too. We also grow, change, and evolve; we do it with our children, we do it because of our children – and most of all, we do it for our children.
No one ever claimed raising a child was easy. But whether we’re that child’s Mom or Dad or Nanny, one thing is certain: as their caregivers, we need to trust our instincts. We need to read and study, to ask and listen, to try and try again.