Dear Nanny X,
I just had a real uncomfortable talk with my neighbor who'll I admit right up front is a busy body. She's an elderly lady retired you know a Yenta. She knows everything that goes on in our building.
I don't. I work from the early morning until sometimes late at night, as does my husband. We employ a Nanny for our three children to cover school pick up, dinner and bedtime. Long long story short, my neighbor told me our Nanny yells at the boys. Now I admit they're not angels but that irks me. I mean why should she need to yell? And what else is she doing? Before you ask my kids are happy robust normal kids. They flop all over our Nanny and I've never heard a bad word from them about her. She's punctual, reliable and so far, has been satisfactory. But I got to admit now I can't shake the thought that my Nanny is bad.
I feel awful not knowing - what do you suggest?
Oi vey Amy,
every building has one. They're the eyes and ears of the world. 'Did you hear about Mr so-and-so on floor 5? His wife ran off with the doorman. Oi-oi-oi now there was a gold digger if ever I saw one.'
Yenta's sincerely believe what they're saying, that's why they're so convincing. A lot of the time though it's exaggerated small talk at best or malicious gossip at worst. The problem is that your neighbor has planted a seed of doubt in your mind. As a hard-working parent you don't want to ignore what could be a warning sign of abuse.
You might want to do a few things.
First, get all the facts, like the when, the how loud, the what was said and was there anyone else around who witnessed it or who can verify that it happens? A doorman or super would be a handy person to back up your neighbor's claim.
You didn't indicate how old your boys were but they're obviously old enough to go to school. Once you know the facts, ask your eldest child, something like: "Hey I know you guys sometimes like to clown around with (Nanny) right? Does she ever get mad at you?" If your child nods yes, ask some more questions but try not to lead him. "So what does she do?"
Trust me - if your Nanny's a yeller the kids will tell you. It'll be the first thing they'll tell you when asked. There's a slim chance that your boys are just used to it, which in of itself is not a good sign. There's also a chance that they're acting up and your Nanny feels out of control.
After you have all of the facts approach your Nanny and ask her how the boys behave generally, like are they listening to her, do they goof around. Look out for indications that she is stressed out or annoyed or emotional about their behavior. A Nanny that yells may simply have done it once out of frustration, like many an exhausted or agitated parent. She may admit it to you. She may not.
If your children do not complain about your Nanny and they seem happy to be around her. If your Nanny says that she is happy and comfortable with your boys' behavior. If no one else in your building has ever witnessed your Nanny yelling at your children, you might want to chalk it all down to a meddlesome neighbor.
But do your detective work first.
Got a childcare problem? Email me: email@example.com. Discretion assured.