Nannies

I wanted to discuss nannies a bit more as I know it must seem culturally strange to those who don’t live in countries like Nigeria, India, Indonesia etc where domestic labour is cheap and nannies are an expected part of the working household along with the driver, and the cook/housekeeper. In Nigeria you can add gateman to that list. Most compounds are built with a boys quarter (BQ) on the grounds where the staff would stay.  The term ‘boys’ comes from houseboy or housegirl which is what house help used to be called in less pc times.

Not all mothers in Lagos who can afford to have nannies do although nannies are popular.  For a start cheap still costs good money and secondly a lot of mothers simply don’t believe in having nannies looking after their kids.  Other mothers have 1 per child.  3 nannies for 2 children is not uncommon. For some its a status thing.  Many nannies are mistreated too unsurprisingly.

My fellow Brits back home certainly look down (with some envy) on the idea of house help as lazy. It’s just not considered British, never mind Mary Poppins, Downton Abbey, the obsession with class or the fact Prince Charles still has a butler to help him get dressed in the morning!

I have friends in Lagos who want to care for their children themselves, others don’t trust nannies to do a good job. Like anywhere there are horror stories.  Nannies have been great for me.  They’ve given me a bit of time back in my day from cleaning out the bath, to ironing, folding, backing, washing up  to remember who I was before I had kids.  I can write, I can go to meetings. I can get dressed in the morning (but still ain’t got time for those 3 strand twists).

There is a price – I think when you start leaving things to a nanny you do risk losing some intimacy with your kids.  I notice that the English of both boys has suffered slightly.  My 3yo  will often use broken phrases like  ‘off de light’  instead of ‘turn off the light’. But I think more benefits.  I can homeschool. I can homeschool without going insane.  I can give undivided attention to each of my kids when I need to. I can sleep – sometimes.  I don’t have to spend my time making pounded yam  or akara for the kids – Nigerian food can be labour intensive.  You know one summer in London, Big Mommy (Nigerian Great Grandma) made me make Akara, a fried snack made of crushed, peeled beens.  Two hours in, I was crying with frustration.    This should so go on my list of  ‘Things ain’t nobody got time for’!

Your nanny also becomes a support to you – someone who understands your kids and also wants them to help them grow, even part of the extended family.  She may not  – I’ve heard some stories and wouldn’t think anyone odd for not having nannies here. Self help is the best help as they say but I’ll stick with my nannies for now!

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4 thoughts on “Nannies

  1. We were in Kenya for six weeks last year–with housekeeper & cook. Tis lovely. Having said that, laundry is not handwashed at home and regular plumbing & electricity definitely require an extra set of hands.

  2. I lived abroad and mostly stayed home to raise my kids during their early years. When I returned to Nigeria and heard a few dismal nanny stories, I was glad I had the opportunity to raise them myself, tasking as it sometimes was.

    But, I got a nanny, who was like a babysitter when I went out and left the kids at home, and who took care of cleaning, etc, freeing me to do other things with my time. I like having nannies. I believe in treating them right, and mapping out a plan to further their dreams in the years to come.

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