No kidding: nanny’s job is no child’s play!

By Zhang Yuning Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/19 14:28:41

Illustrations: Peter C. Espina/GT

Finding a loving and responsible person to care for children has become an almost impossible task nowadays. This is one of the most frequent complaints I hear from my friends. 

The average pay of a nanny or babysitter is sometimes higher than the salary of their employers in major cities. Reports show that the remuneration of maternity matrons, who are hired by families with newborns to help with both the baby and the mother during the first few months after childbirth, is between 15,000 yuan ($2,181) to 20,000 yuan per month in metropolises like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. It seems to be an alluring money-making opportunity. Then why can't enough caregivers be found? 

A survey among household service workers conducted in Tianjin came up with various reasons. Of the respondents, 95.3 percent feel inferior serving as maternity matrons and think it is nothing to be proud of. 

The survey found that most caregivers chose the work simply because either they want to make a living or they lack other skills. In other words, most caregivers in China choose the job for practical reasons, rather than for their passion for work, personal interest or career growth. That's why it is not so tempting as a career and people in the profession can hardly keep their job for a long time. 

Their lack of self-confidence stems from education or the lack of it, which varies from those who attended elementary school to those with a bachelor's degree, but a majority only have a high school diploma. Yet the high demand may be a more crucial factor. 

The denouement of a friend looking for a babysitter is worth the mention. "My mom has fired four babysitters so far and she believes that it is impossible to find a perfect person to take care of my baby." 

Still, she insists on hiring one because her mom no longer has the energy to take care of the impetuous kid and my friend does not want to be a full-time mother. In her opinion, compromises must be made - hiring a stranger and trusting her to look after the baby. However, trust cannot be earned easily, especially for her mom, who keeps repeating that her granddaughter is her most precious treasure and no one must ever be careless in dealing with her. 

The grandma's mind-set mirrors most Chinese clients' attitude - they expect the caregivers to be extra careful, more vigilant against potential danger, more thoughtful than their employers, pay more attention to hygiene and have a strong heart to accept every single request - reasonable or unreasonable - they have. And it is even better if their nannies can come close to being Maria from The Sound of Music. As a result, many caregivers cannot help but feel nervous and a bit inferior in clients' homes.

Indeed there are extreme cases like that of the notorious Hangzhou nanny who set her employer's house on fire, killing a mother and her three children in 2017. Such news definitely scares parents or grandparents, but people should understand that there are many good caregivers. 

More importantly, overly high expectations are no solution. Looking after children, dressing them, washing them, playing with them and taking them to school are enough to make one busy as a bee. If a client still wants the caregiver to clean the house, do the laundry, wash the dishes, teach toddlers some songs or poems, be as much careful as she could and make no mistake at all, that is demanding. 

Those who think no special skills or training is needed to take care of children all day must have not spent 24 hours with a two-year-old. Because if they have, they'll know it is a job that requires skills, energy, patience, safety awareness and a pervasive sense of responsibility. It is never an easy job. Quite a few working moms I know share the view - working in the office is much easier than spending time with their bawling little ones. 

It is time to be less demanding of nannies. We should try to make them feel important about their work, trust their judgment and respect them as professionals. If they make mistakes, we should try to be understanding. Everyone makes mistakes after all.

The author is an engineer based in Beijing.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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