The XX Factor

Something About the Word “Nanny”

New Yorkers use nannies in far greater numbers than most of the country, for lots of reasons. More money, maybe. More duel-income couples, fewer day care facilities, and a higher percentage of jobs with erratic hours and plenty of travel (things that apply in other intense nanny-use cities like San Francisco and L.A., too). Those nannies-who actually have a union -have lobbied for protections like mandated sick days, contracts, and notice or termination pay. Pending legislation may provide some of that in New York State.

The Wall Street Journal asked readers if requiring that parents pay a nanny who works more than 40 hours a week overtime or mandating regular days off asked too much of already overburdened working parents. Commenters responded, some following a predictable WSJ free-market line and others supporting the possible law-but much of the commentary descended into an argument about whether anyone should need a nanny at all, rather than putting together some sort of babysitting exchange, a family arrangement, or using day care. Why does the word “nanny” raise our collective hackles so much?

Screenshot of Mary Poppins courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.