The XX Factor

I Can Send the Nanny to the Bake Sale? Sweet!

A child with her nanny, i.e., being totally neglected

Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

If it’s a day that ends in y, there must be a horrible and obnoxious trend in child-rearing for which we must scold parents mercilessly. (Let me check my calendar. Yup.) The latest “outrage,” courtesy of the New York Post and Lindy West at Jezebel, is that rich parents at fancy New York private schools are—quelle horreur—sending their nannies to school events in their stead.

Now, I enjoy hammering obnoxious rich people as much as the rest of the middle class. I was horrified to learn about the thriving business of renting out handicapped people to be personal FastPasses at Disney World. But sending the nanny to the bake sale? That’s inspired.

I don’t have a nanny (I have my mom), and my kids are in a (fabulous) suburban public school, not Horace Mann or the Birch Wathen Lenox School. But, aside from our widely disparate tax brackets, I can totally relate to these parents. The entire month of May for parents of school-age children is a scheduling obstacle course. There are field trips and fun days and field days (yes, those are all different things). There are carnivals and class plays and preschool graduations. Just when you’ve run through the figurative tires and climbed the wall and swung across the monkey bars—Bam! Out of nowhere comes the swinging punching bag of a late-announced class presentation or assembly to broadside you.

May is the most extreme example, at least on my family’s calendar, but the school year is filled with such events. It’s getting to be too much. I love chaperoning the preschool field trip to the zoo, and the quality time I get spending one morning in class with my kindergartener is far more memorable than the 50 emails I miss at work while I’m there. But parents—especially working parents—can’t possibly be at every event.

The Post quotes a woman named Amanda Uhry of Manhattan Private School Advisors as saying, “They’re sending nannies for bake sales, book clubs, for the ice-skating group. Parents can’t be bothered two days a year for an hour.”

Hahahahahahahah. Uhry’s own examples give lie to her claim that parents are needed “two days a year for an hour.” Bake sales? Book clubs? The ice-skating group? The article adds that paid employees are also “working fund-raisers, designing sets for school plays and taking seats at graduations and public performances.” Why are parents designing sets for school plays? Isn’t that what the art teacher does?

There are disturbing examples of parents sending in the help for entrance interviews and parent-teacher conferences. One might ask why parents can’t see a difference between an entrance interview and a bake sale. An equally good question: Why can’t the school itself see that difference?

In her Jezebel post, West extrapolates that parents who send the nanny to the occasional fundraiser are “outsourcing absolutely all parental duties” and asks, “Why bother having children if you never want to see or speak to them?” It’s almost not worth addressing, but … really? In this day and age, parents spend half their time worried that they’re underparenting (thanks Jezebel!), and half their time worried that they’re overparenting (usually in the car on the way to schlep someone to a practice or game or recital). I can’t speak for the 1 percenters who send their kids to Horace Mann, but among my parenting cohort, I can say that our evenings and weekends are pretty full to the brim with kid time. We play in the yard or go to the zoo/museum/rec center, at least when there are no baseball games/basketball games/swim meets. We get a sitter, if we’re lucky, once a month. And when those nights roll around, the kids are usually pretty excited to be rid of us. Something tells me they wouldn’t even notice if we skipped the bake sale.