Care and Feeding

Our Otherwise Excellent Nanny Does One Thing That Really Worries Me

I don’t know how or even whether to address this.

Photo of a woman sitting next to two toddlers, playing with one of them.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My 2-year-old daughter is in a nanny share with a 2-year-old boy. Our nanny is excellent, and I have zero concerns about all my daughter’s basic needs in her care. But, it has become obvious to my wife and me that our nanny has a favorite, and it’s not our daughter. I don’t know how or whether to address this. We have noticed the nanny saying, “I love you” to the boy more than our daughter, giving him more cuddles, engaging him in conversation more, and subtly being a bit more enthusiastic with him.

On the one hand, I know that people just have personality preferences. The boy is very physically and verbally affectionate, and he is speaking well above a 2-year-old level. My daughter is very independent, much less of a talker (although perfectly normal for a 2-year-old), and is indifferent to most verbal and physical affection, except in the contexts she likes. They have very different personalities.

Also, the nanny share is at our home, so my wife and I can pop in throughout the day and hug, comfort, or engage with our daughter. Maybe our nanny gives him a little more to compensate?  Maybe she has a preference for boys, or feels closer to him because he is of the same race as her? Whatever it is, I just don’t know if it is harmful for our daughter. The nanny is very affectionate with my daughter, she’s just a little more affectionate with the boy. The difference in treatment is not tangible—snacks, rules, care—are all split equally between the two kids. And my daughter is only 2—does she even notice or care? What would you do?

—Is Favorites a Bad Thing?

Dear Is Favorites a Bad Thing?,

It can feel a bit like a slight when our children aren’t the obvious favorite child of the other adults in their life. But no, a nanny favoring one child over another isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We can’t control how much any adult likes our children. We can only try to ensure that the adults we trust to care for them will do so as competently as possible.

The last paragraph of your letter provides a few answers to your questions. The nanny is affectionate with your daughter. She provides her equal care, and there’s no tangible difference in how she performs the duties of her job with your daughter and the other child in her care. Your daughter is only 2. Given how well she’s being treated by the nanny, as well as by you and your wife, who are in and out of the room, doting on her throughout the day, it’s highly unlikely she’s able to discern any difference. The nanny’s perceived preference for the other boy isn’t impeding her ability to do her job. And it isn’t causing your daughter harm.

You’ve asked what I would do. I think I’d just be grateful to have what sounds like a pretty efficient and capable nanny.

—Stacia

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