April 18, 2007
Six-year-old Sahil Shenai's well-being and daily routine are completely entrusted to the care of a nanny. He attends school, plays at home with his toys and naps in his own bed under her supervision, while his parents head to their respective offices every day.
Many parents, like Sahil's, prefer to hire a domestic maid or nanny who cares for their child at home to a neighbourhood cr�che or daycare centre. Santosh Shenai, Sahil's father, is a journalist. He explains why he and his wife hired a nanny for their son when he was just three years old. "We had a creche in the same building, so it was the obvious choice. But, after a few days at the creche and we realised that our son was having problems adjusting to the routine followed there," he said.
Childcare tips for working parents
The advantages of hiring a nanny
So just what are the benefits to be had from hiring a nanny?
- Individualised attention: The main advantage of hiring a nanny is the undivided attention a child receives through the day. Santosh says Sahil's emotional needs are catered, and he is well looked after.
- Security: Hiring a nanny means a child is looked after in the safety of his own home. The familiar home environment brings him assurance, and his parents are also assured of his safety. Amruta Bokil, a psychologist working with children in Pune, adds that the little ones usually enjoy the flexible routine, home-cooked food and other such perks.
- Convenience: Parents prefer to have a flexible routine that meets the needs of their children, instead of fixed schedules that creches and daycare centres usually follow. Manaya Sen, 27, a BPO employee in Bangalore and mother to three-year-old Manav, says, "Since I work in shifts, it becomes flexible and convenient for my maid to accommodate my timings, instead of a creche."
Here are some of the disadvantages involved when you decide to entrust your child to a nanny's care:
- Hired help in India usually come from the lower strata of the society, where education, personal hygiene, culture and personal habits differ. This is a major disadvantage, as a nanny from such a background may not reprimand a child indulging in unhealthy habits, and may even encourage them. In Western countries, in contrast, a nanny is usually a professional, trained to look after a child.
- Leaving your bundle of joy in the care of a stranger can be quite a daunting prospect for most parents. "Reports of child abuse, emotional and physical exploitation are frightening," says Nedhi Khanna, mother of two-year-old Tanvi. Nedhi wants to get back to work now that Tanvi is growing up, but cannot bring herself to entrust her daughter's care to a stranger. "Since there is no one to supervise the nanny at home, the possibility of exploitation is more," she says.
- In-home care is the most expensive form of childcare. Moreover, it is necessary to have backup arrangements in event of the nanny falling ill, taking leave, etc.
- In-home care can be isolating for both a child and the caregiver. They may miss interaction with other playmates and adults respectively. Santosh says a child may not learn how to share his toys/ parents' attention or how to socialise, as the child is used to being on his own.
- Employing a caregiver in your own home may have an impact on your privacy, especially if you have a live-in nanny.
Working moms choose the right creche
What you need to keep in mind
When hiring help to care for your child, it is important to keep the following points in mind:
- Preferably opt for someone you are familiar with, and who has had experience caring for children. "We wanted a nanny who had a child of her own, so that she knew how to handle our son, and being around him was not a novelty," says Santosh.
- Jot down your needs. Do you need someone to care exclusively for the child, or do you need help with the household chores as well? Also write down your scheduling needs.
- Western countries have agencies that specialise in placements for hired help. Such services are available in a very limited way in India. If you cannot avail of such services, at least try to get someone who comes with a recommendation or two, from friends or family.
- For the first few days, spend time together with the nanny and your child. This should give you a good idea of the nanny's behaviour and capabilities, and will help the child accept the stranger as caregiver before you start leaving him alone under her supervision.
Ensure your child's well-being
Presented below are a few precautions to take when entrusting your child to a stranger's care:
- Keep up continuous communication with your child regarding how he spent the day. Get the child to talk -- but make it tactful, like an easy conversation, instead of grilling for information. Also drop in for a surprise visit now and again, to make sure things are running smoothly.
- Keenly observe your child's body language when he is around the nanny. If he shows signs of uneasiness, make sure to follow up on them.
- Don't be too nagging with the nanny -- learn to accept and trust her, and keep dialogue going. It is also essential that you communicate to the nanny what you expect from her. Disciplinary action, household rules and routines should be presented to her for review.
- Mothers may find it difficult to turn the daily care of their children over to someone else. And when children get attached to their nannies, it is easy to get jealous and resentful of their bond with an outsider. Never allow these feelings to affect the way you treat your nanny.