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The dilemma of child-care for a working Mum

With my first baby, just arrived in UK, and adjusting to part-time work, I had the challenge of finding the right sort of care for him while I worked.

I very nearly gave up the idea of working at all, when I found it almost impossible to find the sort of person I knew my son needed, to look after him whilst I was away from him.

The first person was exuberant and took him happily, assuring me he would be happy with her. But I found that, far from him being happy, once he was with her, she found plenty to do other than making him happy! He was left to his own devices most of the time, and I found him with soiled nappies and clingily disturbed when I picked him up.

The next young woman had a child of her own, a little older than mine, which would be great, so they could play together, but when I went to pick him up earlier than usual the next day, I found that she had given her own child fruit, but had not shared any with my son.

Finally, I found a cheerful, motherly Irish lady with six children of her own, and a huge fluffy child-friendly dog who took my son into her home and heart as though he was her own, and he, and then my other children, blossomed in her care. But even that arrangement had its downsides! And sometimes very funny ones!

In UK, child-care is now regulated very carefully and, unless it is a family member, you are legally required to only take a Carer for your child who is registered with the local Council. This has other advantages, of training offered to Child Care staff, and opportunities for outings and events that your child can enjoy.

Even in UK, it is very much your individual responsibility to ensure that your child is with somebody with whom you feel comfortable. This is your child – who you are leaving ‘in loco parentis’ with someone who should act as a parent while you are not there. Of course no-one is able to give your own child what you give him or her as a Mother.

Here in UAE, the problem of child-care seems even more fraught. And I have often wondered, if I had to do it all over again, here in UAE, about how I might tackle the task of finding a suitable person to whom I can entrust the most vulnerable and precious beings in my life?

I have talked with and observed how the ‘Nanny’ fits in to many different scenarios here. Let me share a few ideas I have taken from the best – and a couple from the worst. And do feel free to share your wisdom too, about this sensitive subject.

1) People often go through Agencies, or advertise, for Nannies, or through word of mouth.

However she is introduced to you, take time to check out your potential Nanny. The old saying ‘Choose in haste repent in leisure’ is perhaps one of the most pertinent in this situation.

Check out who this lady is: what is her background? Her language(s)? What jobs has she done before? What training or experience has she had with small children? Speak to those who act as her referees – and if she has given you no names of people to contact – be very wary.

2) Decide what you want regarding the language the Nanny speaks with your child – so important! Have someone who speaks the same language as you, if possible, or whose English is of a reasonable standard.

I have seen a number of children here in UAE whose language development has been delayed very severely, because the Nanny has not been able to speak to the children in the same language as the family. In one case, a Nanny had a speech problem, and could not talk clearly to the child, which, together with her leaving him for long periods in his rocking chair while she was elsewhere in the house, resulted in such disordered communication that Autism was suspected. You can imagine the Mum’s distress when she discovered this could be the main cause of her child's delay.

3) Give her time to meet your child/ren informally: see what the reaction is on both sides. You know your child, you will be able to see how he or she responds to this new person. Even if s/he is shy, spend enough time in play and informal activity to get an idea whether this is because the prospective Nanny is not very good with children, and your child is not likely to settle with her. Find a reason to leave your child with her for a short time, but within earshot, so you can see how she is with your child when you are not directly present.

4) Give her a trial period, if you are satisfied. During that time, spend most of the time around the home or places your child will go, playing with your child yourself, with the Nanny joining in. Demonstrate how you deal with tantrums and tears, naughtiness and tidying up, praise points and changing activities – and put her in situations where she needs to do these things herself.

Show her how you like your child to have his or her food, and what s/he eats. I thought I had made it clear to my wonder Irish Nanny that, as a Muslim, I did not want my children to be given any pork products. One day, soon after, I went to pick up my little ones, and she said proudly, ‘They ate well – really enjoyed their sausages today!’ not realising that they were made of pork! And that points up another thing to be aware of – your particular beliefs and practices are important: you need to be sure that the Nanny will respect your vegan/ vegetarian, or religious practices, and it is up to you to help her understand exactly what they are.

5) Train her in how you want her to teach your child to respect and speak with other people. Note for thought - The way you treat the Nanny and respect her will be the model that your child will follow in how they relate to her. Too often I have seen the rudeness and demanding way a child speaks to his / her Nanny and the way it is reflected in the child’s parent’s interactions with the Nanny and others.

On the caution side, I have seen the concern and genuine anxiety when a Nanny does not care well for your child - one family I knew felt they needed to put cameras in the main rooms of the house to monitor what was going on - and, when they were shocked at the rough behaviour and neglect they observed, dismissed the Nanny, left work, and took over the children's care themselves. I suggest that if you get to the stage of feeling maybe cameras are a necessity, it is time to let that Nanny go.....

Some of the families I admire most have a wonderfully sharing relationship with their Nannies.

One Mum always makes sure she is there for putting her children to bed and reading with them.

Another lets her Nanny play with the children whilst she cooks for them, but then eats with her children herself.

I am sure you will have strong ideas yourself about this subject. Do share!

Warm wishes –


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