Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Disdain? Discomfort? Dismay? There has to be some sort of appropriate term for the strange and unsettling reception given me by many of the moms I see on my daily rounds as a nanny.

Generally, I'll be chatting with a woman while at the park with the kids, or while waiting for a charge to finish a class, and she'll say something that makes it clear she assumes I'm the mom. At that point I'll tell her "I'm their nanny." Then the weirdness starts. And this happens at any time, from 15 minutes to 6 classes into a friendly discussion.

I'll get an "Oh...really?", a blank stare, or nervous laughter, and then, 80% of the time, conversation stutters to a halt, leaving nothing but an awkward silence. The mom will soon make a vague excuse before walking away, or will turn to the woman on the other side of her to start a lively discussion.

In my novice nanny days, I thought perhaps I was simply somehow boring or annoying, and the realization that I was a nanny was an out for moms who weren't really interested in a friendly conversation. But now, I am forced to wonder why THEY have an issue with me. I was fine to talk with when I was presumably one of them, but as a nanny I am somehow not worth the effort.

Because I am generally curious about what makes people act the way they do, I have come up with 3 possible reasons for the "Mom Freeze": they feel scorn toward my momboss for not being home with the kids, and therefore I get the brunt of that disdain; they feel that they don't know how to relate to someone who's "just" a nanny, and they get uncomfortable; or they are concerned that developing a friendly relationship with me will be awkward, since we presumably have little in common.

There have been moms I have wound up talking very comfortably with, who don't seem to give a flip what I list as my IRS occupation and just kind of enjoy casually talking with me. I am always happy to be seen as a person, rather than as my occupation. I just wonder why I am taken as I am so infrequently.

Now, the theories I have may be full of hot air, so I am curious to see what you all think. Moms, do you feel awkward talking to nannies, having them over for playdates, or otherwise interacting with them? Is there an ethnic or cultural compoment to any discomfort you have? Nannies, have you experienced "Mom Freeze", or are your stories different from mine? Could it be a regional issue, or a product of the American awkwardness with "domestic help"? Toss your ideas into the mix, and help me out!


Anonymous said...

I believe for some moms, it's a matter of "class". We being domestics and all. For a long time, I didn't want to believe that was the case but experience has taught me that is the issue for some affluent moms. They don't see nannies are part of their social circle. Which is unfortunate because social outings with moms are the way I find social outlets for my charges. Fortunately there are a lot of other moms who are friendly and judge me for who I am, not what I do.

Lora Brawley

Andrea aka~ Happy Nanny ;-D said...

I experienced MOM FREEZE exactly as you wrote.
I've even been told by a mom-
Mom's in (snooty town) don't have playdates with nannies?
I asked her "Why?" ~we both do basically the same thing- only difference is that I get paid for it."

Then there were times when I shocked an entire room.
The first day of the second year of my charges pre-school, the teacher told the children to say good-bye to their "moms". My charge looked at the teacher and said- I can't say good-bye- my mom is not here."
The teacher said- Yes she is- right there- and pointed to me.
She loudly- said- "THAT'S NOT MY MOM!!!! She's my nanny.

zBecause my charge spoke so loudly- she got all the mom's attention- and every one looked-at me- with a shocked face.

As we were walking out- and even days after, mom's (who I saw the year before) came up to me and said, "WOW, I never would have guessed you were her nanny." You two are so connected and bonded.

I said- Thanks, and 50 hours per week for 3 years will do that!

Another time- at Music class, the mom's found out I was the nanny.
They all gave me the cold shoulder after that- except one mom- who said, "How wonderful! That she has an extra person to love and teach her!"

I could have kissed that lady! ;-D

Helen said...

I'm sometimes nervous of nannies because as a first time mum, I feel that I don't know all the answers. I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that nannies know everything and that they'll think I'm doing something wrong.

Sounds like a bit of an inferiority complex when I put it in writing, but if my attitude changed, that would be why!!

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Anonymous said...

It'a not regional = it's global. I live on the other side of the world and it happens here too. I think it's the intimidation factor for some - disapproval for others and just plain snobbery for the rest. There are however some great laid back moms who will chat to me and enjoy my company more than the moms! So yay for them!

Em said...

I've gotten the nanny freeze before but not all the time. I really didn't like it when I have gotten to know someone already before it happened, so I try to let people know I'm a nanny pretty quickly by saying "Their mom was so excited to find this karate class! None of the families I've worked for have ever tried it. Have you heard good thinks about it too or tried it before?" It might sound like a strong way to start a conversation but it saves me from connecting with someone and having my feelings hurt. It also gives the other person to surprise me and say "I'm a nanny too!" or "Oh, we've never tried it before." and she can get busy on her phone or feel like we are novices together, and maybe able to connect on that level.