I declared that I wasn’t going to write about Harry and Meghan anymore, although privately I have still read the odd article about them, and sometimes, even though it seems that every time they pass wind it is reported, an interesting tidbit pops up.
Last week, Meghan wrote an impassioned letter to politicians in the USA, advocating for paid parental leave. Irrespective of whether the letter was a word salad, one of my favourite sayings to come out of 2021, I was in agreement with her.
Eight states in the US offer paid maternity leave, anywhere between 6-13 weeks and in March approximately 23 per cent of workers had access to paid parental leave. New Zealand offers 18 weeks, one of the lowest in the OECD, with average paid parental leave across OECD countries being 48 weeks. In the US, unpaid leave is available up to 12 weeks if conditions are met.
After six weeks, I’d only recently transferred to regular underpants, my brain was so foggy it was akin to living adjacent to the Waikato River in winter, and I was struggling to get through the day without combusting into tears regularly. In short, I was still a very new parent.
Meghan’s missive was met with critics who took umbrage at her talking smack about the Sizzler salad bar and her private school education, also upset that nannies were involved in her life.
The implication was heavy; if you pay for childcare, you can’t have an opinion on paid parental leave nor understand how challenging parenting can be. If you’re not 100 per cent hands-on, then you’re hands off.
Here, nanny is still a dirty word and I’m frustrated as to why. Embraced in the US, UK and Europe, nannies and their stereotype is still met with resistance in New Zealand despite articles pointing to their increasing popularity as a childcare option. The 2019 census tells us that 10,548 people described themselves as a nanny or child carer.
We need them because it takes a village, but we don’t live in villages anymore. Our ideals largely don’t include multiple generations living under one roof, work is demanding and living away from relatives, you simply have to look elsewhere for help. They may enable some long lunches and mani pedis, but nannies are also rewarded with first smiles, steps or words that you miss out on.
We helped a friend by giving her nanny 16 hours per week. It was great for our daughter and it helped the ever patient and wonderful Maria. I wasn’t working, and mothering was my fulltime job, so having a “nanny” made me feel like a fraud and ingrained stereotypes made me worried I would be judged so when speaking to New Zealanders I constantly referred to her as our babysitter, only undervaluing her skills and qualifications.
A common perception is it’s acceptable to employ a nanny when mum is a professional hotshot. Equally if she is not, then she is some highfalutin woman who shouldn’t have bothered having kids in the first place if she won’t look after them herself. Never mind mums who enjoy doing the groceries in peace, is attending to other kids or relatives, is giving someone else employment or who am I kidding, is using the toilet in peace or getting a mani pedi, because who is anyone to judge what she does with her time?
Currently some parents are considering a nanny as an alternative to daycare. This may change attitudes and mean more parents can get the support they need without the judgement, which we are so good at giving for free.