When au pairs are a bad idea

Yesterday we enjoyed the delights of Beckenham and had some lunch at the local Pizza Express, taking advantage of their Buy 1 Get 1 Free deal – no shame for me!

Not long after we arrived and had ordered, a young woman came in with four kids, varying in age from around 10 down to a 2-year-old girl.

We probably wouldn’t have paid them much attention if it wasn’t for the fact that she couldn’t get the youngest out of her pushchair and blocked lots of people for a while, before I gallantly (!?!?) went over and unhooked the toddler’s foot.

It was only when I went back to our table and looked again, I realised that this young woman was actually only a teenager and was looking after these 4 kids as an au pair.

Now, I’m not against live-in help per se – after all, for the rich and well-heeled they serve a useful purpose – not having to do all the dirty work, for starters.

And when you’re jetting off worldwide doing multi-million pound business deals, your kids take a back seat, don’t they?

OK, so I’m taking the mick, but I know that many rich parents make use of young women during the week, while they’re at work.

But this was Saturday. Lunchtime on Saturday. And these poor kids – who actually looked pretty used to the experience – weren’t being taken out by their parents, but a teenage au pair.

Righteous indignation, I know, but not exactly the model way to parent in anyone’s eyes.

3 thoughts on “When au pairs are a bad idea”

  1. Rob – out here in the UAE 90% of the local children are brought up by nannies. And not the dragon-like or Julie Andrews kind. Usually the nannies are poorly paid, illiterate and non-Arabic or English speaking 25 year olds. Their passports are taken away and they can’t leave the country without permission of their sponsor and government clearance. They possibly herd 8 – 10 kids from 1 – 4 wives at any single time, usually acting as cook and cleaner too. THEN they are blamed for being the source of cultural dilution, linguistic distortion and moral disintegration. Their mothers are to be found at work (whether they are working or not is a different question) or shopping or having their hair/henna done. I asked my students (all female) last week to practice mindmaps and brainstorms on issues facing women in the UAE. All of them had use of foreign nannies on their work in some place, with the typical consequential being either ‘problems in the marriage’ – meaning bloke divorces wife for not being a good one / nanny is blamed for causing this tension – or ‘social meltdown’. The twist in the tale is that whilst they see a problem (or are taught it) these students will do the same, critical reflexivity not being their strong point. Last week in the newspaper a Government official announced that there may be a restriction on the number of foreign domestics allowed in a single household, within an article on general problems of a percieved loss of national identity.

    Did you ever read the Perceptible Rise of Artuo Ui?

  2. Rachel, thanks for your comment – and if you re-read my post, you’ll see that I wasn’t haranguing the nannies at all, it was the parents I was angry with for not even being able to spare time at the weekend to take their kids out for a pizza.

    And yes, I have read, studied and even seen a National Theatre production of Arturo Ui, although I’m not really sure there’s a measurable link between my post and the play.

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