Can a yuppie own a servant?
At first, it was hard not to think in those terms when I heard about How's My Nanny.com, the new service that lets a parent pretty much track her nanny's every move.
For $50, How's My Nanny sends out a little stroller license plate. If a passerby sees a child being mistreated, all she has to do is log onto the Web site, enter the plate number and anonymously if she chooses turn the nanny in to The Man. Er, spill the beans. How's My Nanny forwards the e-mail to the parents.
Can you imagine the kind of crimes that will be reported? "Parents of stroller #93: Your baby-sitter fed your twins a NONORGANIC snack." "Nanny #65 failed to applaud your child's cartwheel!" "Nanny #8 was talking on her cell phone for nine minutes. I timed her because I thought you should know."
Oh, G-d, thought I. The yuppie stay-at-home moms are going to be ratting to the yuppie go-to work moms and who's going to end up paying the price? The poor, underpaid, underappreciated nannies.
I called MY ex-nanny, Joan, to sympathize.
She told me to get real.
"Believe me, Lenore. This is going to help."
Just last week, she said, she saw a nanny hit a boy on his mouth. "She slapped him so hard, I thought his mouth would be cut." said Joan. "Sometimes you see some nannies treat these kids so badly, you wish you could just find the parent."
Joan always did set me straight. The fact is, there are some terrible nannies out there just as there are terrible employees in every field. (But no terrible bosses, boss. Really!) Truckdrivers ride around with "How's my driving?" bumper stickers. Cabbies have that sign telling us exactly how to report them. Employers have a right to know if their employees are out of control especially when kids are at stake.
The nannies I spoke to believed in How's My Nanny more than anyone. Go ahead, they said: Slap on a plate! They weren't worried they're professionals, proud of doing a good job. And, for that matter, most of them are moms themselves.
Years ago my friend Jenny had a nanny who took a week off. While she was gone, Jenny strolled her baby to the local parks and gradually, the other nannies approached and told her what her nanny had been doing between playdates.
Dealing drugs. No joke.
Jenny had never wanted to have a nanny-cam or anything like that. "I chose not to have one because of my liberal 1970s upbringing and I think you should be able to trust your nanny."
You don't have to be an evil, yuppie, organic snack-obsessed mother to hang a license on your stroller. You just have to be as wise as a good nanny.