Living in New York, and being somewhat of a primary caregiver (or as the media moniker dubs me, “a stay at home dad”) I occasionally find myself accompanying my young child to one of the many public parks in, and around, Manhattan. In these situations, while I am dutifully watching my child roam about and not interact with other children, I am also endlessly fascinated by what I see around me, and what I see is that I am in the minority. Yes, I have learned to expect that women far outnumber men in these childcare scenarios–that contrast has ceased to hold interest for me. I am in the minority because I am usually one of very few parents actually there. Most of the adults accompanying children (especially in Central Park) are presumably nannies (as is evidenced by the fact that no adult looks even remotely like the children they are caring for) and it is safe to say, that nannies, babysitters, and caregivers make up a good percentage of those whom are taking care of our children day in, day out, around the country.
I am hardly taking issue with this fact, or even passing judgment on parents who relegate much of the daytime parenting to au pairs, nannies, and the like (you have to do what you have to do). While the tabloids are quick to exploit domestic horror stories concerning nannies who snap, or caregivers who are just plain mean, we should assume that the vast majority of them do a bang-up job caring (and loving) children who are conscripted to be in their custody.
Locally in New York there is a groundswell forming around nannies’ rights, or more generally domestic workers’ rights. As anyone who has looked into this issue knows, domestic workers (this includes nannies, house cleaners, and caregivers of all kinds) are left out of the loop when it comes to fair wages and basic rights. There are no unions or even adherent laws that protect these workers and see to it that they are offered fair pay and fair treatment. An organization in New York called Domestic Workers United has been aggressively lobbying the New York State government for a bill to provide these basic protections, which would be the first of its kind in the country. The proposed legislation would guarantee New York’s 200,000 domestic workers sick days, overtime, and a day of rest, protection under discrimination laws, and notice before termination. Basic stuff, as I said. This bill, if passed in its present form, would not only bestow a certain amount of dignity and validity to the job of caregiver, but it would also help would be employers who want to treat their employees fairly and with the dignity the job deserves.
While everyone can certainly get behind the rights of those who care for our children, I would imagine there might be a distinct difference of opinion out there as just how to far these rights should go, and what they entail. I would love to hear from nannies, babysitters, caregivers, and anyone that has been employed to take care of someone (whether they be a child, an elderly person, or someone disabled) and what there thoughts are about this proposed reform? I am also inviting parents/employers who may, or may not have strong feelings on the subject to share with us below.