Nanny in NYC

A modern day Mary Poppins

Friday, March 10, 2006

Reality TV Rant

Perhaps I am in the minority, but I must admit that shows such as Supernanny and Nanny 911 really sicken me. It's not that I dislike the existence of TV shows designed to empower parents to create more happy disciplined households, but rather I take umbridge with the fact that the vehicle for change is someone calling themselves a "nanny."

It has always been my opinion that, as a nanny, it is in no way my job to sweep in and tell parents what they are doing wrong in their own homes. Each parenting team has a different style (one you hope they've discussed and decided on together) and I simply don't think it is a nanny's job to dictate changes or even to set herself up as a kind of authority or consultant. In these TV shows, however, that is exactly what the "nannies" do, and I worry about what ramifications this will eventually have for the profession.

Perhaps I am being foolish to worry over something as simple as what a person calls their job on a reality TV show. It could be argued that American parents are intelligent enough to distinguish a difference between their expectations for a woman on a highly engineered TV show and a person they hire to work in their home in a very personal manner. I'm just not sure this argument holds much water these days.

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from parents these days is that their nanny is too strict with their children. Usually it's said as an offhand comment, I assume because the opposite problem would be much worse. I know that I have what might be considered a huge bias, but it seems to me that what parents frequently are responding to is not the strictness of their caregivers, but rather the consistency that they are able to employ. Parents, having the enviable weakness of loving their children deeper than any other people on earth, frequently find constancy in discipline a major problem. They see their children in infinite shades of grey. Now, while I've never known a nanny who didn't fall pretty hard pretty quick for the kids she works with, that kind of affection is apples to oranges when compared to the love of a parent for their child. A nanny usually manages objectivity and matters of simple cause and effect much more easily than the parents she works for.

Perhaps the popularity of the Supernanny-type TV show is the fleeting nature of the relationship. Maybe it's a pleasant fantasy for a parent to think of a woman (or man, of course) who would sweep in, give them a few hours of stern dictates and warnings, whip their children (and often their marriages) into shape and then be off like Mary Poppins on the next shifting wind. My hope is that parents don't lose sight of the fact that in reality their relationships with their nannies are ongoing, and therefore much more complicated. The nanny cannot subvert the parents' authority in their own home, that would make for a disastrous long term working environment. At the same time, however, the parents can't expect either that they could seek & employ a person capable of overnight miracles with their children or that they will find a clone of themselves.

The point of this rant: disciplining children, your own or other people's, is tricky business, but these TV shows make it look like child's play.


Blogger Geoff G. said...

you can't look at it from a parenting point of view, you have to judge these shows from a reality tv point of view -- do they make the audience feel vaguely superior to the people on the show? that's really the only criteria. nobody at ABC thought, "supernanny will give parents great tips for controlling their kids." they just thought "this show will make americans feel great about themselves."

that being said, i'm sure some parents take tips from the shows....but that just shows that they are missing the point.

9:04 PM  
Blogger Nanny in New York said...

I believe I'm justified in looking at the shows, not from a "parenting" point of view or a "reality TV" point of view, but rather a "how does this change our world?" point of view.

These shows change our culture, and I think it's way too superficial to simply judge them on how they make an audience feel in the moment. I know that ABC execs don't have to go beyond the superficial or financial, but I don't feel constrained by those boundries.

Please see today's post for more on this.


7:34 AM  

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