I woke up yesterday morning to a Twitter commentary on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme item about people who employ nannies now having to make sure they have a pension fund. It seems fair enough to me: they are entrusted with the care of our most precious asset and it’s a professional and gruelling career. Why should they not have proper pay and benefits?

I didn’t hear the actual item – listening to the Today programme on any normal day is enough to put me in a stabby mood, let alone on a Bank Holiday – but I did a double take at some of the Twitter commentary on it.

It seemed that the word “nanny” is contentious enough to stir up the hornets’ nest of class warfare. I can only assume that the class warriors on my timeline think of a nanny only in these terms:

Or maybe like this:

Apparently nannies can only be employed by very rich people who can’t possibly be hard-pressed at having to make another investment into the career of the people who look after their children. I wondered on Twitter whether using the term “In-home childcare worker,” would be more acceptable.

And then this happened:

 

There are two points to make here. Firstly, the assumption that has been made about the function and form of nannies, presumably that they are all like the Norland nannies in the first picture, staffing the households of millionaires. Two other people of my timeline had already accused the BBC Today programme of Middle Class bias  (hello? It’s Radio 4!) and, therefore presumably,  being out of touch with “real people,” implying that only “working class” people are real people. I was so annoyed about this that I sent out a tweet about people on my timeline demonising those who employed nannies as part of their promulgation of class warfare.

I then had it, and I hesitate to use the term but it is appropriate here, MANSPLAINED to me that only the very rich could possibly ever afford to employ a nanny because they earn more than my interlocutor. Well, I silently pitied the tweeter whilst thinking his point completely irrelevant but, out of good manners, I let that pass.

I explained patiently that plenty of ordinary people employ nannies and it’s just another form of childcare but my interlocutor was having none of it and implied I was a snob and that I was prejudiced. Against whom or what, we shall never know, ladies and gentlemen,  I really have no idea where he got that from. I was challenged on this and replied that, yes, I have known nannies who themselves have had a nanny.

But look more closely at that tweet. “You decided to subcontract the care of your kids to facilitate your career!” I very beg your pardon? How does this not apply to anyone who has to arrange care for their children so that they themselves can go out to work?

I asked my correspondent  (a man) about who had arranged his childcare but he declined to answer. I hesitate to make assumptions but presumably if, as a “working class” person, his wife had worked whilst having small children, someone would have had to look after them? Perhaps it was a family member but I made the point that not all of us have family members around to look after our children. Let us not make any further assumptions but I’m sure you can take from this conversation what you will.

Essentially it would seem that anyone who arranges childcare, and pays for it at exorbitant rates out of their taxed salary is middle-class and cannot, therefore be “hard-pressed.”

When my children were small we did not have the proliferation of nurseries we see now and childminders usually did not do the hours demanded by a London job with an added normal commute of over an hour each way added on.

My initial very good nanny share arrangement, whereby my nanny worked an eleven hour day for me to be in the office from eight thirty to five thirty (and still face discrimination and denied career progression because I had to get on a train home to relieve her at 7) broke down when she moved to California with three weeks’ notice and I could not find a suitable replacement. And that was that.

Our second nanny – the italics denote the term being used in the loosest possible way – worked mornings only while I tried to do some work but in the end I found I was paying out hundreds of pounds a week for her to sit MsDD in front of Richard and Judy. She was usually late, and irresponsible and unqualified. When she left there was no-one around to replace her. In the end I decided I would work freelance and do my own childcare at the same time and I struggled on until we moved to Paris and effectively my career was over.

My husband’s job, just so that we’re clear, involves very long hours and travel at short notice, in an industry that takes no account of people with families. Financial services jobs are, in the main, for people with wives. And so I felt that there was no option but to give up my career. Generally we all do what we have to at the time.

I know countless other well educated, well-qualified mums who, like me, have not been able to subcontract the care of our kids, despite not wanting to waste our education, skills and experience. In the end, it becomes just too much hassle to juggle work in London with the demands of children, and our skills are lost to the workforce. Some do manage to struggle on if their nannies are flexible or live-in but usually most of what they bring in goes on childcare.

Now, we’ve all heard of the Nicola Horlicks of the world and, just last week, the OH was telling me about a female colleague of his, with SIX children, who demands that her staff stay at work until 10pm or else they are not taken seriously as committed employees. Such people are facilitated by good, expensive childcare. It’s her choice but I’d wonder why anyone would make the choice to have children if they were never going to see them, though there are plenty of people who muddle through and don’t see their children just to make ends meet and have to choose between time spent with their children and putting food on the table so it’s not really a choice is it?

I know I moan and feel unfulfilled and that I have wasted my education but I also know my children have benefitted from having me with them at home. No matter how skilled the nanny, I very much doubt that s/he would have been able to do their music practice with them, for example.

I digress. I was rattled by the discussion above. A lot of prejudices and pigeonholing against “middle class” people came to the fore yesterday morning from people who had no idea what they were talking about and refused to listen to someone who actually had employed a nanny. There’s none so blind etc. etc.