International Nanny Stories – from the Philippines, with Love

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Yesterday, I talked about Beverly Hills Nannies and the stuff they go through with the parents they work for. And my wonderful friend Anne from the Belle Jar Blog asked me if I would talk a bit about the fact that while I may have it fairly good, many nannies in Toronto do not.

These nannies are international. They are often not white. And they are here because they have no other choice.

Strollers, Image Credit: Shutterstock

It came up a few years ago that the Filipino nannies that everyone was really excited to hire were here on basically a slave wage. The Toronto Star did an article on these nannies, who said that they were forced to leave their homes, their children, and their more-skilled jobs to look after other people’s children in Canada. In return, they were unable to immigrate successfully. They were duped by false agencies and parents who had no intention of helping them nanny legally and properly. They were paid next to nothing, and they were treated like they were subhuman. Some came over to work jobs that didn’t even exist.

I am not one of these nannies, nor do I know any personally, so I can’t comment on their situations. I can, however, comment on the blatant racism I see on the playgrounds every day whenever I take Glo-Worm over to the park or to the Early Years Centres. Parents get annoyed that all those particular nannies do is speak to each other in Tagalog. They feel excluded, and more than one parent has said to me, “And I don’t believe they’re even watching the children they’re with. Man, I wish I had their employer’s number so I could tell them that I saw their nanny.”

It’s not true. Like any nanny, these women and men do their jobs well. They happen to get their socialization at the park, with their friends who do the same jobs. I have rarely seen one of these nannies not attentive to the child they’re with. I’ve rarely seen them not show affection and care.

Another offhand remark I hear is, “And honestly, who would hire one of those nannies? They might be cheap, but I want my child to speak English, please, not whatever language they speak.”

I’m not really sure how to respond to this, so I don’t as a rule, but . . . really? These nannies are bilingual, often trilingual. They have been nurses, teachers, doctors, even. They have families of their own. And you are treating them with xenophobic attitude, sneering at them because their English isn’t as good as yours?

I’ve heard the horror stories from some of them. That the parents make them sleep in cold basement rooms and are stingy about the heat in the winter and the air conditioning in the summer. That they’re considered housekeepers as well as nannies, for the grand old wage of $8 an hour, and they are not allowed much downtime at all. They are on call day and night. And in their few moments out from under their clients’ eyes, they are now sneered at and judged? And why is that?

The answer is because they’re obviously nannies. They are recognizable as “the help”.

I can say that though I’ve had my times with nannying, I’m almost never recognized as the nanny. People assume that I am the mother of the child I’m looking after. I’m treated significantly differently than the Filipino nannies who sit in the other corner of the playground.

And there’s no reason for it, except that I was born in Canada and I have white skin.

So much for our post-racial society, huh?

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