Why it’s traditional to have a teenager or crafty granny help out with the kids

The title represents the two kinds of women we hire part-time or full-time (depending on our household’s needs) to provide childcare and “mother’s helper” support in our home.  There is a third group of women who are “professional childcare providers”, with degrees and the like.  The third category is what most people think of when they think of SAHMs having childcare help, but that category of professional nanny/sitter/”childcare provider” is the least traditional.  The governess, after all, is an artifact of industrialization expanding the aspirational middle class more rapidly than social adjustments could be made for it.  In many ways the modern 21st century overeducated nanny in her twenties, thirties or forties is simply another instantiation of the governess.

We’re more traditional than that.  Due to the superpowers of our children, young healthy “teenagers” (15-25, just like the government’s classification!) can generally keep up and grandmothers whose kids live far away (over about 50 or so, and definitely over 65) can generally figure out how to keep our children occupied and orderly without a lot of physical exertion.  Experience counts for something after all.

We try to keep a relationship going, but we don’t pretend to aristocracy by trying to lock a single individual down for life.  Another reason teens and grannies are so traditional is that this kind of sidekick-style childcare that isn’t meant to be permanent employment is compatible with young local girls helping out a few neighbors for a few years and then marrying (and then being helped themselves, and so forth).  It’s also compatible with grandmothers whose children set sail for the sea and all that, and whose crafty granny arms would like to bounce a baby or three or five occasionally.  Not all work is meant to be fixed, permanent employment with a narrow task list and an unchanging wage.  And those two ages of woman are the most likely to roll with the punches.

We have tried some of the professional nanny types (it is a personality type among childless women over 25 still in childcare professionally) and it was always disastrous for all parties.  Laundry detergent and pheasants flying everywhere disastrous.  Because any child that doesn’t behave as expected under the strict constraints of center-based daycare leaves them unable to cope.  They weren’t educated for that, you see.


This is a work in progress.