Nanny Cam or No Nanny Cam?

Dear Robin:

My wife Lynn and I had our first baby in April and next month she is going back to work. We’ve been arguing back and forth about a hidden nanny cam and since she turned me onto your blog last year I challenged her to let you settle the matter.

Simply stated, she wants one and I don’t.  

We spent over a month interviewing nannies and finally found a wonderful woman who really fits the bill: she’s a former teacher with 3 grown kids and looking for work to keep her busy (her husband died last year and I think she’s bored or lonely or both).

Lynn is adamant about placing secret cameras around the house so she can review the footage and ensure our daughter is being well taken care of and of course not being abused.  I hate the idea and I’m worried about the legal implications.

Settle this for us?

Eugene

Dear Man Married to a Wee Bit of a Loon:

Sigh.  

Another person convinced child abusers lurk in every corner – even the corners of their own home.  

You and I had an email exchange in which you told me your wife has been extremely nervous about your baby’s safety ever since you brought her home from the baby farm.  That is absolutely understandable.  Babies can break if you aren’t careful.

I inquired whether your wife has been depressed and you indicated she has.  I also asked whether she was abused as a child and you were quite sure she was not.  

To Nanny Cam or not to Nanny Cam? That is the Question!

In this situation it’s important to divine how I would handle this situation, lest you begin to believe this blog isn’t really all about me:

I would not install a hidden camera in my home to “catch” the nanny doing something wrong.  That feels sleazy, paranoid, and would indicate I don’t trust my own instincts when it comes to my hiring process.

The nanny (let’s call her “Carol”) you selected has excellent references and no criminal history – not even a recent traffic infraction.  She raised three kids of her own, all of whom are leading successful and independent lives.

You describe Carol as a warm and competent woman whose interactions with your daughter so far have been thoroughly appropriate and positive.  In fact, your daughter tends to be a fussy little asshole on a regular basis, yet she is very relaxed and non-assholish in Carol’s arms.

Hmmm…methinks your wife may be a bit jealous, no?

Back to the camera:

Imagine your daughter and Carol form a wonderful bonded relationship and your review of the daily tape shows nothing but a professional and loving approach to her job.  Carol becomes, in essence, a part of your family.  

And then she discovers that the creepy teddy bear she always joked was “watching her” was actually watching her.

 

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Say goodbye to Carol, because I believe most people would quit after such an intrusive violation of their privacy.  Bad for you, bad for your wife, and very bad for your daughter.

On now to the legal mumbo-jumbo:

What are the Nanny Cam Laws? 

Although every state allows you to be a paranoid jerk and install hidden cameras in your home, there are a few things folks should know:

  • Video surveillance laws: You cannot film a nanny in private areas of your home, such as the bathroom or (if you are super fancy and they live with you) in their living quarters. Nanny cams should instead be located in common areas of your home like the living room, kitchen, and family room.
  • Audio surveillance laws: Several states have laws forbidding secret audio recordings. If you live in one of those states (do your own research, por favor) you must inform your nanny if your camera records both audio and video. You can be prosecuted for violating these laws.  Worse: any evidence of abuse or neglect found on the tape could be inadmissible in court.

So What Should You Do?

  • Just Say No: Say “no” to the Nanny Cam.  Ask your wife how she would feel if she found out her employer was taping her without her knowledge.
  • Pay Attention: Trust your instincts and keep a sharp eye on your daughter.  Have a daily download of the verbal sort with Carol on all your daughter’s activities, behaviors, etc.  If you notice anything that worries you, speak with Carol about your concerns and take any necessary action. We old people call this activity, “talking.” 
  • Consider Daycare: If you cannot trust your instincts, consider taking your daughter to a daycare facility instead of hiring a private nanny.  More employees means more oversight, and a plethora of the cameras your wife desires. However, be prepared for other problems like repeated illnesses, unexpected closures, strict schedules, fundraising pressures, and a high turnover rate.  I mean “employee turnover,” which is bad, as opposed to “apple turnover,” of which a high rate would be cool.
  • Is There a Work Alternative?  Speak to your wife about whether she is really ready to go back to work.  You indicated your financial situation is such that she could take another 6 months to go back to work full-time.  Perhaps her employer will be flexible about part-time work or telecommuting. It never hurts to ask.
  • Postpartum Issues?  Urge your wife to discuss postpartum depression with her doctor and offer to join her in that conversation.  The details you told me ( and which I won’t share here) sound similar to some issues with which I struggled mightily after the birth of my son.

You’ve done your background check.  You had several interviews.  You called all her references.  You and your wife both like her and your daughter likes her.  

Chill the fuck out.  

We live in a culture of spying, fear and suspicion.  Cameras are omnipresent – on every street corner, shopping mall, and electronic device.  Don’t add them to your home.

My goodness, how did my generation ever survive without the Nanny Cam?

Readers: what do you think?  Sound off in the comments and share on your social media.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Tamsen

    Agreed. By the sound of it, all a Nanny Cam would do is end up with the wife obsessively pouring over the footage every day, quite possibly resulting in feelings of inadequacy as a mother, and jealousy of “Carol’s” relationship with their daughter. Down time at home should be spent with Hubby and Baby (until the little nipper goes night-night), not reviewing hours and hours of video footage. Trust your instincts. If you want, find excuses for friends to drop by in the middle of the day on occasion, but don’t do a nanny cam, that’s just not healthy for anyone.

  2. Seagypsy

    Having been a live-in nanny for a number of families in my past, I would be appalled at being filmed and quit immediately if I learned of it. What a violation of trust! I went to work for “my” families after background checks (driving, criminal, and credit history). I was diligently interviewed by each family – more than once – so that there were no questions left about whether I was a good fit. I moved from my home and was placed outside the state “packed to stay,” so that if things worked out, I stayed. Other wise, they paid to fly me home. I was placed via an agency, so maybe there is a slight difference in this situation but I cannot imagine after all I went through (having to get my passport, having all my immunizations up to date, etc.) that a family couldn’t trust me enough to care for their child without having to film me. I took care of children of all ages from a single infant up to a family of four children.

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