The International Nanny Association’s 2013 Nanny of the Year, Joanne Barrow–(She studied house management and butler training at The International Butler Academy in the Netherlands—is employed, naturally, by a Westchester family (in Rye, to be exact). After 20 years taking care of other people’s children, she has, as you’d expect, a few opinions about raising a family, not to mention what it’s like being on her side of the industry.
Read for Barrow’s pearls of wisdom on manners, time-outs, and one-percenter parents (she’s “been sought out by some of the wealthiest and most known public figures in the country,” her bio states)—then tell us if you agree.
Changing family dynamics
In today’s fast-paced, digital age, Barrow says, “You have to let go of perceptions of how things should be. Electronics and media are such a big part of all of our lives that weren’t when we were [growing up]. You have to be a chameleon to keep up; I feel a little like a lizard.”
European vs. American kids
European children tend to stand on their own two feet earlier, because it’s expected of them. Why don’t [American] kids do chores anymore?
“Lots of people think time outs are antiquated or a waste of time,” Barrow says. “I’m old school.” Spanking and yelling, she says, however, “are not on my radar.” And about letting them learn the hard way: “Kids are supposed to get sick and dirty!” she exclaims. “I push that pretty hard.”
Minding their manners
Barrow, who studied children’s etiquette and is a consultant certified through The Protocol School of Washington, laments, “Everyone’s eating on the run, and things like how to greet a guest at the door and writing a handwritten thank you are going by the wayside. [My charges learn those things] everyday—those people get noticed out in the world.”
“It’s none of our business what our employers do during their time,” Barrow asserts. “I’ve heard nannies complain, ‘Oh, the missus is out playing tennis while I’m watching her kids.’ And I want to say, ‘That’s what you’re paid to do!’ Yes, [wealthy families’] lives are unusual. My role is to keep their feet on the ground.”
“I have mixed views about cameras in the home,” Barrow admits, “It’s a double-edged sword. Things like that can be good, useful. There’s this fear, for many families, of having a nanny in the home.”
Forming a united front
Every family is different, Barrow says, and each nanny-parent partnership can be a veritable minefield of issues, not only in regards to young charges, but adult issues like “mothers conflicted about wanting or needing to go back to work.” Whatever it is, work it out, advises Barrow: “[A nanny has] to be an extension of the parents. You have to be on the same page in front of the kids, or it’s so hard on them.”
Read Barrow’s “Top 5” rules for hiring—and keeping—a personal childcare professional in the September issue of Westchester Magazine.