Every Parent’s Nightmare (Trigger Alert)

by cv harquail on October 26, 2012

This is the kind of post I never wanted to write, but I expect some of us will need a place to express our horror and our very deep sadness about the murder of two NYC children by their nanny.   Please do not read any further if you would prefer to avoid this issue.

I only saw the headline and first two paragraphs on the front page of the NYT — just enough to see that the nanny stabbed and killed two of the family’s three small children, while the parents were at work. I can’t even recount the rest of the details here.

The larger point is-  we entrust the most precious people in our lives, our innocent and defenseless children — to the care of others.  Most of us have care givers because we cannot earn a living and care for our children 24/7.

These caregivers can be family, friends, or paid employees. Regardless of the type of arrangements we have with these other adults, we expect anyone who cares for our children to keep them safe and out of harm.

Au Pair agencies, agency employees, and host parents themselves are supposed to work together to keep out of the system any person who seems unfit for childcare. We have to continue to be vigilant when we interview, observant while we’re training our caregivers, and proactive when it comes to challenging the quality of our caregivers’ relationships with our children.

The details of this case will come out over time, but nothing about those details will change the fact that a family has lost two of its children to violence inflicted by the children’s caregiver.  My heart goes out to the parents and the third child who survived the stabbing.

Is there something we can do in response to these murders? Surely, we have already screened our au pairs, established relationships with them, cared for them so that they can care for our children, and tried to create a home and family environment where love flourishes.

This might be a good time to sit down with your au pair and tell her/him that you know the job of childcare can be hard, and that you continue to trust her/him with your children’s lives.

You might use this time to reconnect with your au pair about the fragility of life and our responsibility to care for each other and keep each other safe, whether we are family members, paid to do this within a host family or strangers to each other.

And, you can take your kids into your arms and hold them and love them.


Nerea October 26, 2012 at 11:34 am

I am so so sorry and freaking out. I have no idea how badly the mum feels, but as a mother I can imagine.

In any case, I’d like to clarify one thing: the nanny is SUSPECTED of killing the kids, but right now she is NOT found guilty. She most probably is guilty, but we can’t say until proven so.

Liz October 26, 2012 at 11:46 am

I came here as soon as I heard the news. I knew you would handle it with grace and you did.

Seattle Mom October 26, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I just read a couple of articles in the NY Times. I had seen references to it on facebook, but didn’t know what happened until I saw it here.

How awful. Just awful.

It sounds like one of those freak occurrances that couldn’t have really been prevented. The woman must have just snapped. Although it sounds like she had been depressed for a while.

This makes me want to take my AP’s mood swings a little more seriously, and talk to her about how if she feels in over her head she should talk to me.. though seriously, it sounds like this nanny was pretty close with the family. And it sounds like she loved the kids.

What a horrible tragedy. I can’t think about it too much, or I won’t be able to function.

AupairSA October 27, 2012 at 4:30 am

This is so sad! :( It breaks my heart to think that someone can get to such a point and just snap. Caring for kids is tough, as an au pair I know this all too well. I think the best thing to do when you feel like you are overwhelmed or the kids are too much for you, is to talk to your host mom or just pick up the phone and call a friend.
It’s much better to admit to not bring able to cope than having something like this occur again.
Although we don’t know all the details and why she did it, I guess whatever the reason I think all host families should address this situation with their aupair.

Toni October 27, 2012 at 5:36 am

I hadn’t heard the story yet as I am in California and supposed to be sleep. I digress as an Au Pair to be I’m horrified right now. I’m not a mom(give me about 8 years or so) but I feel for the parents. Every parent trust every caregiver to do right by their child, I could never hurt a child, I have an issue with dicipline s it is.

This is soo tragic beyond words that I don’t know to deal. Oh my god, those poor children. What could have possibly been going through her mind? Whatever happened to if it gets to bad walk away, or go into another room or something. I have no words right now.

I should be sleep but instead I’m going to go find the article and hurt myself further. I just have to see how old the children were, my belief is on religion is a bit twisted, but at the moment I hope heaven is a real place. Because if so, God gained two new angels.

SandyKassia October 27, 2012 at 7:03 am

Oh my, any mother’s nightmare!!!
I came home and commented about it with my au pair.
She also was horrified.
We talked about how caring for children is hard work, stressful and how it would they always recommend that you place a baby in the crib and let him cry, then to keep holding the baby if frustrated…
Obviously it is not reason or justification, but she pointed about friends of hers who barely have breaks/days off. Families with stay at home parents where the au pair gets “breaks” during nap time and in on from morning to night… and many times get a day off during the week and work Sat and Sun. She was pointing how those au pairs are stressed and “loosing it”.
I guess the only thing I can think of is that most of those young ladies are young and not that experienced, and as host parents we can make sure they have enough time to unwind, meet with people their age, and really respect them.

EmmieJane October 30, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I did happen upon this article in the NYT, and I kept reading even though I was like this is too upsetting I should stop. It did sound a bit unpreventable based on the article; the woman did not have a background of problems and from all accounts seemed to get along with the family and love the children. I have the luxury of working from home most of the time, and articles like this make me feel especially thankful for that. I do feel like I can keep a general ear to the tone of things. I think this article is a good reminder to tell our au pair if you ever feel like you can’t cope, come get me or if I am not at home call me, and we’ll figure something out. The sad thing about this article is it sounds as if the mother was pretty attentive to her children in general, and it was not a situation in which the nanny was having to work grueling hours with no support. I can’t imagine this eventuality, and it seems as if it was a psychotic sort of break. You hear of mothers doing the same thing from time to time, and it is horrible-also horrible for the mother or nanny who is so ill that this can even happen.

Au Pair in Australia October 30, 2012 at 10:06 pm

For me it seems like a depression problem from the au pair, is very important to get medical checks for all of them, we have a sample of a medical certificate for one au pair, which asked;
Is the applicant currently, or has the applicant ever been treated/councelled or received medication for a nervous
condition, eating disorder, depression or emotional disorder? Yes No
If answered yes, please give full details and dates. Please provide comments on the applicant’s present condition and
well being:

with this information you can have an idea of the psychological health of the au pair

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