Just Plain Dumb: Boys, Nannies and Au Pairs

by cv harquail on April 1, 2010

The following post may look like an April Fool’s Joke article, but it isn’t.

A reader sent an article to me about problems that might be caused by boys having a nanny/au pair care for them instead of their mom.  Our reader wondered whether this article might prompt an interesting discussion. (She thought the article was bunk).

We concluded that parents might want be to be aware of this article because it is exactly the kind of stupid story about au pairs/nannies, working “moms” (not dads) and creating problems for your kids, that someone will bring up at a PTA event causing you to choke on the guacamole.

201004011817.jpgWe’ve saved the article for today, 4.01.10. Maybe in an April Fools state of mind it won’t tick you off as much.

Here’s the headline:

Do Nannies Really Turn Boys into Future Adulterers?

(Riled up yet? Continue on…)

A Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the doctor argues that men become womanizers because their mothers left them with nannies.

[Quick check: Did Tiger Wood’s parents leave him with a nanny? How about Jesse James’ parents?]

According to Friedman, having two women care for a baby boy may cause his little brain to internalize the idea that there are multiple females to meet his needs. “It introduces him to the concept of the other woman,” he said in London’s Daily Telegraph. He explicates the relationship in his book The Unsolicited Gift: Why We Do The Things We Do, which explores how a mother’s love for her offspring can determine how those children behave as adults. ….

But it is the thesis concerning boys that has been more controversial. Having two maternal objects, says Friedman, “creates a division in [the boy’s] mind between the woman he knows to be his natural mother and the woman with whom he has a real hands-on relationship: the woman who bathes him and takes him to the park, and with whom he feels completely at one.” This dual-woman life, one for family and one for catering to his every need, might become a set pattern in his mind, so that when he grows up and feels like his needs are not being met, he strays beyond the home.

I’m all for the argument that a mother’s love (and a father’s love) influences a child’s ability to love and be loved, but this guy is a nutcake. He’s anti-working mom, anti-nanny, and implicitly anti-same sex parents.

What’s horrible is not so much the blatant wrong-ness of this argument, but how close it is to other arguments for why women (always the women) shouldn’t go back to work once children arrive. As if.

Read the rest of the article here at TIme Magazine.com.


Soccer Mom April 1, 2010 at 9:28 pm

So, if, instead of a nanny or au pair the boy was cared for by his grandmother while mom worked then he will cheat on his wife with older women? :) Riiiiiight.

Janet April 1, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Gimme a break!

franzi April 2, 2010 at 5:53 am


why is this only about baby boys? is the reason girls hold hands also related to having had a nanny/AP? or do nannies only influence male brains but not female ones (which somehow sparks an idea of how easy guys brains can be manipulated…haha).

OB Mom April 2, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Crazily it isn’t only about boys … probably given the media craze with Tiger/Jesse these days, CNN/Time thought they’d get more clicks with that title … the nut also says that nannies will cause girls to become sl*ts and drug addicts!

>>” Girls are affected by nannies too. Not having her mother around creates in the infant female a “vacuum of need,” says Friedman, which she might try to fill in later life with substance abuse or promiscuity — presumably with those married men in her social circle who were also raised by nannies.”

I’m actually outraged that Time didn’t discredit it more with opposing opinions. There is a bit of an undercurrent, but not nearly as strong as one might hope from a mainstream media.

NY Host Mom April 2, 2010 at 7:47 am

Assistance raising children has been the norm in many cultures dating back to times long before women entered the workforce. I read this article when it came out and thought it was way off base and downright offensive. I’m glad I’m not the only one annoyed by this!

JollyOldEngland April 2, 2010 at 8:21 am

You are 100% correct, in fact this seems to be the norm in almost every culture aside from ours. Even the Brits have been doing nannies forever! The idea of extended families makes tremendous sense on many levels.

JollyOldEngland April 2, 2010 at 8:19 am

This is why we boarded pestilence ridden boats and left 400 years ago. The English constantly struggle with how best to blame their societal erosion on every oddity, aberration and half cocked idea they can dream up.

If nannies cause philandering then forks make people fat.

Anonymous April 2, 2010 at 8:33 am

There’s no need for racism.

Anonymous April 2, 2010 at 8:33 am

(or xenophobia, or whatever you’d call it.)

cv harquail April 2, 2010 at 9:04 am

Yeah, I don’t think that this particularly idea (of non-mom childcare being somehow ‘bad’) is limited to the British… though it is interesting how different two similar cultures can be regarding childcare…(e.g., with lots of upper middle class kids being away at boarding schoool during the week, vs. here where that is rarer).

In any ‘western’ culture right now there is an argument about the place of non-mom childcare and the appropriateness of a mom (always the mom) working outside the home. From the german women who don’t want to have kids (the rabenmutter: http://www.bust.com/blog/2010/01/18/mummy-whats-a-rabenmutter-german-mothers-face-pressure-not-to-work-full-time.html) to swedish women who choose to drop out of the paid workforce to stay home with kids even though they have universal public childcare… you just can’t win for losing.

NoCAMom April 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Yes, here in the US we have Dr. Sears & “detachment parenting” – so this certainly isn’t limited to across the pond!

This is just craziness.

PA HOST mom of TWO Au-Pairs April 3, 2010 at 1:12 am

This article is garbage! People today do not take their vows seriously ! did you ever watch the funniest home videos :)
Half of the married couples can even remember what they took oath too! They stumble when saying their vows in today’s marriage.
I believe most people just stumble through the words and goes through the motions at the ceremony. America makes it easy for a divorce when adultery or any other issue arise. And to think that adultery is blamed on a married man’s childhood is absurd.

Anonymous April 3, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Disclaimer: aupairs are and continue to be a large part of my life.
Working moms are her to stay. I think, however, that we , as a community we are not objective. Of course, we think this doctor is full of it. Not one of us wants to think that we are hurting our children. Twenty five years ago, a professor of mine in graduate school predicted that the effect of multiple caretakers was going to be the issue for the new generation.
Aside: it has also been postulated that hard , rigid toilet training was responsible for the sadism practiced in many English boarding schools.

Katie April 5, 2010 at 9:44 pm

read the full article it says his theory is skewed and has no practical evidence that its true.

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