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Awkward! (A conversation about race and fathers, with our nanny.)

July 22nd, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  2 Comments

With almost no exceptions, my experience with Ellie’s nanny, who has been with us for about four months, has been great. The baby loves her, Tomoko respects (and likes) her, and I find her calm to be an entire separate, and reliable, infrastructure in the system of our parenting.

But I did have one whopper of a chat with her the other day. She is from Trinidad, of African descent, and very proper. I learned a little earlier that she was in the process of splitting with her husband, and had in fact moved out and was living withe her sister (with her two young children).

After offering my sympathy, I asked her what sort of arrangement she managed having with her ex with the kids, and she told me she assumed that they would be with her. In fact, she said, she wouldn’t be totally surprised if her husband cut off relations with the kids and just moved on. I expressed some shock at this—up to this point her description of him had been rather good—and she frowned at me.

“Let’s be honest, Ted,” she said. “We’re all adults. The truth is, black men are more likely to leave their families than men from any other race.”

No need to go into the class, race, and gender weirdness that plays into hiring someone to look after your kids. We happen to be very lucky, our nanny is superb, but it’s still an adjustment on a daily basis.

I just had no idea what to say to that one. I tried mumbling something appropriately liberal about poverty and the alienation it causes (which, I admit, was kinda condescending), but she batted it away as if I hadn’t spoken. Black men, she knew, were no damn good.

I let it go at that, we joked about finding her someone Jewish, and then she went home.

Any thoughts out there? A difficult one for me.


  1. dizzyworld says:

    August 17th, 2011at 10:28 am(#)

    Where in the world have you lived until now?

  2. dadwagon says:

    August 17th, 2011at 1:40 pm(#)

    Uh, in middle class utopia?

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