Dads As Silent “Third” In A Parent/Nanny relationship?

This is part 6 of an 8-part blog from the perspective of TIFFAN's Founder and "The Nanny Manual" author, Alyce Desrosiers.

This is an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed in my work with families.  The vast majority of dads  - and here I refer to all couple relationships, including same-sex couples -  are fully invested in the decision about who to hire.   At the same time, social dynamics can keep dads a silent ‘third’ in the parent-nanny relationship.

First is the stigma.  The media hasn’t been so positive about dads and nannies.  They thrive on sensationalizing the lives of rich and famous dads having affairs with their nannies.  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robin Williams, Jude Law and Ben Affleck have given the media lots of opportunities to characterize dads as egocentric, narcissistic, neurotic men attracted to their nannies.  Dads have to overcome this stigma and, almost unknowingly, they choose to be the silent ‘third’.  

Secondly,  pragmatics often determine a dad’s level of involvement in the search process.  If one parent is on maternity, they generally have more time to dedicate to the search process.  If both are working, often by default one parent gets to be the ‘lead’ in the search.  This default often goes to the parent most likely to have the closer, day-to-day interactions with the nanny.  Usually, this is ‘mom’.  

As the relationship between the mom and nanny develops, the emotional content in that relationship becomes complex.  A dad’s role then becomes one to support and manage the mother-nanny relationship.  In this sense, dads become the silent ‘third’.  When the nanny has questions about the child’s behavior or routines, she is likely to bring this up to mom and between them they figure out what to do.  If the mom has trouble with the nanny, she is likely to go to dad for help in managing the nanny trouble.  

In the book, I describe scenarios when these situations become problematic for dads and some ways to understand how they got to be that way and how to navigate them.  My recommendations for dads are:

  1. Support the emotional landscape
  2. Acknowledge the challenges in the search process
  3. Be involved in the hiring decision
  4. Work as a team

-Alyce Desrosiers