Saturday, September 27, 2008

I struggle with this...

just went to a website that is a sort of "facebook" for the missionary organization i worked with for most of my twenties, and i found myself struggling with a posted item... it was a missionary family looking for a nanny.

i'm sure it's just semantics. i'm sure that the thing that bothers me about it is what the word "nanny" entails to me-- it's sort of a modern equivalent of a "governess" in my mind-- it has an elitist, priviledged ring to it.

i struggled with it when i was in the mission, too. these volunteer workers are supported by local churches and individual church-goers. i have more than one friend who was "invited" to serve as some family's nanny but who was required to raise her own funds, pay her own way to travel to and/or with the family, and was not recompensed for her work in any way (okay, she was serving in the mission field-- she was recompensed, but you know what i mean).

my question is complicated. my struggle is complicated. in the mission, there are countless ways to serve. in the body of Christ, there are countless ways to serve. my friends who served as nannies saw their calling for that season to be serving the parents of young children whose families were deeply involved in [what was often] serious overseas mission work. both parents were working in whatever area it was at that time and they honestly needed someone who could watch after the babies while they were working. just like any family.

and i'm stymied right there. because that's totally valid. plus, who am i to judge another man's servant (the Lords)?

but it wasn't always the case that the family had two working parents. sometimes they just had a thousand kids.

i suppose the place where i struggle is that they are getting free child care, while the nanny is working her butt off in incredibly hard conditions (oftentimes), and she is paying to be there. she pays her own staff fees, she pays her own food/travel fees, etc., and she is not serving the community but an [often] American family. it's killing me, but it sounds so...colonial.

oh my gosh. is my opinion really that the mother should step back from ministry to raise the children she chose to have?

gosh, i don't know. i don't think it's possible that that is purely it. because the thing i really struggle with is the fact that they "hire" these nannies and do not pay them at all. it feels like the position is a luxury to the family and they are getting it completely free.

or maybe i just remember that once, i babysat for a family when i was in the mission and i was completely taken by surprise by the fact that i wasn't paid. i didn't know that it was sort of the culture in our organization that, if you babysit, you did it out of the goodness of your heart. the couple were headed out for a date night-- dressed wonderfully, going to a nice restaurant. when they returned, they paid me with a loaf of what was admittedly some of the best bananna bread I ever had in my life.

i hadn't expected that at all. i took the "job" babysitting that night because i was trying to earn money for outreach. where i came from, if you babysat...well... you got paid. i mean, my folks always paid my babysitters. and let me tell you, nathan and i made sure they earned every penny of it. :)

anyway. you can tell that i'm conflicted about it. because i can honestly see both sides. the nannies are serving the Lord by helping the mothers who are in ministry. but i'm wondering how they feel alright about not paying them at least something? "the worker is worth his wages" and all that. but aren't our children our primary ministry? or are we trusting that the Lord will cover that bill? both bills?

or maybe i just want them to use a different term. a different title. i have no idea what that title might be. not even any smart alek ideas. but i know that i have enough "more ideas" that i had better stop now. because i have friends who have done both and my aim is not to point fingers...i'm just wondering is all...

**I should add that this is what my husband said in response: "In the mission field, I'm sure that there are families who have prayed about it and nannies who have prayed about it and if they feel it's their calling then who am I to question how they serve the Lord?"

This is one of the four thousand reasons i am married to this man. He's so right. I repent. I'll leave the post just to leave his comment.


Once Upon a Time said...

I have been both a nanny and a mother who needed one. I paid my way to Poland and all my expenses. At the time it was the next step for me, it was where the Lord told me to go. He porvided my way, He provided my pay. He provided all the little extras that I got to enjoy along the way like exploring ancient castles and tromping through crazy amazing European cities. Later, I children of my own and the Lord called me to be both mother and servant. I needed help. He provided that too. Yes, as a whole my children are my responsibility, but there are days, times when you need help. The Lord makes a way for both women-both the nanny and the mother. He provides for both and he meets each need. I do think however babysitting is babysitting and unless otherwise specified should be a paying job. We pay our babysitters now, and we try to pay them well. Just my thoughts....take them or leave them...


Samantha said...

your thoughts are good-- like i said, it's something i struggle with. and i struggle with it because of people like you and other friends of ours who have been on both sides of the issue. and your response fits with don's response-- if the Lord is leading people to do it, then it's Him. my main response has to do with...honestly... the sound of it. remember, i work in the "words" industry, and the word "nanny" means so much and maybe it shouldn't bother me as much as it does-- but it's what goes along with it, and the idea that some folks are being taken advantage of...

but at the same time, that's a ridiculous notion when you think about it because if they prayed about it and CHOSE to go, well... how is it being taken advantage of? it just isn't.

sigh. and i have nothing against people working and having help with their kids-- suddenly i find myself pregnant and fully intending to go back to work-- can't afford not to.

anyway, your response is perfect and i totally agree with it.

i still struggle with the concept, but for so many hard-to-express reasons...

Once Upon a Time said... be honest I never liked the word "nanny" because it reminded me of a goat. However, I considered myself a "nanny" rather than an o'pair because that DID sound elitist to me. I debated about Mary Poppins, but that didn't suit.... I suppose if you go with my original thoughts of goat then it deflates the position a wee bit.

Samantha said...

yes, au pair is DEFINITELY worse!! i hadn't thought about that!!

nanny goat... you're a very classically minded girl, you are :)