Mighty Life List
Aug 28 2009

Would you spy on your sitter?

23 Responses to “Would you spy on your sitter?”

  • Liam's Grandma Says:

    Well, yes, of course I would. Even serial killers can come across as sweet as pie. None of us are mind readers and many of us are easily duped. When my son was 2 1/2 and my daughter was 4 months old, I left work early because I had some suspicions that this seemingly wonderful grandma type wasn’t all she was cracked up to me. My son had developed, in just four days’ time, wetting his pants, crying at the drop of a hat (or cookie), etc.

    When I arrived early that Friday at the sitter’s house, unannounced, I walked in to find my son sitting in a chair in the corner, facing the corner, crying and trembling. My daughter was in a bassinette, crying and soaked from head to toe in her own urine.

    I scooped up my children, spoke a few rabid words to the sitter with the promise that the other parents would be notified, and left. I contacted DSS as well.

    My son had bruises and my daughter cried as if she had colic – after less than a week in this woman’s care.

    Many cases are not as extreme as this and it is difficult for a parent to know. But I encourage every parent to trust your instincts, trust your childrens’ dissatisfaction because, believe me, if their sitter is a good one, they will be happy when you arrive to pick them up. And, with today’s technology, use whatever measures you need to to, yes, spy.

  • toni Says:

    I had to leave work early as well and walked into the daycare where I’d been leaving my youngest son. There was a fifth of Jack on the counter and I saw her pouring it into the kids’ “juice” for their nap time. I wish I was kidding. The place was shut down after appropriate investigations, and I have no idea how long it had been going on. I’d only been bringing my son there about a month, but I thought it was amazing that she could get him to nap every day when he never usually took a nap.

  • Liam's Grandma Says:

    OMG, to Toni, Commenter #2. This is horrible. Makes me really frightened to wonder how much more of this goes on and parents unwittingly take their children to a place they believe to be safe and nurturing. It also makes me wonder how many years your day care provider had been doing this and how many innocent little brain cells she damaged over the years. This is heart wrenching. I am so glad your child was there for only a month.

  • Alice Says:

    Holy moly, both these stories are HORRIFYING. But they wouldn’t have been solved by installing a camera in your _home_, you know?

    There’s a book called Protecting the Gift by Gavin DeBecker, I think his name is, and he argues pretty strongly that if you have even the impulse to install a camera, your nanny is not a good choice for you. That’s a good book, by the way, but also incredibly horrifying and I could barely read it because it’s about kids in peril and AAIIIIEEE. And there’s a run-on sentence for you!

  • Karen Says:

    We did spy on our sitter. We started to suspect something was up; she had been a model sitter until she got her own car. We told her that we did not want her taking our (then) 2 year old out by herself, and she agreed. It was winter. He started to get the sniffles after every time she sat for us (in our home); the barista at the little coffee shop down the road recognized my son when I was sure i had never told them his name.

    We set up a sound-sensitive tape recorder, and recorded her talking to our son as she got him ready to go out to the car, even saying in a joking way, “I’m being so bad!” Turned out she was using an old, outgrown car seat from our garage–no, we had never given her permission to use it–and taking him out so she could go shopping, run errands, get coffee. She was so determined to go out that even after i hid his shoes, she just took him out–in a snowy December–in just socks.

    We fired her immediately.

    So yes, I would spy on a nanny who I suspected was not caring for my child properly. Now i don’t use babysitters at all, though. Once burned, twice shy. Even though we had a very nice sitter a couple of years after the above incident, we only hired her after determining she couldn’t drive and didn’t have her own car. Even then, i was always nervous.

  • marymuses Says:

    I’m a nanny, and I have mixed feelings about nannycams. On the one hand, I’m not doing anything untoward, so it’s not a big deal, but on the other hand, I’d feel hurt that the family felt there were issues they couldn’t discuss with me.

    Also? I’d wonder how many embarrassing things I did on camera, thinking that I was alone and unobserved.

  • Beth B. Says:

    I would totally use a nanny cam, but not because I was beginning to have suspicions. (In which case, yes, fire the person, duh.) I would use one right from the start because I don’t know this person at ALL. And because of my prior experience with a caregiver who I thought was awesome (My son never showed me ANY signs that anything was wrong) until the day I picked up my son and she matter-of-factly told me she bit him, and showed me the full, round set of adult human teeth bite marks on his arm. She said she did this because he had bitten her son (3 years older and huge – unlikely). This was the way her mother taught HER not to bite. She seemed to have no idea whatsoever that this was abusive in any way. It’s just what you do.

    Needless to say, that was the last time he ever went there. But my point is that I will never again trust my own judgment about child caregivers. I never had any negative radar/weird vibes about her at all. It’s just not worth it to me to be wrong when my child could suffer. Some people are good actors.

    I probably WOULD tell a nanny that I have a camera going, because hey, it doesn’t matter to me if she were really exhibiting or faking 100 % good, professional nanny-ing for the camera. The bottom line is that my child would be well cared for. If you don’t tell, then that allows for the possibility that some bad behavior could occur. It would then be too late. I’d rather have the deterrent.

    So for me, be honest about the presence of the nanny cam in the beginning and you’ve either got a good nanny with no worries, or one who’ll be on her best behavior because of the camera. Either way, your child is well treated. Nanny cam=deterrent.

  • S Says:

    I would absolutely have a nanny cam. I was a nanny for years and was completely OK with being filmed. The parents(apologetically) told me about it after about a month after I had started and I was just fine with it. Dude, it’s YOUR KID. I was an awesome nanny so I had nothing to be concerned about outside of the occasional nose pick or ass scratch, and if you say you’ve never done that then you’re a liar ;) There’s no right to privacy in that situation as far as I’m concerned. Just my 2 cents.

  • amanda Says:

    I came to recommend Gavin De Becker’s book: Protecting the Gift (mentioned also by Alice above). It should be read by anyone with kids–it gives a great list of child caregiver interview questions, that cut to the chase. After all, what’s more valuable: your kid’s safety and well-being or following “polite” questioning that doesn’t give you any insight into how that person will care for your child.

    I fully intend to use once we have our kid and need a babysitter!

  • Tara Says:

    I don’t know if I was ever filmed back when I worked for a nanny/sitting service, but I always said that I wished someone would film me. I knew I was doing what needed to be done and was “on” the whole time. It was exhausting. :)

  • sarah Says:

    I don’t understand how you can say on one hand that you had a terrible experience with a caregiver who you thought was ok, but you still wouldn’t use a nannycam. WTF? I love you Alice, but I don’t get it.

    The woman had references and you had every reason to believe she was great and she was abusive–all the more reason to have a nannycam because you just can’t tell. You can’t. No one can.

    I have to go with commenter number 1–everyone always says how nice and quiet those serial killers were before they got caught.

    I thank god I don’t have to worry about this myself, but I would have a nanny cam if I had a nanny; and if it were safe and legal, I’d put a microchip in my kid (till she turned 18). Yes, that’s over the top and I know it. Don’t CARE!

  • Kari Says:

    So you would be okay with it if your employer spied on you? If your employer installed spying/tracking/monitoring software on your computer at work?

    I quit a babysitting/nannying job over nannycams once. The parents loved me (I thought… as they often commented that I was the only non-family member they trusted with their kids). The kids loved me. And then one day the oldest kid, gleeful at knowing a secret that I didn’t, showed me where some of the hidden cameras were.

    I quit on the spot as soon as the parents got home. I told them that I refused to work for anyone who distrusted me enough to spy on me behind my back while telling me to my face how much they loved and trusted me.

  • Jess Says:

    I was a nanny and worked for one family that I suspected was filming me. I ended up leaving that position because the father was a total pervert. He left porn lying around and sometimes brought other women home when his wife was out of town and his kids were in bed. And he would make inappropriate comments to me. I assume that the mother wanted to make sure her kids were safe, but I just couldn’t shake the idea that dad was jacking off to video of me doing dishes or something. As a mother now, I would never leave my kid in the care of someone I didn’t know and trust, so no need for video.

  • cee Says:

    I worked as a nanny for years and I would flip out if someone filmed me without my knowledge or consent. That applies to ANY job, actually. Not because I have something to hide, it’s just the principal of the thing.

  • SarahThe Says:

    Looking at the larger picture, I’d have to say I’m pro nanny-cam.

    First of all, I should state the following: I did my fair share of baby sitting when I was growing up, and I always took fantastic care of the kids I was watching. Retrospectively though, I wish someone would have thought twice about having a 15 year old girl in charge of 3 kids under 3 years old, but that’s not a problem that a nanny-cam can solve. It’s been proven that the part of the brain that helps people function in high-intensity situations doesn’t fully form until puberty is over, which can be your early 20s. Whereas your (proverbial ‘you’) 16 year old babysitter might be great in a day-to-day scenario, in a panic situation, the reactions of a person in their early (and even late) teens should not be trusted, especially not with something as precious as your child’s life.

    Secondly @Kari: A considerable lot of employers DO have a) spyware on your computer, b) the legal right to read all of your emails, monitor your internet activity, etc. and c) video cameras watching your every move. I worked for years in a setting where the store “security” cameras were randomly monitored to make sure the employes were acting right when the bosses were away. Having a nanny-cam, in my opinion, is no different from that.

    I do, however, think that if you’re going to install a nanny-cam, there’s no reason to keep it a secret. As an employee when I knew I was being watched all the time, I acted accordingly. If installing a nanny-cam is one of the ways you can feel re-assured that your babysitter is playing by the rules all the time, then so be it. I agree that people should act the same on-camera or off, but it’s less personally insulting if you know you’re being filmed from the get-go.

    A perspective that hasn’t been discussed here yet:

    To me, one of the real reasons that one would use a nanny-cam is not to protect themselves but to protect the next family. I agree that if you suspect a problem with your babysitter, your course of action should be termination of employment not installation of surveillance. However, if you’re the person that uses a nanny-cam from the beginning and THEN find out that OMFG, big problem, at least you have hard and fast, court-approved evidence. That nanny-cam could be the one thing that stops The Bad Babysitter from doing the same harm at his/her next job.

    Stopping the problem isn’t enough. So you’re suspicious that your babysitter is causing personal (or physical or sexual) harm to your children. You fire her. She’s going to get another job doing the same thing to those children unless you take a stand and stop her.

  • Leah Says:

    I’m really torn on this one. On one hand, you do need to protect your kids. On the other, I just don’t feel comfortable being filmed at work. It’s hard to be on 100% of the time. I babysat for years (from age 12 to 24 or so), and I was a great babysitter. I was paid really well (at the end, I was making a minimum of $10 an hour. I still don’t understand parents who don’t think they need to pay at least minimum wage to get a good sitter), and I deserved it. I did science experiments with the kids, we played outside, we cleaned the house, and there was no TV watching. For the vast majority of families, I was a model sitter, and I would have been offended if the families had a camera on me.

    But I did nanny for a family who had a child with autism, and working for them was much different than all the other families. The autistic kid always did his own thing, and his little brother was also very introverted. I had to be there at 6 am so mom and dad could get to work, and my other job usually kept me awake until midnight (the parents knew about the other job). I fully admit this is my fault and likely negligent, but I would take naps while nannying. The kids knew to wake me when they wanted anything, and all they did was watch cartoons and play videogames while I was asleep. I slept really lightly, and there was never, ever a problem. But even now I shudder at the thought that something bad could have happened. I worked for them during the summer for 7 some years and after school while I was in high school. I made lots of money, and I genuinely liked the kids. Around 9 am, I was always up and interacting with them — took them to the zoo, the park, McD’s (ugh, but they loved it), etc. We had a great time, and the little cat naps enabled me to be able to care for them better until mom came home at 3. Then, I’d race home (she was frequently late), change clothes, and leave for my other job around 4.30. I still can’t believe the schedule I kept then. And this is where my torn feelings come in — I shouldn’t have taken those naps, and something bad could have happened. Maybe their mom should have known about it. But I also say that parents don’t always pay 100% attention to their kids, and I was well-tuned to their behavior after so many years with the little guys. So, I’m not sure what should have happened there. Certainly, I could have been better . . . but the boys loved me, the mom loved me, and I had many quality years caring for them with no one really caring about those little naps that helped me be a much better worker for the rest of the day.

  • ShannonO.P. Says:

    I agree with Sarah The…. I think the big picture IS being able to prove legally that wrong-doing occurred and, on those grounds, be able to prosecute the offender so that it could never happen again to another child. With that, I would have no problem letting the sitter/nanny know that we filmed the going-on’s in our house ahead of time, and let that person choose whether or not they wanted to work in that environment.

    I’m the mother of a 6 mo old, and right now am too wary to let anyone outside of our closest few friends and immediate family watch the baby. However, as the baby gets older I’m sure we will branch out and look for a sitter (don’t want to totally wear family out!). I do think it’s our responsibility as parents to choose wisely and be willing to pay for quality. Even though I babysat from the age of 12 on, I don’t think I would hire the middle school or high school “me” (even though I did the best job I knew how to) to watch my child. If I’m entrusting my child’s life to someone else, they at least need to be able to make adult decisions and have a ton of experience….Childcare is not really where I’m looking to cheap out or save a buck…

  • B Says:

    Yay! More shilling for corporate ’causes’!

  • Sarah Says:

    I don’t think the filming needs to be secret and yes–excellent point–what about the next family??? Firing someone is not enough if they’ve done real harm. You can’t tattoo a red A for abuser on their forehead.

    Parents should do background checks, just like a company does–if it’s not someone you know personally. I think we’d like to think it’s not a business, but it is.

  • Colista Says:

    I do not have kids, but I was babysat and that alone is probably the reason I didn’t have kids. The thought of leaving them with someone and them possibly having the same experiences I did were enough to make me say no thanks to children….that and the fact that they could grow up and slash you into a thousand pieces, but hey whatever.

  • S Says:

    Kari – My employer does have tracking/monitoring software on my computer at work. I would guess that most people do nowadays. If my employer wants they can remotely look in on whatever I’m typing at work at any time. It’s their computer and they’re paying me, ergo it’s their right. If I don’t like it my option is to not work for them, which isn’t going to get my rent paid…

  • Cam Bowman Says:

    I am the mother of a one year old beautiful baby girl. If for any reason I thought that a babysitter or nanny were doing anything suspicious we would terminate them immediately. I know things happen out there and some people aren’t who they claim to be. But I don’t think I would put a camera in our home. We have a baby monitor and it drives me crazy. I watch it constantly when my baby is sleeping. I can only imagine what I would be like with a video! I would just follow my instincts.

  • Nicole Says:

    I worked as a nanny and now regularly hire nannies for my own children and I would never consider a camera. I have the nannies working in my own home, which seems to be quite different from a lot of the horror stories above, and I often spend time at the house working from home while the nanny and children are also home. I actually think that its important to have time like this when the nanny can see how you, as a mother, deal with your kids and you can see how she handles problems. Even the best nanny is not necessarily on the same page as the mom on every issue and no one can read minds so I find it important to regularly pop in the room to mention to the nanny any issues that I might be picking up on. And if I had any sort of doubts about what the nanny was doing when I wasn’t there I would end things immediately. Every time I put up an ad for a nanny, I get atleast a dozen responses with a day so there is nothing easier than hiring someone new.