When most couples marry, the next expectation is to have children. This expectation is often not driven by their preparedness but mere excitement. In many jurisdictions, licensing is required for delicate jobs like driving, practicing as a doctor, pharmacist, engineer, lawyer, investment advisory amongst others. But when it comes to parenting, nothing like that exist, despite God’s command in Proverbs 22:6 which requires that parents train up their children in the way they should go and when they are old, they would not depart from it. Parents or guardians are supposed to play their respective roles of raising upright children in society. Gradually, women have had to take up jobs to support the home especially in roles formerly dominated by males. In order to juggle the responsibilities of work and motherhood, the role of assigning some responsibilities to caregivers or nannies is gradually gaining grounds. This article explores the contemporary phenomenon of engaging nannies and domestic assistants as a component of contemporary parenting and share some best practices on how to prepare to do so more effectively.
Parenting is not an easy job as it requires a lot of time, affection, planning, directing, correcting and monitoring. Performing this responsibility has become even more difficult given the changing pace of the family setting, technology and nature of jobs that most parents are engaged in. Traditionally, women have been known to be the primary caregivers in the home where most mothers were predominantly full-time housewives while their partners were the sole bread winners. Those engaged in work were mostly in caterers or petty traders. This phenomenon in recent times has been made possible in the quest to emancipate or empower the girl child or women for economic freedom and alleviate poverty. When the parents are absent from the home as a result of their jobs, they sometimes rely of the services of nannies and domestic servants to take care of their children and the house.
Parenting is a process that involves promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child as he or she transitions from infancy to adulthood. If one cares to admit the challenges our parents endured to raise us up then we can also admit that it is a daunting responsibility which requires planning ahead for resources and dedication to execute it. Generally, parenting requires three main sets of skills namely nurturing, physical care and guidance. Nurturing involves the skill to provide love, support, attention, encouragement with the aim to help children develop self-confidence and assertiveness. The skill of guidance requires that parents teach their children the values of what is right or wrong and what society expects of them. Lastly, physical care places on the parent the responsibility of providing food, shelter and clothing.
Raising children in the modern-day world can be challenging especially when critical factors that impact and shape behavior such as the family setting, societal values and technology are rapidly changing. Children are becoming exposed to social vices through uncensored media programs and social media platforms which could derail the effort of good parenting. The school made up of teachers and their friends greatly influence the character and intellectual development of children and must be keenly looked at. Under normal circumstances the biological parents of the child should serve as the main caregivers of the children in their transition from childhood to adulthood but nannies and house helps are taking up that responsibility now. In traditional home settings, extended family members such as the grandparents, siblings, aunties also play supportive roles in a child’s upbringing because they primarily lived in close proximity. In the nuclear family setting, it is only the parents and the children that live together and they most often rely on caregivers to help them raise their children.
The caregiver dilemma
Some parents are most often than not confronted with the decision of employing a domestic helper as a caregiver to assist with the overwhelming duties at home which might include taking care of the young baby, toddler or young child. Busy work schedules of either or both parents could also necessitate such a decision. While acknowledging the difficulty in finalizing the decision, starting the search and selection of a caregiver does not sometimes come easily. Whatever the decision may be to engage the services of caregivers, several concerns are present bothering on how an outsider could be trusted to selflessly cater for ones beloved child and home. While some but very few parents can boast of their dutiful caregivers, majority tell of harrowing stories of torture, strange teachings and doctrines, theft and negligent behaviour. Several testimonies tell of children having to endure physical, sexual, emotional abuse at the hands of their caregivers and threatened not to disclose any event to their others.
In some rare known cases, some caregivers have failed to disclose health or medical issues which were eventually transmitted to the children. Parents may have to change deviant caregivers over time in the quest to ensure the disciplined or experienced one is found. The issue of having to cater for another person also has financial implications worth considering. Parents are therefore advised to remain observant and if necessary train them if need be. It is quite common to find out very young children between the ages of 8 years to 18 years being employed to serve domestic helpers or caregivers in Ghana. It naturally becomes difficult for a child to take care of another child with no proper home training. Some of these helpers are compelled to serve due to financial constraints to continue their education or poverty. Some unfortunately become victims of abuse at the hands of their employers. They must be treated with respect.
Common mistakes made in recruiting caregivers
The decision to recruit a caregiver is a daunting one which no one can attain flawlessly. However, some basic issues when ignored could prove fatal in the future. Some persons recruit based on referrals from others, through the social welfare center or private domestic agencies in the country. Some common mistakes are listed below;
- Not consulting God on the suitability of a potential caregiver
- Not conducting background investigation on the potential caregiver
- Not conducting medical examination on the potential caregiver
Recommended approach to recruiting caregivers
- Enquire from God on the suitability of a potential candidate
God speaks to us as His children as the all-knowing one. From a religious perspective, parents need to enquire from God on the suitability of successful caregiver they are bringing into their homes to take care of their children. Most parents do not seek God’s opinion concerning the selection of caregivers. Apart from character deficiencies in some candidates, they may be used as agents of the evil one who can destroy the children that God has gifted parents. Seeking God’s opinion and getting answers from Him is a sure bet on getting the best candidate.
- Conduct medical examination of caregivers
Nannies have very close physical contact with the children entrusted in their care and for that matter; parents should screen potential caregivers of communicable diseases and clear them of such infections before bringing them into their homes. Some of the sickness to be screened can include Hepatitis B, Typhoid Fever, Tuberculosis, mental illness and open sores. Screening for this would prevent onward transmission from the caregiver to the child. Also, a healthy nanny would have enough time to take care of the child. A sick nanny would need regular medical attention which would require time and money.
- Investigate the background of caregivers before engaging them
Doubts about the caliber of persons being engaged can be partly cleared when due diligence is conducted into the life and family of the caregiver to investigate for bad character traits, history of theft or abuse. Another thing to investigate on a prospective nanny is the whether or not the person is epileptic. An epileptic person can pose danger to the baby and themselves. In cases when such a person is carrying the child near fire and the epileptic attack happens, there is a clear sense of danger to the baby and the epileptic patient especially if they are alone.
What is expected of parents who engage caregivers
- Involve in the moral training of the caregiver
Caregivers with little or no moral integrity are more likely to influence the child negatively. Parents can study and provide training in areas where they fall short in order to correct this problem. Any negative moral value can corrupt the moral fiber of kids especially when it goes unnoticed by unavailable parents. This is important because caregivers serve as agents of socialization as far as the children are concerned.
- Discipline children and entreat children to report abuse
Parents must discipline children and correct them but not to the extent where it becomes a form of abuse. They must be observant of the relations between caregivers and their children to monitor any abuse or any inappropriate relations. Parents must further engage their toddler or young children in conversations to unravel any concerns and act accordingly. It is also advisable for parents to exercise restraint in order not to retaliate based on reports provided by children but discretely investigate matters to avoid falling in the hands of the law for abuse. They should get information from their wards school or teachers to check for any credible information that have been missed at home as the school plays a key role in social development.
- Install hidden cameras at home for monitoring purposes
A growing trend in childcare across the world has been the use of surveillance equipment to monitor events at home from the comfort of any location. Hidden cameras can be installed in different locations of the home for monitoring purposes, evaluate the performance and implement any changes where necessary. This medium of technology has provided evidence to buttress abuse perpetuated by violent caregivers and enable prosecution of culprits.
- Plan extracurricular programs for children
Normally when children close from school they have to spend some time with the caregiver before the parents get home from work. When parents do not arrange to get their children involved in extracurricular activities like music classes, dance classes and other technical skills, the children may not be properly engaged and may end up watching some telenovelas that would not add value to them but rather teach them bad things.
- Monitor and filter television programmes and social media platforms used
Parents must monitor and filter television programmes watched in their absence including cartoons, telenovelas and local African productions as it plays a role in their mental and social development. Parents must determine suitable TV programmes, social media platforms that can be viewed and used by the children.
- Educate caregiver on health needs of child
Children that are sick or have special needs would require special attention. Caregivers must be trained, supervised from time to ensure the correct dosage of medications are administered at the right time aside other attention needs. They must however not be assigned the sole responsibility of medication administration or play the role of trained healthcare worker. It is the duty of the parent to educate the caregiver on the health conditions of their children and how their medications should be administered. Also, caregivers may sometimes serve as a first point of call in cases of health emergencies, so should be provided with some vital health information on health conditions, allergies, blood group among others.
- Provide good sleeping place for the caregiver
Parents are required to provide and maintain hygienic living conditions for their caregivers. Most often when these nannies are employed, priority is placed of the children more than the caregiver. Some of these nannies sleep in rooms often not inspected by the parents. The truth of the matter is that, children become fond of their caregivers and may spend much time in their rooms and there remains a possibility to contract diseases due to their exposure to unsanitary conditions.
- Provide basic safety training
Caregivers need to be given basic safety training at home on first aid and basic fire management techniques. This would ensure that they are equipped to effectively manage unforeseen contingencies at home in the absence of their employer.
Responsibility of Parents
Parents or guardians can be likened to tour guards who have the responsibility to ensure their guests are adequately informed and safe in an unfamiliar terrain. By being a child makes one vulnerable hence requiring someone to nurture and protect him or her till they become acquainted with the terrain and understand happenings around them. Parents are responsible for promoting the physical, emotional, social and intellectual development of their children. Most parents endeavor to provide their children with food, shelter, security and other physiological needs for their children and think that is enough. Parenting involves more than that. Emotional, intellectual and spiritual guidance are critical in the stages of the life of the young child. This aspect of the parenting is what most parents miss thereby leading to the churning out of adults whose values are far different from their family values and acceptable societal values.
Parents are expected to make provisions for their wards’ education in the quest to achieve intellectual development. They must endeavor to monitor the progress of their children by getting engaged in their child’s academic performance and assess feedback from teachers on how to improve them. Encouraging children to speak up would help them boost their confidence. Praising them when they excel is a good practice. In correcting children, demeaning words should not be used as they can dampen their spirits or hurt them. Also as part of the emotional development of children, they must be trained to take responsibility for their actions since that would likely cause them to think through the possible consequences of their words and actions. More importantly parents should educate children about certain critical issues relating to adolescence and social vices like sex, drugs and substance abuse, peer pressure and acceptable social values during the various stages or phases of the life. Parents should monitor and advise on the company of friends their children associate with.
Children must be treated with tender love and parents must importantly exhibit exemplary characters worth emulating for the young ones to serve as role models. Children are to a large extent influenced by both immediate and external factors. At some point parents must teach their young adult children to be self-reliant to wean themselves at a later point. Parents must desist from engaging their children in manual or child labour to fend for the family. While some defend it as a means to support the family due to poverty this must done under the supervision of responsible adults in non-hazardous environments.
One of the key roles of any responsible parent is to lead and oversee the spiritual growth of the children. As spiritual beings parents must endeavor to introduce their child to their religion of faith in order to imbibe in them good moral values from their religion preferably at an early stage. This helps build good character. Prayer helps them to communicate with God and studying the word of God helps them live an acceptable way of life that pleases God.
Most importantly, parents should monitor their children right from infancy to identify their talents and guide them through it.
In conclusion, parenting is a life-long responsibility which if not well handled can lead to the churning out of irresponsible adults thereby putting the leadership of the future generation in jeopardy. Families are becoming secluded due to socio-economic factors and gradually relieving the role played by the extended family members and society in directly raising a child. The phenomenon of engaging caregivers to assist couples in taking care of their children and assist with house chores is gradually gaining grounds in conservative families in urban cities in recent times in Ghana. The dilemma of having to engage a caregiver brings to forth several issues that stand to influence the child positively or negatively. Parenting requires a holistic approach taking into consideration the role of all agents of change in a child’s life namely the parents or guardians, family, school, church, friends and technology.
It is highly recommended that parents conduct background investigations to probe bad character traits in their potential caregivers and also do medical screening on the caregiver to prevent exposure to communicable diseases to their children. The recruited caregivers must be orientated to imbibe in them acceptable family values. The mother especially should take time to initiate the new care giver into the home to ensure she knows exactly what is expected of her under supervision. Surveillance gadgets can be used to monitor activities in the home. Parents have the utmost responsibility to discipline their kids, lead exemplary lives with moral virtues and must at no point transfer that to caregivers even tough teachers also play a bit of the role. It takes a village to raise a child.
Written by: Sophia Kafui Teye
Email Address: [email protected]
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