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When Should You Rat Out a Bad Nanny?

I’ve got mom guilt, but not the usual kind. I’m afraid I may have let down another family by not acting on my mom’s intuition.

A year ago, at a toddler art class, I spotted my friend’s daughter with her new nanny. My friend, nervous about the recent hire (whom she had entrusted with her 2-year-old while putting in 50-hour work weeks) asked me, “How did the nanny seem? Did you notice anything good or bad?”

The truth was, the nanny had been chattering on her cell phone while the little girl painted a picture. The child was safe, but ignored, at least during the brief time I’d been in her presence.

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Was I supposed to rat out the nanny for making a phone call? For all I knew, the nanny could have been speaking to my friend, updating her while the child was occupied. Regardless, didn’t all humans between the ages of 12 and 90 talk on their cell phones once in a while, even with children in their care? It didn’t have to be a big deal. Why plant seeds of doubt that would upset my friend when I had no real knowledge of wrongdoing, just a feeling that this nanny wasn’t in the league of Mary Poppins?

It was like that age-old dilemma of spotting a friend’s husband cheating. Should you tell her? If you’re wrong — or even if you’re right — you’re risking your friendship as much as their marriage.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, so The Village must watch. The Village must listen. And The Village must speak.

I didn’t want my friend to think I was judgmental.

So I said the nanny seemed fine.

A year later, my friend brought criminal charges against that nanny for emotionally abusing her daughter as well as stealing from the family, actions that were caught via nanny cam. After another babysitter tipped off my friend, she was horrified to discover that her nanny had two completely different personalities: warm, enthusiastic and competent with the parents, but disengaged, impatient and cruel toward an innocent child when she thought no one was watching.

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When moms work outside the home, they put their trust in caregivers, most of whom do the best they can to provide safe and loving guidance until parents return. But a few rotten apples slip through, and a pre-verbal child can’t be counted on to report the problem. They say it takes a village to raise a child, so The Village must watch. The Village must listen. And The Village must speak. I can’t say whether my comments about the nanny’s cell phone use would have changed anything, but I know I would handle this situation differently next time. What would you have done?

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Photo by Getty Images

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