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I Never Thought I'd Use a Nanny Cam

Photograph by Getty Images

If you'd told me I would be shopping for a nanny cam to spy on my babysitter when I was pregnant with my first son and just entering the world of motherhood, I would have laughed my ass off.

Let's just get one thing straight: I am not a paranoid weirdo. I was a nanny myself in college and throughout my 20s. The thought of someone taping me unawares would have infuriated and embarassed me deeply. There were many times where I would do strange things myself while babysitting.

These included: rifling through snack cabinets and eating Doritos straight out of the bag, flipping through someone's wedding album, putting my feet up on the coffee table, picking the odd wedgie here and there, putting on the Rolling Stones and dancing with the kids when they were supposed to be in bed, and making them ice cream sundaes—again—when they were supposed to be in bed.

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Sure, none of this is harmful. But had the people paying me $15 an hour seen any of it, they might have been miffed. Or intrigued, depending on their disposition. The bottom line is I am human, and over the course of babysitting for at least 10 years, I am sure I sometimes watched way too much MTV instead of helping with homework and called my boyfriend approximately a million times.

I imagined the "smack" sound a wooden spoon would make on tiny, chubby toddler feet.

Everything changed, however, when friends of ours told us in quiet, strained voices over the phone they'd discovered through a nanny cam that their son was being regularly hit on the bottom of his feet with a wooden spoon. A wooden spoon! The thought was so grotesque, my husband and I thought they were joking. I thought of their son, a sweet, shy boy with a stutter. I imagined the "smack" sound a wooden spoon would make on tiny, chubby toddler feet. "I feel sick to my stomach," my husband said. "Me too," I replied.

I quickly hopped online, feeling dirtier and more ill-at-ease than if I were peeking at porn. There are a few apps where you can use your iPhone for spying (I hate that word!) but none of them seemed right. Plus, I have a tiny living room and nowhere to hide my phone. A quick search on Amazon yielded a few teddy bears with built-in cameras, but I kept thinking about the scenes with Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro in Meet the Fockers. There are alarm clocks with a camera hidden inside. iTunes has iCam, which gets top ratings. The app costs $5.

I haven't downloaded it yet. I simply can't bring myself to do it, despite our friends' experience. (They called the police, and are beginning a long battle of bringing their nanny up on charges.) I only have a babysitter twice a week for three hours. It's hard for me to believe she would be inclined to beat one of my kids in such a short amount of time, but I guess you never know.

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My babysitter recently asked me my advice on how to handle things when my toddler pushes my 1-year-old down on the floor. I took her interest and hints at the infamous "time-outs" as a good sign that she is mentally there. I haven't ruled out the camera, just putting the thought on the back burner. As of right now it is easier to try and trust my babysitter, but in the back of my mind I know that could change the instant I read another nanny horror story in the newspaper.

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