If you’ve ever driven around my current hometown of Los Angeles, you know that Latinas pushing strollers of white, blue-eyed children is a common sight. These women are usually nannies, and they get paid to raise the kids of movie stars, TV executives, and Beverly Hills trust fund millionaires.
Well, ok, not everyone who hires a nanny is a pampered one-percenter. In fact, my wife and I, who are laughably far from being rich, are looking for part-time help with our infant son. So we’ve been interviewing potential caregivers.
By the way, if you would have told me a decade ago that I would be enthusiastic about baby spit-up and diaper changes, I would have gulped my beer, waved off the tattoo artist working on my shoulder, and told you to crank up the System of a Down and stop talking nonsense. But that was another life.
In any case, picking a nanny is not just a personal decision. There are a surprising number of political and cultural implications when it comes to choosing someone to look after your kids.
It’s a fact that many Latina nannies in Southern California are undocumented. So if I hire a Hispanic woman with an accent, do I assume she is a legal resident? Is it racist to assume that she is not a legal resident?
If she is undocumented, am I exploiting her, perhaps being a traitor to my own ethnicity? Am I also undermining the American economy? At the very least, am I becoming a California cliché by asking an undocumented Latina to look after my kid?
On the other hand, if I hire a white woman, am I doing it just for the sociological thrill of providing an antidote to that cliché? After all, it would be counterculture cool to see a white nanny pushing a stroller with a Latino kid in it. Would that be my way of sticking it to the Man?
As I wrote in another post, the women we interviewed who were immigrants (not just from Latin America) all displayed a strong work ethic. The American-born women, in contrast, made it clear that they were not doing anything unless we coughed up more cash.
That makes it much more appealing to hire a foreign-born worker. But isn’t that always the way, and has my search for a nanny become a metaphor for the new American system, where immigrants knock themselves out for wages that fourth-generation citizens scoff at?
With these myriad considerations swirling through our heads, my wife and I decided to just go with the best individual candidate. She is a college student with lots of experience with kids, and she won’t cost an exorbitant sum. Plus, she was the only candidate who, during the interview, asked to meet our son. That was a selling point.
So is she Latina, or African, or European, or an American-born white girl? Well, I’d like to think that it doesn’t matter.
But of course, it does.