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    « My Guestbook - Part 3 - Let's Talk Safety | Main | Move over, MC Gringo... »

    May 30, 2009


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    Middle class American here dating a middle class Brazilian. Neither of us feel it's right to "pawn" any children we'd have off on another person. Early childhood education is more than facts, it's also your values. His view could be due to religion (he's not catholic, so he's in the minority I guess), while mine likely comes from my parents. Also part of the fun would be watching your child develop I thought?


    I have to strongly agree here. I have a two year-old son and am constantly questioned why we do not have a nanny for him. I am in Rio as an ex-pat wife (am American) and cannot work because of Visa regulations...why would I not take care of my own child??? People don't seem to understand that this is my choice and what I prefer! I think it is sad to walk around Leblon during the morning with my son and see all the "baba"s pushing the strollers talking to each other and ignoring the children. I also frequently see the mother walking down the street and the baba following behind carrying the child or pushing the stroller as if it would be demeaning for the mother to have to do it herself. I was also stunned when a wife of my husband's co-worker invited us to her three year-old son's birthday party and I was the only parent that showed. All the other children were sent to party with their "baba"s who were being extremely picky about the food offered. It was unreal!


    I won't give you any flack, only kudos for raising this point.

    This is a difficult issue for any parent here, but especially estrangeiros who I think are even more at a disadvantage. My reply really applies to those Moms who don't have a full-time gig. For those who do, god bless you, it must be so difficult. How do you screen who you hire and trust? It might be a toss of the dice.

    This is a cultural thing and historically here, yes, having a Nanny (or two) was so the norm. Take a look at photos of your Brasilian friends' childhoods and for sure the Nanny will be an integral part.

    My two(American-influenced)cents: If you are a Mom who doesn't work, why do you NEED a full-time Nanny? Especially if you only have one child and most certainly a faxineira. I know several couples here (in Brasil) who have a maid, two nannies, a driver and one night nurse, for ONE CHILD. And the mother doesn't work (nor are they super-rich). I know several who take their Nanny everywhere with them, even on vacations. It is hard for me to comprehend this, STILL (middle class folks!). I have heard many-a-brasileira complain about how hard it is to take care of a bebe sem-ajuda, couldn't imagine it. BUT, hey, I did it without much help at all...and I was a newbie here! Taking care of a baby anywhere is hard work, but you are forming the mind, soul, confidence, emotional stability, everything...of your child. HELLO! If you CAN, why not? It is so important and SO worth it!

    Back to your point...I find myself amongst these Nannies in their white garb, I am there at school everyday, at the park, at the beach, I am always with my son and I see what goes on and hear their conversations and their complaints (and they DO complain). Some are very good and nice, others are iffy, and a few are downright dangerous (these are probably the odds anywhere). I have seen my share of the bad but one issue in particultar, we belong to a clube with several pools and my son was taking swimming lessons there this past summer. Over the course of a couple of months, I witnessed not one, but three different nannies, taking a snooze while the young kids (2-4yrs) were playing about in the pools with their waterwings...which signaled to me that these kids didn't exactly master swimming skills. HOW SCARY. And many Nannies are attached to their cell phones or engaged in conversations with others, partially-oblivious to what is going on with the kids they are responsible for in the pools, or at the park or praia. Way too often this happens. I have also seen far too many times, how with the children alone they are a certain way (much more rough, tugging them along "sem carinho") but with a parent around they are SUPER-affectionate, almost makes me want to vomit. This does not apply to all (I know some great babas), and certainly I feel for these women who take care of other peoples children, it must be tough.

    Kids benefit and thrive from being around attentive, loving PARENTS and family. End of story.


    I couldn't agree less. I am Brazilian and worked as an Au Pair in the US,
    where I experienced exactly the same things you've described. I currently
    live in Spain, and honestly, the picture I see here is not different from
    what I saw in the US, Canada, or other 20 countries I have visited, nannies
    everywhere, parents nowhere to be seen.

    Now, I think that it's extremely judgmental and shallow to think that
    Brazilians don't think "critically and are too accepting" because they have
    nannies, or because their parents didn't put them on a top school when they
    were toddlers. Try to keep in mind that you are living in a developing country where hunger and illiteracy are still a daily problem. Have you stop to think that when people can't read the news, can't feed
    their children, can barely pay the bills or
    food or pay a private school for them.
    To Brazilian standards you are rich if you can afford a nanny.

    Don't forget that also Brazil is a country that only "stopped" being blatantly explored and robbed by other countries about a hundred years ago, that then lived under dictatorship until 1985. That by the way, ended because people went to the streets, that went to the streets to impeach a president as well. I believe that to just ignore 500 years of history and
    scrape your ideas out of only what you see in the safe streets of rich neighborhoods or a couple of friends said is too superficial.

    I'm sorry but I have seen nannies doing a better job at educating children than parents. However I have seen too many parents smoking right next to their children, talking to their friends and not even looking to the kids. Even worse, drunk driving with the kids in the car, or getting drunk at the beach and not paying attention to their children, but because they are parents is that considered ok?!

    Feel free to disagree, I just wanted to share my beliefs.

    Daily Rio Life

    Being a new mom, I am quickly discovering that how to do almost anything to do with raising children is incredibly controversial! There are varying opinions about almost everything! Of course this post is no exception.
    Thank you all for your comments and I will respond individually.

    Dani 1) I think in most cases values are the most important thing a child can be taught from a young age. See my story I will use as an example in my response to Dani 2 below. I am already seeing with my 3 week old baby is that ALL of the fun is in watching her develop.

    Caroline N - We must be frequenting the same places. BTW thst birthday party sounds like a nightmare!

    Stephanie - wow those are some major horror stories.

    Dani 2) It surprises me that you found the au pair/nanny situation is the same in all of these countries. I can't speak for all of the countries but being that I am from Canada, and a very small percentage of my friends and acquaintances have this type of help, whereas here it's pretty much 100% who have them.

    I would also like to say that I too worked as a nanny, in the US, and totally get your point about nannies doing a better job than parents. In some cases. Not all. In just 3 weeks I had those kids saying please and thank you and acting much more respectfully than when I began with them (they were incredibly demanding and rude when I began), which just goes to show the effects of "parenting"... I am happy to hear that you see the nannies adding value. As other commenters have pointed out, this is not always the case. It has also been pointed out to me by almost everyone here that employs babas that I will have to train even an "experienced" baba on EVERYTHING, and that despite the fact that it is this person's life's work, they may still do hazardous things such as put an infant on its stomach to sleep or give your baby chocolate milk... (?????)

    Perhaps it was a mistake to beat around the bush as much as I did with this post and rather just get straight to the point. My question or theory that I am asking my readers about is this - does having almost the entire population of a country spend its formative years with an uneducated person have an effect on this population and their educational abilities or intelligence? I am simply asking. I don't know the answer. But to say definitively that it does not means that you do not value teaching young children any academics and see no benefit to doing so. Is that the case?

    I am not trying to "ignore history" but simply talk about what I do see. I fully disclose that this blog is simply based on MY experiences in Rio, today, yes in the "safe" (?) streets of my neighbourhood. I realize that many Brazilians have not had it easy.

    Thanks everyone for your thoughts, I appreciate them all, very thought provoking indeed.


    Hi, thanks for answering, I honestly thought the comment would be deleted.
    I just wanted to show that there are two sides of the story. I absolutely agree that there are bad nannies and bad parents out there.
    I just was a little shocked to hear that there are so many nannies in Rio, I have many friends in Rio, and none of them have nannies or was raised by nannies.
    I didn't want to generalize, my husband is American (that's the reason why I found your website, we are going to live in Brazil soon and I wanted to get a different perspective) and he wasn't raise by nannies either, he's from upstate NY. I lived in Connecticut and Westchester county in NY, where it was extremely rare to see parents around.
    I think it will always depend on where you are living.
    Yes, compared to most places in Rio, you are living in a safe area, even though compared to Canada it might not feel that way.
    I just wanted to add, that I made many courses before becoming a nanny, and I was trained by my former boss to put the baby on his stomach to sleep, because he had reflux. Every child is different, every parent and nanny are different. therefore, no matter what you think is best, there will always be a different point of view.

    About the question you raise, I think it goes without saying that not all nannies are uneducated. Of course any children will benefit from a good education in early childhood however what's most important for them to learn is not the capitals of the world, the name of the presidents, politics or concepts they can't even begin to grasp the idea. But how to be polite, to discern right from wrong, values, morals, ethics, and how to be loving and caring.


    I don't think your theory is right for the simple fact I know PLENTY of people who had no nanny while growing-up (in middle class families) and they haven't turned out different than those who had. I would say, in my group of friends there are about 14 people and 40% of them didn't had a nanny and there's no difference whatsoever.

    Luiz Felipe


    I'm not sure critical thinking is very affected by being raised by nannies. Anyway, it should be quite easy to verify: just devise a test to measure it (American SAT results should do) and compare results between those raised by nannies and those that are not. I think differences will be statistically insignificant.

    I do, however, see an evil side-effect in this generalised nannies-as-mummies custom. And, more than critical reasoning, it has to do with culture and values. I attribute the spread of "funk" (the promiscuous Brazilian style - not the cool American one), the complete decadence of all forms of high-culture in Brazil and middle class "gangster culture" to nannies. A country's elites (broadly defined) should be those that are recognized as those that strive to make it better, those that are best prepared, more capable to lead the way with ideas and deeds, and act as a moral standard. When they are educated by the uneducated, receive culture from the uncultured and values that stem from a context of violence and anarchy, that harms everyone.

    I think you made a common mistake in your sociological analysis of Brazil: assuming that having American (or Canadian) middle-class wages and being near to an American middle-class living standard makes people middle-class in Brazil. It doesn't. Middle class cariocas are the ones that live in the suburbs. Leblon is the most expensive neighbourhood in Brazil. The comparison between developed world middle class with developing world elite might not really be appropriate. I think if you analyse other countries' elites, you might also find a similar nanny situation.


    "mom's wear white" , identify themselves as "baba's", often have baba's here

    I am writing a friendly note to you about your use of apostrophes.
    Plural Mom is Moms. Plural Baba is Babas. Possessive Mom is Mom's.


    Dani: Can I ask with what type of people you make contact daily if you have seen nannies in Spain? I haven't seen a single nanny/met a single Spaniard who has had a nanny in my five years in Spain. In Spain, if the parents can't afford daycare or if the mother doesn't want to/can't afford to stay at home with the child, it's the grandparents who take care of the child during the parents workday.

    Spaniards as well as many Europeans have usually quite negative attitude towards nannies. It's not that they are bad, it's just that hiring help that way is a bit 'pijo' (elitist).

    I don't think, though, that blaming nannies for passivity in front of social problems is correct. I just don't see the connection. Every country has its culture,with some things great and some things better somewhere else. And when it comes to the Western hysteria of buying dozens of 'how to get an intelligent baby'-books, I don't understand it. Primary and secondary education is important and parent's attitude crucial, but why don't let the children to be just children, valuable in their own right, until they go to school and start 'learning how to become intelligent'?


    First of all I have to admit that the presence of babas is indeed overwhelming... and you have almost no chance to meet mums... It was my biggest disappointment in Rio: when living overseas school used to be our source of friends / social life. Here it is impossible... unless I decide to befriend Babas of my son's classmates...

    As for the Brazilian tendency to get an extensive help with the kids... Well: to have Baba or not to have Baba – it is very personal choice. Everybody understands motherhood in a different way. Some mothers are ‘glued’ to their children all around the clock. Some others believe that quality of time spent together is more important the quantity. And for some other women – giving birth was the only moment that got them really close to their children. And all 3 approaches can be find not only in Brazil. I used to work as au pair in France and Italy.... and believe me - I did not see mothers / my employers too often...

    And the final point. I do agree that taking care of your children's development is one of the key responsibilities. Introducing them to right toys, stimulating their imagination...You might be right that a baba with no diploma might not be able to do it. But if you are lucky she might be an affectionate and loving person and I believe that love and care are by far more important in child' development than games aimed at increasing IQ by 20 points. I agree that love should come from parents. But if they are not around because they can't or don't want to - there is a chance that baba can fill the existing emotional void. She does not need a diploma to do that.

    As for a big temptation to create high IQ toddlers ( 3 years old can't count to 100 - does it mean he won't be bright and successful?)- I guess all the parents go through this phase. Likely - for children - it never gets too serious. Otherwise they couldn't enjoy their childhood...


    "I think you made a common mistake in your sociological analysis of Brazil: assuming that having American (or Canadian) middle-class wages and being near to an American middle-class living standard makes people middle-class in Brazil. It doesn't. Middle class cariocas are the ones that live in the suburbs. Leblon is the most expensive neighbourhood in Brazil. The comparison between developed world middle class with developing world elite might not really be appropriate. I think if you analyse other countries' elites, you might also find a similar nanny situation."

    That's true (although I did not quite get the part about funk being the core of sociological problems in Brazil. Funk is for Brazil what reggaeton is for the rest of Latin America, fun magazine to dance to in a party). If you go to the Upper Eastside in Manhattan or to any elitist neighborhood in the world you'll see quite a big share of nannies too. You're forgetting you live in the most expensive area in Latin America and those you see there are NOT the Brazilian middle class, sorry to break that to you.

    Also, do you really think parents aren't extremely worried in their children have the best educations? Most schools in Brazil go from kindergarten to the end of high school and parents work hard to find the best school for their children to study on (private, of course. Public school in Brazil is terrible).


    " I know several couples here (in Brasil) who have a maid, two nannies, a driver and one night nurse, for ONE CHILD. And the mother doesn't work (nor are they super-rich). "

    I guarantee you they ARE super rich. Not Brazilian super rich, super rich PERIOD. An average upper middle class, even in Leblon, have no means to support that type of thing. It's true most kids in upscale neighborhoods in Rio have nannies (and, as I said before, I don't think this means much. Beside, there's no culture of being a housewife here in Brazil like there is in North America. Moms have a professional life), maybe even two but to think a not super rich family could afford this entire staff in Rio de Janeiro is a big mistake.


    Hi. I know this is an old post but I've only just found this blog (very very interesting to me, trying to move to Canada having been born in Rio).

    I'd just like to reassure something about the "everyone has nannies here" and the "most brazilian children being raised by nannies" thing.

    Well, it's not a general reality. It might be (and truly is) in Leblon, Ipanema and Barra da Tijuca, but this is not middle class we're talking about, rather upper class.

    I come from a middle-class family and, thus, have a middle-class circle of friends and can tell you that NONE of the people I know closely have nannies or have been raised by one. I know exactly ONE family who has a nanny for their child, and even them, it's a case which both parents work.

    About my opinion, I used to work at an office inside a mall in Barra da Tijuca and I really got sickened by all those moms who seemed to be embarassed to look like a mom. They came first, then the nanny with their children. Me and my friends from work kept talking about how ridiculous that was.

    Anyway, just to put here a different point of view about the subject. Great blog! Keep up :)


    I'm sorry but this is redundant. To extrapolate the fact that some children grow up with nannies to the value judgement that Brazilians lack critical thinking is so ignorant so as to be rather ironic in the context of the post you have made.

    The comments to this entry are closed.

    Currently in Rio...