Today's Observer takes a look at the Tibetan nanny craze and finds that all is not well amongst New York parents searching for enlightened caretakers who will watch little Dillinger and Gingerly while Mommy goes to the gym and Daddy fiddles distractedly with his iPhone while pretending that he's "working." While Tibetan nannies are still a high-demand product, the whole transaction raises a difficult issue: It's kinda racist.
"There's kind of a mutually agreed unspoken agreement among mothers that all the normal rules about racism are off when you're talking about nannies," said one book editor in her early 30's who asked not to be identified because her Filipina nanny is illegal. "People talk about ethnicity in a way they never would at any other time. Even people who are very aware of not making racial stereotypes will put that on hold when talking to other mothers."
"Part of it is just a shorthand way of saying what you're looking for, and what qualities you'd like to instill in your children," the book editor continued. "Before I knew that Tibetan nannies were a status thing, a friend's friend was telling me that they were the very best. You hear that Filipina nannies are the best because they have a history of being caretakers in the Philippines. You hear that Caribbean nannies are a bit tough, so they're good if you have an unruly child with discipline issues."
Marie Claire executive editor Lucy Kaylin sees it as an unpleasant, but unavoidable, part of the hiring process: "Mothers caught in the grip of the nanny search can get a bit crazy. You're desperate for clarity and information, and you find yourself poking around in realms of your psyche that you thought were well sealed off." Yeah, the racist realms.
Anyway, the article fails to speculate what the future holds, but we spoke with a consultant who works in the Nanny Futures Industry, and he's still bullish on Tibet. "I'd say that's the solid pick for the next two, three years." And after that? "Venezuela, for sure. There's a lot of chatter about Caracas nannies: they're excellent cooks, they do a great job of imparting the Spanish language on the kids, and their country is awash in oil reserves, so you don't have to give them gas money." Venezuelan nannies: big in '09. You heard it here first.