Last month, a leading psychologist, Dr Dennis Friedman, suggested that boys who have a nanny before the age of one are more likely to cheat on their sexual partners later in life in his book, The Unsolicited Gift. According to Friedman, “it introduces him to the concept of The Other Woman”, whereby he will rely on one woman for “basic needs” and another for “emotional” ones at an early age, scarring the poor thing for life. That Friedman is 85, thankfully, goes a long way to explaining his archaic views. It’s times like this I really wonder how far we’ve come since the Victorians; the implications of what he’s saying is massively sexist on a number of levels.
First and foremost, it resolves men who cannot be faithful of the blame; do men not cheat because they’re selfish/unhappy/insecure? Because for both genders, monogamy can be hard, people make mistakes? Or is it because society, egged on by leading voices such as this guy, find excuses for men who cheat, cultivating a culture that labels men as sexual beasts devoid of any control over their loins? If I were a man, I’d be highly upset over this. Second, is this bollocks about “basic needs” and “emotional needs”. So, the basic care nannies supposedly provide is akin to sexual fulfillment for the male babies? What does this make them, prostitutes, paid for their services? And if mothers are supposed to be doing it, where are we then?
Friedman harps on about the baby’s “right” for a mother who is “100% connected”. Oh, please. What about a mother’s right to work, and the nannies’ too? I and my twin brother had a nanny and our mother was more than 100% connected; but she didn’t need to be there all the time to do that. Earning a wage was also a vital priority to our development, and to her’s. It didn’t make one jot of difference to us, and if it did, we learned to connect with adults outside the family at a young age, perhaps nursing more rounded communication skills. What’s more, I don’t see my brother running wild around the place with his trousers down because he’s confused about where his “basic needs” come in; instead, he was taught trust, responsibility and respect for women in far more explicit and direct ways, and these are far more important to his ultimate happiness than whether or not he had a nanny. What this comes down to is sinister and powerful discourse that says in thinly veiled terms that ultimately, women are wrong to consider working after they become mothers, or suffer turning their sons into emotional fuckwits. What about fathers being 100% connected too?
It’s the age old mantra that’s been around since Adam and Eve lays all blame and shame for sex with women, the kind where if a guy cheats, the girlfriend’s supposed to be more angry at the girl he did it with than with him; although points go to Friedman for inventively blaming the mothers this time instead of the mistresses. Of course, Friedman’s findings suggest that baby girls who have a nanny somehow doesn’t alter their sexual fidelity, just turns them to drink and drugs, although frankly I don’t see why his logic suddenly fails him there. Nannies, like all pre-school childcare, are a fantastic way for women to get back to work quickly and provide employment for people who like looking after children, and it’s only a shame it’s not as affordable as it could be. If we’ve really got anything from feminism, women should be able to have children without it being some massive sin to want to work too; “mother” and “working” should be two words that sit happily together. Friedman himself may have had a nanny back in 1925 but if he’s cheated on a partner since, that’s his problem. Let’s not drag mothers into it.