Recently, a lovely journalist from TODAY Moms interviewed me about what I call the “Not the nanny” syndrome. You know, that irritating situation when people mistake you for your child’s caregiver because you might be of color and your baby looks kind of White? I know it happens all the time to Black girls like me who procreated across the color line and managed to spit out babies lacking in melanin. But it also happens to Latina women, Asian women and even White women.
I met a White woman recently who was married to a Filipino man. Her two children look more Asian than White. She told me that, while breast feeding, someone asked her if she was the nanny?! So, my dear readers, apparently the syndrome doesn’t discriminate.
Get a group of women together who have children that don’t look like them and we can tell all kinds of hilarious stories, besting one another with the more outrageous comments people have thrown our way. And truth be told, sometimes they are funny. But a lot of times, those comments hurt. They hurt in a way I never expected. It’s not because I feel so insulted to be mistaken for a nanny. And it’s not even because I think people are being small-minded or insensitive by questioning my child’s parentage. At the end of the day, it hurts because there’s something visceral, I think, about wanting to see something of yourself in your offspring. It’s that simple and that complicated.
I have never been told, ‘gee your kids look just like you.’ And it’s not something I ever dreamed about hearing either. I’d rather hear, ‘gee your kids sure are smart/talented/healthy.’ But to be told over and over, your kids look nothing like you? Aye, there’s the rub. What’s more, I think that for women of color to be mistaken for the nanny, the underlying insult comes not from being mistaken for a domestic worker, but for not be respected enough to be mistaken for the mother. Ya dig?
Let’s be clear though. The “I’m Not the Nanny”syndrome doesn’t keep me up at night. I don’t wring my hands in agony over the injustice of my kids looking more like their pale-face papa than me. In fact, until someone throws it in my face, I’m not thinking about it all. It’s just another one of those fascinating Meltingpot moments that I think so many of us can relate to and perhaps help each other through.
What do you think? Is there more to the Not the Nanny syndrome? Is it something more people should be aware of? Is there a cure?