The Nanny Time Bomb by Jacalyn S. Burke

aaa.jpegWeekly Trip to the Library

I am ashamed to admit I was hesitant to read The Nanny Time Bomb: Navigating the Crisis in Child Care simply because I thought the title sounded aggressive and negative. I regret having waited so long. Author Jacalyn S. Burke is a terrific writer who understands the nanny industry in America and that there is a child care crisis in the country. Her observations working as an immigrant nanny are not pleasant — but they are spot on.

She explains the biggest problem in the American nanny industry is that it is unregulated. She explains throughout the book how the unlicensed industry of child care in America is dangerously flawed.

Burke points out, “Paying a nanny or day care worker or facility the lowest possible wage or fee and extracting the maximum amount of energy from that worker or facility to fulfill day in and day out… doesn’t take into account that workers are human beings, not commodities,” that need to be valued, appreciated, and paid well to provide the best care for children.

The author believes that background checks as they exist today typically do not uncover if nanny candidates have mental illness, personality disorders, are violent, have addictions, or even a propensity toward pedophila. Regulating the nanny industry in America would solve many issues in poor work conditions and dangers of hiring strangers to work in homes caring for children.

Dangers to children in an unregulated industry are apathetic nannies, burned-out nannies, lethargic nannies, resentful nannies that cause emotional abuse, perfunctory nannies, immature babysitters, and worst of all criminal nannies such as thieves, predators, or cause physical abuse to the children in their care.

Burke describes a caste system of nannies. She illuminates how immigrant nannies are treated in society and that race is still a factor in America.

She illustrates the vast differences between the American citizen, white, educated caregiver and the migrant, undocumented, impoverished nanny of color. There is a stark difference between a white American or European nanny who can negotiate with employers and say no to job creep without the fear of losing their job and the impoverished undocumented worker of color is always afraid of losing her job and being deported. The scared migrant worker will do any demeaning chore for low pay due to fear and employer disrespect.

Of course there are exceptions to this rule. There are plenty of migrant nannies who are well respected and treated professionally by their employers. While the author interviews a couple well paid, well-respected, professional nannies, the majority of the book focused on the more difficult stories instead.

Burke writes that due to jealousy of wanting to be with their kids many parents sabatoge their nannies by micromanaging, nitpicking, not respecting professional boundaries, by changing duties at last second creating confusion, and several other ways that set up employers to make mistakes and fail at their jobs. The author lists solutions for parents and nannies to better communicate to help avoid jealousy.

Burke also describes the passive aggressive, patronizing, and arrogant nannies that hurt well-intentioned and loving mothers sense of confidence. These nannies ultimately force their control on the family inappropriately. She says unless the child care industry is regulated these misunderstandings and miscommunication between nannies and parents will continue.

The final chapter describes her three keys to child care reform:

1. Wages and Tax: The author shows parents how to properly pay taxes and follow Fair Labor Standards Act. She shares figures highlighting that low pay is a systemic problem in domestic work industry.

2. Immigration Reform: The United States has historically benefited from immigration. The current system is broken. She discusses how reform can benefit the country. She supports allowing migrants to apply for a Nanny Visa and other important reforms.

3. Federal Reform: Burke says there is still an endemic ambivalence toward the concept of child care reform. She supports universal child care, universal paid maternity and paternity leave, a national nanny registry, a low flat nanny tax code, immigration reform, and much more.

I confess some of the interviews and  biographies the author uses to prove her points throughout the book were too long and I felt were unnecessary. I also was not able to find her free guide, “A Nanny’s Practical Guide to Emotional Intelligence,” at the link provided in the book.

I highly recommend The Nanny Time Bomb: Navigating the Crisis in Child Care. Most nannies will appreciate the raw, truth it exposes. For nannies not working in cities or diverse suburban areas, it will be very enlightening for them to learn the real struggles of the migrant workers.

To purchase the book click a link above or below:

The Nanny Time Bomb: Navigating the Crisis in Child Care


  1. Thank you for such a well-thought out review of my book. I appreciate all of your insights. I cherish the nanny community as a collective and hope that one day all nannies will be paid a living wage and respected for the wonderful work that they do – day in and day out. Jacalyn – p.s – thanks for reminding me to put up a Guide to EQ. It’s on my list ….

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