by Michelle LaRowe
Editor in Chief
Recently I came across an interesting series of blog posts addressing a topic discussed quietly amongst circles of nannies: overweight caregivers. It shouldn’t be surprising that a fair amount of nannies are overweight or obese; a fair amount of the general population is too. But more interesting is a recent study that showed that 55% of nurses are overweight or obese, citing job stress and long work hours as two of the major causes.
Wanting to learn more about the author, the reason behind her passion and her thoughts on the topic, I reached out to her. Here’s a little bit of how our exchange went.
eNannySource: Why do you think some nannies struggle with being overweight?
Elizabeth: I believe that many nannies are overweight because there’s a fair amount of people who are overweight in this world. There are studies to show that the food we eat and the lives we lead contribute to obesity, but there are also studies that show that many people are overweight because of genetics and pre-existing conditions.
eNannySource: What do you think are some common misconceptions about overweight nannies?
Elizabeth: I feel that the misconceptions about overweight nannies fall into the misconceptions about fat people everywhere: they’re lazy, they don’t model good eating habits and they won’t be able to keep up with the physical demands of chasing after children. As is proven by the many nannies I know and have had the privilege of talking to, these misconceptions are definitely false. I feel most people who felt they couldn’t stand up to the job of nannying wouldn’t attempt to do it. I also feel that many overweight people do eat good diets and do model “nutritious” eating and behavior. And certainly, if you’re looking after children, you most definitely are not lazy!
eNannySource: Do you think being overweight has prevented you from landing a job?
Elizabeth: I do feel that being overweight has stopped some parents from hiring me, because of the aforementioned misconceptions, and because of some people’s natural prejudice towards fat people. Some parents feel that their nanny represents the family and must look a certain way. Others make snap judgments without giving an overweight nanny a chance. I have definitely seen parents shut down on me when they first meet me in person. I think it’s unfair, which is why I do my best to fight against society’s fatphobia and prejudice by writing about it on my blog and in other places.
eNannySource: What advice do you have for overweight nannies during the job search?
Elizabeth: What’s worked for me is being honest. I don’t agree with disclosing personal medical information, but I’m willing to show parents that I can keep up with the demands of the job by offering a short trial period for free so that they can observe my work. I also make up a sample “nanny day” menu for the children so that they can see that I’m knowledgeable about child nutrition and development. If they make snap judgments about me, I tell myself I wouldn’t have fit in with that family anyway, and that it’s for the best. I refuse to take it personally. I have always found families that respect me as a person and as a nanny. Not everyone will be judgmental.
eNannySource: As a role model to the children, how do you advocate healthy eating?
Elizabeth: Food, to me, has been a subject fraught with stress and worry. Growing up as a thin child and then “filling out” in my teens and early 20s, I used food as a way to combat stress and feel better. This is not something I want the children in my care to do. I make healthy snacks and meals for the children in my care. I let them see me eating fruits and vegetables. We talk about how food provides the building blocks to growing up strong and healthy. I talk to them about finding trusted adults to talk to about their own worries and stress, and I try to be a person that they can speak to. I follow parents’ leads when it comes to food and healthy eating, as well. What’s most important, though, is that I tell kids in my care (of course, with parents’ blessing) that it’s okay to have treats like soda or McDonald’s sometimes. It’s just not healthy to eat those things all the time.
eNannySource: What do you have to say to parents who are concerned about hiring an overweight nanny?
Elizabeth: I’d ask them to give overweight nannies a chance. Ask for a trial period. Watch how they interact with your children and how they advocate healthy eating and habits. Don’t make snap judgments about a nanny’s appearance. Don’t ask for medical records or make cutting remarks about exercising or the food the nanny eats. Be respectful. If you feel it’s not working out, then find someone who will fit better with your family – but don’t assume it won’t work out upon first meeting an overweight nanny. Let her show you who she really is.
eNannySource: What makes you so passionate about this topic?
Elizabeth: I’m passionate about this topic because I’m an overweight woman who has dealt with a lot of fatphobia and prejudice. I’ve also seen how society treats people who are overweight. I want the truth to come out about overweight people – many of them are happy and follow healthy living principles. Many are completely healthy, with no health problems. Fat doesn’t mean they’re lazy, unable to work or addicted to McDonald’s. I feel I can’t stand by and watch this prejudice keep happening. I also apply this to other injustices and prejudices I see in the world. As a writer, my words have the ability to move people. I remember that I have that gift and try to use it for good.
eNannySource: Tell us about your childcare background.
Elizabeth: I’ve been in the childcare business for 17 years and have been a nanny, part-time and full-time, for over 10 years. I currently work part-time with four families in the Toronto area and specialize in the care of infants and toddlers. I love children and count myself lucky that I get to do the things I love, including writing and caring for children, every day.
Elizabeth Hawksworth is a Canadian poet, blogger and short story writer. A busy marketing professional and nanny in Toronto, Ontario, she enjoys taking in the sights and sounds of her city, writing historical fiction and herding her two cats, Athena and Ophelia. Elizabeth blogs about feminism, body positivity, fatphobia, writing, nannying and social justice at http://www.elizabethahawksworth.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @liz_hawksworth, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Torontonanny.You can also find her on the Huffington Post, here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-hawksworth/.← Expert Insights: Nanny Tax Myths with Guy Maddalone of GTM Payroll Services, Inc. | Why Parents Shouldn’t Settle for a Nanny →