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Expat Stereotypes - I Mistook A Mom For The Nanny Of The Family

By Finder blogger: Andrea McKenn


So did YOU think the lady chasing the kids around the home office was the nanny?

I’m talking about the social media video showing the father talking to BBC News about serious issues in Korea when his cute kids bust into the room. We see a woman with her head down quickly ushering the kids out of the room.

And that’s the point at which we can see our cultural stereotypes.

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I admit it. I thought the lady was the nanny.

I was informed that it was the children’s mother right away by another Facebook poster from America and I immediately felt quite embarrassed!

But then again, why? I live in Southeast Asia and have an Asian nanny and you know what? It’s not an insult. That’s my background but does it truly justify this stereotype? I am not sure it does.

But it is an honest start. I stand corrected and duly note that I need to be wary of stereotyping multicultural families.

See also: True Story: What Being A Trailing Expat Wife In Singapore Taught Me About Confidence

If I was in America, I’m not sure what I would have thought.

I’ve been in Asia for more than five years and lots of women in the region are nannies/helpers/housekeepers. It is an affordable option that allows us to have home help with family so far away.

But even some of my American friends, who are not as used to nannies being around, admitted they also thought the woman was the nanny.

Perhaps it was the impression—or guess-- that the woman in the video might have been in trouble for letting the kids into the home office. I’ve seen nannies fired for less. (Don’t get me started!)

To help me understand better the realities of this issue, I asked social media friends from around the world what they thought about this video. I have a few friends who have multiracial families who shared with me their thoughts on “being called the nanny.”

A friend from China who has an American husband says she often was mistaken for the nanny. It used to bother her when her daughter was a baby, but now she just laughs it off.

Another friend, who is from Singapore and lives in Dubai with her husband of Indian heritage, says around the time she first gave birth to her son she was called the nanny by another nanny, who felt embarrassed to be corrected. She said jokingly that from then on she made sure she had her wedding rings, make-up and designer sandals on when she went out with the baby.

See also: Things Your Singapore Domestic Helper Is Doing For You... That She Probably Shouldn't

But this mislabeling does not happen only in Asia.

I recall that when I lived in Chicago I knew a Hispanic lady who had blonde kids. She said everyone thought she was the nanny.

Like most women, it might piss them off but in the end, they laugh it off. There is something about knowing you are the Momma that trumps any thoughts otherwise.

I agree that Moms have the right to own that identity. Even though nannies are valued members of the family, if you are the Mom you are entitled to believe that it is a super important and powerful role in the world.

My little sister, who has children with Jamaican heritage, says she was never called the nanny, but expresses a bit of shock that people in this day and age make these mistakes about multiracial families. “People are weird. We have more biracial children in the world than ever!”

I’m not sure who is right in the end. People will always make mistakes on identity based on what they see. 

Regarding the BBC video, people made judgement calls. They were incorrect.

Some of us owned that. And women in those family situations set the record straight.

Challenging our cultural stereotypes is work we all need to do and it is endless. So, let’s keep trying to learn new perspectives.

Better yet, let’s all join and blame the husband for not locking the office door! 


About Andrea McKenna

Andrea McKenna Brankin is journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.


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