Letter: Nanny in the family

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Sir: Charlotte Roberts had a live-in nanny looking after her children from 7am to 7.30pm each day, plus two nights a week babysitting ("Nanny on the bottle, parents in the soup", 8 January). Effectively, she was employing the nanny to raise the children on her behalf, with the tremendous emotional commitment this was bound to involve.

After three years, the nanny became an alcoholic. I sympathise with Charlotte Roberts's difficulties in deciding to get rid of her. What I can't sympathise with is her puzzlement over the nanny's desire to keep in touch with the children. Roberts behaves as if the nanny gave nothing, and was expected to give nothing. She probably never regarded the nanny for a moment as someone she would wish to know for the rest of her life, yet she demanded her devotion to the children. Now that this devotion is of no further use, she pretends not to have demanded it.

In the old days, the true contract of the live-in nanny was at least properly understood: the nanny gave up the best of herself to the family she served, and in return remained part of that family, permanently. I'm not suggesting Charlotte Roberts tries this with her dismissed nanny: it's too late, the best she can do is recognise herself as unfit to employ a live-in nanny. As for girls who want to be live-in nannies, there's only one thing to be said to them: don't risk it.

MEREDITH OAKES

London SW16

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