x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Residents fear effects of relying on nannies

A survey shows the majority think maids will not pass on native culture to children, who will also grow further away from their mothers.

ABU DHABI // More than 80 per cent of residents surveyed for a poll worry that relying on maids or nannies to raise children will have a detrimental effect on future generations.

Most of those questioned said they were concerned domestic workers did not understand their culture, and 67 per cent said they believed children raised by maids or nannies would not be as close to their mothers.

The survey was conducted for Al Aan TV's Nabd Al Arab (Arabs' Pulse) programmeby YouGov Siraj in May. The findings will be discussed on the show tonight (Sat).

Overall, 44 per cent of the 764 survey respondents said they were "very concerned" about nannies or maids raising future generations, while 39 per cent said they were "quite concerned".

Nearly 60 per cent said they believed if a child could not be looked after by their mother, another family member should step in. Only 16 per cent suggested a maid or nanny.

"My husband doesn't want somebody else to look after my children," said Debie Ramos, 38, an Abu Dhabi resident from the Philippines who has two young daughters.

"Actually, I have been a nanny before, when I was not married," said Ms Ramos, who worked with a family in Singapore. "The children were closer to me than the mother."

It is not clear how many children in the UAE are cared for by domestic workers.

In the Gulf region, 58 per cent of children under the age of three are cared for by maids for 30 to 70 hours a week, a Knowledge and Human Development Authority report shows.

Dana Shadid, the project manager at Al Aan TV, said nannies were essential for many families in the UAE.

"Nowadays, in order to maintain a household you need to have two working parents," Ms Shadid said. "Therefore it is logical to have a nanny."

But 56 per cent of the survey's respondents said they were concerned domestic workers did not understand their culture, so they would not be able to impart it to children.

Tatiana Stratila, 36, an Abu Dhabi resident from Russia, said cultural compatibility could play a big role in a nanny's ability to fit in with a family.

Ms Stratila hired three nannies in three years for her son, who is now five. Two were from the Philippines and the third was from Ethiopia.

"We are from different cultures, different countries," she said. "It's very important, believe me."

Watching her son dash around a play area in Madinat Zayed Shopping & Gold Center on Monday, Ms Stratila said she no longer employed a nanny.

"It is very difficult," she said. "So finally I resigned, and I stay at home."

vnereim@thenational.ae