Noted: Where Are All the Nannies on Instagram?

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Noted: Where Are All the Nannies on Instagram?

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Dikla Goren Dekel, a Brooklyn-based mother of three who writes the lifestyle blog Girl Plus Two, shares a lot of her life on Instagram. A photo from last month shows her and her children eating sandwiches in their underwear. In a rare child-free shot from Burning Man, Ms. Dekel gazes at her husband, Noam, and muses that the desert bacchanal could “get me pregnant again.”

But there is one thing Ms. Dekel, 36, filters out of her Instagram feed: photos of the part-time nanny who cares for her children.

“Posting your nanny is like posting your address or your kids’ school,” she said. “It’s too much information.”

Nannies are often lauded as indispensable to keeping modern families afloat, but even as the rise of Instagram Stories — the 15-second blips that self-destruct after 24 hours — encourages peak parental overshare (793,000 followers of Eva Chen, Instagram’s director of fashion partnerships, know she packed a whale-shaped sandwich for her daughter, Ren, this week), nannies are hardly ever included in the picture. Some appear only as floating hands, popping a blueberry into a toddler’s mouth.

“They’re the forgotten faces,” said Tammy Gold, a family therapist and author of “Secrets of the Nanny Whisperer: A Practical Guide for Finding and Achieving the Gold Standard of Care for Your Child” (Perigee, 2015). “Nobody puts it out there.”

This isn’t just the case on Instagram: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt reportedly employ multiple nannies for their six children, but they’re seldom seen in paparazzi shots. The same is true of Maria Borrallo, the full-time nanny to Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

But something about Instagram’s ostensible greater intimacy, perhaps, makes the exclusion more jarring. Ivanka Trump leaves her nanny out of frequent Instagrams of her three children; it’s been noted that she mentions the word “nanny” but once in her book, “Women Who Work.”

One may think parents just want to take credit for all the child care, but there are also potential security concerns. “They don’t want to promote that this might be a nanny for a child of means,” said Seth Norman Greenberg, marketing director at Pavilion Agency, a high-end domestic staffing company based in New York.

A nanny’s immigration or income status can also be a deterrent. In the last nine years, Oliver Quillia, a producer and father of two in the Bronx, has posted exactly one photo on Instagram of his beloved nanny, Lynn, whose last name he withheld for similar reasons. “If it weren’t for the ‘under the table’ pay we give her, I would probably post way more photos of her,” Mr. Quillia, 47, said.

But when oversharing parents omit nannies on Instagram or Facebook, it can indeed be intended to shape perception of their own characters. “I think many of us on social media, probably subconsciously, want to perpetuate this idea that we’re doing it all on our own,” said Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, an associate professor of history at the New School and a mother of two.

Ms. Petrzela is a self-described “exhibitionist” on Facebook, but it wasn’t until five years after she and her husband hired their nanny, Nancy Peter, that she realized she’d never posted a photo of the woman they consider a “third parent.” (Ms. Petrzela’s husband hadn’t, either, but he’s not active on social media).

“My children respect and love her so much, and I do too,” Ms. Petrzela, 39, recalled thinking. “Why am I making that invisible?”

Ms. Petrzela, who is white, had also considered the racial context between her and Ms. Peter, who is Afro-Caribbean. Though Ms. Petrzela is confident their relationship is respectful, “the history of white families being ministered to by women of color is not a really beautiful history,” Ms. Petrzela said. “Part of me felt hyper-aware about even the impression that any of those dynamics are repeating themselves in our home.”

While Ms. Peter is not on Facebook, she said she appreciates being included. “It makes me feel part of the family,” she said. “I did not give birth to the kids, but I love them very much.” Of other parents who don’t want pictures with their nannies, she said, “It’s not fair. I’m going to tell you the truth: most parents feel that if the children are too close to the nanny, that they’re losing something.”

Lauren Stein, a media executive and mother of two boys in New York, says she praises her live-in nanny (whose name she’d rather not share) “in real life” but worries that posting odes to her on Facebook would only make Ms. Stein look fancier-than-thou and fuel mockery from her relatives.

“A lot of them crack jokes, like, “Oh, Lauren, you’re here without your help? Is that hard for you? Are you surviving?’” Ms. Stein, 35, said.

That class discomfort goes both ways, according to Grace Savage, a former nanny in Los Angeles. “I think that a deeply institutionalized notion of ‘place’ is to blame,” Ms. Savage, 35, said. “The domestic doesn’t feel welcome in the photo, and the employer feels no inclination to extend such welcome.”

According to Ms. Gold, lifting the veil of secrecy and posting more about nannies on Instagram and Facebook would be a new way to value them, while also getting real with other parents about what it takes for working moms and dads to juggle it all.

“It’s great to say, ‘I have help,’” Ms. Gold said.

Andrea Lavinthal, the style and beauty director at People magazine, is a rare parent who does so on social media. Last week, she posted an Instagram Story of her 1-year-old son, Saxon, perched on the lap of his nanny, Ann Marie, who did not want her last name published.

“She’s such a part of the fabric of this squad,” Ms. Lavinthal, 38, said. “I wouldn’t even think about cropping her out.”

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to the presence of celebrity nannies in paparazzi shots. The nannies of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, as well as the royal nanny Maria Borrallo, have been photographed by paparazzi, though they seldom appear in photographs with their employers.

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