6 Reasons to Add a Nanny to Your Village

by Jenny Scheer

The notion that I would offer up parenting advice is laughable considering the way I struggled with the transition to motherhood when I had my firstborn in Uganda 20 months ago. I considered writing a blog post about how hard the first 3-4 months were. Not one of those posts about how it is hard but you endure and then you see God was with you all along, but one of those bewildered, exhausted posts when I only knew that the days were incredibly long and hadn’t yet experienced the months passing quickly.

Yet here I am with one piece of parenting advice that I say with conviction for anyone moving to a developing country: Hire a nanny. Not a bad nanny; that’s a terrible idea. Ask people for recommendations, interview several candidates, have a probationary period, and try again if needed. Look for someone who fits with your personality, who has experience working for expatriates, and is willing to accept and implement your expectations for care and discipline. The nanny may or may not become “like a member of your family” but definitely needs to be a trusted, caring member of your team.

Having a nanny has made a huge difference for me and here are six reasons why I think it could help you, too.


1. There are few alternatives.
In my passport country, I could find a daycare for my child for when I need to work, but here in Uganda the style and standard of care is so different that I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving my son at a nursery. There is no gym here where I can drop my kids off for an hour while I get in a workout and no MOPS group to attend. There’s no “Mom’s day out” organized by a local church like you might find in cities in the U.S. The best and really only option for regular care is a trusted, consistent nanny.


2. More caregivers = more care.
We all know that it really does take a village to raise a child, so why not build that village with a nanny? My favorite thing about having a nanny is that it means my sons gets an additional caregiver. Without grandparents or aunts and uncles around, our son would only receive intimate, regular attention from my husband and me. I love that he is able to be loved by someone else. It is clear that he really enjoys our nanny and that she really enjoys him.


3. Diversity enriches our children.
I firmly believe that my son is benefiting from having a third personality, and especially someone from a different culture, caring for him. At his age it means that his development is enriched by having someone who plays with him differently, speaks to him in two other languages, and has different expectations of him. While we foster American independence, she instills community expectations. When he is older, I hope this will establish in him an intuitive understanding for this culture and others like it that are less individualistic, more indirect, and more focused on saving face than our American culture.


4. It helps us maintain our margin.
One of the hardest things about living overseas is that even after being here three years I find that my emotional margin is thinner than at home. Our part-time nanny is with our son every weekday morning. Having this time to do what I need to or want to do helps me get my margin back. Often, I have work I need to do during this time. But I may be able to use the time to tackle logistics for a trip to the States or for visitors who are coming. Sometimes I go grocery shopping or fold laundry or prep dinner.

For me, a nanny is a requirement when I am formally employed, or when I am doing research in the field. But even when I am in between contracts, having a few free mornings gives me an opportunity to do worthwhile, meaningful things like meet a friend for coffee.


5. It helps keep family relationships in balance.
Having my margin back has made a huge difference in my marriage. The early months of baby-rearing when I was on my own were bleak. I felt so low. I had no margin at all and it affected my relationship with my beloved husband. Having a nanny means I get my margin back, have time to prep dinner so our evenings are more peaceful, and have a trusted person who is available to babysit for dates.


6. It’s extremely affordable.
This is a practical consideration: having a nanny in a developing country can usually fit in most missionary budgets. We pay our nanny above the norm for such a position without being outright ridiculous. She is able to send her kids to school, provide medical care for her family, take the more expensive form of public transit to work, and she even saved enough money to buy a plot of land.


With so many benefits of having a nanny, I hope you will consider adding a nanny to your village if you are living or moving overseas. It has made such a positive impact on our lives and work in Uganda, as well as in our nanny’s life.


Jenny Scheer lives in Kampala, Uganda where she works as an agricultural economist with organizations like USAID and UKAID and her husband works as a civil engineer with Engineering Ministries International. She absolutely adores her son and the gift of motherhood. She blogs recipes and meal ideas for Western cooking in East Africa at www.kampalakitchen.com.

Serious Play: An Invitation to Life and Work as Worship

Before I jump into the post, please know that when I refer to work, I do not only mean paying jobs, but any role that keeps you occupied throughout the day.


I love my job. I even have a sticker declaring that very fact stuck to my laptop, just below the arrow keys. Not that I need a reminder. I really do love what I do.

I found the sticker in a tiny basement bookstore in Taiwan, a few years ago, while I was a preschool teacher in Taipei. Here’s an important thing to know about me: I am not a preschool teacher. But I had returned to Taipei to do research on theology of work, and getting that particular job was a great place to do my research, especially in light of the fact that teaching four-year-olds was not necessarily something I felt passionate about.

So, when I first bought the sticker, it really was to remind me that I needed to focus on that which I did love about my job: being in a position where I was able to unlock the world of reading and writing to a bunch of little ones, and to touch their lives through the way I interacted with them. That, I found very rewarding.

I won’t bore you with the details, but I had resigned from being a missionary in the boonies of Kenya for several reasons, one of which was to try and understand the challenges the majority of Christians face in the workplace. One visitor to Kenya (let’s call her Annie) once told me, “What you do [as a missionary] is meaningful, Adéle. What I do just pays the bills and helps me come on trips like these.”

I wanted desperately to help people like Annie understand that work didn’t simply have to be endured, and that all of us are called to serve God regardless of our job titles. I figured, though, that I couldn’t challenge others to embrace all of life and work as worship had I not recently worked in a “secular” environment. And so I left the village and moved back to Taipei (where I had worked at a media ministry for several years before), and ended up teaching preschoolers at a prestigious international school. The career shift was an eye-opener, to say the least. A year later, I took a similar assignment, this time in a Muslim context, in Jakarta.

Along the way, I learned about the concept of serious play from a former professor of mine, and once I tossed my preschool teacher hat, I ended up interviewing almost 30 people from various walks and seasons of life and from several countries who LOVED life and work, and called them serious players. I also found some people who didn’t love their jobs, and called them reluctant workers.

A serious player, I concluded, is someone who is able to say at the end of the week, “I enjoy life. I like what I do—at work and in life—a good eighty percent of the time? But life’s not only good for me, I get to make a difference in my community.”

Serious play is a lifestyle based upon the assumption that the majority of an individual’s time—both in the workplace and in life—is not only spent doing what you are naturally gifted to do (using your skills or aptitude) but also doing what you love to do (your passion or burden) so that work is enjoyable and thus becomes play. And if what you do has significance (it has purpose or is meaningful), it is considered serious.

You can also look at this as working with your mind and your strength, with your heart and with your soul.

When you’re able to do this, work becomes worship,
and you are able to say “I love my job,”
because you’re doing what God
had uniquely created and positioned you to do.

What’s more, you are able to use the talents God had given you in such a way that opens a door for you to “enter into the Master’s joy” (Mt. 25:21). What’s not to love about that?

Serious players, I had found, tend to have the following characteristics.

  1. They are energized and have an energizing effect on their environment.
  2. They are psychologically self-employed.
  3. Serious players have what they need—and perhaps a little more.
  4. They have high self-esteem.
  5. Serious players are able to, and choose to, swim upstream or go against the tide.
  6. They live in the reality of positive, self-fulfilling prophesies so that good things keep happening to them.
  7. They do not allow one area to completely drain them but instead, by living integrated lives, allow different areas to synergize each other.
  8. They are willing to take calculated risks.
  9. They are successful in various fields.
  10. For serious players, work is a natural, enjoyable expression of self.
  11. They take time to invest in relationships.

So, how about you: Are you a serious player? What is it that you love about what you do?
If you’re a reluctant worker, what changes would you need to make in order
for you to become a serious player and thus enter into the Master’s joy?


Adéle’s doctoral dissertation was devoted to the study of serious play, for which she interviewed serious players such as Kurt Warner, Mako Fujimaro and F.W. de Klerk  as well as stay-at-home moms, struggling small-business owners, and successful business people—all serious players. Adéle has written a book on serious play and her goal is to get it published in the not-too-distant future.

Adele Booysen, challenging college students in Asia with Compassion International

blog:  adelebooysen.com |  work