A Trust Fund You Can Afford

Emotional Trust Fund

By Jak Burke,

I was fortunate enough to be featured in the New York Times in an article by Paul Sullivan entitled “Investing in an Emotional Trust Fund”. It’s an introduction to a book I’m currently working on with the same title.

Most parents naturally worry about their children’s financial future: which school is best; how can we afford college; what if something happens to us – how will our children survive? For some parents, setting up a Trust Fund is second-nature; a crucial part of establishing a child’s long-term security. Teaching our children about economics and wealth from an early age also sets them up for a lifetime of sound financial decisions. What could be more important in an uncertain global economy – right?

Perhaps we could also ask – what’s an equally important investment?

How about an “Emotional Trust Fund”*? The idea that we should pay attention to the debits and credits in our children’s emotional life isn’t new. Daniel Goleman introduced the concept of “emotional intelligence” back in the 90’s and early infant experts like Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D promoted the idea that our children require daily nurturing and interactions with parents and caregivers in order to develop normally.

But the vast array of books on the subject of child development are exhausting and many parents wonder, “how can we manage our children’s emotional health”? I would add here – and wealth, because adults with the ability to form and maintain healthy attachments, demonstrate empathy and navigate complex social situations in a balanced way often become successful financially too.

While there are many books that speak to the power of good parenting in relation to a child’s future happiness – or Emotional Trust Fund, there aren’t as many that explore the invaluable contribution that nannies make toward this end-goal. It can be helpful to regard our child’s nanny as a high-performance stock in our child’s Emotional Trust Fund and one that can continue to maximize profit over many decades.

Just think about the time investment alone. If we work full-time and if we employ a nanny in our absence for over say five + years, it can be staggering to compute the amount of hours that this other person has spent nurturing, teaching and shaping our child or children. For a growing child those years are formative and those encounters leave their mark. If we as parents are considered as the primary investors of our child’s Emotional Trust Fund, so too, our nannies are its human assets or our prized investments – and those who manage their nannies with respect and generosity can help to generate a greater emotional return for their children. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true.

For our children a good, attentive nanny will help them to form healthy attachments and to learn boundaries outside of the family. She or he can bring new gifts to the table, in the form of individual talent like musical or artistic gifts or education. Most importantly, a good nanny will provide a developing child with a solid foundation of love and security when their parents are not around.

Here’s the rub: when nannies are disengaged or apathetic the children in their care can be left without a positive emotional role-model. These children might internalize the constant ignoring or disinterest shown from their nanny as a low sense of self-worth. They might play down their own intrinsic needs and attempt to placate or please their nanny. A chronic lack of interaction by their adult can leave children floundering socially. This is the equivalent of a low-performance stock and one that simply decreases in value as time goes by.

Low-performance was a common phenomena that I observed while I worked as a nanny in Manhattan – and which led me to the writing of this book: “The Nanny Time Bomb: Navigating the Crisis in Child Care” (Praeger 2015). I firmly believe that the book can help parents to source, screen and form a healthy working relationship with their child’s nanny.  It also exposes the conditions that many nannies are forced to work in: long hours, demanding and even abusive employers, low pay and no long-term financial security.

The power to shape our child’s formative years is within our grasp as parents and employers even if we work full-time outside of the home. It begins by finding and utilizing the unique gifts that a good nanny brings to our child’s Emotional Trust Fund. It ends with how we have managed our child care. It’s a Trust Fund that requires two just basic commodities: love and time, and luckily those things are still free.

* The term “Emotional Trust Fund” was originated by Jacalyn S Burke in specific reference to child care on April 13th 2016 and was first shared in a private correspondence with Paul Sullivan of the New York Times on the same date. The term first appeared online on June 24th and in print on June 25th in the New York Times.