By: SAMUEL MUIGAI
“Would you be in need of a nanny cam, I can lend you one?” Offered my friend Anne, starting what would become an interesting conversation during an entrepreneurship workshop I recently attended.
I didn’t know what to say. I had no idea what a nanny cam was let alone have a reason to get one. Being at an entrepreneurship conference, I was about to dismiss the issue as an introduction to a pyramid scheme when she added: “It works like CCTV, very efficient”.
The mention of a surveillance camera made me think of high traffic areas. “But I don’t have a private office or business that I need to monitor,” I quickly answered, hoping that would end the trajectory of our conversation.
But she replied: “You don’t require an office or business to use a nanny cam, install one at home and it records all that is happening when you are away. You can even install it in your car.”
The existence of nanny cameras was little known until a video of a Ugandan nanny caught beating a toddler went viral in 2014. A similar case was later reported in Nairobi with many others — including one of a nanny breastfeeding her employer’s baby — posted online this year.
Many families now have them installed but are the gadgets there only to monitor domestic workers or are they just another way to snoop on one’s spouse?
Anne Kwena*, a 27 year old mother of two confessed to having been introduced to nanny cams by her friend after she gave birth to her second born. It sounded like a good idea to her, owing to the fact that she had also seen the incidents posted online.
Furthermore, she had once found marks on her firstborn’s back that she suspected the househelp had inflicted. It is a puzzle she is yet to solve as the househelp denied the allegations once confronted.
“Another advantage is that a nanny cam will also show you the truth, should your husband try fool around with the house help,” her friend added.
This also piqued her interest as her husband is a businessman who has lots of free time and prefers to spend most of it around the house. Anne is a marketer in the city and is always away looking for clients.
What finally convinced her was a post shared on young mothers social media group chat by a friend. The friend explained how a camera she secretly installed captured her partner in a compromising situation with their domestic worker. She was now in a dilemma and was appealing to her fellow mothers for advise.
Keen to know the truth of what happens at home in her absence, Anne placed her order for a nanny cam.
Nanny cams come in different sizes and designs with prices ranging from Sh6,000 to Sh10,000. Their average size is half the size of an adult palm. They require an Internet connection and once installed, you can monitor events live from your mobile phone or a computer irrespective of your location.
The other options (one that you can easily mistake for a digital clock) uses a memory card that is removed to view the footage. This option’s footage can only take around ten to twelve hours while the web one has advanced features that enable it to record footage for up to seven days.
How far do parties go to spy on their partners?
“Spying depends on the opportunities and resources available to the insecure partner” says relationships and marriage counsellor, Sheila Wachira.
“Some will hire spies, ask friends or domestic workers to secretly snoop on their partners. Others hack into their partners emails, open pseudo accounts to conceal their identity then befriend and chat their spouses in social media. Others install secret cameras in the house, office and recorders in the car.
This is to expose the conversations and associations of the partner,” she explains.
“Healthy relationships are founded on love and trust. Spying indicates that one’s trust has been broken and that the relationship is on a free fall”. Sheila says “Second, it shows that suspicion is beyond your control”. She adds.
Maurice Ambuche, a trader who sells nanny cams at a shop along Kenyatta avenue, Nairobi reveals that most of his customers are women.
“We don’t record the gender of our customers but the higher number is female. It is also not in our business to ask our customers of their intended use. We only ask them where they want the gadgets installed, home or office and if the location has access to the internet, then we advise,” says Maurice.
“To us, whether our customer has consulted or consented with their partners is never an issue. All we care about is making a sale,” he says.
Our chat is briefly interrupted by a call that comes through on his phone. He answers and gives the caller directions to his shop. Just like I did, most of his customers find him through the internet.
What would make a spouse resort to such extremes?
“Infidelity, lack of transparency in handling finances, misplaced priorities, unmet expectations such as-lack of a child, differences /inequalities in social status such as academic qualification, affluence are just but a few,” says Sheila.
However it is not only women who habour insecurities, men do too.
“When their wives advance in their careers. Many men fear that they will lose control of the relationship especially now that their partners have autonomy,” explains Sheila.
She adds that it gets worse when the woman decide to make independent social or financial decisions without necessarily consulting the man.
According to Anne, the experience of having a nanny cam is not always pleasant and it takes a strong heart to watch the footage. “It is raw, unedited so you never know what to expect. One just keeps praying that everything goes well and nothing bad happens,” she says.
Relationship experts warn that catching your spouse in the act may have emotional repercussions if one is unprepared to deal with the trauma, depending on the nature of evidence.
“Much as confirming a suspicion or fear sets you free as it satisfies your inner desire to uncover the truth, it has its consequences. Now armed with evidence, you have two choices — walk out or face the brutal facts that glare back at you,” says Sheila.
It is common to react, turn violent and express your disappointment irrationally. “I advise partners to desist from doing anything illegal. Think things through and seek professional help,” counsels Sheila.
The effects are two-fold, a partner who realises that their spouse has secretly been snooping on them will also react. They lose trust and start looking at their partners differently, possibly cutting communication.
She offers some advise: “Always create quality time and a safe atmosphere for disclosure by discussing openly with your partner. Also, develop coping skills such as building a supportive network of mentors.”
*Not her real name