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"[Nanny is] Mary Poppins channeling Dorothy Parker" —Time
Every season of my nanny career kicked off with a round of interviews so surreally similar that I'd often wonder if the mothers were slipped a secret manual at the Parents League to guide them through. This initial encounter became as repetitive as religious ritual, tempting me, in the moment before the front door swung open, either to kneel and genuflect or say, "Hit it!"
No other event epitomized the job as perfectly, and it always began and ended in an elevator nicer than most New Yorkers' apartments.
The walnut-paneled car slowly pulls me up, like a bucket in a well, toward potential solvency. As I near the appointed floor I take a deep breath; the door slides open onto a small vestibule which is the portal to, at most, two apartments. I press the doorbell.
Nanny Fact: she always waits for me to ring the doorbell, even though she was buzzed by maximum security downstairs to warn of my imminent arrival and is probably standing on the other side of the door. May, in fact, have been standing there since we spoke on the telephone three days ago.
The dark vestibule, wallpapered in some gloomy Colefax and Fowler floral, always contains a brass umbrella stand, a horse print, and a mirror, wherein I do one last swift check of my appearance. I seem to have grown stains on my skirt during the train ride from school, but otherwise I'm pulled together—twin set, floral skirt, and some Gucci-knockoff sandals I bought in the Village. She is always tiny. Her hair is always straight and thin; she always seems to be inhaling and never exhaling. She is always wearing expensive khaki pants, Chanel ballet flats, a French striped Tshirt, and a white cardigan. Possibly some discreet pearls. In seven years and umpteen interviews the I'm-momcasual-in-my-khakis-but-intimidating-in-my-$400-shoes outfit never changes. And it is simply impossible to imagine her doing anything so undignified as what was required to get her pregnant in the first place.
Her eyes go directly to the splot on my skirt. I blush. I haven't even opened my mouth and already I'm behind.
She ushers me into the front hall, an open space with a gleaming marble floor and mushroom-gray walls. In the middle is a round table with a vase of flowers that look as if they might die, but never dare wilt.
This is my first impression of the Apartment and it strikes me like a hotel suite—immaculate, but impersonal. Even the lone finger painting I will later find taped to the fridge looks as if it were ordered from a catalog. (Sub-Zeros with a custom-colored panel aren't magnetized.)
She offers to take my cardigan, stares disdainfully at the hair my cat seems to have rubbed on it for good luck, and offers me a drink.
I'm supposed to say, "Water would be lovely," but am often tempted to ask for a Scotch, just to see what she'd do. I am then invited into the living room, which varies from baronial splendor to Ethan Allen interchangeable, depending on how "old" the money is. She gestures me to the couch, where I promptly sink three feet into the cushions, transformed into a five-year-old dwarfed by mountains of chintz. She looms above me, ramrod straight in a very uncomfortable-looking chair, legs crossed, tight smile.
Now we begin the actual Interview. I awkwardly place my sweating glass of water carefully on a coaster that looks as if it could use a coaster. She is clearly reeling with pleasure at my sheer Caucasianness.
"So," she begins brightly, "how did you come to the Parents League?"
This is the only part of the Interview that resembles a professional exchange. We will dance around certain words, such as "nanny" and "child care," because they would be distasteful and we will never, ever, actually acknowledge that we are talking about my working for her. This is the Holy Covenant of the Mother/Nanny relationship: this is a pleasure—not a job. We are merely "getting to know each other," much as how I imagine a John and a call girl must make the deal, while trying not to kill the mood.
The closest we get to the possibility that I might actually be doing this for money is the topic of my baby-sitting experience, which I describe as a passionate hobby, much like raising Seeing Eye dogs for the blind. As the conversation progresses I become a child-development expert—convincing both of us of my desire to fulfill my very soul by raising a child and taking part in all stages of his/her development; a simple trip to the park or museum becoming a precious journey of the heart. I cite amusing anecdotes from past gigs, referring to the children by name—"I still marvel at the cognitive growth of Constance with each hour we spent together in the sandbox." I feel my eyes twinkle and imagine twirling my umbrella a la Mary Poppins. We both sit in silence for a moment picturing my studio apartment crowded with framed finger paintings and my doctorates from Stanford.
She stares at me expectantly, ready for me to bring it on home. "I love children! I love little hands and little shoes and peanut butter sandwiches and peanut butter in my hair and Elmo—I love Elmo and sand in my purse and the "Hokey Pokey"—can't get enough of it!—and soy milk and blankies and the endless barrage of questions no one knows the answers to, I mean why is the sky blue? And Disney! Disney is my second language!"
We can both hear "A Whole New World" slowly swelling in the background as I earnestly convey that it would be more than a privilege to take care of her child—it would be an adventure.
She is flushed, but still playing it close to the chest. Now she wants to know why, if I'm so fabulous, I would want to take care of her child. I mean, she gave birth to it and she doesn't want to do it, so why would I? Am I trying to pay off an abortion? Fund a leftist group? How did she get this lucky? She wants to know what I study, what I plan to do in the future, what I think of private schools in Manhattan, what my parents do. I answer with as much filigree and insouciance as I can muster, trying to slightly cock my head like Snow White listening to the animals. She, in turn, is aiming for more of a Diane-Sawyer-pose, looking for answers which will confirm that I am not there to steal her husband, jewelry, friends, or child. In that order.
Nanny Fact: in every one of my interviews, references are never checked. I am white. I speak French. My parents are college educated. I have no visible piercings and have been to Lincoln Center in the last two months. I'm hired.
Copyright 2002 by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
2. Considering the harsh and fickle treatment Nan receives from Mrs. X, why do you think she stays with the family?
3. What kind of person do you think Grayer will grow up to be?
4. Why do you think that Nanny told Mrs. X about Mr. X's mistress before she left for good? Was it to protect her or was it for revenge?
5. If you were Nanny's family (parents, grandmother, boyfriend) would you support her decision to work for the X's? Consider her almost missing her graduation, her time constraints with finding a new apartment, as well as her emotional health and unfair compensation.
6. Would you have spoken your mind on the teddy bear tape recorder before leaving the X's household for good? Why do you think Nanny erased her initial outburst? How long would you be able to hold your tongue if found in a comparable work situation?
7. If you had the money that the X's had and could enrich your child's life with exotic foods, violin lessons, private schooling and French classes, would you and why? What do you think is appropriate for a child and what crosses the line?
8. How much responsibility should a nanny take in raising her employer's child?
9. Do you think Nanny will stay in the child-care profession after this experience?
10. Do you think this book is depressing or hopeful? How much is realistic vs. imaginary (a stretch) in your opinion?
11. If you employ domestic help, has this book changed your dialogue and/or view of that relationship? What rules of nannying would you require if you were hiring someone to take care of your child?
12. Why do you think this book has struck a chord with readers at this time?
Posted February 3, 2011
I am still reading this book and while I really enjoy the story it is hard to focus since there are so many typos it feels like you are reading a first draft as a proof reader. When they turned this into an eBook they must have outsourced it to someone/somewhere where English is not the language because tehre are words that make no sence whatsoever, "die" intead of "the" on uncountable instances, unexplaineable "99" here and there ( instead of C, 6 instead of e and so on. Really frustrating...... I feel bad for the authors sicne I am sure they paid someone to do the job. Would also expect B&N to have someone at least spot check eBooks since it is such a new product. Disappointing to have paid for this book.
3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 6, 2008
Nanny is going to NYU to get her degree in child care, but first she must deal with the X's. <BR/><BR/>The X's are a typical rich New York family: Dad is a workaholic; Mom doesn't have a job but is too busy shopping and running her social life to raise her child; Grayer (nicknamed Grover/Grov) is the four-year-old who wants nothing more than his parents' attention. <BR/><BR/>Nanny becomes very attached to Grayer, who is absolutely adorable and really likes Nanny because she is the one raising him. Nanny and Grayer go on many adventures together and Nanny must deal with the crazy Mrs. X, who doesn't come home when she says she will, doesn't pay within a normal time frame, and is just downright mean to Nanny -- and to her own child. <BR/><BR/>This is a great story of love and affection, and also the lack of it. I really liked reading this book because Nanny has a life outside of her job, like falling in love with H.H.-Harvard Hottie. Nanny and Grayer are realistic and the parents are the crazy people in the book, which makes this a great view for teens. <BR/><BR/>I had a lot of fun reading THE NANNY DIARIES, and will recommend it to all of my friends who have ever babysat for crazy parents!
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 22, 2003
Posted February 22, 2014
Posted July 8, 2012
A juicy portrait
An easy read - not very literary but entertaining. It definitely portrays quite accurately a certain type of NY society and the parenting style that is unfortunately too often the norm. Absent, smothering, superficial parents - all seen through the keen eyes of smart and funny nanny.
A lot has been written about Mrs. X, a caricature of the self-centered NY mom, saying she was Lisa Birnbach.
As for the husband, Mr. X, he is definitely Lisa Birnbach's husband, Steven Haft. That should raise any doubt.
The author of the book who has worked for the couple definitely knows the 2 of them! To make it less obvious, Mr. X is just another business man in the book while Steven Haft is in real life a film producer turned consultant / internet guru. But that's the only difference. For the rest the glove fits : a self centered, philandering, lying, manipulative, fake and cheap social climber. Anybody can recognize S. Haft. A fun book for readers who know a little bit about that Manhattan three ring circus and the catastrophic child rearing it produces. I would recommend it as a beach read.
Posted June 8, 2012
Posted December 28, 2011
Posted October 2, 2011
I Also Recommend:
"The Nanny Diaries" is an entertaining read that is hard to put down. It's quite sad to see how some parents just shift their children off to nannies (over and over again) because they simply cannot be bothered. This story is a good look how some parents treat their children, and those who take full time care of them. I'll def. say it makes you think about how you treat your own children!
Great book- Mrs and Mr X are fruserating, and Nanny is humerous and full of love. I would highly recommend it to all fans of the chick lit genre, and anyone else who wants a sneak peak at some of the hardships nannys go through to take care of children who arent their own!
Posted September 22, 2011
Posted August 4, 2011
This book was very easy to read. Once you get started...there's no putting it down! The author has a gr8 way of keeping you engaged. If I was rich enough to afford a nanny I would be sure not to act like Mrs. X. I loved Nanny! She's an inspiration to all child caregivers out there. there were times when I was laughing out loud & times when I found myself getting angry. Good book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 18, 2010
I love this book. I actually liked it better the second time around. I cant wait to read the sequel 'nanny Returns".
I just wish the e-book version didn't have so many mistakes with words and the structure of the story. It was hard at times to figure out who was speaking since the dialoge (sp?) tended to blend together.
Posted October 6, 2010
My first impression of The Nanny Diaries was that it was a light and funny read: a novel in which I could find escapism at its finest. Within the last 100 pages, however, the humorous story of a young nanny and her "adopted" child quickly turned into a depressing account of the frustrating triangle between the nanny, the little boy, and his negligent parents. One passage from the book (near the end) even had me on the verge of tears because of the terrible case of emotional abuse that occurred within. Yeah, definitely not what I was expecting. But if you don't mind bipolar books, give this one a chance. Personally, I have a lot more respect for full-time babysitters and nannies now than I did before. Or anyone that is constantly around toddlers, for that matter. It can't be easy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 26, 2010
This is book is witty, well-written. Moreover, the book is very readable. So much so that one can read it on a subway or bus. While one might poo-poo this text as "Chick Lit," it is Chick Lit as its best. The protagonist, a twenty-something NYU student, grapples with her need for cash as well as her need for sanity as she decides whether or not to leave her job. Our narrator re-tells her own story with a sense of humor, and the ability to reflect on the struggles faced by anyone who feels overworked by, but overly attached to, their employers. For anyone who loves New York, and has struggled with a difficult boss, this is a must read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 21, 2010
This is a deceptive book. It's easy to read, I read it in 24 hours while at home sick. This book tells the story of Nan, a nanny working her way through college and the rich families she works for. Her last job is with family X where she has to become the mother to "Grover", deal with the snotty wife Mrs. X and the absent cheating father Mr. X. This book was interesting as it was enjoyable while reading but left me feeling depressed and sick to my stomach at the end about the dysfunctional family lives of these rich Manhattenites.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 22, 2010
Posted May 26, 2010
This book was a little bit slow to start for me but I am glad I didn't quit reading it. This is the story of a college girl who is a nanny for the most impossible family. She can't do anything right, according to the family but she ends up falling in love with the boy she nannies and would do anything for him. She is treated terribly, the husband is a jerk and these parents never spend any time with their son. My heart really went out for Nan, the nanny. Working in a school I know that these families exist, very sad. You will like the book- give it a chance.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This book is amazing! It is funny, heartwarming, surprising - everything you could want in a book! I have read it cover to cover at least 5 times. The thing is, every time I read it, I feel like it's the first time I'm reading it. It's funny, and even though it seems like chick lit, I bet anyone interested in the "Nanny-ing" industry would find it interesting. The characters are well developed, as is the plot. By the end, you'll want to adopt little Grayer for yourself and take him away from his evil mother. And anyone who is interested in seeing the movie - READ the book first!! It's a hundred times better.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 5, 2010
I read this book in like 2 days, I just could not put it down. It has a great storyline and a look into a culture that is totally out of my league and that I know nothing about.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Couldn't put it down, but was all out horrified by the reasons these woman choose to have children, the way in which they choose (or so choose not) to raise them, and the lengths at which they will go to limit contact with their own offspring.
Nan (i.e. Nanny) is a stronger character than I, as chapter2 I would have told Mrs. X just what I thought about her and where she could shove her soy products!
Posted January 9, 2010
I Also Recommend:
I liked the Nanny Diaries because the book was funny and touching. I liked that the book was written by actual nannies. I was awe struck to discover what goes on in the world of childcare. I saw the movie and the book is better. It amazed me the mothers who hire nannies don't wish to be bothered with their children. This fact is sad.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.