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Searching for Mary Poppins: Women Write About the Intense Relationship Between Mothers and Nannies Hardcover – September 21, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Happy families may be all alike, but as it turns out, so are families that hire nannies. In this collection of 24 essays, Davis and Hyams have selected essays that examine the relationship between mothers and their child-care givers. "Employing a nanny is beyond a necessity," they assess. "It becomes a question of identity." The very nature of an anthology—writers writing about their lives—also leads to this collection's main problem: the vast majority of these mothers are looking for help while they stay at home to write. There are no CEOs who must desperately look for backup care when the nanny is sick, no blue-collar workers who must figure out how to make a living while still paying for child care. Each mother is trying anxiously to please both nanny and child. When the circumstances are exceptional, so are the essays, as Andrea Nakayama's story of the "manny" hired as her husband was dying, and Ann Hood's piece about the nanny who cared for her now-deceased daughter. Daphne Merkin's essay is the strongest, focusing on her own childhood experiences with a nanny. Mothers who hire nannies will certainly appreciate this anthology, but the complete story surely lies somewhere between The Nanny Diaries and this. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Davis and Hyams compile two dozen essays by contemporary women writers exploring the many facets of 'the nanny-mother tango.' The relationship between a woman and her child's caretaker can be 'a complicated dance.' This collection includes a diverse group of talents, including Susan Cheever, Marisa de los Santos, Joyce Maynard, Daphne Merkin, Roxanna Robinson and Rebecca Walker, writing about their sometimes wonderful, sometimes horrible (and almost always awkward) relationships with their children's nannies. The very intimate position of sharing the role of mother (and sometimes a living space as well) with another woman-often one with a vastly different background than the mother-has been an intense experience for the authors of this collection. While each story is different, common emotional themes emerge, among them love, guilt, betrayal, gratitude, insecurity and loss. Sometimes humorous and often touching, this is an honest exploration of the well of feelings inspired by the nanny-mother relationship. Includes a foreword by All Things Considered's Melissa Block. -- Kirkus Reviews

In Searching for Mary Poppins, mothers write about their relationships with their nannies, and no, it isn't all middle-class white-woman angsting. Editors Susan Davis and Gina Hyams drew pieces from notable authors, including Roxana Robinson, Rebecca Walker, Jaqueline Mitchard, Karen Shepherd and Alice Elliott Dark, with highly individual experiences. Robinson, for instance, recalls the moment she had it all-the handsome husband, the beautiful baby, the stately townhouse, the fabulous job, and the coveted French nanny. That was the moment just before she had to fire the nanny for drinking on the job. Mitchard writes about the farm girl she hired who was wonderful in every respect, except for the woman's intrusion into her marriage and her determination to indoctrinate the children in her fundamentalist beliefs. Anne Burt's nanny was so caring and so nurturing that Burt was reduced to stalking her by telephone when the woman left. Collectively, these writers explore the inevitably complicated bond between mother and caregiver. -- Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News

This collection of 24 commissioned essays covers the varied experiences these professional writers had with caregivers for their children. Editors Davis and Hyams have done a remarkable job of pulling together writing mothers willing to bare their souls, revealing the joy, guilt, relief, and fear of employing a nanny (the issue of the privileged concept of hiring a nanny is not disregarded). The pieces, roughly divided into four sections, are well written, hauntingly honest, and thought-provoking, progressing from hiring a nanny to negotiating a relationship with this 'other mother,' dealing with tensions and with the end of the relationship. Woven throughout are universal themes class, work, family, and values but the contributors avoid preachy moralizing or sweeping generalizations. A foreword by Melissa Block (host of All Things Considered on National Public Radio) engages readers from the first page. With more and more families hiring nannies every year, this work will resonate with mothers around the country. -- Erica L. Foley, Library Journal

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hudson Street Press; First Printing edition (September 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594630232
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594630231
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,844,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was quite excited to read this book having been a (British) professional nanny for a long time. I found the book to be very touching and felt like I could go on reading about the relationships between mother's and nannies forever, it was really interesting to take a glimpse into the lives of these families. (I was hoping for a great story about a Brit nanny and mother relationship). I really do recommend that parents and nannies read this fabulous collection of stories.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is FABULOUS. I was sad when it ended. It's good for a few reasons: it consists of short stories, so you can read when you only have a few minutes, it brings out the feelings you didn't know you had about having a nanny (besides sometimes guilt), you see life and motherhood from many mom's perspectives, and you find yourself saying, "yes, I know!" to many statements made. It's a great read.
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Format: Hardcover
I was eager to read this book when I found it and was absolutely riveted and drawn in by the forward and introduction. The honest and thorough depiction of the Mother/Nanny relationship resonated with many of my experiences. I was a bit taken aback by the vast majority of difficult endings. Many nannies leaving a family with no notice or information as to why. Nannies with secrets, both of their own lives and of how they care for children. Yet through it all, the mothers seemed quite able to be grateful for the good while still not entirely forgiving the bad. This book challenged me to take a long hard look at myself and the career path of being a nanny. I find myself thinking that I am quite different from all of the nannies represented in this book. What would my employers' essays look like? How would they describe my influence in their family? I have had a few jobs end painfully but on the whole, I remain in touch with and on good terms with the families and children I once loved--and quite honestly probably always will love. I recommend this book to the thoughtful reader but fear that to some it might give an unbalanced harsh picture of what having a nanny is like. But perhaps I am not entirely aware of my own experience and would be shocked to discover that my employers have felt similarly about me as many moms in this book did about their nannies. I might not ever know- which leaves me quite unsettled.
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Format: Hardcover
This book contains essays by mothers who have employed nannies (most illegal) in the past. It analyzes the relationship between mothers and nannies and really explores the wealth of emotions that mothers go through. Highly recommeded!
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