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Searching for Mary Poppins: Women Write About the Intense Relationship Between Mothers and Nannies Hardcover – September 21, 2006
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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
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The subtitle led me to feel that women on BOTH sides of the mother-nanny relationship would be writing, and the introduction clarified that we'd only be hearing from moms. The one-sidedness that could have been avoided: many mothers were work-from-home writers (convenient when looking for someone to contribute to a book), many lived in New York, and many were dealing with navigating race/ethnicity and class as much as they were dealing with with navigating the actual relationship with another human.
It wasn't offensive to me as other reviewers have expressed, but it did feel...askew, unbalanced. I feel that what was an opportunity to really explore the joys and challenges in co-parenting with someone you pay was only partly accomplished, and otherwise lost as writers-who-happen-to-also-be-moms eloquently described their and their nannies' normal human inadequacies.
So, because I reasonably had hoped for more - and while the book was ultimately lovely and I appreciated the stories - there was something missing that could have been incorporated. Thus, my review is missing one star it otherwise would have had.