Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why Are Nanny Stories Hot?

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

So, yesterday the New York Times printed this article that says people still love books about nannies. From the article, “There’s an ongoing cultural fascination with this rich drama that plays out in your own home,” said Lucy Kaylin, who did dozens of interviews for her 2007 nonfiction book, “The Perfect Stranger: The Truth About Mothers and Nannies” (Bloomsbury)." And I completely agree. That's why I wrote Substitute Me.

Personally, I was fascinated with the concept of inviting a perfect stranger into your home to perform some of your most intimate tasks. I was inspired by my own journey of trying to hire a nanny for my first-born son, while I was living in New York City. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I was so terrified of leaving my son with a stranger AND having that stranger in my home all day where she might notice that I'm a horrible housekeeper that I aborted the mission before it even really started. I avoided the whole topic. Extended my maternity leave. Begged my out-of-work friends to watch my kid all day long. I even snuck my son to my office a few times. Finally, in exasperation, I quit my job. That's right. Rather than bite the bullet and hire a nanny, I quit.

Substitute Me, is kind of the story of what might have happened if I hadn't been afraid. It's what I started to imagine during those frenzied days of mine. Many people will assume that the Black character in the story, the nanny, is loosely based on me, when in fact, it is the career driven White woman whom I mostly identify with. And I'm sure many of my readers will too. Kate Carter is a woman in love with a new son, but equally in love with her job. She hires a nanny because she knows it is the right thing to do for her child and for herself. And all she has to do is look around the local playgrounds to know nannies are the way to go, so she quells her fears and hires Zora. And that's when the story begins.

I think a lot of people associate nannies with wealthy folk who live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. But the fact of the matter is, if you work and you have children, you are probably not wealthy but you still need a nanny. In my multi-culti neighborhood in Philadelphia, the new rage in nannies is hiring a young woman from abroad from an agency like this, which makes it feel like your getting something between a cultural exchange student and a babysitter all rolled up in one. With the added benefit of allowing people to avoid any of the uncomfortable racial/cultural baggage that comes with hiring a domestic worker in this country.

So I'm curious Meltingpot readers. Why do you think nanny stories are hot? Why are they so fascinating? Why is Super Nanny still on the air and syndicated in like a bazillion countries?

I'm listening.



Emerson Zora said...

Hey, Lori!

So, I am curious about why you chose a white woman as the woman who hires Zora? My question also leads me to imagine what shape a story of a black woman who hires a black nanny would take.

I am looking forward to Substitute Me. :)


Pernicious Panda said...

People watch SuperNanny because it makes them feel smart. Young parents are subject to so many judgements and disapproving glances, no matter what they do. Many times they are in no-win situations (breast vs. bottle, for example. Cloth vs. disposable--or no--diapers, etc.). They can watch this show and feel like they've got it all under control. "I may not be the best mother in the world," a typical viewer might say, "but at least I have more sense than to give birth to triplets 10 months after giving birth to quads while at the same time being married to Slacker Dad." Nope, no mystery here.

LT said...

I hope you like the book. I didn't really decide that Kate Carter should be a White woman, the character jumped into my head, in fact the whole story did all at once, then I just wrote it down.

LOL!!!! Very well said.

Candi said...

A nanny is a mom-away-from-mom. When mom cannot be available, a nanny is there for the children. A nanny loves unconditionally. She kisses ouchies; encourages intellectual, emotional, and social development; and provides an experientially safe space for the children. She does all the things that the mother would do if the mother were available. Thus, she too plays a pivotal role in shaping who the children become.

Nanny Jobs said...

So many people can relate to being frustrated by children with behavioral problems. Super Nanny makes it look simple when really its not. Getting children to change their behavior takes parents setting good examples and a lot of patience. A LOT OF PATIENCE! LOL.