With wit, sensitivity, and unflinching honesty, Searching for Mary Poppins brings together twenty-five of today’s leading woman writers—including Marisa de los Santos, Susan Cheever, Joyce Maynard, and Jacquelyn Mitchard—to explore the emotional minefield of mother-nanny relationships. From Daphne Merkin on the challenges of hiring a nanny after having been raised by one to Lauren Slater on her regret at having “given her mothering away,” the collection’s stunningly original pieces offer rare insight into the complex issues that emerge when a mother turns the care of her child over to a stranger. Raising questions that reach beyond money, race, class, and gender into the darkest areas of love and fear that a mother feels, this book ultimately provides hope, solace, and welcome perspective on this unique relationship.
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.