Book Review: The Nanny Diaries

The Nanny Diaries

The Nanny Diaries: A Novel 

Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus  

Reviewed by Kathleen Webb
April 2002

Like most people in the nanny field, I had heard a lot of buzz about this book before being sent a copy of the book to review by the publisher. I really wasn't sure what to expect, and it's a good thing because I never could have dreamed up this novel!

The Cliff Notes version is that the narrator, Nanny, takes a babysitting job for a wealthy Upper East Side family (the Xs) to pay the rent while she completes her degree at NYU. To say that the family is dysfunctional is an understatement, and one's heart goes out to Grayer - Grover, the four year old stuck in this nightmare household. The novel chronicles the 9 month saga of Nanny's employment in the household.

One might think the novel is making a social statement about how wealthy families are raising (or not raising) their children. While the Xs are certainly wealthy and are certainly not raising their son, I find it hard to swallow that being wealthy equals being a dysfunctional family. And by no means do the Xs describe the vast majority of families who employ nannies - hard working two income families who choose for a variety of reasons to employ a nanny rather than send their child to a day care facility.

Okay, then one might think that the Nanny Diaries chronicles the average life of a nanny. Wrong again! I would argue that 'Nanny' wasn't actually a nanny at all, but rather a very well qualified and competent babysitter. Nannies are child care professionals, not college students just looking to pay the rent for a few months. 'Nanny' displayed a mature understanding of the heartbreak Grayer was living with, and I would be the last person to fault her careful treatment of the child in her care. But what nanny (child care professional) gets high on vodka tonics while watching a child at a Halloween party, no matter how distasteful the costume or situation? Do professionals conspire with their employers to get paid off the books to avoid taxes?

The Nanny Diaries, however, has undeniably struck a cord in the nanny community. Nannies either love the book or hate the book - there doesn't appear to be much middle ground here.

The Nanny Diaries has its moments of levity - even laugh out loud hilarity. However, I was left with an overwhelming feeling of sadness at the end of the novel. I was sad for the little boy, I was sad for Mr. and Mrs. X because they were missing so much and were too stupid and self absorbed to figure it out, and for Nanny who cared deeply for the little boy she was ultimately unable to help. The book was a good work of fiction, one I enjoyed. NEWS FLASH for all the people considering a nanny career out there, it is only fiction!

Pick up the book, read it and share with a friend. Families - don't give ear muffs as a Christmas bonus! And nannies, I suspect most of you are more appreciative of the positions you are in after reading this one! The Xs aren't representative of nanny employers, and thank goodness for that.

The Nanny Diaries, Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus, St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 2002.


Kathleen Webb is the President of HomeWork Solutions, Inc. Her firm provides nanny payroll and tax services nationwide. HomeWork Solutions was instrumental in the development of and, employment referral resources for the nanny community and the families that employ nannies.


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