Dedication vs Dignity

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall or wondered what really goes on behind your back? Working mothers have to consider out sourcing some of their motherly duties from time to time. Whether it’s a neighbourhood babysitter, staff members in a daycare setting or a live-in nanny, it’s every mother’s nightmare to imagine the worst about their child’s care giver. Parents can succumb to suspicious fears and desperately resort to spying tactics with the use of nanny cams and the like. Trust is a very important issue for parents but we rarely get to see things from the caretakers point of view.
In The Nanny Diaries, former nannies Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus combine their years of childcare experience and writing talents to weave a fictitious, satirical tale about a middle class nanny working for a filthy rich family. Recalling their nanny job interviews, the authors speak through the character suitably named "Nanny." She describes the interaction "much as I imagine a john and a call girl must make the deal, while trying not to kill the mood."
Set in New York, the story is told through the eyes of a childhood development grad student at NYU. Nanny manages to fund her education and a small apartment waiting for sporadic envelopes of cash working for a family known as the X’s. A predictable movie plot, the story unfolds with humorous accounts of struggles and strife between Nanny and the out of touch mother, Mrs. X. Tensions grow as Nanny’s list of duties starts out typically as a part time caretaker for the X’s son Grayer but quickly grows into full time servitude as Mrs. X’s "errand girl". Nanny develops an ongoing battle between her dedication and her dignity. Nanny ends up with chores like looking for Christmas gifts for the X’s service providers and filling their envelopes with bonuses. Financially strapped and looking forward to her own bonus, Nanny is consumed with anger and frustration over Mr. X’s thoughtless gift to her. She opens the box to find earmuffs.
One of the sad parts of the story is the fact that Nanny has to continually try to keep things together for the psychologically scarred son. Desperate for his fathers attention and approval, four year old Grayer wears his father’s tie somewhat like a proverbial hair shirt.
Nanny finds herself torn between being "at the ready" for service and remaining tight- lipped about the family drama unfolding around her. Nanny knows the X’s secrets. One of the contentious issues for Nanny comes up with her discovery that Mr. X is having an affair with a co-worker. Nanny spends time trying to cover up for his indiscretions in futile attempts to protect Mrs. X from the sordid details. In addition, Nanny also ends up dealing with the unconscionable demands from the mistress to stock the fridge for her rendevous with Mr. X. She also warns Nanny that telling Mrs. X would only prevent her from needing to leave her panties out to be found.
The story reads like a movie script with dialogue and scenery set up just ripe for a chick flick. This is where I mention that a movie based on The Nanny Diaries is due to hit theaters this September. I usually prefer to rent movies and watch them in the comfort of my home but in this case I will be waiting in line to see this one played out on the big screen. I’m sure the female characters will be as colorful as the book portrays but hope the males get better attention than developed in the book version. There is a romantic interest here with Nanny’s "Harvard Hottie" but not given much momentum to keep the readers interest going.
Nanny’s charge Grayer begins as a test of her patience but eventually she grows too attached to him. One interesting comment about working as a nanny is stated right at the set out of the book saying "to do the job well is to lose it." The ever present threat to the mother is that the Nanny will do the job too well and eventually replace her in the child’s heart.
Something to think about...
Wanda Lynne Young
Dedication vs Dignity was published in the July/August '07 issue of Real Women Magazine in the Reader's Corner column.


Karabana said...

Hiya, so did you go see it?
I'm always interested to see how a good novel translates into a movie, but, it's usually disappointing... except w Memoirs of a Geshia & White Oleander.