Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicole Kraus

"And then I know. Nothing I've said so far will make them love him the way he needs to be loved. Or allow me to leave with any grace. I hear Grayer: 'Be smart, Nanny. You'll be smart'."

The Nanny:

Her name is Nanny, or at least that is how everyone, herself included, refers to her. She is working on a Masters in Child Psychology at NYU, and attempting to stay afloat financially as an off campus student in New York.

She is also Grayer's nanny.

Nanny met the X's in a park. Having just applied to the Parent's League to find a family to work for, she is delighted when she is hired on the spot by a seemingly normal family. The arrangement is for Nanny to work 15 hours a week at $10 an hour. Her duties include picking up Grayer from school, feeding him a snack, and being with him until his mom gets home in the evening.

Mrs. X:

The mother from Hell. 15 hours a week become 15 hours a day. Weekly paychecks come once a month if she is pressed for them. Oh, and the last nanny: Had no idea she was fired until Nanny (current nanny) shows up. Mrs. X lives to pamper herself, and will do so at any expense. From calling Nanny during classes, making her late for her thesis defense, to having Nanny run errands and coordinate party favors.

Mrs. X sees her son as an accessory. He is there to make her look good, she doesn't want a relationship. Grayer is not allowed to touch his mother, not allowed to talk to her, he rarely sees her, and anything he chooses to do must not be an inconvenience to his mom. Mrs. X even keeps him in a separate wing of the house so as not to disturb her decor with anything child-like.

Mr. X:

The bastard husband who is tearing his family apart. He has no idea that Grayer has a new nanny. He is gone to other cities for months at a time. Grayer is shut down when he even tries to approach his father. Literally, this man pushes his four-year-old son aside when coming home for one of his brief visits, which had to be forced by his wife.

Another huge pro for Mr. X, he is having an affair with Ms. Chicago. He schedules times for his wife to be gone so that he can bring Ms. C into their home. Grayer walks in during one of their rendezvous. Eventually the rift between Mr. and Mrs. X is so bad that Grayer is no longer allowed to talk about his father when he is not home.


Grayer Addison X is the first and only child of Mr. and Mrs X. He is caught up in their selfishness, being raised by whatever nanny his mother is still on good terms with. He is lost and afraid without a friend in the world who doesn't leave him eventually. His parents don't speak to him and his nannies are continuously fired. However he is still a child, and has the resilience of one. He is still enthusiastic at each prospect of seeing mommy and daddy, still wonders at each new discovery in life. He does eventually feel the horrible tension in his home, when no one is allowed to turn on lights and he can't play because mommy is depressed. He starts to pee on the furniture, have nightmares, and get very sick.

His mother's reaction? Go to the spa for a week and let Nanny deal with him. And so she does, with her son's temperature at 108 she leaves. While she is gone he develops the coup, and it takes several days for his fever to break so that his cough and subside. Mrs. X comes home the morning after his fever is broken, to find blankets in the floor, where Nanny slept with Grayer, trying to keep him close without disturbing his sore little body. Mrs. X tells Nanny to leave, the mess is unacceptable.

Nanny eventually loses her job, apparently riding to Nantucket a day late so that you can finish your finals just not something any reasonable person would do.

I like how this book makes everyone except Grayer into a stereotype. No one involved has an actual name, they are just called nanny, and the X's. I also feel like it is a fairly accurate description of the nannying job. I worked with a family for a year. I had an excellent family, they loved their children, but it still comes down to this: another person is raising your kids.

I really liked this book, it was easy to read, and relaxing, but showed a real truth at the same time.

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