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Searching for Mary Poppins

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In Searching for Mary Poppins, mothers write about their relationships with their nannies, and no, it isn't all middle-class white-woman angsting. Editors Susan Davis and Gina Hyams drew pieces from notable authors, including Roxana Robinson, Rebecca Walker, Jaqueline Mitchard, Karen Shepherd and Alice Elliott Dark, with highly individual experiences. Robinson, for instance, recalls the moment she had it all-the handsome husband, the beautiful baby, the stately townhouse, the fabulous job, and the coveted French nanny. That was the moment just before she had to fire the nanny for drinking on the job. Mitchard writes about the farm girl she hired who was wonderful in every respect, except for the woman's intrusion into her marriage and her determination to indoctrinate the children in her fundamentalist beliefs. Anne Burt's nanny was so caring and so nurturing that Burt was reduced to stalking her by telephone when the woman left. Collectively, these writers explore the inevitably complicated bond between mother and caregiver. -- Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News

This collection of 24 commissioned essays covers the varied experiences these professional writers had with caregivers for their children. Editors Davis and Hyams have done a remarkable job of pulling together writing mothers willing to bare their souls, revealing the joy, guilt, relief, and fear of employing a nanny (the issue of the privileged concept of hiring a nanny is not disregarded). The pieces, roughly divided into four sections, are well written, hauntingly honest, and thought-provoking, progressing from hiring a nanny to negotiating a relationship with this 'other mother,' dealing with tensions and with the end of the relationship. Woven throughout are universal themes class, work, family, and values but the contributors avoid preachy moralizing or sweeping generalizations. A foreword by Melissa Block (host of All Things Considered on National Public Radio) engages readers from the first page. With more and more families hiring nannies every year, this work will resonate with mothers around the country. -- Erica L. Foley, Library Journal

Davis and Hyams compile two dozen essays by contemporary women writers exploring the many facets of 'the nanny-mother tango.' The relationship between a woman and her child's caretaker can be 'a complicated dance.' This collection includes a diverse group of talents, including Susan Cheever, Marisa de los Santos, Joyce Maynard, Daphne Merkin, Roxanna Robinson and Rebecca Walker, writing about their sometimes wonderful, sometimes horrible (and almost always awkward) relationships with their children's nannies. The very intimate position of sharing the role of mother (and sometimes a living space as well) with another woman-often one with a vastly different background than the mother-has been an intense experience for the authors of this collection. While each story is different, common emotional themes emerge, among them love, guilt, betrayal, gratitude, insecurity and loss. Sometimes humorous and often touching, this is an honest exploration of the well of feelings inspired by the nanny-mother relationship. Includes a foreword by All Things Considered's Melissa Block. -- Kirkus Reviews

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