Thank You, Mary Poppins

Five Societal Misconceptions About Nannies
By Samantha Gray

I’ll never forget the first time I watched Mary Poppinsas a little girl. Never in my life had I seen a beautiful, dancing, singing, flying, entertaining nanny. I knew all my friends had babysitters and nannies, but none ever seemed to be quite like this. I was certain of that!

When I was a little girl, my mother was a stay-at-home mom, but after seeing the remarkable Mary Poppins work her magic on film, I begged my mother to go get a job so I could have a cool nanny. Naturally, she felt it necessary to tell me that there weren’t many Mary Poppins out there in the world. It wasn’t until I took a job as a nanny that I realized my mother was absolutely right: the life of a nanny doesn’t at all resemble Mary Poppins’ schedule.

After working as a nanny in college, I quickly learned that our work is a little more complicated than dancing with penguins and feeding the birds. Yet, what never ceases to amaze me is the fact that the nanny image hasn’t changed much through the years. Every time I see a nanny film, such as “The Nanny Diaries,” “The Sound of Music,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Nanny McPhee,” and so forth, I can’t help but laugh at all the misconceptions being created around the profession. For those of you who work as a nanny or are considering going into the profession, here are five serious misunderstandings about the work of a nanny.

We Dress Cute All the Time

Sure, it was amazing when Mary Poppins showed up in a floral hat and black coat with a bottomless bag and talking parrot umbrella. Most of the time, however, nannies won’t be wearing cute hats, dress stockings, and high heels around the park; he or she will be confined to a wardrobe of comfortable, worn-in clothes. A nanny’s wardrobe is usually something they need to be prepared to get dirty and not think twice about throwing out. So if you’ve recently become a nanny and want to put on your finest attire, I’d think twice. Paint and dirt won’t be very forgiving on your cute ensemble.
Children Hate Us at First, But Eventually Grow to Love Us

In almost every nanny movie I see, the children start out absolutely loathing the nanny. Yet over the course of the film, we see their relationship develop and blossom into a deep, loving relationship. Let’s set the record straight: most of the time children don’t hate you when you first walk in the door. They simply don’t know you, so it takes them a while to accept you. You might feel like you are hated when a parent leaves the house and you’re left with a crying child, but remember, they’ll most likely accept you as a playmate and friend over time. Just keep in mind, you aren’t there to replace a parent; you’re there to make sure the child is safe, engaged, and taken care of.

It’s all Fun and Games

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all we did was skip around the park, go to museums, pick fruit from trees, and live happily ever after? Alas, a nanny’s work is more complicated than that. Most days we will either be inside switching between playful tasks and learning tasks or outside playing in the sweltering heat. Whenever a parent hires a nanny, they often have a set of goals they want the nanny to accomplish each day with their child. Try to keep in mind that games and movies are a lot of fun, but it’s important not to get too caught up in all the fun. Stay on track and remember to embrace a well-rounded routine and schedule.

You Meet Men on the Job

The Sound of Music gave us way too high of expectations about the chance to meet an eligible bachelor on the job. I must clear the air, though; there aren’t many men you will be able to meet when you are a nanny. First of all, much of the time your attention will be too focused on the children to look around and see if there are men roaming around. Second of all, if it’s your goal to meet men on the job then you are probably in the wrong profession. If you are looking to get into the dating game, wait until after work at a happy-hour bar or on a blind date. Children should always be priority when you are working.

Parents are the Enemy

I don’t think I’ve seen one nanny film that hasn’t labeled the parent as the antagonist. Let’s clear the air: parents are not the enemy. They should always, always be viewed as your ally. Even in the situation when you are working with a difficult parent, try and be on their good side and ask them for help when you need it. To put it blatantly, they are the ones paying you, so it’s important to treat them with respect. Never let the child tell you something is one way when you know the parent would see it the other way. As long as you keep the parent’s demands priority, you’ll be good to go.

As I’ve learned through my own personal experiences, the life of a nanny is not for the faint of heart. If you find yourself interested in the profession or about to take on your first nanny job, remember these five serious misgivings about the nanny profession thanks to modern-day pop culture and film.

Samantha Gray is a freelance writer. She would love to hear from you at


  1. Just wanted to say I enjoyed reading your article!

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