Searching for Mary Poppins

Weekly Trip to the Library
By Whitney Tang, Author of Wednesdays with Whitney and The Naptime Nook

Searching for Mary Poppins by Susan Davis and Gina Hyams is exactly that: a book about various mothers’ searches for Mary Poppins (aka the perfect nanny). But it goes much further than that. This book, which is made up of 25 essays written by 25 different moms, addresses everything related to mothers and their nannies, from the search to the goodbyes and all the ups and downs in between.

The book has a range of essays focusing on different aspects of the relationship between mothers and nannies. There are a few really heartfelt ones where you may need to be prepared, tissue in hand. There is the mother who writes about the nanny who flies out immediately upon learning the girl she used to care for was deceased. That story still makes my heart hurt. Don’t worry though, there are entertaining essays to break up the tears.

The thing that I was disappointed in was the huge discrepancy in stories about good, healthy relationships versus troubled ones. I felt like 3/4 of the essays included in this book portrayed a very unhealthy relationship or an incredibly unprofessional nanny. There was more than one story where the nanny disappeared out of nowhere, saying nothing, leaving the Mom high and dry with no childcare. There were various stories of nannies who drank, slept, and stole on the job and there was even word of a nanny who locked the child in their room all day long.

Sure, the stories sometimes made for entertainment fodder, but the fact that these stories are real made me quite sad. And frustrated. Did the editors simply choose stories that caused drama? Or did they only ask 25 mothers to write and this was the random sampling that came back? Either way, I felt like it was an unfair portrayal. It seems like in the public eye, it is either nannies or mothers that get demonized in the childcare relationship (ex: The Nanny Diaries, Dante’s Inferno, Nanny 911, Supernanny, various television episodes). And while some of the essays in Searching for Mary Poppins are so real and really grasp what the mother-nanny relationship is, these are far outweighed by either exaggerated or simply awful situations.

In saying that though, I do feel like this book is a good read for both nannies and parents alike. It provides an insight for nannies into their employer’s feelings, and why they might be acting jealous or reserved in a certain situation. It also can provide a good “what not to do” guide for nannies. To be honest, reading this book gave me an extra boost of determination to make my days with Abby varied, educational, and fun – much unlike some of the nannies in this book.

For parents, I think this book will be an entertaining, and at times quite relatable, book. The balance of working mother guilt and a need to have a life outside of your child is thoroughly addressed by many mothers’ essays. It can provide mothers with a comfort of not being alone, and perhaps even some advice on how to deal with it. Just don’t read this book if you are starting out your search for Mary Poppins – it will be sure to scare you away before you even have a chance to look to the sky for that iconic umbrella.

Whitney Tang graduated from Loyola University of Chicago with a degree in English. Before discovering her love of the literary arts, she was in their Premed program. As the author of The Naptime Nook, Whitney also shares these activities with readers daily and exercising her creative muscles in the Be the Best Nanny Newsletter blog every Wednesday in her column Wednesdays With Whitney.

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