Book #3 (March) – The Nanny Diaries

** I’ve started a new Facebook-based book club! Learn more HERE.**

This month’s book is: The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin

Summary (from


One young woman to take care of four-year-old boy. Must be cheerful, enthusiastic and selfless—bordering on masochistic. Must relish sixteen-hour shifts with a deliberately nap-deprived preschooler. Must love getting thrown up on, literally and figuratively, by everyone in his family. Must enjoy the delicious anticipation of ridiculously erratic pay. Mostly, must love being treated like fungus found growing out of employers Hermès bag. Those who take it personally need not apply.

Who wouldn’t want this job? Struggling to graduate from NYU and afford her microscopic studio apartment, Nanny takes a position caring for the only son of the wealthy X family. She rapidly learns the insane amount of juggling involved to ensure that a Park Avenue wife who doesn’t work, cook, clean, or raise her own child has a smooth day.

When the Xs marriage begins to disintegrate, Nanny ends up involved way beyond the bounds of human decency or good taste. Her tenure with the X family becomes a nearly impossible mission to maintain the mental health of their four-year-old, her own integrity and, most importantly, her sense of humor. Over nine tense months, Mrs. X and Nanny perform the age-old dance of decorum and power as they test the limits of modern-day servitude.

Discussion Questions (some questions taken from other sources):

1. What is your first impression of the book? What do you think of the cover design?

2. Which character can you relate to so far? Why?

3. Why do you think the characters are never assigned real names?

4. Considering the harsh and fickle treatment Nan receives from Mrs. X, why  do you think she stays with the family?

5. What kind of person do you think Grayer will grow up to be?

Discussion Project #1 – What is your ideal Nanny? Does she play games or sing songs? Does she throw parties? What does she look like, dress, or do? Do you want a nanny like Nan, or one like Mary Poppins?

6. Would you have spoken your mind on the teddy bear tape recorder before leaving the X’s household for good? Why do you think Nanny erased her initial   outburst? How long would you be able to hold your tongue if found in a   comparable work situation?

7. If you had the money that the X’s had and could enrich your child’s life with exotic foods, violin lessons, private schooling and French classes, would   you and why? What do you think is appropriate for a child and what crosses the line?

Discussion Project #2 – Create a small “Nanny Wanted” newspaper listing here in the comments section advertising for a nanny.

8. How much responsibility should a nanny take in raising her employer’s child? Do you think Nanny will stay in the child-care profession after this experience?

9. If you already hire a nanny, does this book change your views about them? What about one you may hire in the future?

10. After reading this book, how likely are you to hire a nanny?

11. Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why?


23 responses to “Book #3 (March) – The Nanny Diaries

  1. 1. I have read some 50 pages and enjoying it very much. I love the authors’ sense for details, ironical way of telling harsh facts and brillant humour. The cover design refers to a modern Mary Poppins and maybe it gives a hint that all nannys have to work wonders in a way to survive in the modern snobbish families. The Estonian version I am reading has a different cover: (I didn’t find a bigger image), but it still features a flying umbrella!

  2. I have just picked this book up from the library and mine has a different cover too although it is obviously meant to convey an image of the modern day Mary Poppins in a very modern city.
    I used to be a nanny – a long time ago – so it will be interesting to compare my experiences to the ones in the book.

  3. What, I’m still the only one? Now I’ve read a hundred pages and can answer the other questions, too. Looking forward to new questions and other peoples’ comments! But I know that everyone has their one pace of reading. I was quite behind at the previous months…

    2. I feel solidarity for Caitlin, the former nanny of Grayer, because I have also been in the situation of losing my job for having a mind of my own. I wouldn’t like to explain it longer.
    As I am a teacher I also can relate to Nan at some points as we both interact with children. But my students are older than Nan’s and I must say her dedication is incomparable!

    3. As the authors (they are Emma McLaughlin AND Nicola Kraus, You have mentioned only Emma!) say at the beginng of the book: the novel is inspired by more than 30 families they have worked at and all the similarities to real persons are coincidental. I personally feel they are not so coincidental at all… 😛 But names like Mrs X and Nanny refer to a generalization: these characters have qualities that can be applied to many rich New York mums and many dedicated nannies.

    4. Well, she needs money, but this is definitely not the most important thing. I think she really enjoys working with children and she likes Grayer a lot. Seeing that Grayer’s mother has no time for him, Nan might think Grayer deserves a better treatment.

    5. Grayer might be bossy and impolite to some people as a grown-up, but I’m sure he will be loyal and kind to the ones he chooses to trust (just like Nan). I think he will be a strong and charismatic leader who knows what he wants and does everything to get it. Deciding on the episodes where Grayer decorated a cake or made Al the Christmas Decoration Snowman, he might become a talented artist! 🙂

  4. 1. My first impression of the book is that it is going to be about the usual rich person, who hires a nanny to watch her children, while she goes off and hosts charities and goes to upper class parties, while the nanny does all the parenting. It’s not my usual genre, but it could surprise me.

    The cover reminds me of a modern day Mary Poppins, because of the woman holding the umbrella and she is a nanny.

  5. ok, nice, I’ve read the whole book. now I can answer the questions 🙂
    1. I saw a movie a long time ago but didn’t really remember all the details so it was interesting to read a book. I don’t have an impression of the cover because I read an e-book 🙂 it was the fastest way I could get it to read it.
    2. I’m not sure, really. After I’ve read the whole book I can say that I would like to relate myself to Nan because I’m really, really patient and can boil inside and not show it. But in the beginning I couldn’t have said that. I wasn’t really sympathetic to her. It came to me later.
    3. Well, I can say for sure that the family of Grayer “doesn’t have a name” because they are typical. Nan describes the apartments and she emphasizes that all the situations are typical, all those families don’t differ a lot, maybe it’s even just tinsel, it doesn’t really matter.
    4. For Grayer and for money I guess. Mostly for Grayer of course.
    5. Umf, it’s hard. I thought about that while reading and changed my mind lots of times. After all I think he’s going to be a good person. Maybe money won’t spoil him. I think he’s a smart boy and he’ll find a way.

  6. 1. I also think the cover reminds me of a modern day Mary Poppins.
    2. I suppose I can relate to Nan because it sort of reminds me of how I act when dealing with my cousins.
    3. I suppose they are never assigned real names because you might know people like the X’s, and just wish to “insert name here” because you’ve been in Nan’s shoes and have dealt with people like the X’s.
    4. I think she stays with the family for Grayer’s sake. Poor kid needs somebody.
    5. He might grow up to be like his parents, but maybe with Nan’s guidance he’ll grow up to be the opposite.

    Discussion Project #1 – I want a Nanny like Mary Poppins. Julie Andrews can be my nanny any day of the week!

  7. I just finished reading this book. I enjoyed the humor a lot, especially the wicked portrayal of the “aristocracy.” I loved the names of the kids!

    I think Nan stays because she grows to love Greyer. And unfortunately I think Greyer will grow up to be like his father. After all, Dad probably had a similar childhood, given his dear Mom introduced near the end.

    Very satisfying read!

  8. 2.) I don’t really see myself relating to the characters, because I have never been a nanny or had a nanny to watch my own child. It’s really a whole different world. Nan and I are very close in age and going to college, but I would never have chosen the job as a nanny like she did.

    3.) I think that the characters are called Mr. and Mrs. X, because it is more of a generic label, allowing the reader to use their own imagination to who the characters could be portraying.

    4.) The only reason I can see for Nan staying is for Grayer, because he needs a stable relationship with somebody who cares about him, since his own parents are too busy to be actual parents.

    5.) It’s a bit difficult to tell how a child will turn out to be, because they go through so many changes as they grow. Children who grow up in that sort of environment may turn out to be the total polar opposite or become a reflection of their parents. Hopefully, the positive role Nan plays in Grayer’s life will allow him to be less self-centered when he is an adult.

    Discussion Project #1:

    My ideal Nanny would be somebody who can get down to the child’s level and understand their needs. They would also have to be very active in thinking up fun games, taking my child to the park, making crafts and being a good role model. I don’t want some person who is just in it for the money and doesn’t show an interest in my child or other children. I guess somebody who is like a pre-school teacher would be the type of Nanny I would hire.

  9. 6. I wouldn’t have even bothered recording a message on the teddy bear recorder, because it seems like a waste of time. Also, when Nan went back to their apartment, I thought that was a bit too much and little weird in a way. Nan deleted the first message, because it was her blowing off steam to deal with what she put up with when dealing with Mrs. X. If I ended up working for a tyrant like Mrs. X, I would have told her I quit and collected the money she owes me. Nan should have stood her ground and told Mrs. X that she was hired to watch Grayer and not do random chores for Mrs. X. She should have also asked her for more pay, if she was going to do more than they agreed to in the beginning.

    7. If I had the money that the X family did, I would definitely give my son what he needs, but also show him that he has to work for what he wants in life and that in the real world nothing is handed to him for free. Giving children everything they desire makes them not respect anything or anybody.

    Discussion #2:
    Wanted: Looking for a nanny, who is willing to work 7 hours per day, 4 days a week. Must have references and experience with children. Pay is decided on amount of experience.

  10. I’ve just started reading the book – just finished my library book club book – and I’m finding it OK so far but a little irritating for some reason. People like Mrs X annoy me so much and unfortunately there are a few like her. Her expectations of the nanny and of her son (completely filling his day with suitable activities and little free time) and getting rid of Caitlin means that the little boy is quite insecure.
    I know this family is a mix of real people and but I feel that it is fairly true to life. I’ll continue to read and see if I’ll enjoy the book any more.

    • Mrs. X annoyed me too, because she is just too concerned with herself and not anybody else. She expects way too much out of others and nothing is ever good enough for her. I don’t think all the things in the world would make that woman happy.

  11. Discussion project #1

    Well, I don’t have children of my own, so mostly I have to decide according to what I might have enjoyed as a child. My mum read a lot to me, so the ideal nanny certainly should read to children or, even better, tell stories herself. Singing and games would be great, too! And drawing. A good nanny shouldn’t be too strict, but she should be an authority to the child and also get on well with the child. She also should leave room for the child. Maybe this sounds weird, but some children might get nervous when they are constantly watched and guided. On the other hand the child should feel secure of course.

    6. I certainly would have said something: maybe spoken out for Grayer, asked to be nicer to the future nannies and the coming baby, and also told that the payment and duties were unfair. Knowing Mrs X she might ignore the whole recording, but at least it is an opportunity to do something and show my opinion. I would have tried to stay polite because otherwise it would have sounded as mean as the X-es themselves. I think that is also the reason Nan deleted her initial recording. She also understood that actually she is not wishing bad things for the family, no matter what. But I think the initial outburst was necessary for herself, because we all need to express our emotions sometimes: screaming, cursing or crying can clear our heads and make us feel lighter.
    I have been in an uncomfortable work situation. I always explained my point of view.

  12. #6 I probably would have spoken my mind about the recorder. But then again, I realize there are some freaks out there taking care of children, and its better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your kids. So I can understand why she’d want to record what was going on.

    #7 If I had the money, I’d put it away for my child’s education. I dont care about enriching his life with money, because the things that enrich a child’s life cannot be bought. I’d tell him to go outside or take him to parks or things like that. He doesnt need fancy foods or musical instruments to have a great life.

    Discussion Project #2 – Wanted: Nanny. With references and experience. CPR certification. Must submit drug test on weekly basis. Love kids. Follows Rules. Has Fun.

  13. 1. This is not a genre a read at all and I was hope for more than possible, It’s irrating because of how whiny and imature everyone acts no one seems to know how to act like an adult.
    2. The character I can kinda relate to is nanny and that is because a lot of jobs hire you for one thing and then expect you to fill in for other departments of which you have no training and tell you nothing on how to do that job then blame you when things go wrong.
    3. I think the reason the characters don’t have names is because there probably is very close similarities to someone they worked for and you also might know people like that and all you have to do is insert name
    4. I think the same thing as everyone else for stability for Grayer and for the money.
    5. it could go either way it just depends on the situations that people encounter when they grow up and how they approach them.

  14. 8. A nanny shouldn’t be fully responsible for raising a child that isn’t their own. I believe they are there to help out the mother when she needs a break or has to go to work. Other than that, the mother should be the one doing the raising. The way Nanny is, I think maybe she will stay in the business, because for some reason, I think she actually enjoys it.

    9. I’ve never had a nanny and just can’t see me hiring one in the future.

    10. As a mother, I just don’t like the idea of hiring a nanny to raise my child. Having a stranger be a parent to my child is just weird. Mothers need to be there to give guidance to their children and love them unconditionally. It’s one thing if a mother needs help or has to work and hires a nanny, but not full-time.

    11. I really didn’t like this book and wouldn’t recommend it. Every chapter was too identical and nothing interesting happened. It was all too predictable and the usual Upper East Side drama. Maybe I watched too many Gossip Girl episodes. Nanny made me nervous and I would never allow her around my child. She really just got too involved in the X’s family affairs and was too attached to Grayer in a way that didn’t seem healthy. The X’s were boring and Mrs. X was too full of herself and a bad parent. Seriously, what mom just hires some random girl off the street to watch her child.

    • As a reply to some of the comments in question 10 an 11 there is another side to consider. A lot of people do not hire nannies to raise their children – it is another form of child care that suits some busy people to fit in around their professional life. What happens if you work shifts, weekends or odd hours? My sister shared the hire of a nanny with other families when her children were babies as it was cheaper than paying for child care in a center. It is a relationship that can work well for both sides if there is a bit of give and take, the nanny is fully qualified and if the nanny lives out of the home!
      I can understand Nan getting attached to Grayer because I always got attached too which is the natural consequence of spending a lot of time with a small person. The baby I looked after when he was 10 months old is now 25 and I’m still in contact with his family.
      Having said all this in defense of nannies I really am not enjoying this book. I feel like giving Mrs X a good shake and telling her grow up. Her child is the most important thing, not her sham of a marriage or the life she leads. I feel quite sad that there are people are living like this.
      I also do not like the style of writing as there seems to be no depth to it in describing the life they lead n or any real excitement.

  15. 7. I think the schedule described in the book is total nonsense, because the activities Mrs X had chosen were too boring and difficult for most of the children. Moreover, when mother doesn’t go with the child even to the “Mummy and me” group then the child sees that the parents don’t care, so why should he care, too? On the other hand I do think the child should have one (or maybe two) hobbies that are really interesting to them and maybe these early childhood experiences can form their future life as well. Therefore it is very important that parents help the child choosing appropriate classes to them, but respect the child’s wishes and don’t try to fulfil their broken dreams through the child. I think parents should give their children a secure feeling and support their education if necessary, but also show the child that everything doesn’t come for free and work has to be done to earn money.

    • 6. I would not do anything like that because knowing people like that they would somehow do everything they could to use it and make you look bad. Nanny erased it caused it helped her blow off steam and when I was treated like that at a job I would definetly speak up and give my side of the story.
      7. If i had that kind of money for my kid i’d be saving a majority of it for schooling and some classes that she would want but do stuff with her with the rest.
      8. A nanny is there to watch over your child and help out occasionaly but not raise the kid for you that’s the mom’s job and I think she’ll stay in business.
      9 & 10 I’ve never had a nanny before and have no plans on getting one for my daughter I don’t like the idea of a stranger watching my child
      11.I really did not like this book at all, I would not recomend this book to anyone.

  16. #8 A nanny should take no responsibility in raising a child. They are there to watch over a child when a mother cant, but not to raise it.

    #9 & #10 I wouldnt hire a nanny in the future because I’d rather take care of and spend more time with my own child. Why should the nanny have all the fun?
    Besides, that’s what school is for. To keep your kid for several hours a day. And they’re free.

    #11 I probably wouldnt recommend this book to a friend. Maybe the movie, but not the book. I think if you watch the movie, you get a gist of everything. There are plenty of other good books out there worth reading more.

  17. 6. Oh I thought about it when I finished reading. And I think I wouldn’t. I don’t believe it could change anything. Nanny erased the 1st tape because (in my opinion) she wanted to leave something useful, not that hateful outburst. She thought that those words could have change the situation. I said it before but I can repeat, I am VERY patient and I can hold my tongue for a really, really long time. I think the thing that would have driven me crazy was the amount of money Nanny received from Mrs. X after the holiday.

    7. If I had enough money I would definitely do everything for my child. The only thing is that an educated child won’t be spoiled even if he/she has everything in the world. It’s the matter of mental education. All those violin lessons and stuff are great, very helpful but child’s mind is the most important point for working on.
    I think the strategy of treating a child with special things when he is successful in studying and everything he does is a great thing. And giving everything he wants no matter what is going on with him is bad.

    8. Nanny will definitely stay in this profession! I have no idea how much responsibility nanny should take though… I would have been a bad nanny maybe but I would have done everything I think is better for the child somehow combining it with the instructions of the actual mother.

    9. No, have never dealt with nannies before. To be honest I don’t trust strangers a lot. And I don’t feel like I can trust a nanny in the future. Kindergartens seem more trustful to me and the rest of the time I’m going to handle by myself.

    10. I never anted to have a nanny and have no intentions to have a baby soon so I really don’t know. Nanny like Nanny would be great but it’s a tough challenge to find one.

    11. Well, maybe yes. It’s not hard to read and it’s interesting. Exciting from time to time 🙂

  18. 8. I think this is quite a delicate problem. On the other hand a nanny should pay attention to the child’s needs, but on the other hand they shouldn’t get too keen on each other because one day the nanny will leave… I’m facing the same problem at school with my students. I am always sad when I have to leave them. I think Nanny wil certainly remain her profession. She is very dedicated and I think this experience made her stronger.

    9. Basically the book showed that the life of a nanny can be much harder than I thought. I have never had a nanny and I don’t know if I ever will, but I know that respect should be showed to both child and nanny!

    10. I don’t have children and I don’t know what it will be like in the future. But I think I’d rather let my mum or friend look after the kids if necessary. Nan was a great nanny, but You never know who answers your ad, so I think it’s better to leave the kids to someone you know.

    11. I already recommended it to a fellow postcrosser because it is funny, but deals with severe subjects at the same time. It is easy to follow Nan’s life and problems.

  19. A lot of humor in this book and a very light read.
    Mr. and Mrs. X are clearly Lisa Birnbach and Steven Haft. A lot has been written about her but it is actually S. Haft who is best portrayed in the book : philandering, lying, social climbing are his trademarks. An absent and self centered husband / father he compensates by being too permissive and smothering his kids.
    While S. Haft is a film producer and new media strategist, they disguised him as a WASP banker in the book. In spite of that he is as rude, cheap and selfish in the book as he is in real life.

    • So true! Mr. X has Steven Haft written all over him. A fluke and a notorious player with no manners : anybody can see right through the Waspy disguise of Mr. X.

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