The Devil Wears Prada–esque pressures of glossy-magazine editing didn’t prepare Lucy Kaylin, executive editor of Marie Claire, for the professional complications of hiring a nanny to raise her two children (though she found a good one). So she wrote a book about it, The Perfect Stranger: The Truth About Mothers and Nannies. She spoke to Faye Penn.
You contrast the pleasures of work with the indignities of staying home with a mewling newborn. Do you ever have your doubts?
Much more when I was first getting into the preschool game, and that’s when I found there were a lot of stay-at-home moms who were contributing like crazy, and reading to the kids and baking and whatnot.
Is it hard to compete with richer friends?
Yeah. There are those nannies who get massive bonuses at Christmas and have the complimentary cell phones and get to take trips to their home country with the help of the employers’ frequent-flier miles.
Don’t you hate that horrible moment when you get home, the nanny leaves, and your child cries?
Absolutely. You really want the child and this woman to forge an utterly loving, trusting bond. But the times are going to come when the child prefers her to you.
Have you ever asked your kids how they feel about being raised by a nanny?
No. They’ve certainly asked me how come so-and-so’s mom doesn’t work or how come so-and-so’s mom can come to the school regularly. But it’s all they’ve ever known.
Do you worry that something is lost when a less-educated person is a primary influence on your kid?
I don’t need our babysitter to have a Ph.D. in order to give our children really first-rate care. I think there’s something wonderful about the fact that my children get some extended periods of breezy, casual interaction with a woman who doesn’t have her heart set on them winding up in the Ivy League. She really just wants them to have a nice afternoon.
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