My friend was early for tea, unruffled, with an immaculate infant daughter. Eventually, all became clearby Hephzibah Anderson / July 13, 2019 / Leave a comment
When my daughter was just a couple of months old, we made a tea date in one of London’s ritzier hotels with a friend visiting from the States. Getting there took the best part of two hours by train and bus, and entailed the kind of new-parent over-provisioning that makes polar explorers look like light travellers. Never mind Antarctica—in those sleep-starved, love-drunk early days, it felt akin to getting us to the Moon. Still, I reasoned, as a nearly-new mother herself—not to mention one who’d just navigated a six-hour flight with a child under a year old—my friend could surely match us for tardiness.
Though she was already waiting when we arrived, her infant daughter restless but immaculate in what appeared to be vintage togs, Bo-Peep bonnet and all, we weren’t late. As I parked the pram and plopped down into a plush seat, I marvelled aloud at our punctuality. “I mean, I can’t believe we made it out of the house at all!” My friend only blinked vaguely back at me. And so it went.
I’d been looking forward to catching up, but when it came to the biggest news in both our lives since we’d seen each other last, we kept hitting conversational impasses. Not even sleep deprivation, the perennial parental equaliser, got much of a response. Eventually, all became clear: she was coy about admitting it, but my friend had a live-in nanny who frequently travelled with them.
Growing up, the closest I came to knowing kids with real nannies were those few with summer au pairs—Swedish or French teenagers, lithe and tan, who avoided us as much as possible. But in recent decades, nannies have wafted from children’s literature and royal households down into the upper-middle classes like a fleet of Mary Poppinses.
There was a fad, a few years back, for famous women to thank their nannies for facilitating their careers. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler even rapped about theirs in 2015. That moment has comprehensively passed according to a new book by Megan Stack. As Women’s Work tells it, women may refer to their nannies as “family” and take them along on holiday,…