Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Tuesday is Reader Mail Day!

From Amy comes a good compare/contrast of I Don't Know How She Does It and The Nanny Diaries: A Novel. (see blog 11/12)

In the "Nanny Diaries", the employer is a non-working mother whose "career" consists of lunching, going to meetings, and supervising the work of her domestics. She manages to make this a full-time job. The big-shot father of the family is both physically and emotionally absent. The nanny tries to do her best for the child, and suffers for it.

In "I Don't Know How She Does It", the nanny is a much more shadowy character. The mother overpays her and resents her (just as she resents her husband), but ultimately the reader figures out that neither the nanny nor the husband is what the heroine thinks. The heroine sees the nanny as judgmental and domineering, but it's mostly just her own mother-guilt and projection. Similarly, she sees her husband as weak and useless around the house. In reality, she's a hard-driving workaholic executive, and he's the one who's nurturing the kids while she's away on business trips. At least that's what I took away from it.

Neither book paints a terribly attractive picture of the women who employ nannies.  Really interesting. (Toni, care to add a comment from the nanny perspective?)

Amy also says,

I suspect that Betty Friedan's portrait of the 1950s housewife only holds true for a particular geographical area and class.

Absolutely.  It is definitely from an upper middle class perspective.  My mom always said about Friedan, "What does she know about washing socks? She never washed a sock in her life."  The Feminine Mystique was definitely aimed at a certain audience.  Still, it makes for a fun read, and it had a huge impact at the time. 

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