These photographs are so moving…

Did you read the amazing New York Times Magazine piece this weekend about nannies? The article—”The Other Mothers of Manhattan“—was a beautifully written essay examining the complex relationship between mothers, children and nannies.

The photographs look like classic portraits of the Madonna and child, although instead of mothers, the women are nannies. The images reveal such love and tenderness, and I love how they reflect the depth of intimacy between nanny and child.

If you’ve been lucky enough to find a great nanny—or have worked as a nanny yourself—you know how incredibly valuable and vital the role is. The article also starts conversations about a larger network of social issues—labor, family, structure, pay and opportunity.

A few (of many) fascinating lines from the story:
* “Part of what’s striking about [these] pictures is that they position front and center a person who is often left on the editing-room floor when a family’s memories are being assembled. Nannies have told me that their employers crop them out of photographs of their children.”
* “Economists posit that pink-collar jobs—work usually done by women—are underpaid, not least because we like to believe that the products involved (love, tenderness, care) are given not sold.”
* Nanny vs. babysitter? The word “nanny” has “associations of full-time household staff in 19th-century England,” while the term “babysitter” has “connotations of a high-school girl, part time.” (I agree that the word “nanny” can sound disconnected and elitist. But babysitter doesn’t seem to capture the role. What do you think?)

Aren’t these photographs beautiful? I love that the article was calling attention to how valuable and worthy of deep respect nannies are—while showing how fraught and difficult the career can be for so many reasons.

P.S. By the way, years ago, I read a fascinating book called Searching for Mary Poppins, which features a collection of mothers’ essays about their experiences with nannies and caregivers. I’d highly recommend it, as well.

(Photos by Michele Asselin)