JUST LIKE FAMILY by Tasha Blaine


An Intimate Look at Nannies, the Parents They Work For, and the Children They Love
Email this review


A sympathetic look at the lives and work of three nannies.

When Blaine quit her office job to become a nanny, hoping it would allow her more time to make use of her MFA, she lasted only six months. The challenges of being intimately involved with a family without being part of it inspired her to give voice to women who are “paid by the hour to love.” The author’s case studies follow Claudia, a Caribbean immigrant in New York working to send money home; Vivian, a Nanny of the Year award winner whose goal is to “educate the public on the importance of nannies and set standards for the industry;” and Kim, a compassionate divorcée lending her expertise in newborns to a wealthy couple in Austin, Texas. Blaine gives equal attention to the women's personal and professional lives. Claudia left her infant son to bring her family out of poverty and was shocked when she realized the streets of New York weren't paved with gold. Her employer bailed her out when she faced eviction, but admitted to wishing that Claudia would be more proactive in her kids' upbringing. Vivian fulfilled that role in a borderline overbearing way, considering herself a third parent and the primary disciplinarian. Despite battling self-esteem issues from abusive relationships and obesity, Vivian is a confidently outspoken board member of the International Nanny Association. She clashed with the Domestic Workers United when they sought legislation to raise the minimum wage; she believed nannies' salaries should be merit-based. Kim endured two failed marriages and three miscarriages, then found herself living with a domineering employer who treated her like a servant. Nearly all of Blaine’s examples are characterized by demanding fathers, from whom the nannies seek to protect their charges, and understanding mothers struggling to balance work and family.

The rotating format offers little in the way of analysis and very few conclusions, but the author offers valid testimony for the specific concerns of women in an industry increasingly in the spotlight.

Pub Date: June 9th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-15-101051-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2009