The Perfect Stranger
For all working mothers, the desire for a clone is intense, especially in the first weeks back after a child is born. We want, or need, to keep earning that paycheck, but we also want a perfect substitute at home who will at least appear to love the baby, though they've just met. Even those of us renowned as fabulous managers are rattled when it comes to hiring a replacement "mom." Denial is a frequent response to the stress, as we refuse to see any flaws in the arrangement or acknowledge any ambiguity—imagining that the nanny is a treasured family member, for example, while saying no to a day off. In her straightforward and engaging new book, The Perfect Stranger: The Truth About Mothers and Nannies (Bloomsbury), Lucy Kaylin investigates this quagmire of desires, hopes, and anxieties using her own experience and the stories of women around the country. She points out the incredible things we do when our brains are in this state of anxiety—like hiring a nanny and realizing later that we didn't find out her surname, or prancing around in our underwear in front of this new employee. Kaylin is a superb reporter, and her anecdotes ring true on both sides of the equation—the underpaid, overworked babysitter is given as much respect as the ambivalence-ridden, well-meaning mom. What Kaylin has accomplished here is a soul-opening portrait of this murky relationship that any working mother will relate to and find oddly uplifting for calling it like it is.
— Elaina Richardson