by Michelle LaRowe
Editor in Chief
Recently I had the chance to chat with Nicola Kraus, co-author of New York Times #1 Best Seller, The Nanny Diaries. I was totally blown away with her depth of knowledge about nannies and her passion for how they should be treated. She was so easy to talk to and so willing to answer my questions. Wondering if there will be another nanny story? I was, and I have the answer for you below!
eNannySource: How did you research nannies for The Nanny Diaries?
Nicola: Actually, Emma and I were both nannies. Between the two of us we had worked for 30 families through college, and I also worked as a nanny full-time for two years after college.
eNannySource: What was the longest you were with a single family?
Nicola: Two years.
eNannySource: How have nannies responded to the book?
Nicola: We were blown away with how nannies responded. We wrote the book because we were very angry, but had no idea how it would resonate. It was a mixed feeling, because we were so deeply touched that it resonated with those who do the work, yet we wrote about the worst case scenario and you never want to hear from someone that that is their real life. So it was gratifying and horrifying.
eNannySource: Why were you angry?
Nicola: We were horrified in part by how we had been treated. But we knew, as badly as we had been treated, we were so blessed because we were white and college educated with social security numbers. We looked at the women working around us and no one was there to speak up for them. This was before Domestic Workers United, before the internet gave nannies a way to unite nationally. So many at the park were isolated in their experience and didn’t know there was a way for them to begin to get adequate pay and respect. All of this together motivated us to write the book. But we tried to make it funny so it was something that people would want to read.
eNannySource: Are you surprised to learn that many nannies would say your story line is closer to fact than fiction?
eNannySource: How did you feel when it was being marketed as nonfiction and people were trying to find the family?
Nicola: On one hand, we were flattered the book seemed so true to life, but it’s hilarious to think that there’s only one obnoxious family on the Upper East Side. On the other, it was also insulting because we did so much work to turn our miserable stories into one fun, plot driven and page turning book. For people to think we turned the diaries of two people into one story seemed dismissive. I think if we were boys that wouldn’t have happened. When men write stories about the domestic experience it’s literary fiction, when women do it’s commercial fiction.
eNannySource: I read in one of your interviews you or Emma said, “We really set out in all our books to say something.” What were you trying to say in The Nanny Diaries?
Nicola: It’s a job. Nannies are often treated like some woman with a massive amount of estrogen just showed up and wanted to have one long extended playdate with your child with no pay, no sick days, no bonus. You should treat your nanny how you want to be treated, with a working contract, set hours, communication and respect.
eNannySource: What did you think of the movie?
Nicola. I’ll tell you, before we started the interview you told me that it resonated for you and your nanny friends and that is the final verdict for me. We had never heard from real nannies if the film captured what the book tried to, but if you say it did then we’re satisfied.
eNannySource: I wanted to name my son Grayer, but my husband said no. Where did the name Grayer came from?
Nicola: It was one from one of the many brain storming sessions we have. My parents have friends with the last name Greyer. I also worked for a family who had a little girl with a similar name and the memory of her always stayed with me because she was so sad. Between the two it just came to us.
eNannySource: Do you have a nanny?
Nicola: No, I don’t. My little girl has been in a daycare in our neighborhood. I was way too intimidated to hire a nanny. We are so keenly aware of the hard work it is, I felt like it would be impossible for me to give feedback. Nannies are trying so hard to do their best. I would never be able to manage it. I know too much.
I am glad I chose daycare because it’s fascinating to see how parents are led to the worst assumptions every time. I remember this one time parents were mad and saying their kids were starving when they picked them up. They were positive the kids were not being fed. Instead of just thinking, wow, lunch was a few hours ago, I’d be hungry, too, they just assumed the kids weren’t being fed. I mean, think about it this way. It means they’re not stuffing Goldfish in their face nonstop to get a break for themselves and the kids are coming home and will eat their dinner, as they should be. I was able to facilitate communication between the school and parents and intercede on the daycare and teachers’ behalves and remind people that the caregivers are doing their best.
Now, as a mom, the other moms say things to my face- the things I suspected they were thinking when I was a nanny. Parents work themselves into a self-righteous snit. I just don’t get it. Nannies and caregivers should be treated with gratitude and respect. Emma and I tear up when our kids’ teachers and nannies are kind, caring, engaged and affectionate. We are grateful.
eNannySource: What are you up to these days? What’s the next book? When can we expect it?
Nicola: Our next book will be out August 27. The First Affair. It’s our seventh novel and is about a young woman who takes an internship at the White House and gets seduced by the President.
eNannySource: How did you come up with that?
Nicola: Well, after the national obsessions with Mr. Big and Christian Grey, Emma and I wanted to really look at sex and power. In our culture we tend to put a disproportionate amount of blame on women, yet are so forgiving of men. Charlie Sheen had a full meltdown, punched a woman and got a multimillion dollar TV deal. Anthony Weiner is leading in the polls. But Britney Spears is still legally controlled by her father. The book explores our cultural feelings on sex, power, scandal and redemption.
eNannySource: Will we see another nanny story?
Nicola: We love the characters in The Nanny Diaries and Nanny Returns! We would love to write about Nan as a mom and trust that a story will reveal itself to us at some point …
Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin have written seven novels together. The First Affair will be released on August 27, 2013. To learn more about Nicola and Emma visit www.EmmaandNicola.com or follow them @nannydiaries.← Expert Insights on Choosing the Best Double Stroller with Melissa Gambrill, Marketing Manager from Britax Child Safety, Inc. | Expert Insights: Keeping the Lunch Surface Cleaner with Evelyn Spooner of Matooga →