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Book Review: The Secrets of the Nanny Whisperer


Recently I had the opportunity to review an advance copy of the new book, Secrets of the Nanny Whisperer by Tammy Gold.
Given the complexities of the nanny/family relationship and the practical aspects of employing a nanny, it’s always good to see new media that aims to address common dilemmas and guide parents in the right direction when it comes to all things nanny related. However, having been in the nanny industry more than half of my life, I always approach new media by unfamiliar sources with caution, given the nuances that exist in the nanny industry.

While the concept of Secrets of the Nanny Whisperer is a solid one and Ms. Gold shared many helpful points that would point the reader in the right direction, there were some glaring errors and missed opportunities in the text that left me feeling like an industry outsider wrote this book. The quality of resources and statistics were lacking in many places and statements that are presented as fact lack supporting sources and unfortunately often leave the reader completely misguided because the information provided is blatantly incorrect.

With a little more research, the author could have presented a more factual picture of the industry and provided resources that would further steer the reader to a better understanding of the nanny industry.

For example, when instructing readers how to determine average nanny wages, rather than direct the reader to a credible non-profit organization like the International Nanny Association that publishes annual nanny salary and benefits information, the reader was instructed to punch in a zip code on a nanny recruiting website.

On the topic of wages again, the author seems to fail to discuss that nannies are non-exempt employees and must be paid on an hourly basis at least minimum wage for all hours worked and in many cases overtime. Even if you’ve agreed to pay your nanny X dollars for 50 hours per week, live-out nannies and live-in nannies and some states must be paid overtime at the rate of 1.5 times their base hourly wage rate for all hours worked over 40 in a 7 day period. This is the law and is not negotiable. While you can set a weekly “salary” if the nanny works a set schedule and work backwards to determine base and overtime wage rates to be wage compliant, as long as you are sure to track the hours, this is not explained.

And when discussing live-in nannies, the author insists live-in nannies offer 24/7 coverage in one place than says they’ll also want a set schedule. In addition to being contradictory, it seems in this section that the author fails to address the importance of legal payment of live-in nannies and the importance of having mutual and clear expectations with the nanny prior to hiring, not to mention the reality that most live-in nannies won’t work around the clock on an ongoing basis.

But one of the most disappointing statements, however came when the author suggested daycare or group care would be a better choice than a nanny who provides care at home. The author correlated stimulation against the provider/child ratio, but failed to discuss the benefits of having one on one care through the first years and ways which nannies actively socialize the children in their care.

That coupled with the statement that you should expect your nannies to be happy every day, really had me questioning the author’s industry experience. This is an unrealistic expectation for anyone in any job or arena. No one is happy every day.

And the mention of children not picking up their nanny’s accent or mannerisms is ludicrous. Children most certainly emulate those they around most often. When a nanny cares for children 40 to 60 hours per week you bet the children will start walking and talking like their nanny.

While the author refers to nannies as professionals and seems to advocate for their treatment as such, she doesn’t seem to expect them to have basic skills, like good language skills, driving abilities or the ability to stimulate children while home. And if they are professionals, as the other suggests, why isn’t there information on paying nannies legally and why isn’t the author advocating for benefits like contributions towards health insurance, not to mention any information about nanny training opportunities?

Other missed opportunities include referencing employee handbooks without the mention of GTM’s Household Employee Handbook or providing the Alliance of Professional Nanny Agencies or the International Nanny Association’s best practices when discussing background checks. How can you have a conversation about the nanny industry without discussing the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, Park Slope Parents, The International Nanny Association, the Alliance of Professional Nanny Agencies, Domestic Workers United and household payroll experts like GTM Payroll Associates, Breedlove and Associates and HomeWork Solutions? These are driving forces in the nanny industry that would have had the data, resources and information needed to paint a truer picture of the nanny industry that needs to be shouted to all, not whispered to a few.

If you can get past the professional and business aspects of the nanny/family relationship that are lacking, some value in the book remains. The author does do a nice job at addressing some of the dynamics of the nanny/family working relationship, her voice is good, it’s an easy read and the call-outs, scenarios and appendix are all helpful.

Michelle LaRowe is the executive director of Morningside Nannies, the 2004 International Nanny Association Nanny of the Year and author of Nanny to the Rescue! and Working Mom’s 411. She was provided a copy of this book at no cost for review. 



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Morningside was by far the best as compared to the other services we used!
Dr. Michael O'Reilly and Dr. Valerae Lewis