Perfect parenting: Brad, Angelina and the N-word

In much the same way I love trashy pop music, Mrs Bigmouth loves trashy magazines – particularly the ones with soft-focus shots of impossibly good-looking celebrities and their impossibly perfect offspring. She particularly enjoys looking for the N-word, which occasionally sneaks into the article and depth-charges the portrayal of perfect parenting.

The N-word is “nanny”.

There was a good one last week (sorry, I forget the magazine) where it talked – after a few pages going on and on about what great parents Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were – about how the couple were having to manage with “just one nanny”.

Just one!

At least the article actually mentioned the nanny (or nannies, in the case of Hollywood royalty. Apparently three nannies per child is normal – one for daytime, one for nighttime and one for the weekends). Most don’t, so you’re left with a few thousand words about how brilliant parenthood is. It’s not tiring, you always look perfect, you can resume your career in a matter of days, and the whole thing is a big happy adventure.

It’d be funny if it weren’t such a fuck-you to real parents who can’t just do a baby dump and bugger off to the gym whenever the little ‘un gets annoying, and who can’t just leave the baby in a separate wing of the mansion when they fancy a nap.

I know that actors are in the business of acting and that magazines – particularly ones aimed at women – are in the business of distorting reality, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a bit of truth for once? “God, early parenthood sucks,” said Famous Lady. “Even with a nanny to help out, I felt like punching Chrysanthemum Space Cakes through a hedge loads of times. But you know what? That stage doesn’t last long, and when it’s over it’s a hoot”.





0 responses to “Perfect parenting: Brad, Angelina and the N-word”

  1. Lis

    Brooke Shields DID do that didn’t she?

  2. At least we get to feel superior to the fuckwitty parents.

    I don’t get the whole nanny thing. I can understand getting a housekeeper to do all the crappy house chores so that you have more time to spend with your child, but I can’t get my head around these people who have a child and then hand it off to someone else. If you don’t want to raise a child, why have one?

    And I also don’t get this attitude of looking at children purely in terms of chores. Hiring a nanny is utterly bizarre: you take some of the best experiences, the most fun, the most life-improving stuff that will ever happen to you, and you give it all to someone else so that you don’t have to go through any of it. And you pay them. In. Sane.

    Mind you, it does explain Hollywood people. Raising kids makes you grow up. They don’t.

  3. Gary

    Lis, I think you’re right – but Tom Cruise says she can’t be trusted ;)

    Jo – yeah, I agree to a point. And that point is sleep deprivation, heh.

    I dunno, maybe I’m giving magazines too much credit but I do think it’s part of the sustained campaign of bullshit that new/prospective parents go through, the false expectations of what being a parent is going to be like.

    On a happier note, John Clarke’s going to be a dad. Yay!

  4. Lis

    I sent you a link to an article about the rising numbers of Au Pairs in America. I took a course recently where the statistic was given (I haven’t validated this beyond a statement made by in an MBA level class)that Americans have at last surpassed the Japanese in the average number of hours worked per week.

    From being a nanny in university I completely agree with Jo’s assessment as to the things that are missed and I often wondered why they had children in the first place. There were some families where the children were older and because of changes in the family’s economic situation both parents were forced to work full time just to sustain their home and expenses. Without that the kids would be forced to change schools (which were top notch in that area) and the family move away from a community they’d been in their whole lives.

    There were more parents however that were always out of the home for no good reason (as in the Nanny Diaries) relative to the reason to stay home with your children.

    That said, there’s something to be said for youth. I somehow managed to keep my sanity at 15, 16, 17, 18 etc years of age taking care of two kids in diapers, two kids aged 3 and 4 1/2, three kids ranging from 18 months to 13.. I managed all kinds of families and never felt the fatigue and deprivation that I know I’d feel as a person in her mid-thirties. So I also agree with Gary in that respect.

    In fact, now that I bring it up, I never worked for families who had children in their 20’s. They all were “older” parents in their late 30’s/early 40’s. Might be the available money thing (though I was rather inexpensive relative to the costs of an in-home Au Pair) but I think there’s something to be said about your mental resiliency when you’ve got only 20 years of bullshit in your wake versus 35.

    I have a nanny for my puppy – pathetic, no?

  5. You’re not kidding. A client in LA told me (from his blackberry) that he didn’t have time to answer my emails because they had lost a nanny, meaning they were down to just the one nanny and the maid. He is no longer my client.

  6. Lis

    This topic really has me thinking a lot about this topic because I can see both sides of it. When I was young and spry, I was very black and white about my “profession” and thought no one should have a baby they cannot raise. There are times, without a doubt, that things happen (especially in two income households) where you can’t take care of your children for an evening or a weekend or a week etc. But a nanny (x2 or x3) is actually raising your child and developing that bond.

    Which brings me to why I’m posting again.. I remember now that the children always behaved differently around me than their parents. With me, they were generally mindful, good, playful, affectionate and no more temper tantrums than you can expect at the various ages they were at. When their parent(s) got home or before they left was a different story. It was a frenetic chaos. The parents always felt bad, like “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry he’s being this way..” and I always silently thought, “Uh…he’ll be fine as soon as you walk out the door.”

    It was never so hard on the parents as when they had to personally spend time with their kids. Cos their kids acted like total jackasses around them because the whole way they were being raised changed. I was raising them one way and their parents were raising them another (whatever that was).

    I think I’ve told you before about the time I went away on summer break for about 3 weeks and when I came back to the family I was working for, their 3 year old ran down the sidewalk sobbing and threw his arms around me neck and said, “Don’t ever leave me again.” Needless to say, I did leave him and never saw him again after he was five years old. I think he must be twenty years old now.

  7. Gary

    > I was raising them one way and their parents were raising them another (whatever that was).

    So do you think the issue was that the parents were maybe doing things wrong, albeit with the best intentions? Accidentally falling into bad habits?

  8. Lis

    No, I think they just didn’t know their kids and their kids didn’t know them. Yes, in some cases these were babies but in most cases they were toddlers and nursery school age children.

    The rules and structure, way of doing homework together, rewards and discipline etc were all “mine.” So when the weekend comes or time together, it had to be confusing for the children. Mind you, it’s not like I was just there for a few hours. I got them out of bed, dressed them, spent the day, made dinner, bathed, got them into their ‘jammies’ and put them to bed. I collected my cash and went home. That’s how it went. Sometimes the kids would be ready for bed by the time their parent(s) came home and would get some time with them. But the whole ritual of “winding down” was done by me and often times we’d be doing bedtime reading when the parents came home. They’d say hi to the children but say “We’ll let you finish your story..” and leave to go change or whatever. It was very strange.

  9. > yeah, I agree to a point. And that point is sleep deprivation, heh.

    Oh, yeah, I can absolutely understand (as you know) why a parent might need some help. What I don’t get is deciding that that help should be a nanny. Hire someone to do every other chore in your house, so that child-rearing is the only thing you need to do. The big knackerer, I found, wasn’t so much having to raise a baby as having to do it as well as everything else that you used to do before you were a parent. If you didn’t have to do all that stuff, you could actually sleep whenever the baby slept, which would do a lot to make up for the sleepless nights.


    > There were more parents however that were always out of the home for no good reason

    I know someone who has recently adopted a baby, after being on the waiting list for about ten years. Was absolutely desperate to have a child. Her husband earns so much they don’t need her income. They own two houses, mortgagelessly. And she’s going to work and leaving the child with carers during the day. I can’t get my head around it myself.

  10. Lis

    Jo – that’s exactly the scenario that used to incense me as a teenager/university student. I agree with you – the money should be spent on a housekeeper, a professional organizer whor just even a part-time PA. I know a stay at home mother and their family assets are in excess of $1mil. But she can’t do it all and her husband has been encouraging her to hire a nanny and a housekeeper. She doesn’t work – all I can tell is she shops. She is a good mother, she is always there and raising their child herself. But it has to do with not wanting to give up the on-the-go lifestyle.

    When the baby had colic (I think gary knows exactly who I’m talking about here), I spent (as a friend mind you) more time alone and taking care of the baby than the baby’s father. His solution was to pay for help so he wouldn’t have to be a part of the whole baby thing. One time he got extremely angry at me because I didn’t answer my cell phone at a restaurant we were all at.. Why? Because he was stuck outside with HIS daughter crying. I am still befuddled to this day on why he thought that was MY problem.

    Seriously, I could rant about this for YEARS. Have either of you read The Nanny Diaries? I know it appears to be one of those “sisterhood” kind of books and may even appear to be a comedy of sorts. But I cried through the whole thing (and the movie too) because it is NOT funny and it is exactly what I went through and what these children go through.

  11. Haven’t read it, but I did read an interview with the author. Reinforced my faith in human nature.

    The other way in which these people are stupid is that they’ve given no thought to the whole example-setting thing and its consequences. One day, they’ll be old and decrepit. And then they’ll realise, far too late, that they taught their children from an early age that the thing to do with relatives who are difficult to look after is to treat them as an inconvenience, get someone else to deal with them, and spend as little time with them as possible. Oops.

  12. Gary

    On a different note, here are 20 baby products guaranteed to terrify your child.