From celebrity websites to glossy magazine covers, it sometimes seems like celebrity moms have it all: a handsome husband, successful career, magnificent house and adorable children. Missing from this recipe for the picture perfect life is the secret ingredient that keeps the souffle from falling: a hard-working nanny. Virtually no Hollywood diva could manage her hectic life without the help of one or more mother's helpers, a factoid the paparazzi and media may conspire to ignore. Almost every time a celebrity mom is shown with her family, the omnipresent nanny is conveniently cropped out of the picture.
It's not a big mystery why female celebrities keep quiet about their nannies. Part of the cachet of being a Hollywood heroine is seeming to possess powers beyond that of the average frazzled fan.
Celebrity moms are portrayed by the media as multi-tasking magicians who "somehow manage to keep their children clean, well-behaved and fashionable, while they also maintain glamorous careers, travel the world, always look fabulous and well-toned, and still keep a hot, successful husband (Brad Pitt! Tom Cruise!) happy," contends Forbes blogger Kiri Blakeley.
When reporters ask celebrity moms how they manage to do it all, they rarely mention receiving help from their nannies. Instead, like Bravo TV's "Top Chef" host and former model Padma Lakshmi, they pretend they squeeze in their Pilates and other projects while their children are napping or at school.
A-lister Angelina Jolie has been photographed on almost every continent herding her flock of children like a multi-national Mother Goose, with nary a nanny in the picture. Yet according to an unofficial biography of Jolie written by Andrew Morton, the Jolie-Pitt's French vacation home, Chateau Miraval, is filled with "nannies from Vietnam, the Congo, and the U.S.; four nurses, a doctor on permanent call; two personal assistants; a cook; a maid; two cleaners; a busboy; four bodyguards, and six French former army guards patrolling the grounds."
In Touch magazine went so far as to suggest that Jolie's children sometimes confuse their nanny with their mother, quoting a "witness" who reported the boys repeatedly called their nanny "mom" as well as a family friend who confided, "Angelina is gone so much working or in meetings that the kids do spend most of their time during the day with the nannies. Publicly, Angelina would not like the hired help to be seen, but they are there and all of the kids are so attached to them, they are like family — whether Angelina wants to believe that or not."
Another website revealed that the Jolie-Pitts have strict requirements for their nannies. "Each child is given their very own personal nanny, who is required to have a college degree in either education or child development and to speak at least two languages. In the case of Brad and Angie's adopted children from other countries, the nanny in question is expected to speak the language of the child's native land."
Meanwhile, Gwyneth Paltrow, who lives in England but stars in many Hollywood films, admitted to The Sun she has help with her children."I have a nanny and she's just like part of our family," Paltrow said. "She's lovely and a life-saver and I couldn't work without her."
Yet in her parenting blog, GOOP, Paltrow describes a typical day that does not mention a nanny at all. Her "typical day" blog entry for Nov. 4th, 2010 includes making Apple and Moses their breakfast (including a spoonful of lemon flavored flax oil); decorating shoe boxes for the school toy drive; driving the children to school; working out (dance aerobics and butt lifts); rehearsing for the Country Music Awards; doing phone interviews with DJs; checking her email; having a fitting with her stylist; participating in a business conference call; baking cupcakes for the school bake sale; giving the kids a bath; entertaining relatives; reading Moses a bedtime story; and finally, at the end of the day when most women would be ready to crash, getting dolled up for a girls' night out.
Some parenting bloggers are skeptical that Paltrow's have-it-all lifestyle advice resonates with the average Josephine, especially when it comes to looking as slinky as the "Country Strong" star. "If all of us had nannies, chefs, personal trainers, and unlimited bank accounts, we'd probably have a better shot at looking amazing in a bikini too," a blogger scoffed after seeing a bikini clad Paltrow on the cover of SELF magazine.
Occasionally the media will mention a celebrity hiring a nanny, such as when Sheryl Crow snagged a "celebrity nanny" who had previously worked for Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon. Madonna, too, was refreshingly honest in her song "American Life": "I got a lawyer and a manager, an agent and a chef, three nannies, an assistant, and a driver and a jet, a trainer and a butler, and a bodyguard or five, a gardener and a stylist, do you think I'm satisfied?" Whether or not the lyrics were literally true for Madonna, her song suggests the perfect lifestyle many celebrity moms portray operates more like a well-staffed corporation than the typical mom-and-pop middle class family.
Ultimately, celebrities have every right to hire nannies to help raise their children. They can afford the stratospheric salaries, and children need stability when their parents travel so much. It is the manufactured myth that celebrities are "just like us" but better that could be harmful, playing havoc with the self-esteem of average women who wonder why they can barely get Hamburger Helper on the table most nights when their favorite celebrity moms serve their children healthy organic dinners without any help before heading off to the Oscars in their Halston gown.
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- Mother Goose