Most celebrities would never ‘fess up to nanny dependence. Angelina has managed to keep her multiple nannies — a reported one for each of her six kids — absent from virtually every paparazzi photo of the Jolie-Pitt tribe. Kelly Ripa doesn’t publicly praise her hired help for giving her time to work on those ripped arms or make her fabulous life with three children run more fabulously. And Katie Holmes would sooner thank Scientology for keeping her zen than acknowledge an army of worker bees who make her world cruise with Suri.
But Amy Poehler, the platinum, charming, funny lady of SNL fame who now plays a kinda kooky mid-level manager on Parks and Recreation has outted her nannies as the sole reason she can function.
Last week at the Time magazine gala honoring the 100 most influential people of the year, Poehler made an extraordinary admission. After Lorne Michaels and Hillary Clinton, Poehler named her Tibetan and Trinidadian nannies as the people who have influenced her the most.
Since I have been at this dinner in 2008, I have given birth to two boys and I’ve left “Saturday Night Live” and I started my own TV show, and it’s been a crazy couple of years, and I thought who besides Madam Secretary Clinton and Lorne Michaels have influenced me? And it was the women who helped me take care of my children. It is Jackie Johnson from Trinidad and it is Dawa Chodon from Tibet, who come to my house and help me raise my children. And for you working women who are out there tonight who get to do what you get to do because there are wonderful people who help you at home, I would like to take a moment to thank those people, some of whom are watching their children right now, while you’re at this event. Those are people who love your children as much as you do, and who inspire them and influence them and on behalf of every sister and mother and person who stands in your kitchen and helps you love your child, I say thank you and I celebrate you tonight.
Wow. And she wasn’t even joking.
Leave it to Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton’s SNL alter egos to shake up modern motherhood. Poehler’s soul sister in comedy, Tina Fey, is also re-sketching the image of the glorified celeb mom.
In quintessential Fey fashion and with uncanny candor, she writes in a recent New Yorker article about her agonizing angst of whether to have more babies or more 30 Rock. Her stress-induced canker sores confirm her on-going conflict. And she hears the clock ticking on both fronts — fame and fertility — feeling like she’s in her “last five minutes” to make both happen.
“The topic of working moms is a tap dance recital in a minefield,” writes Fey. “What’s the worst question you can ask a mother? How do you juggle it all?”
Maybe it’s no surprise that the two stars of the film Baby Mama can speak so honestly about the everyday mama drama to which all working moms can relate. Poehler and Fey may be pulling in more money than the average working mom, but they simply couldn’t work those extreme 15-hour TV production days without extreme help.
I also applaud Poehler for the full disclosure of where her nannies hail from. The inconvenient and uncomfortable truth is that many of our caregivers are immigrants — some legal and others not. It can feel like the dirty little secret in childcare — immigrants who come to this country in search of a better life, often leaving their children behind to care for our own.
A recent “30 Rock” episode had Alec Baldwin’s character, Jack Donaghy, negotiating salary with his Trinidadian nanny. The nanny grew silent and gave Jack the evil eye when he suggested that she should get paid less. But the instant the baby cried, Jack buckled. The network president was hostage to his nanny. Was Tina Fey, executive producer and star of “30 Rock,” spoofing Poehler’s nanny or her own? Maybe it was Fey’s own ironic nod to the dependence working parents have on their kids’ nannies. Fey gets that moms will jump over barbed wire to keep a good nanny and tolerate the cultural divide.
Poehler’s timing last week was, as usual, dead on. I’d bet she didn’t realize that her effusive nanny shout outs at the Time event were coming on the cusp of May 6’s National Childcare Provider Appreciation Day, because I doubt too many know that there is even a designated day to honor our nannies.
After all, there is a still a stigma in acknowledging working moms can only survive because of our childcare. Many moms continue to compete against a superwoman myth that we can do it all alone. Nannies may seem like a luxury or an indulgence for the elite. But the fact is, for most working moms in this country, outsourcing excellent childcare is how we can go to work, pay the bills and breathe a little easier.
I admire Amy Poehler in saluting her nannies and Tina Fey for going full frontal on the excruciating career-family tug she feels. These extraordinarily talented women are keeping it real — nannies, jobs, canker sores and all.