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Scheftel, S. (2012). Why Aren't We Curious about Nannies?. Psychoanal. St. Child, 66:251-278.

(2012). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 66:251-278

Applied Psychoanalysis

Why Aren't We Curious about Nannies?

Susan Scheftel, Ph.D.

This paper is an exploration of a topic whose specific intrapsychic significance has remained relatively unformulated in the psychoanalytic literature. Though nannies (that is, caregivers whose job it is to care for children at home in their parents' absence) have had a ubiquitous presence among professional working women and are frequently involved in the lives of patients seen in private practice, their psychological significance for both employers and charges has rarely been considered. The paper attempts to demonstrate how the nanny's literal position is at risk for engendering ambivalence in parents and children alike, since she is necessarily there when the parents are not. It is postulated that the actual, reality-based power of the nanny as placeholder for parents in their absence may be instrumental in the tendency of our patients to scotomatize this relationship. In the first part of the paper, clinical examples are used to underscore the complexity of the nanny's role, while the second half of the paper draws upon the text of the children's classic Mary Poppins, to further explore the subject.

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