Like a second mother: nannies and housekeepers in the lives of wealthy children

by Barbara Blouin, The Inheritance Project

“If we want the next generation to become healthy, vibrant adults, who will, in turn, be capable of nurturing their own children, it is time that we address in earnest the questions raised by this book—how we parent, how we work, and how we love.”

Tracy Gary, philanthropic adviser


In the late ‘90s, moved and inspired by some of the stories I heard from inheritors about the women who cared for (and about) them, I wrote Like a second mother: nannies and housekeepers in the lives of wealthy children. Of all the books I wrote, this is my favorite. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much interest in the book. After selling only a small number I started giving away—mainly to nannies. Before long, almost all the books were gone. It was a lesson in disappointment for me.

This 313-page book, with many photos of caregivers, as well as caregivers with their “charges” (the children they looked after) appears to be one of a kind in the publishing world. Most of the 43 chapters are lightly edited interviews, and of these, the names are pseudonyms. Others were brave enough to allow me to use their given names.

Other chapters are a blend of three kinds of narratives: caregivers themselves (nannies, housekeepers, maids); caregivers and the now-adult children they raised; and caregivers and their employers working as a team. These three different situations give a wide perspective on what is was like for the children in these wealthy families. For many, the caregiver was experienced as a “second mother,” and for some, the caregiver was the “real mother.”

One man called his story “my black mama.” The question of race is a big part of this history, which is in many ways a social history of the years from the 1940s to the 1990s.

Eight of these chapters are previously unpublished manuscripts by the adults who vividly remembered their caregivers.

Today, as was I cleaning out a closet in my home, I found four copies of this book. I didn’t know they were there! You can find other copies online from and other used booksellers. So if you want to read this book, you can find the book elsewhere, but I hope some of you will choose to go to the source. All four of these books are brand new. I originally sold them for $24.95; they were very expensive to produce (because of the photos). At this point I am selling them for $18.00 plus postage. Postage depends on where you live.

This book is not found on the web site because it is out of print. If you are interested in buying a copy, please send an email to Please tell me where you live. Payment by check.