Thursday Book Review: A Fit for the Kings by P. A Milko

Synopsis: P. A. Milko’s “A Fit for the Kings” is a realistic fictional novel about the relationship between the King family and their long-term nanny Kam. It's a modern day tale with the twist of modern day problems; the current economy and the economic meltdown being two of the major components. This novel helps show the struggles a duel career family faces as well as those of a single, sole-providing nanny; both entirely different but trying in their own way. Told in succession by five distinct characters: the mother, the father, London, the thirteen year old son, Becca, the five year old daughter [who has the extra challenge of ADHD], and Kam, the beloved nanny, this novel wallows in misperception and misunderstanding and as a result tumbles easily down into a very unfortunate outcome.

Pam how did you come to write this book? What’s your background?

In one form or another I have been nannying, and writing, for the past twenty years now.  In that time, this story’s been brewing.  Initially, I was heading in the direction of Children’s Lit - to write stories for children - and as such received a degree [of sorts] from The Institute of Children’s Literature.  I also received a BA in English/Writing from Framingham State College in Framingham, Massachusetts.  In order to help pay for my studies, I would care for children during the day and write/attended college at night.

In this span of time I have worked with at least seven different families.  As any long-time nanny can attest, some arrangements are a lot more challenging than others.  I have enough content now to last me a lifetime.  Seriously, the stories I could tell!

You explore a theme not often explored in Nanny Lit, that of Nanny fatigue. Tell us why you drew out this particular aspect of childcare?

Nanny fatigue is very much an unspoken, unwritten, truth.  It is because of this that I explore the theme in my book.  Nanny fatigue happens to the best of us, and over time can be debilitating.  The major culprit is the fact that a typical work day for most nannies is ten, eleven, even twelve hours long, and that’s usually for five days a week - if not more.  So, if you do the math, most nannies clock in an average of fifty to sixty hours a week with very little, if any, downtime.

Also too, being a nanny is not a constant “walk in the park”.  It’s a demanding job with needs that routinely must be met; when you are the only employee, the only childcare provider on the job, [and this is typically the case] all the responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders.

Although my novel is fiction, I tried to keep it as realistic as possible.  I wanted to portray some of the realities of the position - to capture the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Nanny fatigue is one of them.  Often termed as a “shortfall” by some employers, it’s more of a consequence in my opinion; the result of working nonstop over an extensive period of time.  Nannies are not machines, although at times it can feel like we are required to act/perform as such.   

Unfortunately Nannies experience sudden unexpected dismissal – did this hit a raw nerve with you?

The security of a nanny’s position is a curious illusion.  One instant, one word, one simple mistake could lead you directly to the door ridiculously fast with a finalized paycheck in your hand.  There is zero room for error in this profession.

That being said, and more often then not, it’s some other variable that cancels out this fragile union.  MB or DB could be fired, or simply let go from their position for example.  In turn the nanny is swiftly terminated in order to save money.  Or, there’s a bunch of “family drama” such as divorce, sickness, or other dire straits too crazy to contend with that knock the nanny out of the family’s equation.  The reasons as to why nannies are let go are countless.  The only certainty is that termination is not an “if” but a “when”.

Yes, I too have experienced the “out-of-the-blue” inevitable.  I think if you stay in this profession long enough it’s bound to show its ugly face.  One day the MB I was working for unexpectedly came home smack dab in the middle of the day.  She had been fired from her position at a local, major corporation.  Consequently, I was looking for a new job the very next day.  It’s that quick.  It’s that easy.  No one really talks about this either.  

What role does Kam play in her downfall?

Kam plays the key role in her own downfall.  She is an adult.  She knows what’s healthy and what is not, but still, she continues to make all the wrong choices when it comes to caring for herself.  Kam should make wiser, more nutritious choices when it comes to the foods she selects, she should also get more exercise and go in for a check-up – but she doesn’t.  Kam spends so much time caring for everyone else that all her energy is spent when it comes to caring for herself.  She is intelligent enough to know that a little extra effort could go a long way.  She simply makes the easier choice not to change her life long habits.

You detail how Nanny agencies sometimes become conflicted in their loyalties towards clients and Nannies, was this your experience?

Yes.  I have worked with three different nanny agencies in the past and know for certain that at the end of the day it “is a business” just like everything else.  I am sure that their intentions are legitimately good.  I am also sure that they genuinely bask in the glow and praises of their happy matches; but we all know that you can’t please everyone one hundred percent of the time and every so often it really does come down to trying to stick a square peg into a round hole.  Sometimes the gamble pays off and the “miss” match works out, other times, it much more resembles the joke it was initially rumored to be.

I believe some agencies have perfected the use of the little white lie.  They sincerely want everyone [nanny, as well as client] to think they are getting what was promised.  But every now and then, when the demands are exponentially high, these demands are simply impossible to fill.

Your book has many threads: Kam’s own dilemma, the economic trials of the parents and the domestic drama’s of the children. How difficult was this process of weaving stories?

Truthfully, it was not difficult at all.  I knew when writing this book that I wanted each character to be multi-dimensional.  I wanted each person to have their own story to tell within the story.  I wanted each person to tell their “truth” from their own perspective.  In order to pull this off, each character had to have their personal trials and dramas and as with any family, these trials and dramas can’t help but be connected.

What do you think of Nanny Lit in general?

To be perfectly honest, I don’t really read very much Nanny Lit.  I think it’s because when I do, I’m usually a bit disappointed in the amount of nanny content that is left out.  While I do appreciate a good story in general, I find that some nanny lit falls more into the romance genre.  Sure, it’s about a character that “is” a nanny, but she’s always busy doing other things, like spending the majority of her time chasing down “the man of her dreams” so that she doesn’t have to be [said] nanny anymore.  In these types of books, I enjoy the story, but there’s not much else I take away.

Because being a nanny is such a “solo sport”, I like to read books that I can relate to and learn from.  I like to know that all the crazy “events/circumstances” don’t just happen to me.  So too, I want to read about the relationship between the family and the nanny.  I want to track their growth and learn from their pitfalls.  I want to feel for the children and the parents, as well as for the nanny.  I want to know them, and care, and root for their happiness.  In some of the nanny lit I’ve read, the parents and the children are just filler; they’re simply there to take up space while the nanny’s off bar hopping and looking for the man that will “save her” from them.                                 

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