The Curse of the Celebrity Nanny
Hey, Baby—or, really, babysitter. No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani reportedly divorced husband Gavin Rossdale because of an all too familiar culprit: the nanny.
Us Weekly reported today that Stefani, 46, ended her marriage to Rossdale, 50, after discovering he had been having an affair with their nanny, Mindy Mann, who cared for their three children. In fact, according to the Us Weekly story, Rossdale and Mann’s sexual relationship had been going on for over three years, including during Stefani’s last pregnancy with now 20-month-old Apollo (they are also parents to Kingston, 9, and Zuma, 7).
To add insult to injury, Stefani reportedly discovered the extramarital affair because the family iPad revealed sexts from Mann after it synced to Rossdale’s personal phone. “One of the other nannies discovered the exchange and told Gwen,” a source told Us Weekly.
“This was done right under Gwen’s nose,” another source mournfully told Us Weekly. Rossdale's rep did not comment and Stefani's could not be reached, but the account is unfortunately plausible. The end to Stefani and Rossdale's 13-year-marriage this past August would hardly be the first celebrity couple even this year to crumble because of the nanny.
Us Weekly also broke the news this past summer that Ben Affleck was allegedly dating the nanny hired to care for his children with estranged wife Jennifer Garner. Time and again we hear these celebrity tales of leading men running off with their children's caretakers, leading to a collective sigh and eye roll.
The same three words pass through all of our minds:
The nanny? Really?
How tawdry! How demeaning! Most importantly, how clichéd!
For the record, Affleck’s camp firmly denied the Us Weekly report that he had been dating Christine Ouzounian, a 28-year-old who has also babysat for Affleck’s Gone Girl co-star Neil Patrick Harris with significantly less fanfare. Nearly four months after the rumors broke, Affleck has never admitted to what has been dubbed “Nannygate.”
While the Affleck-Ouzounian relationship remained merely an allegation, we can’t help but buy it, even against our best judgments.
Of course, it would be the nanny to drive the final stake into a marriage considered rock-solid by Hollywood standards.
The nanny has been the catalyst for divorce time and time again. Our favorite action heroes, leading men, and rock stars have already offered ample proof.
Arnold Schwarzenegger had an affair with his housekeeper/nanny, producing a love child and destroying his marriage to Maria Shriver.
Among the many people that Mick Jagger reportedly shagged during his relationship with Jerry Hall was Claire Houseman, a nanny hired to come along on a Rolling Stones tour.
According to Jagger biographer Christopher Anderson, the Stones frontman bagged the babysitter when Hall was just 30 feet away.
Months after charming us as People’s 2004 Sexiest Man Alive, Jude Law announced his engagement to Sienna Miller had crumbled. Why? Because of his affair with Daisy Wright, the nanny who cared for one of his children with an ex, Sadie Frost.
There were rumors (which he vehemently denies) that Ethan Hawke cheated on his Oscar-nominated wife, Uma Thurman, with a woman who briefly worked as their nanny, Ryan Shawhughes. Hawke is now married to Shawhughes and has two kids with her.
And Hawke isn’t the only man in Hollywood to marry the nanny.
Robin Williams spent nearly two decades married to Marsha Graces, a woman he first met while she was the nanny to his son, Zach. The marriage ultimately crumbled about six years before Williams’s own demise in 2014.
Few professions are shrouded in as much sexiness and suspicion as the nanny.
The unfortunate number of pornographic hits that appeared on my work computer when I Googled “nanny” and “seduce” was only rivaled by the quantity of fearful blog posts about cheating husbands.
However, the nanny hasn’t always had this maligned and risqué status.
Once upon time, the nanny was seen as the benign saint who could solve all of a family’s problems.
The archetype is Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins in the 1964 film. She floated into the Banks household to infuse both love and order into the dysfunctional Victorian family. And she did so without the faintest hint of flirting with father dear.
Coincidentally, Andrews appeared the next year in the Sound of Music as a nanny with a far different romantic outcome. The nanny not only helped save the family, she got her man.
Before you could say “Mrs. Von Trapp,” Hollywood began painting the nanny as irresistible romantic objects to fathers.
This typically was in rather sweet and above-board ways in which the father was already single. Perhaps, he was a lonely widow in need of a good woman to bring joy and laughter to his family.
But then the nanny turned evil, being portrayed as a psychotic seductress who would wreak havoc on a family—and especially the mother.
Rebecca De Mornay’s turn as a determined and demented nanny in 1992’s The Hand That Rocks the Cradle scared fear into the hearts of every young mother contemplating hiring outside care for her children.
There is something decidedly sexist about casting the nanny as the home-wrecking temptress.
It stigmatizes the women who are employed as nannies while exploiting another group of women who harbor insecurities about bringing outsiders into their homes to help do the mothering they have long been told they should handle on their own.
One doesn’t need to be a feminist scholar to make some educated guesses about why this image of the nanny emerged as more mothers entered the workforce and created lives outside of the home.
These women were going against centuries of social pressure to focus only on their children. Their fears and guilt were ripe for entertainment fodder.
But as sexist as the nanny stigma is, many family and marital therapists said the danger of the extramarital affair is neither the stuff of fiction, nor exclusive to the Hollywood bubble.
“I wouldn’t say it’s common, but it does happen, especially in high-end households,” Dr. Jenn Mann, the host of VH1’s Couples Therapy and author of multiple parenting books, told The Daily Beast.
“We’re talking about a high-status man who is very desirable to any woman who comes into his house, employed or not. There’s a lot more staff, a lot more chaos,” she explains. “A budding relationship can go under the radar more easily.”
At the same time, Mann said the moms are “often exhausted” and “trying to get back to work or get their body back. They’re overwhelmed as all new moms are.”
Filling the void is a “young, nurturing woman in the house who can bond with the man,” said Mann, “which is very dangerous.”
“Absolutely,” said Mann.
“Despite being professional, the nanny-employer relationship is very personal. It’s someone who sees the best and worst of your family and your relationship,” she says. “Sometimes, the boundaries people make with their employees aren’t clear enough and leave the door open for these problems.”
Each therapist I spoke to also said that an affair with a nanny is uniquely damaging to a marriage and a family.
“It’s a whirlwind of hurt,” said Dr. Karen Ruskin, a marriage and family therapist who has authored multiple books on parenting and relationships.
“When it [the affair] is with someone you don’t know, you feel betrayed by your mate. But when it’s with someone you trusted, who was taking care of your kids in your home, you feel the sickness within of the betrayal. It’s a whole other layer.”
For these reasons, Ruskin believes a potential nanny affair “is something women should look out for and be mindful of.”
Licensed sex therapist Patricia Rich agrees that “any time you’re inviting someone into the intimacies of your family, you should be wary.”
But she’s dubious of how frequently the nanny-husband affair occurs. At the very least, she questions the image of nannies as seductresses.
“It’s a media stereotype that plays into men’s sexual fantasies,” said Rich. “The fantasy is around a young, nubile woman in the home who can’t resist the charms of the sexy, powerful man whose bitchy wife isn’t giving him any.”
Rich also questioned pinning the burden of the affair on nannies. “I don’t think it’s generally fair for the really powerful person to blame someone with much less power in this situation for something that’s happened,” she says.
Then again, Rich said she hasn’t come across many cases of men cheating on their wives with their nanny.
In fact, she encounters affairs between nannies and mothers more frequently.
“I know more about trysts between moms and their nannies. I know of one where a woman left her husband and moved in with the nanny, and they’ve been together for years,” said Rich.
Perhaps then, it is the husbands who should be worried their wives will find their happily-ever-after with their nannies. Next perhaps, Hollywood should make a movie about that.