NEW YORK • When television writer Jennifer Schuur Herbert passes a rack of tabloid magazines in her Los Angeles neighbourhood, she is often reminded of what can happen in even the most glamorous Hollywood marriages.
"He Cheated With Their Nanny!", trumpets the Nov 23 cover of Us Weekly, with a glamour shot of singer Gwen Stefani and the promise of details of how her former husband, Bush lead singer Gavin Rossdale, had a three-year fling with Melinda Mann, the babysitter for their three sons.
This cover comes three months after the magazine printed photos of actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner looking dour, with one of Christine Ouzounian, the winsome 28-year-old who had cared for their three children, along with the ominous phrase: "He's Dating the Nanny!".
At least since Rebecca De Mornay starred in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (1992), the nanny - once a no-nonsense figure in starched petticoats a la Mary Poppins - has been regarded in the popular imagination as a potential home wrecker.
Real-life stories, alas, have borne out this primal fear: Comedian Robin Williams divorced his first wife in 1988 and married the babysitter, Marsha Garces. She divorced him in 2010.
Actor Ethan Hawke divorced actress Uma Thurman in 2005 and married their children's nanny, too. Later, actor Jude Law split with his fiancee, actress Sienna Miller, after having an affair with his children's nanny.
Ms Herbert, happily married for four years with two children and a nanny to oversee them, said it has crossed her mind that her husband may one day find a babysitter attractive.
However, she said, if she and her husband are worrying about whether a nanny is too hot to hire, there are bigger problems afoot.
"I come at it from a practical place," said Ms Herbert, who is also a producer. "If my husband has a wandering eye, he has a wandering eye. I can't guard against that."
However, some famous wives have been trying to recruit caretakers with an eye towards reducing temptation - perhaps realising that the non-disclosure agreements that have become standard among the wealthy do not protect them from embarrassing photographs posted on the Internet, such as those of Ouzounian riding on a private jet to Las Vegas with Affleck or in the pool at the Hotel Bel-Air.
"We get those requests all the time, 'I don't want someone pretty,'" said Ms Katie Provinziano, founder of Westside Nannies in Beverly Hills, California, an agency that places nannies with celebrity clients.
Ms Lindsay Heller, also known as the Nanny Doctor, a clinical psychologist who is a consultant to families and their nannies, said many celebrity or wealthy mothers prefer older nannies not out of jealousy, but because they want a professional uninterested in becoming a member of the Gulfstream entourage or using the job as a stepping stone to becoming an entertainer.
When a babysitter does contribute to a split, Ms Heller said she encourages children to create a "goodbye" book to give to the nanny and come up with a rehearsed answer if asked if their parents are getting divorced.
"It is worse in Hollywood because it's in every single magazine on the newsstand and kids talk about it at school," she said.
NEW YORK TIMES