Nannypalooza Wrap Up
Last month we celebrated the tenth annual Nannypalooza. It was a rousing success and I wanted to share some highlights.
This year approximately 60% of our attendees were returning nannies and 40% were new to the conference. This is about what it is every year and I am happy to share that our new attendees had a great experience. We had attendees from 3 continents and one Caribbean island in addition to many states including Washington, Missouri, Illinois, Virginia, Florida and more!
The venue this year, the Renissance Orlando Airport, was beautiful and quite a bit more upscale than most years. It was nice to have our welcoming reception out by the pool and the rain held off until the end. Nannies enjoyed lounging about with drinks and snacks and meeting people. It’s fun to me each year to see friendships develop between nannies who come year after year. Hugs, laughter and stories are shared and the weekend kicks off in a great way.
This year we had Amy Zolessi from Conscious Discipline come and give a keynote- not something usual for Nannypalooza. She also did a series of workshops through out the weekend. Nannies quoted her during workshops reminding themselves to take a breath when they got overwhelmed.
We had great sessions by a number of seasoned expert nannies. Thaty Olivera shared info on second languages. Laura Schoeder told of her personal and professional experiences working with families affected by autism. Helen McCarthy, who came all the way from London, England, helped us think about weaning those babies. One of the sessions that could have used a few more hours and a lot more space was the workshop presented by Stephanie Hage and Kishta Allen on planning activities for children. They had a great many hands on things to try and next time we will have to get them a bigger room!
In between sessions, attendees had a chance to shop from some amazing vendors selling toys, nanny shirts and swag and jewelry. Or to have a complimentary 5 minute back rub from our chair massage person.
There were many great spaces in the hotel to sit and chat and share ideas and gain insights. I noticed many groups of nannies throughout the weekend enjoying those moments. These encounters can be one of the most valuable times at any conference.
I reflected, as you often do when you hit a milestone, about the past 10 years. Lora Brawley, who co founded Nannypalooza with me had faith from the moment we had the idea. But I was not so sure it would all work. And for many years, I signed that hotel contract and sweated and worried that no one would come, that I would be sitting in a ballroom by myself.
In truth, thousands of nannies have now been introduced into the Nannypalooza community. These nannies continue to bring in more and more “newbies” and come back year after year. So many people lend a hand, carry a box, share a flyer, organize roommates or simply suggest ideas. It is a more than a community- it is a family.
All along, the one driving passion that has sustained me and kept me going when things get tough is this vision- that every nanny needs a little Nannypalooza in their life. Every nanny needs to feel connected, keep learning, be challenged, have fun and be inspired. Every nanny need to do this at a reasonable price and on a regular basis. And while there are some that might not agree, I feel confident that for most, attending Nannypalooza is valuable.
And as if that weren’t enough, if thousands of nannies have attended Nannypalooza and been affected in some positive way, that means that tens of thousands of kids will have been impacted as well.
National Nanny Recognition Week was last week September 20th to the 26th. There was quite a large celebration including social media posts, group outings and the state of Michigan proclaim Nanny Appreciation Week! But if you missed it- it is not too late! Check out this conversation with Alene Mathurin of My Nanny Circle.
In honor of National Nanny Recognition Week I sat down with one of our 2015 Nannypalooza speakers Alene Mathurin to get her thoughts on the nanny community and what we can do to help and support ourselves.
Alene is an author, blogger and certified life coach who provides services for families and nannies including: nanny acclimation, orientation, mediation and support. She resides in New York City with her 12-year-old son. Alene is also runs the popular My Nanny Circle blog. Her book, entitled “A Guide to Developing a Successful Family and Nanny Relationship” can be found on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
Sue: For the audience, especially parents, who have never heard about “National Nanny Recognition Week” would you explain to them why this week is important to nannies?
Alene: The week was founded in 1998 as a way to draw attention to the positive aspects of nannies instead of the negative ones that the press often shares. It has come to be a celebration for nannies, by nannies and families, and is the perfect time for all who choose nanny care to take a moment and reflect on the incredible gifts that nanny care gives to children and families.
Sue: Does lack of recognition and appreciation by the hiring family have any adverse impact on how nannies approach their jobs?
Alene: I think anyone, especially those who spend most of their working hours caring for others, enjoys being appreciated. Nannies who feel valued and recognized for all the hard work and long hours they put in for a family are happier on the job, work even harder and most importantly stay with families for longer periods of time. Continuity of care is vital for young children developmentally as it allows them to build trust which is a cornerstone of learning. Spending a few moments to say thanks and notice a job well done can make all the difference.
Sue: Could you explain why it’s equally important for nannies themselves to recognize the value of their own profession?
Alene: Childcare in general is not always valued highly in our society. And often the profession of nannying is portrayed as custodial care or just something you do until you have a better job. Nannies must understand, so that we can educate everyone, that there is nothing on the planet more important than helping to raise and educate young children. The more we value ourselves and the important work we do, the more we will invest in training and educating ourselves. This in turn results in a higher quality of care for those kiddos!
Sue: This week is about celebrating Nanny Care - which means in part we have to focus on ourselves as caregivers. How do you find time to take care of yourself? How can nannies celebrate in a way that restores them this week?
Alene: This is a really great question, Sue. I have a crazy schedule, but I understand the importance of living a balanced life, which includes a mind, body, and soul connection, and I endeavor every day to maintain this very intricate balance. For my body, I eat right and exercise. For my mind, I remember the power of thoughts and choose to think of what I want to attract into my life. For my spirit, I spend time with my creator through prayer and meditation. Nurturing this unique balance of the tripartite aspect of me creates an atmosphere of peace and harmony.
Nannies must recognize the need for and embrace self-love and self-care. To truly care for another in an optimal way, which is the job of being a nanny, a nanny must ensure that she’s devoting enough time to herself. Rejuvenation can take the form of a little time off to attend a spin class, a coffee date with a friend and good conversation, or a simple walk in nature. Another good way for nannies to feel restored this week is to spend time with other members of the nanny community in a physical or online space, engaging in constructive dialogue about the nanny profession. Online nanny groups like Nannypalooza and the My Nanny Circle Facebook group are great options! You will be inspired.
Sue: It is a huge leap of faith for nanny employers to hire a caregiver. They need to be recognized for their part in successful nanny/family relationships. What makes a successful partnership? What are some ways that nannies can celebrate with their families?
Alene: All people love to know that they are doing a good job. I always urge nannies to initiate candid conversations with their employers in which they thank them for contributing to the success of the nanny-family dynamic. Nannies can celebrate with their families in many different ways but especially with the children’s involvement. If nannies work with older children, they can put together a lovely art project, perhaps making a homemade card. Both the nannies and children can decorate the card with powerful yet simple phrases, such as “You are an awesome mom and great employer!” Or “Not only are you great parents but also rocking employers!” Little things like that go a long way.
Sue: Another goal of this week is to raise the profile of nanny care as an excellent option for children who need care. What are some of the benefits of nanny care? What do we need to let the world know about nannies?
Alene: I know that parents’ decision to find care for a child, especially if the parents work, is a complicated process and an emotionally daunting task. We often forget how much parents struggle when leaving their vulnerable child in somebody else’s care. Nanny care is an excellent option. The benefits cannot be overestimated. The one-on-one connection between children and nannies that develops strengthens their bonds, and builds a relationship where the children learn to trust their nanny. The fact that the children will be in their own homes is a huge plus for families, which alleviates the need for children to acclimate to not only a strange environment but also strange faces. Additionally, parents will be grateful that they need not drag younger children out into the cold to another location in the mornings and evenings.
The advantages of nanny care go beyond what I’ve just described, reaching areas such as nurturing, caring, and loving. Great nannies perform the jobs that come with nanny work, but they provide so much more than custodial care. For example, they offer cognitive nurturing and raise strong, kind, and loving children who will have a greater chance to succeed in the world. Great nannies are able to love children divinely and provide them with emotional security and a safe, trusting environment - which are essential to a child’s growth and development.
As we celebrate Nanny Recognition Week our respective nanny communities would like to recognize the business and brands that been so supportive of the nanny community. We would especially like to recognize the Huggies brand for hosting several nanny events in the New York area and initiating dialogue with the nanny community to show their respect and better understand the nanny community as a whole. We invited other brands to do the same and to recognize that nannies play a very vital role in the homes they are employed in. On behalf of nannies everywhere~ Thank you Huggies!
This year I am very happy to coordinate National Nanny Training Day. This day was started by my friend and frequent collaborator Lora Brawley of NannyBizReviews.com. She has been a crusader for many years for the nanny industry to set standards for caregivers. In her blog post from 2011 she set forth the idea of creating a day that nanny agencies, support groups, individuals and the whole community would come together for a nationwide training event.
FACT: Training and education of caregivers is one of the most important factors associated with the quality of the child care they provide. This is especially true of caregivers who are not associated with a professional organization like NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children).
But NNTD is not only about training. It is about increasing the visibility of nannies and the quality care they can provide. It is about including nannies in the larger early childhood education community. This is why NNTD is always scheduled during the Week of the Young Child. WOTYC is organized by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. It's purpose is to highlight that the early years are supremely important for children. And that we as a nation should make sure we are focused on meeting the needs of children and their families in these important years.
National Nanny Training Day has been a huge success. It is the single largest training event for nannies that has ever been held. It has accomplished many of its goals and hopefully will continue to grow.
It has also come to be even more than what Lora originally envisioned. Which is why it is a perfect fit with Nannypalooza and the work we do. NNTD is about providing access to training and building community. Most events are very affordable, inclusive and provide quality instruction and offer up new ideas.
I am thrilled to coordinate the efforts this year. Soon we will begin to list cities that will host events. And more details are sure to come. But don't wait for someone else to plan an event. If you believe in quality nanny care now is the time to volunteer to organize an event in your community!! Contact me for more information. firstname.lastname@example.org
Nope this is not a book report. This is a true story.
I woke up in the morning with hairy legs and when I was shaving I cut myself and I didn't have any cheerios for breakfast and the line for coffee was out the door. I knew it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.
I got to work early but the trash truck was blocking the driveway so I had to park on the street next to the bushes that are very uncomfortable when I have to stand next to them to buckle in my kids. The neighbor lady yelled at me for parking on the street and I spilled coffee on my shirt. I might move to Australia.
When I walked in the door all I could hear was a wail. I hate wailing. It turned into a whine. The only thing I hate more than a wail is a whine. When I tried to brush the 4 year olds hair she cried. When I gave her Lucky Charms for breakfast she ate all the marshmallows and then she cried. When I brushed her teeth and wiped her face she yelled at me that I wiped off her "lipstick" and she would not go to school. I wonder if they need nannies in Australia?
I had to carry her to the car and leave for school on time because I had a doctor appointment but she didn't care. The neighbors cared when she screamed louder than a Texas cheerleader that I was smunching her. I was smashing her. I was the worst nanny ever and all she wanted was her lipstick. I knew it would end up on YouTube. It was a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.
When I was done at the doctor I went home to take care of the baby. He's only 6 weeks old but he thinks he doesn't have to sleep. Unless of course you hold him and rock him while you stand up and sing to him. I am sure the babies in Australia sleep.
The only thing for lunch was salad and I hate salad.
The only music in the car was Frozen and I am sick of Frozen.
There was laundry in the washer and dishes in the sink.
It was a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.
After nap time, my 4 year old cried about her snack so I hugged her and said-
"Honey, it has been a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day."
She said to me-
"Yeah, some days are like that."
Good thing I didn't move to Australia!
Happy National Nanny Recognition Week. It is a week of celebrating in the nanny community. Last year I wrote a blog post about what NNRW means to me. I love celebrating nanny care. It has been a great career for me and the community of nannies means quite a great deal to me.
But NNRW is also a great opportunity for us and I am not sure we are doing enough to capitalize on it. The nanny industry as a whole has changed immensely in the past few years. Big sites like Care.com have increased not only our visibility but also have made having a nanny something that even more families desire. There are more and more nannies across the U.S., and not just in the big East and West coast cities where they have been for decades. It is not uncommon to find families looking for nannies in cities like St. Louis, Cincinnati and Dallas. It is not only for the ultra wealthy families anymore either. Certainly, having a nanny is more expensive than other forms of child care, but more and more upper middle class families see the benefit and decide to make the sacrifice necessary.
Which brings me to my point. This week- National Nanny Recognition Week- should be about showcasing NANNY care. And in my opinion- there are many many benefits we do not share enough about nanny care. Here are just a few.
There is loads of research about secure attachments in young children. Attachment theory states that children who have a trusted bond with their caregiver who is responsive to their needs will develop a more secure sense of self. There is further evidence that secure attachments in the early years also impacts behaviors such as risk-taking, relationship building skills and even cognitive outcomes. Nanny care, at its best, will provide the environment where secure attachments flourish. Nannies love their kids and are responsive to their needs in a way that is not always possible in a center where the ratio of infants to caregivers can be as high as 5 to 1.
2. Individualized care
Nanny care is the most individualized kind of child care. You want your child to use cloth diapers or be fed a vegetarian diet? Nannies can provide this. If a parent dreams of a fun filled, pressure free, play based environment, nannies can provide this. Maybe you are dreaming of an outdoor education curriculum for your 4 year old, again a nanny can do this.
3. Support of the WHOLE family
Nannies are there to work with parents and support them. Most parents do not appreciate being told how to parent, however, it is nice for parents to have another, less emotional, more experienced and educated opinion when it comes to making tough choices in parenting. And let's not forget the day to day support of having someone who will do a load of laundry, start dinner or run an errand for you. Parents who have nannies can come home at the end of the day instead of rushing to a center to pick up kids. Nannies take on tasks like changing over seasonal clothes and organizing playrooms leaving working parents more time to actually have fun with their kids.
4. The Village Effect
"It takes a village to raise a child" is an African proverb made famous by Hillary Clinton's book. But the proverb holds true. Children benefit from having people in their life who will advocate for them, educate them, challenge them, provide boundaries for them and most of all love them. In days past, we had large extended families or even close knit neighborhoods. Nannies become a part of that child's family. They love them and care for them in a way that is hard to describe but easy to see in action. Nannies provide another perspective. They often stay in touch long after their period of care ends and can impact a child's life in ways that we are not always able to see. A mom once explained it to me this way.
I am always so uptight trying to get everything right on the weekends. We planned a trip to the museum and got there promptly at 9 am to find that the museum didn't open until 10. I started to freak out inside my head, not knowing what to say to my daughter. What would we do? What a disaster!
This week while we celebrate each other we need to celebrate nanny care as a whole. We need to loudly proclaim that nanny care is amazing and a great choice for families. We need to proudly recognize the benefits of having a nanny in your life.
These are just a few of my favorite benefits to nanny care. What are yours?
Are you leaving a job anytime soon? Or will you ever leave?
Here is a great idea for a going away present for the kids. Make a series of letters for them. Label the envelopes so that they know when to open.
Label one - open when you miss me
Inside put a letter with a picture of you- include a happy memory or some other personal message
Label one- open when you are bored
Inside put a word search or list of riddles
Label one- open when you feel discouraged
Inside you could put a quote that inspires you or a story about a time in the kid’s past where they achieved something spectacular
Open this when you feel lonely
Inside put a letter about the first time you met the child
Open this when you feel very proud
Inside put a photo of you hugging the child or a congratulatory message
Open this when you are going on a trip
Inside put some questions on a sheet of paper for them to fill out and mail to you about their trip
Open this when you are feeling scared
Inside put a few ideas for being brave or about a time you were brave yourself.
Open this when you graduate high school
Open this when you get married
Open this when you ...
The best part of this gift is that it can be changed to fit whatever circumstances that you are in with your family. Younger kids can get letters that are aimed at them that a parent might read. Older kids get personal messages.
You could even use this gift for occasions like the birth of a new baby, the holidays, or big life events. You can personalize it to make it make sense for the relationship you have with the kids and the occasion as well as the personality of the family.
I have spent many years of my professional life working towards building a nanny community. I am not alone! Most nannies crave a community as we work in so much isolation from other adults and our jobs are not easily understood by our families, friends or outsiders.
Community means different things to different people of course. And lately I have come to the conclusion that we nannies- we want it all but as a group sometimes we are unwilling to give. Let me tell you what I mean.
We all want to feel included. Like we belong and are accepted for who we are. I certainly want to feel that way! But the other side of that is that we have to accept others. We have to include those with whom we disagree. We have to accept those nannies who WE might not consider nannies. I think instead of finding ways to distinguish ourselves from others we need to find things we have in common. We have to agree that professional or unprofessional, career or “just for now”, babysitter or nanny, someone doing the job belongs in our community.
We want to feel supported. We want to feel like there are others who are lifting us up. That our community is standing behind us- not attacking us. Well that means we have to stop working at telling each other what is wrong and work to understand those with whom we seem to have nothing in common. This works both ways. Ask yourself this question- when you see a nanny and have the reaction “I wouldn’t do that” do you let the judgmental part of you take over. Or do you stop to work to understand why they might be on their phone instead of playing with the baby? Do you sit next to them and model appropriate behavior all the while being nice to them?
We want to be invited. We want to feel others are reaching out to us. Let’s face it. When we disagree with that nanny who wears appropriate clothes to work, it is hard to invite them into your life. But inviting those who are different enriches our community. It means putting yourself out there too. It means leaving your comfort level and trying to talk to new people, to join in the discussion. For some who have been treated badly in the past, putting yourself out there is the hardest part of being in a community. But I promise that it is hard to be invited in if people don’t know you WANT to join.
We want to have standards. We want there to be an accepted code of behavior. We want to be highly regarded. Again, the responsibility to our community means we have to work to set those standards. If we can’t seem to work together as a community- then we will never get there. We will never be able to set standards that outsiders will accept means getting rid of the US vs. THEM mentality that sadly still exists in this profession. The first step in getting to a place where we can set standards is finding a way to listen to each other. To have mutual respect for each other. To forgive others who have perhaps done you wrong.
It is not easy to be in a community. It means taking care of the least of us, finding the value in each voice. It means being patient and kind and passionate and working hard. It means putting yourself out there, taking risks and joining in.
The beauty of nannies is that we care about each other. We are passionate about our profession.
I know it seems like the Holidays and winter are far away. But in just the blink of an eye, the season of gift giving will be here. And it is a challenge each and every year to think of what to give a family that has the means to get anything they might want for themselves.
It's a kind of awkward thing to buy a gift for someone who knows exactly how much you make (or how much you don't make). But still we want to show our love and appreciation for families who share their youngsters with us.
So here are some ideas that you can start NOW. Or let's be honest, bookmark this and pull it all together at the last minute.
1. Photos. I don't know a parent that doesn't appreciate a photo of their kid. If you think they have enough portrait style then consider taking the kids somewhere and snapping a few. Most parents I know would love a "Day in My Life" type book that you could make with kids. Consider snapping pics that are candid and full of action, photos that highlight personality! A new idea I just ran across that I LOVED was recreating older family photos with the kids. Check it out here.
2. Games. They are not just for kids. Family style board games are a great gift, as they can remind parents to take some time out of the schedule and have fun!! In the past I have made family monopoly (you can find the kits here) but this year I might try our own memory or Guess Who with photos of family members.
3. Kits/Baskets. Putting a bunch of inexpensive items together with a theme shows you are thinking about what the family likes! And as we always tell the kids, it's the thought that counts. We've all seen a movie night basket with candy, popcorn and DVD's. But what about a cupcake baking basket, a day at the beach basket, a grow our own seeds kit, or even a road trip kit.
4. Signage. We love taking photos of kids every year on the first day of school or their birthday. What about a set of appropriate, ready to use and cute signs. You could use chalkboard paint to make it customizable for each year or make a whole set with pre written things on it!!
5. One of my favorite all time make it yourself gifts for families is a box or jar of conversation starters. You can design on popsicle sticks or small notecards. Fill your jar with as many questions as possible and make events out of family meals and other down times!! For a list of questions click here.
How do you encourage a kid to be a life long learner? Well, you have to make learning fun and relevant. Simple right?
Not so much, especially as schools are increasingly teaching curriculum that is not student led and often taught just to pass arbitrary tests and standards.
HOORAY! Why do I cheer? Because as a nanny we do not have those sad little tests with their pathetic fill in the blank bubbles. We can FOLLOW the interest of the child.
That of course doesn't mean we don't need to teach content. It means we can make learning FUN and RELEVANT which will in turn help a child become a lifelong learner.
Here is what I mean.
I like Disney. I mean, I really am a Disney freak. I go to the parks as often as I can afford, see the movies and know the trivia. It is no surprise that when I started a business I looked at marketing and business books by the Disney company. They have lots of them! I learned a bunch about business plans, marketing and organizational stuff from those examples from Disney execs.
I have a nanny kid who loves princesses. (I swear I did not encourage this. Ok, maybe a little) She loves playing princesses. So we know a bunch about them. But I make sure to use the princesses as a jumping off point. In fact, I bet I can list a bunch of activities that taught her important skills using the princesses. Don't believe me? Here goes....
1. We counted the princesses as we put them in the castle. (ok easy I know!!)
2. We looked on a map to see what country they came from.
3. We used new vocabulary such as, kingdom, raven haired, stupendous, archetype and more!
4. We used princess beads to work on fine muscle skills.
5. We built castles using our blocks.
6. We worked on telling time with the clock on our castle. (poor Cinderella)
7. We practiced manners by playing out greetings, good byes, pleases and thank yous.
8. We developed relationship skills as the princesses often fight, have best friends and have to share things.
9. We stretched our muscles as we danced to princess theme songs.
10. We accessed our patience as we waited for princesses to wake from their slumber.
11. We measured ingredients as we made princess cookies.
12. We studied plant growth as we grew a garden for the princesses to play in.
As you can see, and I could go on and on, there are some important learning outcomes stemming from the play we do. You probably are doing all these things, but remembering what they get out of these activities helps you to ask questions, be patient as they experiment and introduce new ideas. It also is crucial that you share with their parents that not only did you PLAY princesses today, you also encouraged proper 3 finger grip when you were coloring!
My nanny family is expecting a baby. Well, we are really past expecting. We were expecting him a week ago. Now we have moved on to a sort of frustrated "get here already" kind of mentality.
Waiting is hard. It is frustrating for us all. When we have to wait in line for a ride at an amusement park or if we have to wait for our yummy food to arrive we might start out excited but if the wait seems long to us that quickly moves on to impatience.
Imagine how it must feel for our kiddos. Waiting for a kid is probably the hardest thing ever! It might even be worse than someone saying NO. At least with a no answer you can try to get around it and then move on. For little ones waiting for something there is no end in sight.
My 3 year old is waiting for her little brother. We have done the work. We know what our roles are to be, where he will sleep, how things will change and how fun (and tiring) it will all be. As we were talking about the waiting today, and sharing how we were both frustrated, I was reminded by her that it will be worth it. Especially when we get to help him open presents at Christmas.
Helping a kid to wait is not easy, but it is important to practice waiting. It is part of life. Finding some ways that help a child delay gratification can be tough, but a necessary building block for other important concepts like self regulation.
It helps younger kids to be concrete. Make a jar countdown or mark days on a calendar. At restaurants, you can point out the time and keep track. Show them how hard it is for you, but that you CAN wait and it is usually worth it. Set timers. Put a treat in sight and then stretch the time until they can have it.
Most of us know a million waiting games. But did you ever explain to a kid WHY we play them. That in itself is a teachable moment. We distract ourselves to get thru the time.
We are still waiting (I was hoping I would get the call as I wrote this post) for baby boy. And like my little one said to me, "he will come when he is ready."