How often do you meet someone who is a mom, nanny, writer, speaker, parenting consultant (we are talking all sorts of practical parenting tips, ideas, methods – you name it!) and fun person all rolled up in one? We found this person in Michelle LaRowe and we had to introduce her to our Kolcraft readers. Grab a cup of tea, coffee, mommy juice or whatever your beverage of choice & enjoy your read.
Michelle, you have had a colorful career as a national speaker, parenting consultant, and author – where did you get your start?
I think my love of working with children has really come from my mom. I remember helping her in the church nursery when I was little and then babysitting when I grew old enough. At 12 or 13, I remember sitting for one church family that had 5 kids under age 6, talk about hands on training! Through my high school years I babysat for all of my teachers and then I worked as a nanny while I was attending college pursuing a degree in chemistry. During my junior year, I realized I didn’t really want to be a chemist. In fact, what I enjoyed doing most was what I was already doing – working with children. I began researching the nanny industry and discovered that there was a whole professional world of in-home child care providers, nanny organizations and nanny placement agencies. The day after I received my Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, I started working as a nanny with a set of newborn twins. I was there until the family relocated nearly 7 years later.
You’re a nanny. Tell us a little about the “nanny world” – challenges and joys.
Only another nanny truly understands the joys and struggles that come along with our career path. Many professional nannies will tell you we don’t choose to be a nanny. It chooses us. It’s something you do because you love, not because you can’t do anything else. It’s the most rewarding job, but at the same time, it can pose the greatest of emotional challenges. You have to constantly walk the line of being part of the family, but not. It’s the only job that you sign up for where the ultimate promotion is being let go because you’re no longer needed.
Unfortunately, the media has really misused the term nanny over the years so the public often has a misconception about what a true professional nanny is. Today’s nanny is an educated professional with a working knowledge and genuine love of children. We partner with parents in raising emotionally, socially, physically and intellectually healthy children and support the parents on their parenting journey.
What are 3 of the most important things for someone to consider when they are looking at options for childcare?
1. You have to know who is watching your kids. Whether a daycare provider or a professional nanny, you have to invest the time and energy in screening your caregiver and developing a relationship with them.
2. You have to evaluate your situation. Childcare isn’t one size fits all. You have to take into consideration your need for flexibility, your budget, your parenting philosophies and more when choosing childcare. Many parents believe hiring a nanny is not in their price range, but for dual income parents with young children, hiring a nanny can often be more cost effective then daycare because parents aren’t paying for two slots and they aren’t paying added fees for extended days. They’re also not forced to find backup coverage when the provider is unavailable or for when the children are mildly ill and unable to attend, which is important for some working parents.
3. You have to trust your provider. If you don’t feel like you’ve left your child in loving, capable hands, you’re not going to be able to do your job successfully. It’s so important that you trust the person who is caring for your children. You should have confidence in their skills, experience and knowledge and should have confidence that they’ll follow your rules and adhere to your parenting style. Your children will also sense if you feel confident towards your caregiver. If you appear confident during drop off time, your child will sense that he’ll be safe, he’ll feel secure and the transition will be so much sweeter.
You are a mom yourself – how has your role as parent informed your nanny role & your parenting role informed your nanny role?
A good nanny loves the children like they are her own, but knows that they are not. People always say to me “It must be so different having a child of your own.” For me, the truth is so far, it’s really not. When you consider I cared for the same children for 50 hours per week for so many years, I’d think they’d be something wrong with me if I didn’t love them as my own. While obviously they weren’t mine, they were my responsibility for much of their early years and I took that responsibility as seriously as I do the responsibility of raising my own child.
That said, the skills and tools that I’ve gained and developed over the years have certainly prepared me to be a better mom. For example, while as a mom I may have wanted to rock my baby to sleep and then put her in her crib, as a nanny I knew that wasn’t best for her. I knew she needed to learn to self soothe and to develop solid sleep habits and I knew what life would be like if she didn’t develop those skills.
So when I’m struggling with how to handle a situation, whether it be weaning from the bottle or handling a temper tantrum in the store, the nanny in me always wins out.
You are an author of Nanny to the Rescue! Working Mom’s 411 and your latest A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists. I have read A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists and I LOVE it. I’m a list freak & found this book so hands-on. Where do you come up with all this info? What is the biggest benefit of this book?
What’s your favorite section in the book?
I really enjoyed putting together my list book. I am an organizational nut and find I function best when I can find everything I need in one neat and orderly place.
One of the first things I do with any family I work for is to create a family binder. This binder serves as the family information hub and contains everything from emergency contact lists, to clothing sizes to the answers to common parenting questions to sleeping and eating guidelines. It contains really anything I need to know about the family, the family lifestyle and the family home and it quickly becomes a resource to all members of the family.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I began creating my own family binder. I had an “ah ha” moment and thought “wow, this would be a great resource for new parents.” That’s how A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists was born.
Having a degree in chemistry, it should be no surprise that I like data and information. I also enjoy doing research. With all the information at our fingertips these days, it takes time and energy to sort through and pick out the best information. I did the work for parents and included the most up to date information from the most respected and reliable parenting sources.
Asking me to pick a favorite section is like asking me to name a favorite child. I think all the lists are beneficial and provide a great starting point for parents to create and customize their own family lists.
With all that you are juggling – mom, wife, writer, speaker, etc. etc.- how do you keep your sanity?
I keep lists! I find having lists allows me to organize and prioritize. I also like the sense of accomplishment I feel when items get checked off of my lists. I also break my days into manageable segments and set aside time for play and work.
Having a wonderfully supportive husband who is an equal parenting partner also doesn’t hurt. He does his share of childrearing and household management so I can continue on with my career.
Finally what is your advice to parents?
Have more confidence in your parenting abilities and skills. Most parents know what they should do, they just have a hard time implementing. They often feel guilty for saying no or don’t want their children to be mad at them so they go against their gut. You are in charge! You are the boss!
Now for a quick glance into Michelle’s life
What is the one thing you look forward to everyday?
Gosh, that is a bad question to ask a lady who is due with a baby any day! Lately it’s been a chocolate croissant. But seriously, what I look forward to most each day is spending time with my family. I love watching my daughter discover her world and I love introducing her to new things. I love when my husband comes home and my daughter asks for kisses. We call it double kisses and we both smother her cheeks with love while she laughs hysterically and asks for more.
If you had a “free day” with no commitments or obligations, what would you do with it?
I don’t know what I’d do with a day all to myself with nothing to do. I’d probably go crazy.
I think I live everyday like it’s a free day. I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I am able to choose my commitments and obligations. I make my own schedule and have the flexibility to spend time with my family. If I want to take my daughter to the beach in the middle of the day, I can. I am living a great life. God has been very good to our family.
Bill Cosby once said “You got to figure out what you love to do then figure out how to get paid for it.” I feel like that’s what I’ve done, so I don’t ever really feel like I am working.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I don’t think I’d ever like to live outside Massachusetts. I love it here.
What is your favorite activity with kids?
I enjoy making music with children. I love introducing them to instruments and encouraging them to experience music. Music can change a child from being in a bad mood to a good one instantaneously.
I also enjoy establishing traditions with children. For example, each Christmas we head to the pottery store and create a special Christmas ornament for the family tree. Each fall, we head to the apple orchards and return home to make apple pies. Each summer, we host a big backyard bbq. I think traditions give children a sense of security and help them feel connected to their families and loved ones.
Thanks for your insight and wisdom Michelle. It’s been great getting to know you.