Michelle LaRowe Interview: Nanny Expert & Author of Nanny to the Rescue Books
Michelle LaRowe, one of the country’s leading experts on nannying, former executive director of the INA, and previous Nanny Of The Year award recipient spoke to CareGuide about two of her highly successful parenting books, Nanny To The Rescue and Nanny To The Rescue – Again!
During our discussion, she elaborated on sections of her book, and provided some great advice to nannies regarding training and professional goals; she also provided timely words for parents who are planning families. This is a must read interview for both parents and childcare professionals.
Interview with Michelle LaRowe
Your book Nanny To The Rescue, what was the motivation for that book?
“I’ve actually written four parenting books, they’re not self-published, they’re traditionally published through major publishing houses. That book came about in 2004, I received the International Nanny Association Nanny of The Year Award and that got a lot of publicity, a lot of national media and as a result I received a phone call out of the blue from a gentleman asking me if I was a woman of faith and I said ‘I was’ and asked me if I wanted to write a book. Two weeks later we had a two-book contract with a major publishing house…”
How long have you been in the childcare industry?
“I graduated from college with a degree in chemistry, the day after I got my degree I started working with a family and I was there for seven years. So I put myself through college, working as a nanny.
I graduated high school in 1994 and then I went to college. During that time I worked as a nanny and when I was getting my college degree, I was a junior in college and I realized ‘I don’t want to this.’ I want to do what I’ve been doing – taking care of kids!
And that’s when I learned that there was a whole underground world of the nanny industry and there were nanny agencies and there were organizations… You have to figure out what you love to do and find out how to get paid for it.”
In 2004, you were awarded by the INA, but then you were recognized by President Bush?
“Yes! I received a letter of recognition from him as well… They presented that to me at one of the INA conferences… I am the only person that has worked as a nanny, worked as the executive director of the International Nanny Association, I worked as executive director for several years, now I’m part owner of a nanny placement agency. I am also part owner of 2 online nanny services sites. So I’ve really had an opportunity to be deep in all aspects of the industry…”
Where there any difficulties writing Nanny To The Rescue?
“That book came out of me in like three months! That was information that was in my head. I think the most interesting part was that I wrote that book before I had children of my own. I wrote my first book before I had kids… I love my work, I love the book. Everything I had in my mind, that I practiced, even now as a parent, my advice is tested, it’s tried and true. It’s good to know I don’t have to look back and say ‘Oh, I wish I didn’t give that advice.’”
Why aren’t more nannies members of the INA?
“If you look at the course of the industry, it’s kind of evolved like nursing has. When you think about nursing, people worked in their houses just kind of taking care of people, and then it kind of evolved into educational, and then licensing, those types of things.
I think when you look at the nanny industry, we’re only 5 to 7 years in, where continuing education and professional development is seen as valuable. You’re looking at a demographic, where most people are living paycheck to paycheck still.
The INA is a slice of the industry that is quite unique. A typical career nanny, they may not even know it exists. It’s been part the creme of the crop type of career nanny who views herself as an educated professional, who views this as a career choice, not because they can’t do anything else… I just launched nannytraining.com for example, a nanny training program that I put together. Getting people to value personal development is still kind of new. Because it’s not required…”
Can you talk about NannyTraining.com?
“I put together a professional development program, including a certificate… different agencies look at it, nannies who’ve been nannying for 20 years go through it and take it as peer review for me. Even they come away learning something new… It’s quite comprehensive.
Because we had access to so many nannies with our online sites and because childcare is so important to me, I wanted to provide nannies a way to ensure that they had some kind of baseline and a knowledge base. So many parents are doing their own recruiting and they have no way to see if a nanny has skills or knowledge.
I probably could have charged a lot more money, but because I know the history and the evolution of the profession, I put together, online, it’s 69 bucks, I don’t even care about the money as much as I care about ensuring that families and nannies have some kind of baseline knowledge base. For me, it was kind of a reaching the masses and making it accessible. To nannies and families who may not have any inkling to what a nanny is…”
In your book, Nanny To The Rescue, you have a chapter called The Five Cs of Successful Parenting, what kind of information will readers find?
“When we look at the five Cs, we are thinking about communication, we think about consistency, we think about cooperation, we think about all of these things that kind of tie into our foundation of a parenting philosophy… we can be clear and we can be consistent. We really can develop a foundation that is something that you can go and look on.
Comprehension is one of them that I focused on because, many people, they think about discipline and they think it is a bad word. Discipline is really a teaching tool. It really means to raise up and to guide and when you can flip that switch off thinking that discipline is a punitive thing, think of it as a development tool to teach kids how to make good choices. And to incentivize kids, in terms of decisions you want them to make…”
Technically, there are four parenting styles, as an experienced professional nanny, how do you adjust your style to the parents?
“There are several types of parenting styles and there are also several types of nannies.
There are nannies who are full charge nannies, there are three models of nanny care…
The coordinated care where the family works as a team, then there is kind of custodial care where you’re kind of like babysitting and keeping the kids safe, till the parents get home and there is no real investment in the development of the kids.
As a nanny, one of the most important things to do is to evaluate ‘What kind of caregiver are you?’ For example, I was always a full charge nanny. I could not work in a home where there are two stay-at-home parents and I was micromanaged… dual income families, both doctors and needs someone that can take charge when they’re not there, that works. But if I went into a family that practiced passive parenting and maybe approached things a little differently that wouldn’t work for me.
It’s really about the parent and the nanny… Find someone that aligns to the way that you approach things. It’s really not so much, about the styles of parenting and changing yourself to a certain kind of mold. You really want to find a family that kind of adheres to the same parenting philosophy and style as you do…”
I recently spoke with an experienced nanny, she said that some mothers had never held a baby. Why is that?
“When you look at families, moms are having babies later. I went to a family, and the mom was 40 when she had her first baby and she never held a baby up until then. I think that happens. They’re developing their professional careers. When nannies go into jobs, they have far more experience than parents do…”
What happens when a nanny does her job correctly and she experiences jealousy. What should parents do? What should nannies do?
“I have a wonderful experience at a job I was at for seven years. When I look back, the mom and I had many conversations. She made a decision to go to work and have a career and the husband made the same decision. They were going to have kids. The next option was to have an invested individual who loved their kids like they were their own. That was the best choice…
I remember traveling one time and the kids woke up in the middle of the night and they found my room. When the kids fell, they would come to me. I think the mom loved her kids enough to let me love her kids and I think it’s really hard for many parents to do. Even though she may have experienced jealousy, I never knew in the seven years that I worked with her that she would have had those feelings. I think because she was able to check and balance the needs of her kids and I think when you’re looking at a career nanny, it’s someone who is going to go in and really partner with the parents in raising their kids. That’s a much different philosophy than keeping the kids safe for the day, while the parents are at work.
Having someone come in and really play an active role in the physical, emotional, educational, development of the kids. It’s a different role. You can’t be a nanny who is going to give it all and go to a family who doesn’t want it all. That’s not going to work.
As a nanny again, it goes back to knowing what kind of nanny are you and what kind of situation do you function best in. If you’re a full charge nanny that has to run the show, you’re not going to work well with a mom who doesn’t want you to do that. It really comes down to having a partnership and acknowledging that we both have the kids best interest at heart here, how can we work together to make sure that the kid’s needs are met.
I think parents who enroll in the nanny business, most of them realize, one of the sacrifices they’re making is to let someone else love their kids like they do… I think it’s about nannies too. Remember that part of their role is to foster the parent relationship.
Good nannies are great at being invisible too when it’s appropriate. When you’re home and moms dealing with a situation, not taking over and kind of disappearing into the background and encouraging that family time, looking for opportunities to foster that relationship…”
Within the nanny industry, only in the last few year has there been more attention to education and professional development. We’ve seen a focus on newborn care. What about instances where there are disabled children? Do you foresee training for nannies to deal with specific disabilities?
“One of the cool things about being a nanny is to develop a niche for yourself. For example, the years that I worked as nanny, I only specialized in working with twins, that increased my inner value, it increased my experience and it made me an expert in that specific niche of the industry.
There are nannies that work with families of divorced parents, there are nannies that specify work with families who have special needs or high needs. We place nannies who only want to work with kids who have autism because that’s what they’re really good at. We often encourage to find out what their niche is, to find out the area that they can really specialize, so when they work with families who have that need they really can bring a great toolbox to support the family… I think we’ll see different specialization in the nanny field…”
In the book, you have a chapter called A Pep Talk For Parents, what kind of information will readers find in this chapter?
“I think it’s so easy to focus on what’s going wrong, to lose sight of the big picture, I think it can be really important to take a few minutes to talk each other up, to get your game plan, to talk about being on the same page with the same parenting book. So many times, miscommunication is the end all be all of families… Give each other that pep talk, to tell each other what you’re doing well…
This is what I talk about in the book, what you have to have and what you’re willing to be flexible on and what you don’t really care about… It’s really about working with your partner and your childcare provider to really identify things you absolutely cannot bend on and things you’re willing to go flexible on…”
What was the impetus for Nanny To The Rescue – Again?
“Because the kids were growing up! They became older and it’s kind of a different set of rules and philosophy involved. The market, when you look at educational information, for me it was like, there was nothing there for 6 - 12-year-olds. It was all newborns or early care.
I think as kids grow into those phases… it’s a lot of navigation, of conversation, of changing and allowing your kids to grow independent and take risks…”
The United States maternity leave doesn’t compare to other countries, how can parents effectively use the leave that they have?
“I address this in Working Mom’s 411, one of my other books, I addressed this whole issue. It’s such a challenge for parents today. We don’t have the opportunities, other countries they give you a year off… it really is a shame, it’s good to see companies offering maternity leave for families…
Where is our value in society? I don’t think we value kids and I don’t think we value education. I don’t think we value child development and those who support that in the way that we should. It’s out of whack.
For the parents, I really think when it comes to having a baby… It’s really about planning. Moms have to really plan when they’re looking at taking time off or extending their family when it comes to choosing your career, and looking for family friendly employers…”
For more information on Michelle LaRowe and to purchase her books visit: michellelarowe.com
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