Imagine a warm and nurturing 30-year childcare veteran holding your hand through the first few months of new parenthood. This is Connie Simpson, the adored baby nurse and nanny to the stars who in her new book, The Nanny Connie Way, offers the kind of useful, straightforward guidance I wish I had when becoming a first-time mom twenty (yikes!) years ago. I had the opportunity to talk to Nanny Connie about what led her to write a book about managing the practical and emotional challenges of new parenthood, and what it’s been like caring for hundreds of babies over the years.
Randi Olin: Walk us through the timeline, when did you first realize that your methods and experiences as a baby nurse could translate into a book, that you could share your skills with a broader audience beyond the families you work with? Have you been keeping a diary these past 30 years to chronicle your experiences with a running list of your dos and don’ts and how-tos for new parents?
Nanny Connie: It was during the early 90’s with some of my first families. I found myself repeating a lot of the same methods. Over the years, I heard that I should write a book from my families so many times but I just never really gave it thought beyond those small conversations.
As far as diaries, I never wrote anything down because in the very beginning it was more about survival for me and my child. I was deep in the trenches of figuring each case out to make sure it would yield more work for me.
RO: How did you become a nanny to the stars? Tell us what it’s like to work with celebrities such as Matt and Lucy Damon, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt. Besides occasionally being chased by TMZ, is there anything different about working with these highly visible parents?
NC: The nanny that I am today actually wasn’t something that I planned or set out to do. My parents raised me to have a very strong work ethic. Whether it be school, athletics or everyday life I was always taught not to half-ass and to stay two moves ahead. That mentality along with word of mouth is how I eventually found myself working with what I considered the one-percenters and the entertainment industry.
The only difference is that they work in the entertainment industry. I know people are going to quickly dismiss that, but it’s the truth. Celebrities are just people whose professions chose them and who happen to be on a very visible platform. Their visibility means that I have to work three times harder at teaching them how to be confident and not fearful when they’re in the public eye. The level of scrutiny they face is hard to imagine unless you’re in that bubble with them. I know some people aren’t going to get it and they’re going to say it comes with the territory. To a certain degree that’s true but no parent wants to be labeled as a failure in any way nor should they be.
The truth of it all is that celebrities are people. As a society we don’t allow the grace or the space for people to be people. We actually have more in common than we have differences. The celebrities I work with have family history, concerns, failures, confusion and difficulties. They laugh, they play, and they just want the best for their kids.
RO: Tell us how your book is different from the other parenting books out there, namely those written by pediatricians, therapists, or “experts” in the field of raising families. You’ve had many years of hands-on experience, what kind of unique perspective does that offer to new parents such that they would want to follow your particular methods and advice?
NC: I want to make it very clear that I am not here to discredit “experts” in any way. The truth is that every method isn’t a fit for every family, including my own methods. The main difference between me and “experts” is that they don’t have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves inside these parents’ homes and lives. I have the unique opportunity to live life with the families and truly see what is going on in their homes. When visiting or consulting an expert there is an opportunity for parents to omit key factors whether it be unintentional or intentional. In somebody’s house, there really isn’t an opportunity for omission so I can work through issues with a more rounded perspective.
I’ve just been locked away in my own laboratory and everything that is in my book has truly been tested, retested, and tested again over these past 30 years with over 250 babies. It’s old-school knowledge seasoned with new-school methods validated by hands on experience.
RO: You are a mother yourself. How, if at all, has your experience as a baby nurse helped to shape your role as a parent? And how has your own parenting helped the families you’ve worked with to find the confidence to “just be the parent?”
NC: In raising my daughter I’ve learned to follow my own advice, which is sometimes easier said than done! The main thing that I’ve taught and continue to learn is that you are always a parent listening to that child. Seeing my parents face the same insecurities and doubts that I faced as a parent helped me reiterate to them that no matter what your status is, all parents face the same issues, just in a different zip code.
RO: What is the typical length of time you stay with a family? How much do you keep in touch with your families after you’ve moved on? Do they send you photos? Holiday cards? Do you ever “meet” the children you’ve worked with as kids/teens? Tell us what that’s like.
NC: I’ve stayed anywhere from 10 days to six years. Some are families I am still in touch with till this day. I have a number of scrapbooks and cards. Yes, I most recently had a gathering with a group of my teenagers. Some are still in high school, and some are off at college. It’s truly a reality check because each child represents a section of my life. They all hold special memories.
RO: How would you say technology and social media have helped and/or hurt the adjustment to new parenthood, baby care and self-care for new moms. What advice would you give to new parents in terms of managing the onslaught of information we now have access to online and the pressures of social media?
NC: First of all, turn it off and use it in moderation. We don’t know how to disconnect and just be present in the moment. We have to put energy into our families and not social media. Don’t be afraid of your family. You’ll be amazed at what you learn about them through a simple conversation.
Information is so readily available now that we consume it at a pace without even checking the credibility of it. Do the research and check the source. Don’t be so quick to believe what’s on the internet and social media. Every piece of information doesn’t apply to you and your family.
RO: Twins! Do you find yourself working with twins a lot, because this is such a challenge for new parents? And is your bond with moms of twins any different because there’s naturally more interaction and togetherness managing two babies rather than one?
NC: My twins normally come in waves. Interestingly enough, the bonds are the same because their needs are still the same. The only difference is that I put a little extra attention into making sure they really get into the rhythm of sleeping, eating good and building the parents’ confidence.
RO: About 10-20% of new moms suffer from postpartum depression. In your book, you mention your client Brooke Shields, and her experience with postpartum depression. You talk about how important your role is, to keep an open line of communication to help to manage a new mom’s overwhelming feelings. Tell us more about this, how talking, and laughing and connection with your new mothers who are battling postpartum depression can help with their crippling emotions, and how they might discover how to balance their own care with the needs of their baby?
NC: In all of my 30 years, I’ve been able to see postpartum at many different stages. Most of those times, I’ve been able to handle it. I’ve found that talking and laughing keeps the women who suffer from PPD from going down that black hole. Laughing about situations versus blaming someone or themselves about a situation makes a difference. Open lines of communication leave less room for them to internalize a situation and blame themselves. It’s important that they have the space for someone to talk it out with. For instance, when I see one of my moms spiraling because her clothes don’t fit I’ll tell her, “Baby I’m fatter than you and me and my clothes struggle every day.” That moment quickly turns into laughter and I remind her that she has to give herself a break because she just had a baby.
RO: You touch upon the theme of self-care throughout your book, how important it is for new moms to “check in” with themselves, and set boundaries with friends and family, to ask for help when needed. Given your experience with new moms, and in light of today’s societal expectations, why is self-care so important now, more than ever?
NC: I’ve found that checking in with yourself and checking out to a certain extent with the world, your friends and family, helps a mom minimize a lot of issues that she might face in the beginning. I’m not saying having the support of your family and friends is not important, but a lot of time they impose their opinions to the point where it can be overwhelming to new moms. Those moms need the time and space to be able to find the system that works best for them and their new family.
There are a lot of elements to self-care, but the most important one is sleep. Trying to keep up with societal pressures to snap back emotionally and physically will cause a mom not to take the time to truly rest. Sleep deprivation is real and will destroy relationships. Communication is key and if a mom feels like she’s not being heard it can easily snowball into issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, etc.
RO: Besides your famous hugs, what do you hope your families will remember most about their time with Nanny Connie?
NC: I want them to remember that I left it all on the line. I want them to remember that I put everything I had in helping them build a confidence in their parenting skills that will last them a lifetime. If they can remember that, then my torn rotator cuff, scraped knees, missed holidays, missed family time and sleep deprivation are all worth it.
Constance M. Simpson, better known as Nanny Connie, is one of the most in-demand baby nurses and a beloved nanny to many A-list celebrity parents. After 30 years working with over 250 babies, Nanny Connie shares her experiences and methods in what is believed to be the first augmented reality parenting book, THE NANNY CONNIE WAY: Secrets to Mastering the First Four Months of Parenthood, out April 10, 2018 from Gallery Books.
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