Attachment parenting … and nanny makes 3?

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: What is natural parenting?

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our Carnival coincides with the launch of Natural Parents Network, a community of parents and parents-to-be who practice or are interested in attachment parenting and natural family living. Join us at Natural Parents Network to be informed, empowered, and inspired!

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


When I went to work full time two months ago, I was not too worried about leaving my children (6, almost 4 and almost 1) in the charge of a nanny. We had never had one before but our kids have always done very well in the care of others — teachers, church nursery volunteers and our friends and relatives who have babysat for us.

I found a nanny on an online caregivers search site and brought her over to meet the kids and talk about our expectations. She had a baby just a bit older than mine and had previously worked at a day care and as a “homemaker” cooking and cleaning for people unable to do it for themselves. The kids liked her instantly and the first week or so went well.

Then little things started nagging at me. The kids were always watching TV when my husband got home. The kids could never tell me what they did all day. The nanny was telling us every day that the 3-year-old need a time-out, a discipline method we try to avoid but don’t rule out and told her she was allowed to use.

She is great with our baby but I’m worried about how she interacts with our older two. The more I’ve thought about it, my issues with her boil down to the fact that we practice natural and/or attachment parenting and she does not.

I’m not sure she has respected our wishes as outlined in our contract (which I created after we became concerned about the issues mentioned above). It’s hard to know for sure (without a nanny cam!) whether she is following our rules. But even if she follows them, it’s because we’ve set the rules, not because it comes naturally. I can’t just trust that she’ll make the right call if a situation arises that we haven’t addressed.

At first blush, you might not think a nanny can really practice attachment parenting with your children. After all, they are not going to nurse your baby or curl up next to your kids in bed or make health care decisions.

But some things you likely will want a nanny to do include:

*Responding with sensitivity

*Using nurturing touch

*Practicing gentle/positive discipline

*Using cloth diapers

*Using natural learning

*Preparing healthful snacks and/or meals

The first time I interviewed nannies, I was concerned with logistics — Can she cook? Can she drive the kids to gymnastics? When can she start and is she available for the hours we need? How much money does she need to make?

We are now beginning the process of finding a new nanny. This time we will be more concerned about her child-rearing philosophy.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaStop by Natural Parents Network today to see excerpts from everyone’s posts, and please visit a few to read more! Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Three of the participants below will instead be featured on Natural Parents Network throughout the month, so check back at NPN!

This list will be updated by afternoon November 9 with all the carnival links. We’ve arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on “What Is Natural Parenting?”

Attachment/Responsive Parenting

Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):

    • Attachment Parenting Chose Us” — For a child who is born “sensitive,” attachment parenting is more a way of life than a parenting “choice.” Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares her experiences. (@CodeNameMama)
    • Parenting in the Present” — Acacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.
    • Parenting With Heart” — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults.
    • Sometimes I Wish We Coslept” — Sheila at A Gift Universe has started to add cosleeping into her sleep routines and has found frequently unspoken benefits. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 30. (@agiftuniverse)
    • Unconditional Parenting” — The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. (@ErinLittle)

Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

Holistic Health Practices

  • Supporting Natural Immunity” — If you have decided against the traditional vaccination schedule, Starr at Earth Mama has some helpful tips for strengthening your children’s immune systems naturally.

Natural Learning

  • Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting” — Because Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog values accepting and responding to her daughter’s needs, she was able to unravel the mystery of her daughter’s learning “challenges.” (@myzerowaste)
  • Let Them Look” — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones.
  • Why I Love Unschooling” — Unschooling isn’t just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way — it is a way of life. (@MahoganyWayMama)
  • Is He Already Behind?“Ever worry that your baby or toddler is behind the curve? Danielle at will reassure you about the many ways your little one is learning — naturally — every day. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 16. (@borninjp)
  • How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning” — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child’s natural learning style. (@DebChitwood)

Healthy Living

Parenting Philosophies

Political and Social Activism

21 comments for “Attachment parenting … and nanny makes 3?

  1. November 9, 2010 at 11:17 am

    I wrote a list of questions to ask potential caregivers awhile ago, maybe it will help you: I think my internal alarms would be going off too – good for you for being willing to make the change your kiddos need!!

    • Jen
      November 10, 2010 at 1:23 pm

      Fabulous questions Dionna. I wish I had seen this before. We had to find our nanny in such a short time frame that I was very unprepared. I’m going to print your post out and discuss it with my husband.

  2. Amy
    November 9, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Wow, this would be so hard. I’ve thought about hiring someone to give me a break for a few hours a week, but this is exactly the reason I’ve not been able to do it yet: How do you find someone you know will align with your beliefs about parenting? I wish you the best of luck in your search!

  3. November 9, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Oh how very stressful. I can’t imagine how it must feel to worry that your nanny does’t naturally fall in line with gentle parenting.

    Best of luck finding the perfect person to care for your children!


  4. November 9, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    I had the opposite problem! I was the AP nanny, in a family that didn’t really practice AP after 1 year. It was especially difficult when they were weaning the 1 yo and I was tandem nursing my 6mo and 2 1/2 yo. There are AP nannies, great caregivers who will lay down with your LO to soothe them down for a nap, babywear, support your BF relationship, and really care about your family!

  5. November 9, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Jen I’m so sorry you have to start a new search – but it is so so important to find the *right* person to help you with childcare…
    I’m proud of you for taking the steps necessary to do what’s right for your family –

  6. November 10, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Oh wow. I have worried about day care etc for safety and security reasons, but never even thought about the AP element of it. I’ve just assumed whoever looked after our daughter would do as we told them – foolish, in retrospect, as not even our families really agree! Best of luck with your search.

  7. November 10, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Yikes – I think my comment got eaten; my browser crashed. Okay, trying again! :)

    We’ve had a nanny since our youngest was 4 months old. When we put out our advertisement, we indicated that a familiarity with and willingingness to practice attachment parenting was a REQUIREMENT for applying. Yes, it will limit your applicant pool, but its SO important, IMO.

    We eveutally found our nanny through La Leche League – word of mouth is so important! This was a mother I’d known in passing, but after talking several times, realized we had really similar parenting philosophies, and she was looking for work! Voila!

    Keep up your search – you WILL find someone who fits better with your family. :)

    • Jen
      November 10, 2010 at 1:21 pm

      Thanks Kelly. I wouldn’t have thought to put that in the ad. Great idea.

  8. November 10, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    I was the AP nanny for non-AP parents more than once. I remember one particularly horrible experience. The whole family seemed very strange and over-medicated, but the worst was how the mom told me to put her one-year-old to bed. “Just lay him down and walk out of the room,” she said. “He never cries for more than 15 minutes.”

    I simply couldn’t do that. I rocked him and sang to him, and within 5 minutes he was out like a light. I couldn’t believe the mom hadn’t been willing to rock him for 5 minutes!

    But it does go to show that a nanny will act based on her own ideas. In order to be sure the new nanny’s ideas actually jive with yours, I suggest you ask questions rather than dictating what you want. Of course a nanny will agree to whatever the parents want, but to be sure she actually is on the same page with you, ask questions like, “How do you put a baby down for a nap? What is your favorite discipline method?” and so forth, without letting her know what your expected answer is. It might mean you have to interview a lot of people, but when you find someone who gives the right answers, you’ll know they ACTUALLY agree with you and aren’t just parroting what you believe.

  9. November 10, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    This sentence especially stands out for me: “But even if she follows them, it’s because we’ve set the rules, not because it comes naturally.” It’s why asking all the questions in the world and getting all the “right” answers does not matter if my gut tells me that something isn’t right. Enough “little things” nagged at me about our son’s previous day care that he is going to a new school now, and all of us are so so so much happier now. I wish you all the best in finding a new caregiver for your family.

  10. November 10, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    One additional suggestion — when asking questions, try to ask specific questions based on her past experiences rather than general ones.

    For example, “Tell me about a time a child became upset and was crying — how did the situation resolve?”

    “Tell me about one of your favorite times with a child you’ve cared for.”

    “Tell me about a challenge you’ve experienced while caring for a child.”

    Etc…. They can be phrased in any way, but the point is to listen for how they talk about their experiences, how they talk about the children they care. That will tell you so much about their approach.

  11. November 11, 2010 at 11:30 am

    this was one of my major concerns when choosing our son’s babysitter when i returned to work. when i saw that our current sitter mentioned dr sears on her welcome page? sold. and we have been blessed to have had nothing but good experiences with her. she is very patient and sensitive to the kid’s needs, works with me on providing him my pumped breastmilk, cloth diapers, etc. i should send her flowers or something.

    • December 31, 2012 at 7:26 pm

      I’m Louisville, KY (shout out to the midwest!!) Luckily, I work on a scoohl campus that has a prescoohl (starting at age 1) through high scoohl and I will be taking full advantage of the 50% discount on tuition for employees that was one of the main reasons I took this job a couple years ago! Cost is $225 per week at the prescoohl for a full time mid August May program. Since its considered prescoohl, summer term isn’t included, but offered and since I’m a 12 month employee here I’ll be using it. Looking at infant care using a child care facility (my family is all in VA so no grandmas here to help) the costs averages around the same as the prescoohl rate of $225 per week some go up to $275 per week depending on location and facility. Sadly, from June 2012 through March 2013 will be a killer on our budget without the 50% discount ;)

  12. November 12, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    That is so interesting. I was concerned about the same things when seeking a babysitter for my son (which we never did find, but that’s another story). I would look at listings for babysitters and nannies and think, But they left off the important stuff! I know when we chose our son’s preschool, we asked our questions of concern, like about how they respond to crying, how much they expect children to fall in line with the routine vs. how much they allow free play, how tolerant they were of potty accidents and other spills, how much they force children to talk vs. letting them warm up gradually, and what methods of discipline they use. There are obviously still things I would do differently, but their honest answers that aligned for the most part with mine reassured me enough to trust my little one to their care.

    I’ll say, too, speaking from my relationship with the nanny I know best — my sister-in-law, they tend to get very set in their ways of thinking they know what’s best for children because they have so much experience. So if they’re not already AP by nature, they’re not likely to change just to suit you, as you realized.

    I wish you the best in your nanny search! I hope you find someone soon who’s absolutely the right connection for all of you.

  13. November 15, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Just curious: In there a website that specializes in matching AP nannies to AP families? Seems like some entrepreneurial mommy could make bank offering just such a service.

    • Jen
      November 15, 2010 at 9:28 pm

      Doesn’t sound like there is!

  14. November 23, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Finding a good nanny is so important… and so difficult! I really sympathize with you. I, too, recently started leaving my kids (4 and 2 years old) with a babysitter regularly. We talked about parenting philosophies at length before I hired her, and she is a great match. I feel so lucky, and my kids always love to stay with her.

    One great tip for interviewing babysitters or nannies I read somewhere online is to ask the candidate open-ended questions, without telling them your views first. That way, you can get a true sense of how they would communicate with your kids, rather than them just agreeing with you to get the job.

    Good luck! I hope you find someone great!


  15. January 2, 2013 at 8:05 am

    perhaps she was surprised at the idea of her kid being wacehtd by a nanny when she was under the impression you would be the one home. I am not sure that I would have reacted very well either. I also am a full time working mom so I understand not being home during the week for play dates. But I don’t just drop my daughter off at peoples houses with caregivers that I do not personally know.I am sure your nanny is great, but don’t be butthurt that the mother was taken back by the suggestion of a stranger taking care of her children.

    • admin
      January 4, 2013 at 7:47 pm

      I have no idea what you are talking about as this post had nothing to do with play dates.

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