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6 Aspects of Motherhood That Surprise Nannies

What if you could do a parenting internship before becoming an actual parent? Imagine it: You’d take your baby home from the hospital with a bunch of diapers and formula samples, along with some experience.


Such an “internship” exists. It’s called working as a nanny. In many ways, it’s an excellent way to develop confidence as a parent. Marilee O’Connor, mom of two, says the years she spent nannying were invaluable. As a nanny, she says she “met the parent [she] wanted to be and the parents [she] did not want to be” and that overall, she had a sense of what having kids would be like.

Jessica Ziegler on the other hand, says that though her nanny experience gave her the idea that she had the parenting thing “dialed in” she quickly learned her confidence was misguided. Ziegler, now the mother of a 13-year-old son and the illustrator of The Science of Parenthood, had worked for one family for three years before starting her own family.

While most nannies agree that their work experience was useful once they became parents, there are certain aspects of parenthood that nothing could have prepared them for.

1 | The sleep deprivation

Even the Navy Seals can’t tell you how to prepare for prolonged sleep deprivation. Not surprisingly, all of the women I talked to found themselves blindsided by the fatigue of new motherhood. Ziegler recalls being completely unprepared for the way motherhood interfered with her sleep – and for how long it took before she felt well-rested again. She recalls feeling “out to sea” during the early weeks of her son’s life. She also recalls, “I didn’t catch up on sleep until my son turned three.” Even Stephanie, a Boston mom with over 10 years of nanny experience, including sleep training says, “I did [sleep training] a lot with nanny kids but couldn’t do it until ten months with my own.”

2 | The baby phase

Many nannies said they were not prepared for the intensity of the early months of their first baby’s life. While many specifically mentioned breastfeeding as something totally foreign, many also remembered more generally, the feeling of being the only one their baby wanted. Lindsay Romero, now the mom of a one-year-old and a speech-language pathologist, says though she felt nannying gave her a pretty accurate picture of family life, she was not prepared for what she described as her daughter’s “constant need to be held or taken care of.” Moreover, she didn’t anticipate that she would be the only one her daughter would want in those moments. Romero says, “Moms are usually the ones kids want so as a nanny they are less clingy and fussy.”

Ziegler recalls struggling with postpartum anxiety, which she says she “didn’t even know was a thing” until she experienced it.

3 | The pressure

Over time, kids’ needs tend to grow less physical and more emotional. However, those needs can be just as intense. Now a writer, a teacher, and a mom of grown children, Mary Lanzavecchia nannied for the same family for three years before starting her own family. She explains, “the stakes feel higher” with her own kids “[because] you are helping grow a person into a functioning, valuable, and contributing member of society.” But as much as we try to be role models for our kids, we inevitably miss the mark. Says Lanzavecchia, “There are few things that feel more frustrating than seeing the not-so-desirable aspects of yourself appear in your child.”

4 | The Tetris calendar

Former nannies find that the stress of a parent’s responsibilities is felt not only in their hearts and minds but also in their schedules. Lanzavecchia recalls being blissfully unaware of all the “extras” she’d have to fit into her day as a mom. “As a nanny, there were so many jobs I hadn’t considered that would be a part of mothering such as the laundry, doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, and all night vigils when a child is sick.” Ziegler also recalls taking the ability to schedule appointments and errands during her time off for granted before becoming a mom.

5 | The heart-stopping-chest-exploding love

More than one nanny-turned-mom described her feelings for her own children as magical – regardless of how close they were to the children they cared for professionally. O’Connor nannied for years before having her own children and even named one of her daughters after one of her charges. She says though she would “do anything” for the kids she nannied for, “having my own children took it to a whole new level I cannot qualify or quantify in words.”

Stephanie, the Boston mother and nanny agrees. Despite her vast experience, she says, “Even though I loved my nanny kids as much as possible, it is most definitely NOT as much as a parent. I thought it was close but I was wrong.” Along with that heart-expanding love you feel for your own child comes the heart-crushing pain of seeing them hurt, as Stephanie discovered only when she became a mom. “Yes, I was sad to see my nanny kids hurt or upset but I still had a disconnect since they weren’t my own. Also, I didn’t realize how much your child holds your heart and how their cry and being upset just breaks your heart so much more than you ever thought possible.”

6 | The messy intersection of theory and reality

We all know exactly how to parent before we become parents ourselves, am I right? O’Connor remembers thinking, “I was never going to give in to whining. I was going to always be patient. I was going to actively play with them all the times for all of the days. I was going to follow through with everything.” That was, of course, before she had kids. As a mom, she says, “I sometimes give in.” Not only is O’Connor more lenient on herself as a parent, she is also more forgiving of other parents. Where she used to wonder why other parents lost their tempers in tough situations, now she asks herself, “What the hell has your child and adult life put you through today?” with the understanding that she doesn’t have the whole picture.

Stephanie echoed that sentiment, saying that as a parent she is “more understanding of why parents do (or don’t do) certain things.”

When it comes to parenting, no one has a road map. And when it comes to certain things, even those of us who had the opportunity to complete an “internship” are winging it too.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Whether you're filling out your own registry or shopping for a soon-to-be-mama in your life, it can be hard to narrow down what exactly new moms need (versus what will just end up cluttering the nursery). That's why we paired up with the baby gear experts at Pottery Barn Kids to create a registry guide featuring everything from the gear you'll use over and over to the perfect gifts under $50.

Check out the picks below, and happy shopping (and registering)!

MUST-HAVE BABY GEAR

These five gift ideas are designed to make #momlife easier while solving some of the most common parenting dilemmas.

1. Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller

One of the first things you learn when you become a mom? Those infant car seats are heavy. Which is what makes the Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller so genius. It's the world's first completely integrated mobility solution, quickly transforming from safe car seat to functional stroller without any extra parts. Simply pop out the wheels, pull up the handle bar, and you're ready to roll.

Doona All-in-one Infant Car Seat / Stroller, $499

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GIFTS THAT CAN BE PERSONALIZED

Even the most utilitarian gift feels a little more special with some personalization. Here are some of our favorite options that can be customized with baby's name or monogram.

1. Nursery Blankets

You'll never forget the blanket you bring your newborn home in. And with Pottery Barn Kids' assortment of blankets, there's a wrap to suit every new mama's style. Choose from fuzzy neutral patterns or stylish printed options, and add baby's name for an extra personal touch.

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GIFTS THAT GROW WITH THEM

Save money and space by gifting items that will last long after baby's first year. These clever gift items will have mama saying "thank you!" for years to come.

1. west elm x pbk Mid-Century Convertible Crib

A convertible crib is an investment in years of sweet dreams. We love this mid-century-style option made from sustainably sourced wood with child-safe, water-based finishes. When your baby outgrows their crib (sniff!), it easily converts into a toddler bed with the matching conversion kit.

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GIFTS UNDER $50

Sometimes the littlest gifts mean the most. Here are our favorite gifts under $50 they'll be sure to cherish.

1. west elm x pbk Dot Muslin Swaddle Set

When you're raising a newborn, you can never have too many swaddles. Perfect for naptime, burp cloths, stroller covers, and spontaneous play mats, a muslin swaddle will always come in handy. And we especially love this neutral patterned collection in platinum, nightshade, and peacock.

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Learn more and explore all Pottery Barn Kids' registry must-haves here.

In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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They say there's no use in crying over it, but for pumping mamas, spilled milk is a major upset.

When you're working so hard to make sure your baby has breast milk, you don't want to lose a drop, and Chrissy Teigen knows this all too well.

The mom of two posted a video to social media Wednesday showing her efforts to rescue breastmilk from a tabletop. She used various utensils and a syringe to try to get the milk back in the bottle.

"I spilled my breastmilk and this is how important it is in this house," she says while suctioning up milk with what appears to be a baster.

In a follow-up video Teigen continues to try to rescue the spilled milk.

"We're trying," she says as she suctions up a drop or two. "I got some."

Teigen is currently breastfeeding baby Miles, her son with husband John Legend, and has been very public about the fact that she pumps a lot as a working mom.

She's also been open about the fact that milk supply has always been an issue for her, not just with Miles but with Luna, too.

"I actually loved [pumping] because I'm a collector of things, and so when I found out I could pump I [did it] so much because I knew the more you pumped, the more milk you'd make," she told POPSUGAR back in March. "So I loved collecting my breast milk and seeing how much I could get, even if it was very, very little."

Like a lot of moms, Teigen did struggle emotionally when a pump session wouldn't get her the ounces she wanted.

"I wasn't producing a lot of milk, and it was frustrating. When you're frustrated, [it can also make you] not produce that much."

Research backs her up. Stress has been linked to lower milk production. Because of that, she's trying to stay positive this time around, but captioned her video post "EVERY DROP COUNTS IN THIS HOUSE" because, well, they do.


So many mothers can relate. Have you ever tried to save your breastmilk?

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What is it about networking that's just kind of...awful? Typically inconvenient and often awkward, formal networking events rarely yield the results most women (and especially mamas) are looking for.

Whether you're reentering the workforce post-baby leave or simply looking to make a complicated career switch as a busy mom (or just struggling to juggle play dates and professional meetings), making the right connections is often a hurdle that's difficult to surmount. And more and more often, networking comes up short in providing what moms really need.

When time is truly at a premium—a session swapping business cards can be hard to prioritize. Shapr wants to change all that.

Designed with busy people in mind, Shapr is an app with an algorithm that uses tagged interests, location, and professional experience to match you with 10-15 inspiring professional connections a day. You swipe to indicate interest in networking with any of them, and if the interest is mutual, you're connected. (But don't worry, that's where the similarities to that dating app end.)

It makes it easier to connect with the right people.

From there, you can chat, video conference, and even meet in person with potential mentors, partners, and investors while growing your real-life network. No more wasting hours trying to pick someone's brain only to discover they don't have the right experience you need. And no more awkward, stilted small talk—even suggests a few preset icebreakers to help get the conversation rolling more quickly.

The best part? You could do virtually all your connecting from your couch post-bedtime.

It simplifies switching careers or industries.

Sysamone Phaphone is a real mom who was fed up with traditional networking options. When she quit her full-time job in healthcare to pursue founding a startup, she quickly realized that in-person networking events weren't only failing to connect her to the right people, they were also difficult for a single mom of two to even attend. "I was complaining to a friend that I was so tired and didn't know how I was going to keep doing it this way when she recommended the Shapr app," Phaphone says. "I tried it right there at dinner and started swiping. [Later], in my pajamas, I got my first connection."

From there, Phaphone was hooked. Her network suddenly exploded with developers, potential partners she could work with, and even people to hire for the roles she needed. She was also able to connect with and empower other women in tech. Now, checking in with Shapr connections is just part of her routine. "I look for connections after drop-off at school and on my commute into the city," she says. "Then after bedtime is done, I go on to check if there is anyone I've connected with."

It helps you find a mentor—no matter where they live.

Another common roadblock Shapr removes? Location. While you probably wouldn't fly to LA from New York for a networking event, the Shapr app lets you connect and chat with the person who best meets your needs—regardless of where they're based. Even better for parents, the "mom penalty" many women contend with when trying to get back into the workforce doesn't exist on Shapr—if you have the right experience, the connections will still come.

To connect, simply create your account, enter up to ten hashtags you want to follow (either industry related like #film or #tech or by person you're seeking, such as #developer or #uxui), preset what you're looking for (investors, collaborators, etc.), and indicate how you prefer to meet. To connect with more people at once, Shapr also has community groups within the app around interest topics that you can join. And even though the connection begins in the digital space, it often results in the in-person experiences mamas crave.

"I wish I could encourage more moms and dads to use it because it has been a lifesaver for me," Phaphone says. "It empowered my career and career choices, and it provides so much convenience. I can put my kids to bed and not go to an event, but still meet 20 people in a night."

For women looking to grow their business, position, or simply achieve a little self-growth, Shapr is changing the way we connect. This powerful new app could change everything, mama. Download it today to get started.

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