"But your blog is called 'The Canny Nanny,' Kelley," you say. "What's this 'Family Life Doula' business? Explain yourself!"
I'd be happy to! First, read this, please:
"The same person often provides both birth doula and postpartum doula services. A doula may provide physical support, such as meal preparation and light household tidying, or fill in when a new mother needs a break. They also provide emotional support and companionship by encouraging a mother when she might be feeling overwhelmed" (paraphrased source, DONA International)
This, my friends, is exactly what I do. I'm a doula who cares for a family from post partum through whenever they no longer need my assistance. For some families, "whenever" means after a year or two. For others, I'm needed for much longer. Sure, I care for and advocate for the children in a family and that's of utmost importance. I keep them safe, I teach them everything from good sleep habits, potty training and how to recognize letters and numbers, to good manners and accountability, and more. Sometimes (and by "sometimes," I mean "daily,") I'm a human pillow for tiny bodies to lounge on after a busy day of jumping, climbing and exploring. I do all of these things and I love it!
BUT. This is not why I tell families, "you need a family life doula."
The truth is, it really only takes an exorbitant amount of patience and a true love of children to be a good nanny. It does take a little more effort and skill to be a super nanny. But being a family doula - and this is what I teach others to do - is about taking care of and nurturing an entire family. I prepare meals, I do housework when needed, and I know how everyone takes their coffee. I know when it's okay to ask about personal things and when to butt out. I take a detailed interest in grandparents and I chat at length with aunts and uncles about their significant others, their careers, and more. I stay late and help with bedtime routines, I come early and help with wake up time. If everyone's sick, I'll still come. Sometimes someone - dad, mom, preteen child, uncle... anyone! - just needs a sounding board for what's on their mind. Or they want to talk about something exciting but they just need someone who's got a minute to sit and give them undivided attention. Sometimes I'm that person. Whatever my family client needs, I'm there without question. And they know I always will be for as long as they need me.
I love caring for an entire family unit, providing emotional support and friendship, in addition to handling all of those details that can be overwhelming day after day after day after day. It's not just a paycheck to me. It's about freeing parents from home stress so they can focus and thrive in their careers. It's about helping them grow together as a parenting team at home. It's about nurturing everyone in the family circle, from the tiniest member to the oldest.
You could say I'm a super nanny, chef, butler, personal assistant, big sister, and counselor all rolled into one person. But that's a bit much. Family Life Doula is perfect and accurate. Technically, the term doesn't exist yet - or at least, it didn't until I said it - but it's exactly what I am. And it's exactly what I train others to do as I match them with the right families.
I'm proud to be a Family Life Doula and I'm honored to work with every family who's let me be a part of their lives - what a privilege!
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