Rosemary Alborne is Care.com's nanny expert. She spoke to Workingmums.co.uk on why she wants to help guilt-tripped working parents feel more confident in their parenting abilities.
Are working parents lacking in confidence after years of being bombarded with guilt-tripping articles about the impact being a working mum has on children and endless advice on how to be the perfect parent?
Rosemary Albone wants to change all that.
She has had extensive experience in all walks of childcare and has just become the nanny expert for care.com, a website offering all different forms of care from childcare to pet care. She provides advice for both childcarers and parents via articles and direct responses to questions. For instance, she gives advice to nannies about how families work and tells them to avoid judging parents.
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Rosemary says people tend to think childcare has changed over the years and whilst there has been some groundbreaking research on aspects like early brain development, she says the main parenting issues tend to be the same as they have always been, for instance, eating, sleeping and behaviour problems. “It’s easy to think everything has to be updated, but children are pretty consistent,” she says. “The way we lead our lives may be different, but how children respond tends to be the same. My job is to stand up for the rights of children, but crucially with an understanding of how families work.”
One of the issues that comes up often in her line of work is working mums’ guilt and anxiety that they are not doing the right thing. “They compare themselves with others who they think have perfectly fed and sleeping children and arrive at work fully pressed with every hair in place. But virtually no-one is really like that. A lot of people feel judged and don’t feel they are doing well enough which is a shame,” says Rosemary.
One of the reasons for that guilt is that working parents' time is so stretched, and they sometimes feel they are not giving their children enough attention, but Rosemary says it can be good for children not to have too much of their parents’ focus on them. “Children don’t need 100% of their parents’ attention all the time. They need to know how to make their own play and some are so used to having their play facilitated that they are unable to be independently creative. A lot of children are overscheduled,” she says.
“There’s a misconception that children have to do all these activities all the time. Some can be good for children’s and parents’ social interaction, but children who do more than three events a week on top of school or nursery may be doing too much. Parents need to take into account that a day in nursery or with a nanny is as tiring as a day's work for an adult. Perhaps parents don’t feel they are enough for their children and lack confidence.”
At the same time, Rosemary says it is vital that children have their parents’ full attention at some point in the day, even if it is for a short time, for instance, when they first get home. “Time is a hugely valuable resource for children,” she says. “That can just be flopping on the sofa with them. It’s about having undisturbed time together.”
Rosemary is herself a working mum. Her son is now 27, but when he was young she used a mix of nursery and childminders. She felt this gave him the best of both worlds, but due to her background in childcare she did feel extra pressure on her as a parent. “I felt I had to do it well, but it’s not the same looking after other people’s children and your own,” she says. Her son was in special care when he was born and she had spent time while training on a maternity ward. The maternity staff said she could stay to see a procedure they were performing on her son since she had seen babies in special care. She had seen the procedure performed on another child, but not on her own, and the shock was too great — Rosemary broke down crying in the operating theatre.
She also recalls having to make a decision to take a step back in her career so she could be more present for her son. She was a regional manager in a childcare organisation at one point and both her work and her husband’s involved extensive travel. “ Our family found it hard to cope and I took the decision to step down because I realised something had to give,” she says.
Rosemary has worked in a huge range of childcare settings. She worked as a nanny in a broad range of family settings after finishing her training. Then she moved to Germany as her husband was in the forces. She worked there as “an emergency mum” for families who lacked a care network to help them deal with emergencies.
She returned to the UK and worked in playgroups and nurseries. She also ran a nursery school at Norland and taught students before managing a large nursery and working for a nursery training organisation.
For the last decade she has been freelance, supporting early years family partnerships and working as a consultant for Norland, which is how she came into contact with Care.com. She says her work has shown that parents’ concerns are the same regardless of socio-economic background.
Rosemary says that in addition to giving parents more confidence she would like to encourage working parents to feel less guilty about putting their children into childcare. “Perhaps we need to change the way we look at it and think of it in terms of sharing the care,” she says.