The Nana Effect
A question that frequently pops up in interviews, on my Twitter and Facebook feeds and in my general day-to-day life is why MomPrep, why now? Before I dive into the multitude of reasons that led me to create MomPrep, let me back up a wee bit: for those of you who may not know what MomPrep is, it is the prenatal and postpartum education and fitness arm of my company, which currently offers courses in New York City at our uptown MomPrep studio.
Now back to the beginning. When I first imagined MomPrep, I wanted to create a place that would arm parents with all the knowledge they needed to make the best choices possible during pregnancy and beyond which, in my mind, would then give them the freedom and confidence to enjoy that period, without constantly worrying about each and every decision. It wasn’t easy, but over the last two years we’ve put together a team of handpicked experts, from labor and delivery nurses and renowned OB/GYNs to fitness experts and respected interior designers.
I am so happy with what we’ve created for parents and parents-to-be, which fills such a glaring void in my mind, so I’m always surprised when people ask me why they need to take childbirth or parenting education classes. I have thought long and hard about why we are a generation of parents that need such classes. Do we just like to research everything to death, which leads us to want to find out as much as we possibly can before entering into something as important as parenting? I certainly commend this impulse among parents today. Hell, you have to get a fishing license to catch a trout (by no means as lovely as having a baby) so it only seems to make sense one would want some kind of training to raise a child!
Or is that we feel we have lost our parenting instinct, and are desperate to pick it up through formal education? Frankly, I don’t believe anyone is born with a natural instinct for knowing exactly how to burp a baby, or how to best rub diaper cream on their wee bottoms to avoid diaper rash. For me, parenting instinct isn’t about being a natural at the nitty gritty skills of parenting; it just boils down to the unconditional love and strong impulse to care for our little ones, which I certainly haven’t found lacking in parents today.
More than all of this, though, I think the need for education is really a comment on today’s families. Just like many mothers today, when I was born my mum had to go right back to work. But unlike a lot of women today, she had daily access to her mom, my Nana, who lived just down the street and was able to jump in and help whenever needed. Like all the best nanas and grandmas of those days she knew every trick in the book when it came to raising babies. She had raised her own children and also 7 of her brothers and sisters, after which she became a nurse. Taking care of people, particularly babies during those first few weeks of life, was one of the things she undoubtedly did best. My mum didn’t need to take any kind of class because she had my Nana, aka the encyclopedia of baby care and knowledge.
When I had my first child, I had the notion that my mum would be able to do the same for me. I very quickly realized, however, that not only did we live in separate countries, but she simply did not have the experience that my Nana had had – she had raised me, but certainly hadn’t spent her youth raising a passel of younger siblings. My mum is an absolutely amazing grandparent, but in those first few weeks we both sorely felt the absence of my Nana’s confident guidance and we were truly unable to enjoy some of those first moments due to being consumed by fear, concern and frantic panic when my son would cry and we couldn’t figure out why!
So back to the question at hand: why MomPrep and why now? Because families today are spread across states and country lines, and the Nanas of today are often successful working women well into their 60s and sometimes 70s who have not been caring for babies their whole lives.
There are upsides, of course: while they may not be able to teach you how to swaddle, Nanas of today are much more likely to help your new baby get on a great career path, and there is nothing wrong with this; it is just a new kind of modern Nana, the Glama Nana generation. It does, however, mean you might want to take a few classes so that you have the very skills so you can teach your mum when taking care of your baby (or at least refresh her memory as her mum would have).
Classes are clearly not going to teach you everything you need to know, nor will they teach you the ins and outs of your particular baby, but they will give you the confidence to be able to get to know your little one without being swallowed by insecurity and fear that you are getting the fundamentals wrong. And confidence, my dear friends, is everything when it comes to enjoying those moments with your wee ones. So learn a little so that you are able to laugh a little more. It’s certainly what my Nana would recommend.