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Connie Simpson, aka Nanny Connie , is about to become a household name. But for many parents in the celebrity set — from Jessica Alba and Brooke Shields to Jessica Biel and Emily Blunt — the gifted baby nurse already is.
“I think what you taught me more than anything is just confidence that I know that baby more than most people, better than nearly anyone,” Blunt tells Simpson in a new video clip shared exclusively with Yahoo Lifestyle (below) that includes her, along with husband John Krasinski, praising Simpson for helping with their newest daughter, Violet. “We love you. You changed our lives.”
Now the masses will also get to learn from Simpson’s life-changing powers, because after three quiet decades in the business of caring for newborns, she’s just come out with an advice-packed parenting book: The Nanny Connie Way: Secrets to Mastering the First Four Months of Parenthood. Though she spent years of dodging any sort of attention or self-promotion, despite the urging from the families who love her to share what she knows, she’s now decided to spread her message — which is that new parents have to trust themselves, and not be afraid — to all who want to hear it.
“It feels totally amazing,” Simpson tells Yahoo Lifestyle about finally sharing a bit of the spotlight with her many celebrity clients. “My message is so important that I knew I was the only person who could deliver it.”
It felt particularly important, Simpson shares, because she has witnessed the breakdown of family foundations over the years. But Nanny Conny, who was raised with the love of a big extended family in Mobile, Ala., where her great-grandmother was a midwife, says that becoming a child-rearing expert — including for her own daughter, now 35 — seemed her destiny from the start.
“I grew up in the South in the ’50s, and my mom would buy me any baby doll I could have ever wanted — I didn’t know how much of a struggle that was. I would have classrooms of baby dolls that had names,” she recalls. “ And every time one of my cousins had a baby I was always on my mom’s coattails to go and hang out at the house.”
Now, after much culling much experience and years after earning a degree in early-childhood education, she’s published what she knows in order to help rebuild family foundations. “An augmented-reality book,” she says, as she’s dubbed her tome, “was a way for me to get into people’s homes and give them that support they needed for their foundation.”
Glowing word-of-mouth references quickly catapulted Simpson into the mansions of the rich and famous, where she soon found herself “holding counsel” with members of each family and with family friends. “They’d come over, even the husbands, and sit at the counter in the kitchen and ask questions and take notes, then go home and implement what I’d say and tell me ‘that really did work, thank you so much,’” she says. Early breaks came through gigs with celebrity stylist Mary Alice Haney and then WME talent agent Patrick Weitzel.
“It didn’t faze me, he was just another father, and [wife] Lauren was another mother, and I love them dearly,” she says. “They’re my children.”
Simpson’s book gives “the real truth,” she says, and touches on everything from what to buy before the baby comes (not very much) to how to approach a birth plan, choose a pediatrician, and remain confident in trusting your own parenting instincts. “This is not to compete with other books. I’ve been in the laboratory for 30 years — I tried it, I tested it again, so I have no reason to lie to you.” She and her lessons are beloved for many reasons — and a major one is for being nonjudgmental, which can be hard to find in the business of parenting advice.
“Everybody wants to be the Joneses,” she laments. “Touting yourself to the group of women that you’re with makes you feel good, and you don’t understand what you’re doing to the women that you’re with, because someone there is truly struggling to even go out the door… I think that parents need to be tolerant of other parents, because everybody struggles.”
That includes celebrities, Simpson says she’s learned — who have the same most-common fear as any other parent seeking guidance and support: “The most common concern is, ‘Am I going to get it right?’” And she tells them, “Don’t be in fear of messing up. You’re going to mess up — and when you do, learn from that mistake. That’s when you make life better.”
Others simply fear losing sleep — even Justin Timberlake, apparently, who gave Simpson “a rundown” about “how he needs his sleep and how he couldn’t function the next day if he didn’t sleep, and I heard him buzzing… like a child, like, ‘OK, I hear you, but when we get to that, you’ll see why I’m not paying you any attention.’ [Eventually] He was like, ‘I get it, babies don’t sleep.’”
But baby-rearing advice often goes beyond tips on sleeping and eating, says Simpson, who frequently becomes a bit of a couples counselor, too. “You have no earthly idea how many families are on the point of breaking up because they don’t know how to read the signs from each other at this time,” she explains, “because this new little one has truly disrupted the whole nucleus. So everybody kind of goes to their corner and they start fighting, inadvertently, and it leads to more trouble.”
Nourishing families with her Southern cooking in the form of hearty Sunday suppers is another way Simpson gets into the hearts of the families she cares for. “Anything from ribs to macaroni-and-cheese to friend chicken — they all love the fried chicken,” she says.
Simpson stresses that no parent who wants to hire baby help deserves to be shamed or to feel guilty.
“The village has always been in place — it’s always been there — that’s what I teach through my whole existence,” she says, explaining that she typically stays with a family for the first three to six month with a new baby, and often goes back for regular check-ins. “I’m a product of the village, and there was nothing wrong with it. Technology has taken us further away from having our neighbors and our extended family helping us, so now people don’t even know how much richness actually comes from that village. It’s just about being reeducated about, say, having someone from the church help you… In the South we have preachers and pastors and priests and nuns and it doesn’t matter — whoever it is that can give you that ‘it’s OK’ feeling should be a part of your village.”
And while that is often mostly women — who are still bearing most of the child-raising responsibilities in families, Simpson notes, she finds that it’s slowly changing — and says she does everything she can to try and shift the level of involvement.
“I think, since the early 2000s, that women have been getting vocal about saying, ‘Hey, I’m over here and I need help,’ as opposed to oppressing it. But I talk a lot to the fathers when I’m in the home, and a lot to the male friends who come to visit… They love to go play golf, they love to go to their man cave, they want their honey-do list to be shrunk, but they don’t know how to do that. I always teach them, ‘rub her feet, tell her you love her… and you can get much further down the road.’”
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