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Talk parenting over a potluck

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It’s possible to get your fill and some parenting advice, too.

East Kildonan resident Nichola Mitchell, who runs the Winnipeg franchise of Vancouver-based Cheekychops, offers parenting potlucks to those looking to receive advice. Mitchell, who began working as a nanny at age 19 and worked in Washington, D.C., specializes in child sleep.

Potlucks are typically held with five to eight parents, and bringing a dish is all that is required to attend. Those in attendance who choose to book a one-on-one sleep package (either over the phone, over Skype, or through in-home visits) are offered a discount off the base price.

"I come along, and I answer any questions they might have," said Mitchell, who is originally from Ireland. "It’s very informal. Everyone sits around and has a chat."
Cheekychops was started seven years ago by Mitchell’s friend, fellow Washington nanny Dawnn Whittaker. Mitchell kicked off her franchise about a year ago.

"We’ve both stayed in childcare, we both studied psychology," said Mitchell, who holds an honours degree in psychology . "She’d helped 2,000 families when she decided to franchise across Canada. I was her first franchisee."

Mitchell’s training with the company primarily consisted of training under Whittaker, who let Mitchell listen in on her calls in order to get a sense of the work. She said the transition was a smooth one, though, as the two have similar philosophies with their shared backgrounds.

"I feel I’ve learned so much more with the hands-on experience where you’re living with a family, you’re figuring out the family dynamics," she said. "I started from (when I was young) getting the kids on a routine.

"I see how well kids do on routine. All the kids I babysat slept fantastic for naps, and they slept really well in the nighttime because I kept them busy during the day."
Mitchell said during consultations, she strives to create a personalized plan for each family.

"We try to work everything around their routine," she said. "I get a feel for what they’re comfortable with. Some parents are more comfortable with certain things and some parents are not so comfortable."

In addition to the potlucks and one-on-one consultations, Mitchell also holds seminars at the Nest Family Centre at 667 Stafford St. One for parents of children aged six months to 12 months will be held on April 4 at 7:30 p.m., while one for parents with children aged 12 to 18 months is slated for May 2 at 7:30 p.m. Workshops are $25 each, though the centre offers a five-workshop pass for $99. The centre’s website is www.nestfamilycentre.com.

For more information on the potlucks, visit http://www.cheekychops.ca/potluck-parenting.

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