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The Whole Nine Yards? EC for working mums/families

the whole nine yards
This post was originally posted on January 31, 2016, and has been fully updated on July 13, 2021 to include an audio (Podcast) version, a video (YouTube) version, and to include some basic updates. Enjoy! xx Andrea

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If you want to watch me record today’s podcast episode, you can do that on my youtube version:

This is a guest post from one of our Go Diaper Free Certified EC Coaches, Caroline Helbing, MPhil, of Germany.

The whole nine yards?

EC for working mums/families

As a GDF Coach I am used to talking about Elimination Communication to people who are acquainted with it  – or at least they have heard of EC before.

I am 100% convinced of the importance of EC, but I am not a missionary; I would not chat parents up in the playground about how diaper dependence is really not necessary. It usually happens the other way round: I am getting the first question.

Still, there are those occasions when a conversation very unexpectedly turns to my coaching practice or my very personal parenting experience with EC with someone completely new to it.

I love those moments because they reflect the honest and unfiltered picture of EC out in the world. And by far the most common reaction I get is something like “Oh, you did that? I thought it is only for parents who have only one child/a big family to support them/an awful lot of time…?” or similarly: “Yes, but isn’t it that the mother has to stay at home all the time with the children?”


Setting aside many correct or incorrect cliché-ideas people might have about an eco-friendly EC way of parenting, these questions point to a very practical worry, or should I say ‘myth,’ about how EC is done...and at the same time these questions explain why they don’t even consider it an option for their family life.

Beyond my own job, many in our wider circle of family and friends face the challenges of raising children and working at the same time.

And by ‘working,’ I mean ‘mainstream working’: as an employee, with little flexibility of working hours or home office and a very limited amount of holidays, which is dramatically reduced by the days you and your partner need for when childcare is closed, or those flu weeks you cannot really cover by calling in sick again.

I am talking about the busy daily schedule starting very early, with little buffer for unexpected things, with daycare, grand-parents or other family members looking after the child several hours per day.

I am talking about the sum of job + household + kids + sudden unforeseen adventures popping up just a little bit too often, that all in all seem to leave too little time or energy for more.

Does this sound familiar? Have you caught yourself asking the same question? That you cannot possibly match EC with your current lifestyle? Then please read on, there might be a surprisingly easy (and motivating :)) answer!

Part time EC? Let it rip!

Yes, you can!

The answer is YES. Yes, of course!

You can do EC as a working parent and it can be just as good and intense and ‘right’ as for other parents who are lucky to spend all day with their babies.

This is not the time and place to lament about how hard is life as a working parent, nor about how good it would be for children in general  if their moms are staying at home. (To be honest, I don’t like this discussion at all, as in most cases it focuses more on justifying the worldview of the people engaging in it than on the actual well-being of families.)

You are a working mum/dad. You have good reasons for it, otherwise you would not be doing it. Many more parents with small children are working, too, for similar, equally justified reasons. This must be respected. And that’s all that needs to be said about it.

So to answer properly:

Can you successfully EC as a working parent? Of course, you can!

I would even go so far as to say that: especially in case of working parents EC is recommended!

And I recommend it for the same beneficial reasons that I also recommend co-sleeping and nursing: as a very natural and intense way for parents and children to be close to each other, to physically and emotionally recharge. To refill your batteries – both of you - after the time you spent apart.

Part time EC is the way for you to go. You will find many resources covering part time EC on this website and in Andrea’s book. The key is to be firm about practicing every day and communicating to your child, so s/he will know. Be sure to restrict naked time and get your network, family, and friends involved if you wish.

Will part time EC’ed children learn easily/less easily? Graduate sooner/later? Will it be more/less fun?

These questions I cannot answer, and I don’t think anyone else can. You and your child will make it happen and with positive motivation and a loving attitude I am sure you will experience it the best way possible. Be determined but don’t push, and take your time.

Every step, every baby step, is a step forward. A strong will and lots of repetition is all you need.

Receive the children in reverence

It’s not about pee, it’s about parenting

If you visit Andrea’s blog on a regular basis you’ve probably read about the case of a disappointed mother distancing herself from attachment parenting.

It reminded me of discussions that often can be found in Waldorf-interested circles about how to deal with plastic and other ‘uninspiring’ toys the child gets exposed to and quickly grows – very much to the parents’ dismay – attached to.

What to do now? How to reconcile personal convictions and parenting rules with the respect and empathy for the child? As in most cases there is no ready-made answer; it is subject to the sound and very individual judgment of the parents.

And just as Emily, the woman mentioned in the blog post, experienced, rather than getting good guidance from the experts, parents end up insecure about their own capabilities, simply forgetting about the importance of their own judgment or even feeling guilty for having ideas and feelings that don’t seem to match their noble motives. This is very sad and not helpful at all for the new family.

I guess trouble and confusion mostly come from following others' advice or following a certain “school of thought” to the letter. Maybe it is the big term “attachment parenting” that is putting on the pressure.

If so, then I would rather not want to use it. Eventually the process of thoughtful parenting does not much depend on the labeling. It is about the careful and respectful attitude towards children. In my training I've found balance meditation extremely helpful and strengthening, so the ‘mindfulness’ concept seems a perfect anchor for me to get centered when I need it...and also in parenting.

And this is why EC is so precious: it carves out the core values that matters most.  From this perspective Elimination Communication is applied thoughtful parenting on a small scale. It shows the child that:

  • you care, unconditionally, for all the small or big things happening every day, especially that you are sensitive even to his or her most basic needs
  • she can trust in her own perceptions and communication skills – and in yours, too!
  • patience matters, and that parents and children treat each other with patience
  • he can and should carefully listen in order to making himself heard
  • independence enables her to do so much more.

By practicing EC you are also making a good approach into a habit. That is, to:

  • focus on what matters
  • not to be hard on yourself
  • generously accept misses and mistakes as what they are: a chance to grow and learn!

And by this you show your child great patterns: how to be calm, how to be persistent, how to relax after being stressed or sad. Simply: how to live your daily life driven by your internal fire and focus and not be pushed and steered by those million more or less fortunate things that could happen to you – and actually are happening to all of us – and ruin the day.

In a nutshell: EC helps you to raise a competent and self-sufficient child and become a very stable parent.

Start today!

So if you are a working parent (and also if you are not! :)) I hope you will give EC a try; the earlier the better.

  • First of all: assemble team and tools!
    Get help, prepare free time, a detailed plan, and external resources for your start with EC. The book, the media support, and the community are invaluable equipment to provide you with knowledge and techniques. Find a coach, online support, and a local group to safely steer through the depths everyone is naturally facing on an EC journey.
  • Plan B in case of tough times:
    If you or your partner feel that it is time to take a break, or that you want to stop for good, set yourself a date when you will discuss it again. Keep in mind that your future self might be thankful for the EC experience during those very first months and years. Because there is one thing that working parents feel with every fiber of their body: time is running fast, a whole day, a whole week, is slipping through your fingers just like that. Time is precious. This is your time, your time with your child. Make the most of these shared moments. And as much as children need consistency, what they need even more is a parent that is a model for them. Seeing their parents try hard and over and over again for the right cause is an invaluable lesson for growing humans.
  • And: Avoid exhaustion under all circumstances!
    Nothing good will ever come from it. Get a night of sleep and then think again about whether this unexpected result is really a failure (e.g. the ‘masked’ progress of a potty pause!). Often enough a five minute break with a cup of tea can brighten things up and make you feel ready to try again.

Are you a working mum or are you considering taking up a profession (again)?

Have you already made a plan of how to integrate EC into your family schedule?

Please feel free to share your moments of success or struggle in the comments below - we’ve all been there.  Supporting each other will only make us stronger, and pave the path for those who want to follow.

Take good care of yourself and your families, and I’d love to hear from you!


A big, big thanks to Caroline for this wonderful guest post.

Resource Recommendation

Go Diaper Free: Andrea Olson's popular EC book that simplifies EC, beginning to end

Caroline Helbing, MPhil

About Caroline Helbing, MPhil

Caroline was a successful and overworked manager in IT until the birth of her first child. She pursues her career still today - yet with an adapted work-life plan that took a lot of thinking and struggling in the first years. Caroline is a GDF Certified Coach and an advocate of natural parenting, baby wearing, EC, baby-led weaning, and Waldorf education. She breastfed past infancy, used baby sign language, and co-sleeps still today – all this thanks to the fantastic support of a superhero partner! Caroline has a passion for marathon running, surfing, skiing, and dancing. She loves to travel and explore new things – crumbling every time over how difficult it is to start and greatly enjoying the sweetness once the first bitter steps are taken. She is also a writer of fiction and non-fiction and lives with her international family in Berlin.


  1. Avatar Tracy on February 6, 2016 at 12:17 am

    Great post Caroline and couldn’t agree more. EC is about the journey not the destination – by showing our babies how much we care about their needs when we’re with them builds such a strong and lasting bond and trust. This was probably the most surprising thing I found with EC – that the misses really didn’t matter, it was the effort. I am lucky enough to work from home but for parents who work away from home this is valuable inspiration that it can be done. Thank you.

  2. Avatar Christina on July 13, 2021 at 10:19 am

    I started attempting EC when a friend who is a stay at home mum encouraged that it can be done part time! I feel very proud to be able to incorporate this into our schedule as a full time mum and my hubby is on board. I think it is also more for us than baby as we get excited with our catches!
    How we see it is that 5 mins in the potty in the morning pays off when there are fewer accidents on the changing table. Plus, it gives us valuable time just sitting and looking at our child. We do first thing when baby wakes up and before he goes to bed ok weekdays and then the four easy catches on weekends.
    We’re travelling this weekend and hopefully we can keep the routine!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on July 14, 2021 at 3:57 am

      Awesome! I love that you have healthy boundaries and are enjoying EC and the time with your little one! 😍

  3. Avatar Sarah-jayne on July 17, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    This is such great encouragement! Thank you!

    With my first baby we did EC until she was 9m old and I had to return to work full time. I didn’t feel confident to continue part time (although we did continue to use the potty just before bath time until she was around 12m). I felt awful, and still feel a little guilt, for then just allowing her caregiver to put her in nappies. I than had to potty training her ‘traditionally’ at around 2 – when she was less receptive. I have a feeling that this was part of the reason that pottying was her first regression when her sister came along 6m ago. She’s now right back on track.

    I’ve actually taken the decision to stay at home for a year this time round (mainly because of this to be honest) and hope to have my 6 month old out of nappies by the time I return to work – no pressure. I just hope her day care /care giver will support us and I definitely plan to continue part time if needed with the knowledge that it can still be done successfully.

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on July 24, 2021 at 10:06 am

      Congrats on successfully training your little one, and for ECing your newest addition!

      It is always easy to judge ourselves in hind site, so be gentle on yourself in this regard.

      Yes, no pressure is the best practice to take… many parents do part time EC very successfully! 💕

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