Jumping Ship or Changing Course? On switching careers

The way that things usually happen for me is shakily, in a very slow waxing and waning cycle that takes place over many months and weeks. It starts with the tiniest of inklings, caused by reading something in a blog post or seeing something in a movie and quietly observing, “maybe that could be for me.”

There’s always those intense jolts in life that make you snap to reality, such as when I had one of my daycare kids run out the front door, leaving me waiting at the door with all the other children in my charge. That definitely was one of the single most stressful moments in my life. It was after that incident that I questioned what I was doing and where I was going, and if it was truly worth it. As a parent, I could understand the high demands when it comes to caring for your children. I completely sympathize with the desire to have the best quality of care possible but not being able to afford the cost. On the other hand, as the care provider, I could most definitely get the reason why child care has a huge turnover rate. The stakes are high, the pay is very low.

With my Rheumatoid arthritis, it seemed that I could not be as hands-on with the children as I needed to be. It hurt to pick up the little ones to change their diapers, I couldn’t run over to stop a fight or, as in the aforementioned scenario, keep a kid from running away. I’ve had multiple parents get upset with me for their kid getting hurt on my watch, and even with an able body, with many children sometimes there’s nothing you can do in the moment. Having worked at child care centers before, I witnessed how the director had to constantly be in the role of substitute teacher when the other subs were not able to come in. I saw how she stayed at the center from 6:30 AM to PM, even 6 days a week at times. I saw her having to deal with kids that had zero respect for authority, with parents that tried to pick their kids up drunk, with staff members that gossiped endlessly about their fellow teachers, their students and their students’ parents.

What took me so long to decide officially to change careers was the fact that I dedicated so much time and education into that career. I read so many books and blogs and watched videos, attended conferences and developed business plans. Everything I did was to one day open up my own child development center. How could I just throw it all away? A lot of personal finance bloggers will have you believe otherwise, but a huge part of saving money can come from simply making more of it. That is something that would be tough to do in the field of child development. There was a big part of me, and still there is today, that does want to open up a center one day, but I’d rather it be when I wasn’t strapped for cash, I’d rather it be when I can afford to pay someone else to be the director and buy all the amenities of a Waldorf school. It would be a wonderful retirement project that I would be so proud to finally accomplish.

When I told my sister I was considering changing careers to web development, she mentioned that she had a friend who owned her own web development business and that she was very happy and successful. I got the nerve up to ask if I could talk to her sometime. At first she was hard to get a hold of, but with some persistence I finally got to speak with her on the phone. She was completely nice, enthusiastic about her profession as CEO of an online marketing company, and patiently answered all my questions and spelled out any definitions of terms she used that I was unfamiliar with.

When she described how she could pick up and go practically anywhere whenever she wanted as long as she brought her laptop along I was sold. I was also pleasantly surprised when she made the suggestion that I could teach myself with all the free resources online these days. She invited me to let her know how I was doing as I progressed in my knowledge and that her company may even be able to give me some work in the future once my skills were up to par. Looking up BLS statistics online about the web development field was greatly reassuring as well, with excellent projected job growth and great pay as the standard of the field.

Changing Careers

About three weeks ago, I finally officially decided silently to myself that I was going to do it wholeheartedly, to dedicate myself to learning web development in order to be at the level where I could freelance or get an entry level junior developer job. Since then, I’ve been working around an hour a day on practicing basic skills such as html and css and trying my hand at building my own website. I’ve also been researching local web development groups in the Austin area and online so that I can connect with others in the same field. I still feel scared sometimes to have left my old career, but I feel like this one has greater potential to make me happy and allow me to follow my goals and values in life.

Though it may seem as scary as jumping ship, it becomes easier to re-frame it in your mind as just charting a new course. We can’t always predict what will really be satisfying or turn out to be exactly what we estimated, whether that is our career, our location, our companions or anything else really. It is a virtue to be faithful and diligent, but the way I see it, your career is not necessarily going to be faithful and diligent to you (though you may find a company with absolutely amazing employers that do hold these values, I haven’t personally come across this in this day and age).

Because of this it’s much better to change courses if you’ve carefully considered it, taking into account many factors such as location, job satisfaction, potential for upward mobility, financial reward, family circumstances, time commitment, education expense in both time and money. If you’re seriously considering a career change don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and family or even members of your local community to see if they might know someone you could talk to. Not only will you get valuable information about the real state of affairs in that position or career field, you will also gain a valuable contact that you can reach out to in the future once you’re job ready, or even if you just have a simple question. Ultimately if you’re feeling that you’re not as happy as you could be, it’s up to you to change your situation.

I changed course and I’m so happy that I did.

 

 

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Chalk Battles & Other Offenses

It was not very long ago when children wore little adult clothes and were expected to act like little adults (or rather act as if they didn’t exist) in an adult world. Cultural expectations obviously play a huge part in the way children are expected to behave. It’s easy to tell when you’re doing something that is a cultural outlier. You can feel eyes on you like you can feel a slow mounting chill in the wintertime, but when you dare to look up and glance around all eyes quickly avert. There is a lot of judgment out there. This little video says it best- without saying anything at all, surprisingly!

chalk

As harshly as parents are judged in this society, children are judged just the same. A well meaning aunt will ask about how far along she is on potty training. Grandparents will ask my daughter to sing the alphabet song on Skype. Strangers will comment on how well behaved she is, or ignore us completely when she isn’t. All of these little innocent and minor realities of toddler life forms the current of social pressure to which most all children begin to feel they must succumb.

As dark a picture as this may paint, I do see those small shimmers of real childhood emerge, moments when a child is acting more like the human mammal that they are than the prettily packaged set of rote skills and “cuteness” of a Huggies model. Today when the kiddos and I were outside on a hot afternoon, there was a bit of a spat over sitting in the wagon. It seemed there wasn’t enough foot room at the floor of the wagon for four toddler feet to occupy simultaneously. As you would expect, many an accusation and a high pitched whine was traded. After a while, my older toddler decided to put his feet up and so that they hung over the sides of the wagon. This idea delighted both children, and they carried on making up stories and entertaining half-conversations with one another. Somehow, as time went on a piece of chalk was acquired by all three toddlers. First they began chalking upon the wagon, but at one point my daughter shoved the chalk into the older toddler’s face.

“Owww!” was the natural response. I wanted to immediately intervene and proclaim a positive but limiting phrase from my discipline repertoire (chalk is for using on the sidewalk, not on faces), but something told me to wait. Happily, the waiting did pay off, as the offended toddler began to giggle and chalk my daughter right back. What ensued was about a half an hour of chalking on one another, lots of giggles and exclamations of surprise. The wildness in which they “assaulted” one another reminded me of lion cubs wresting and nipping at one another, getting ready to hunt down prey. It made me think of a time when I was in grade school, probably in 3rd grade, back when I was a complete and utter tomboy. My buddies and I all came up with this nonsensical game in which we stood in a circle and quickly stepped on one another’s feet before hopping back into place. Some kind of silly, quick footed version of wack-a-mole. My father used to come to school to help out once a week (THE BEST Dad!), and when he came I proudly demonstrated our idiotically enthralling made-up game. Immediately I was put in my place. “You’re gonna break your toes!” he protested.

Back to sitting on the bench or waiting in line for tether ball I guess….

Which brings me back to my train of thought. Sometimes we just have to give up on putting on the charade that we are all sophisticated humans, with intelligent tools made for very specific, quantifiable, understandable things and just be the impulsive, creative, social mammals that we are. ALL mammals play amongst themselves when they are young. This play often looks like fighting or aggression, but it is obvious that it is a frisky sport in which the fun is in the play, for no purpose other than the fun itself. The strait-laced, “use toys as they are intended, no talking in the halls, no running indoors” attitude toward children is stifling to them, and it is debilitatingly exhausting to enforce for us. If they cannot have the opportunity to truly play with one another the way nature intended when they are young, then when?

Wishing for Less

Sometimes all we need is a little less. There is a huge and profound connection between owning less, having less stress, spending less money and having less health problems. When we let go of the things in our life that don’t serve us by either being of practical use or pleasing to our senses, we actually begin to highlight the things in our life that really do serve us by making us more happy and productive.

The more we let go of, the more gratifying it is to live our lives amongst the treasured and trusted objects that we have carefully selected to be a part of our day to day routines. We begin to notice the way we feel more, we have space for quiet contemplation and tranquility in our day. When we own less it also forces us to think creatively. Instead of going to the store so we can buy all the latest technology, we can spend our time exploring the potential of the nifty things we already own- such as all the settings of our digital camera or rediscovering our collection of CDs from college (Radiohead, anyone?). When we own less there is less to worry about, manage and maintain. Even if it is as simple as a big assortment of totes with random bits and bobs taking up space in the attic, it still causes us mental clutter when we are reminded of these items and we expend mental energy trying to remember what is stored there and if those things are still useful to us, and even thinking about decisions of what to do with the items. When we surround ourselves with only the things that we truly love and care for, we feel less compelled to purchase new items on a whim or because everyone else has it. This saves us loads of money over time- money that we can use to pay off debt, invest, or donate to a great cause. When we become less stressed, we have the mental energy to pursue our interests instead of parking it on the couch for a night of TV watching. Even better- when we cut out TV all together, we automatically will find other exciting activities to pursue that don’t involve sitting in front of a screen. Naturally this will help to burn calories as we spend our time having fun and being active.

These are just some of the many ways that owning less opens up doors to exuberant happiness in our lives. There are no rules or time limits to how one should go about minimizing, and the journey to owning less will be as unique as the person taking it.

Creating a Harmonious Routine with Young Children

Are you always behind on everything on your to-do list, but you’re busy all the time? Ever wonder where your peace went? Did you leave your old hobbies and interests back in another year? Let me tell you something right now. Your child wants you to be happy, and they want to contribute to the care they receive. Believe it or not, they even want you to be cared for as well. They certainly don’t want to be a burden, and they actually don’t need to be entertained (though they will want to if that’s what they’re used to!)

The key is to plan ahead, and more specifically to design a sequence of events that occur throughout the day, every day to help the day unfold smoothly and peacefully for the whole family. It seems like a daunting task with huge stumbling blocks (and perhaps even some exasperated excuses) at first, but with forethought this simple step can create an atmosphere of tranquility and inspiration for both you and your children.

First, let me talk about the elephant in the room. The Big Letters T and V. Ours is certainly big enough and uncomfortably (for me at least) prominent in our living room to discuss. The problem with TV is that it is a drug. It just is. For more information about it, please read The Plug-In Drug. It affects the brain in the same way sugar or any other pleasurable substance does, and they more it is consumed the more strong the urge to keep consuming it becomes. The best thing of course would be getting rid of it all together. I’m such a big fan of that. But it’s so strong in our culture that I feel the unfortunate need to say, the second best thing would be to severely limit screen time (i.e. once a week for a very short time). Believe it or not, kids need time to be bored. Boredom is the precursor to creativity (by creativity I really mean child-lead imaginative play.) Just think about how every moment your child is a pacified zombie in front of a screen, is a moment your child could be spending fully engaged in REAL life with their mind, body and soul.

When you take care of the things in your life that need tending to, you’re actually showing your child what it means to be human. Everything you do is a functional model for them to follow as they grow. It’s so important that you do the things that are not only necessary, but the things that are good for you. The things that are good for the world. The things that make you happy and healthy.

At about the age of 2, children become not only able but eager to help you in your endeavors. It may take a bit of practice, but if you let them they can help you fold clothes (or maybe just throw the wet laundry into the drier). They can help you put dishes away (try wooden bowls!) and they can certainly pick up their toys (As long as they don’t have too many!). Involve your child in not only their own care routines, but the care routines of the house and yard. Let them put some of the groceries on the conveyor belt. Let them carry a few items into the house when you’re unloading the car.

sisi baking

The benefit to this is threefold. A child’s feelings of self-confidence is definitely boosted when they are helping to care for themselves, but it is boosted even more when they are helping to care for others. You are going through your day with your child, getting chores done alongside them as they need to be accomplished, instead of waiting for naptime or the end of the night. In this way you’re keeping your house peaceful and free of clutter and uncompleted tasks. You’re also allowing yourself to have the time during nap or night time to do the things you love to do, or simply to relax.

The learning and sensory experiences involved with chores are beautiful. The soil in the garden replaces play dough. Using a safe knife to cut pears replaces the toy knife. The bubbly water in the sink replaces the water table. The fine motor skills practiced to pull weeds, or the large motor skills needed to sweep up. Talking about colors while folding laundry, or letters while writing the shopping list. Another term for this is “Life as the Curriculum” and is also the Lifeways model of child care. Instead of creating a contrived life for your child full of classes and preconceived play scenarios, just allow them to be a part of your life. Give them time to play independently (in this way they will experiment and replay the real life scenarios to further assimilate the learning in their brain!)

It’s most certainly an old way of thinking and doing things, a life wrought of necessity. It’s certainly contradictory to everything we are told we need to provide our children (505 Summer Play Themes to Keep Your Toddler Busy… Pinterest, I’m looking at you…) But what a beautiful, peaceful way of life for you, your child and your family!

8 Survival Strategies For Frazzled Parents

Let’s be honest. Parenting young children can be a black hole of playdates, tantrums, grocery store trips, dishes, laundry piles, and tripping over toys every 5 steps on your way to the kitchen to make some coffee. It can be an all consuming, sometimes insurmountable hurdle each day just to make it to nap time without yelling or crying (and we’re just talking about you here, not your child!) Even without my day job caring for 5 other toddlers besides my own for 10 hours strait, parenting my one sweet little dumpling by herself was a challenge. Throw in other stressors like living away from family, a deployed or absent spouse, or an illness or disability, you have yourself a long row to hoe.

So, let’s just jump right into it. How do you do it? How do you do it with PEACE and LOVE? With a GENTLE SPIRIT? Here are some ground rules I have figured out are just necessary for my survival through trial and error. But by all means, do what works for YOU and YOURS.

  1. YES Space

What is a yes space? It’s a space in your home and yard to play in where there you don’t have to say “No” all the time. Check out this article here to read more about it. Yes, it is a pain in the ass to set up, but it will definitely make up for that in units of PEACE

  1. Cut the Clutter

Too many toys will definitely over complicate your life. Often when kids have too many toys they will lose interest or feel overwhelmed fast. Just pick a few high quality, open-ended toys and set them up in the yes space. Also do yourself a favor and lose all the noisy neon plastic junk. It’s all annoying, overstimulating and generally positive vibe-killing.

  1. Check Yo’self

Are you OK? If you need to pee, need some water or are starving, chances are you will not be a pleasant person to be around. Put on your own air mask before helping others. Wake up before your kids so you can take a shower and brush your teeth!

  1. Meet Basic Needs

It is your job to give your kid the opportunity to eat 3 square meals and maybe a snack or two each day. (Do your American butt a favor and read French Kids Eat Everything). Let them decide what they will and won’t eat. Give them a chance to nap (Clean diaper, quiet space, dim light, maybe diffuse some lavender oil). Same for bedtime (and for Goddess sakes, put them to bed before 8PM!) Give yourself a break for an hour regardless. Make sure they’re not running into traffic or playing with knives (unless you’re Ben Hewitt). Don’t worry about getting them enrolled in BabyGymMusicStorySignTime. Just let them play!

  1. Acknowledge

They fell down? “Ouch that really hurt!” They start wailing for daddy? “You really miss Daddy. I miss daddy too!” They get frustrated and throw a toy? “You seem very upset right now.” Whatever they throw at you, just accept and let them know they are heard. Don’t try to fix it (although offering a hug is often appreciated). Don’t get ruffled by any of their toddler antics. Know that it is probably normal behavior, and will pass. Trust that they need to express their big feelings (have you checked out Janet Lansbury yet?) she’s kind of the best thing ever.

  1. Get a Rhythm!

It’s not just what you do When You Get The Blues. It’s what you almost always do. Because living with young people is like living with a mental patient. They need to know what to expect and what is expected of them. Children crave order because their own feelings can often seem chaotic to them. You don’t necessarily need a schedule, but a flexible routine. Be consistent in meal and nap times, and even indoor/outdoor times. Set the expectations of their behavior and make sure it’s actually within their capability to do. One of my limits is no throwing food. Once food throwing happens, the meal is over every time. Hunger as a result of this is called Natural Consequences. Don’t get discouraged, it often takes MANY tries to get it right. But doing this will also let your children know what to expect of YOU as well!

  1. Forgive Your Child, Forgive YourSelf

Nothing makes my blood boil like witnessing my own child go and hit another kid, especially a younger kid. Your kid will always do things that will “push your buttons”, and the buttons they push are most likely things from your own childhood that you struggled with or were shamed for. And often when this happens, we the All-Knowing Responsible Gentle Parent Mama Guide will lash out. We may yell or say things in a way that is disrespectful to our child. After the cool down period, just talk about it with your child. Tell him or her at their level how you were feeling, and talk about what happened. Admit you made a mistake and let them know you’re sorry and you love them. Even though you might have caused some negative emotions in your child and failed a little, modeling this amending behavior does a whole heap of good for their little souls. Children always want to forgive you!

7. Let Them Help

Though it often takes longer, let your children help you do housework. I promise the task will be completed, but it will be fun and so beneficial to your little one. Whistle while you work, let it be a game, use the time to sing and bond, watch how your child is learning. You will be amazed at how each time you let them help make their bed, they get better and better at spreading the blanket. Doing “real work” activities with your child is the best way to keep a beautiful harmony going in your home. Save the more adult type activities (sex? web browsing? Plucking your eyebrows? Basking in the Great Quiet? stuff like that.) when they are asleep.

8. Breathe Deep

When all else fails, just breathe. I know it’s a song, but seriously it works. It gets oxygen to your brain, which helps you use your prefrontal cortex (the rational, mature part of your brain). It helps you to physically calm down but also allows your attention to refocus on the moment you’re in, helping you to live in the NOW which ultimately makes you happier. I could write a book about that! (A New Earth anyone?)

In All Honesty: Striving to be an Exceptional Mom

About five years ago I started a blog about natural childhood and child development. I wrote about 10 different posts, most of them talking about the best ways to use positive discipline, how to get kids to eat healthy and things like that. I deleted that blog several months ago because I realized that I’m very very far from the expert I had hoped to be. And, as you can see, now I’ve decided to give it another try.

The reason I’m writing this blog is because I know what it’s like to be a mom who is struggling to make her child’s experience of life nothing short of amazing. I work 60 hours a week running a daycare with 6 toddlers (including my own 2 year old daughter), my husband is often gone and will be deploying for 9 months this summer. Did I mention I live about 24 hours away from home and don’t have family nearby to help? I manage a household and am living (surviving?) with rheumatoid arthritis (I have to talk myself into getting up sometimes and by the time my daughter finally gets to sleep at around 7:30, I’m limping and ready to drop), but my life is way too busy and chaotic to do that. After my babe goes to dreamland, then it’s time to sweep the crumbs off the floor, sop up the juice puddles, put away all the abandoned toys, the dishes-laundry-trash-diaper pail, and get everything in order for the first kids to arrive at my home daycare at 6:30 tomorrow morning.

As if that weren’t enough, I’m making a concerted effort to feed my child (and myself!) only whole, nutritious organic foods, to cut out all screen time, and to raise her with the RIE parenting philosophy. On top of THAT, I’m trying to find self-fulfillment and emotional therapy through art, music, writing, yoga and general spiritual development. I’m trying to pay off credit card debt and get our family financially fit. I’m trying to be as kind to others, the planet and myself as I can be. I’m trying to overcome my subconscious programming which makes me wired for certain habits that I no longer find desirable.

I’ve been told things like “You have endless patience” and “I don’t know how you do it” and also “You are supermom.” The real truth is I’m struggling every day, every minute, heck sometimes every moment to be exceptional. As a woman, as a mother, as a care provider, as a wife, in all my million roles I’m trying my damnedest. And often I fail. What my clients, friends and relatives don’t see is the times when I just throw everything in my room so no one will see the mess. When I scarf down multiple pieces of cake (and to clarify, we’re talking store bought, chemical laden, white sugar filled cake here). when I snap at my daughter about her whining (crying is one of those trigger points for me caused from my own early childhood shaming that I’ll forever be working to get past.) When I look in the mirror and give myself a pep talk before heading back out into the fray (er.. playroom) because I’m really just trying to hold myself together and make it through the day.

In my efforts to be awesome, I read sooo many blogs and books and articles. Some of them are hippy anti-vaccinating natural earth mama goddess blogs. Some of them are from well versed, well spoken and righteously driven early childhood educators. Some of them are from moms in exotic locations who dress their children in expertly coordinated outfits and take magazine quality photos of them in their oversized hand made indoor teepees.lgp9

But the blogs that really have touched my heart are the ones that are based on the truth. The truth is that parenting is really hard. The truth is almost everyone is struggling. Just like me, they’ve made financial mistakes, they’re not eating the healthiest all the time, they probably work way too much, they probably don’t spend enough time on self care. They’re trying to juggle their kids, their jobs, their marriage, their family obligations, their friendships, their household. They have medical issues, mental issues, and lots of incomplete projects and unmet goals. Everybody fails, but not everyone is brave enough to talk about it publicly.

So, here I go. I’m ready to get out all that I have to say. I’m ready to let this medium help me, and I’m ready to let it help others who feel the same way and are called to read it. Even though I always wanted to be “One Of The Greats,” I think it would just be a lot more freeing and a lot more doable if I can just be me. Part of me does feel like I’m betraying my ego only a little. If I’m writing the truth, everyone will see beyond my posts about my quaint Waldorf inspired toy arrangements and my child friendly backyard garden. As my aunt says, “everyone has a blog these days.”

That might be true, but no one’s blog is the same. Mine will take a hell of a lot from a lot of other places, but from my vantage point, the heart from which I’m writing is my own. It’s raw and imperfect and messy. The words I type from my fingertips will flow right out of me, and in this way I will be able to release my reigned in emotions. I will be able to let go of my mistakes. I will be able to hold myself accountable to the reader, even if the only reader is me. I’m hoping dearly that I can manage to keep up with it, and that I will grow so profoundly and be able to look back on my early posts and marvel at how far I’ve come. But I don’t think perfect parenting is ever really within one’s grasp. I think it forever eludes, as you change, your child changes, and the world changes it slips beyond your reach. The beauty and honor is in the striving. That’s where I’ll be.