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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Becoming Self-Serving

“Selfish” is an insult used against those who don’t want to always do as they’re expected. Maybe they’re egotistical and just want power regardless of who it hurts, but it’s quite possible they are simply choosing to do what makes them happy. The term “self-serving” certainly can be used as a synonym for selfish, but I’d like to dig in and explore this idea, pull it inside out and look at what it could mean when taken as a positive direction in our lives.

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There are those that, for whatever reason, can get up in the morning and immediately get everything they need out of the way so they can start taking care of their family, go to work and take care of business, or head out with hands ready to serve those less fortunate. Some can do this day after day with little thought to themselves. Those kinds of people are amazingly gifted and talented. If you’re feeling a little bad because you’re not one of them, don’t worry because I’m not either. Not even close.

I seek out and recognize those types of people- those “idealists” who just keep on truckin’, fighting the good fight relentlessly every second of every day. They are whole-food eating vegans, they are zero-waste super divas, they are flawlessly minimal godfather figures, they are effortlessly optimistic child development specialist mothers. The list goes on and on. These people give me so much joy and inspiration, as well as motivation to be better, but another feeling creeps in- and I know automatically that this feeling is emanating from my mind and not their message. It is the feeling of “not enough”. I’m not happy, green, healthy or independent enough to be like them. These self defeating thoughts are like weighted stones that sink my heart down deep in my chest.

The analytical side of the human mind is amazing. It is what allows for these comparisons to happen and for us to continue to strive for better efficiency and effectiveness. The only problem with it is that it can cause the emotional response of despair when we can identify the objective, but know at the same time that it is a huge hill to climb, so big that it overwhelms us. This feeling can be constant when we have multiple objectives in our life and we’re also frantically trying to take care of every other person we love or cause that we champion.

At this time I’ve decided to put all of that on hold, and to challenge myself instead to be self-serving just a little bit every day this week. This definitely isn’t my first challenge like this. When Sierra was an infant I tried to instigate a “30 Days of Self-Care” program for myself, but halfway through I just ran out of steam. As a mother it can be hard to take care of ourself at all, even in the smallest ways, sometimes. It can be painful to take a long shower, and hope the little one doesn’t unplug the outlet cover again and electrocute herself. It can be hard to admit to the boss that it just isn’t the right fit any more. I know all too well the fear of disappointing others can magnify to the same level that they appreciate and depend on us. It can be hard to tell our spouse we need some time alone to reflect when they are sensitive and want to be near us. In all the striving to save the planet as well as it’s animals and humans and babies in every way that is humanly possible, it’s so easy to neglect ourself.

As hard as all of it is sometimes, when we become unhappy we have to put it all on the shelf for just a moment, give ourselves a break and a breath- and remember that we, too, are deserving of our own love and attention, the same as every one and thing else that we continually provide it to.  There are many hurdles to get over in doing this, though, as everyone will expect us to continue to run at full speed ahead as we always have. Breaking the cycle, stopping the current that pulls us through life to nurture ourselves is the first step. Secondly, it’s about letting go of all those greater societal expectations and subconscious thought patterns that become engrained in our minds from our culture. Mindfulness and meditation are a great start to this. What comes to mind for me is I kind of flip out when the house gets messy, as it always does with toddlers afoot. I know this feeling of panic comes from my upbringing- when I watched my mom stress out about the house looking picture perfectly clean before any person other than immediate family entered the door. The truth is I feel very tense in perfectly clean homes because it reminds me of those hectic, tense memories. When I come into a home that has some junk lying around and some dishes in the sink I feel like I can breathe and relax, “They aren’t perfect either! What a relief!” This is just one example of a way to “break the cycle” of influence from the outside world. Thirdly, it is being as diligent with taking care of ourselves as we’ve been with any other task we handle each day. This seems simple but it was the big misstep I took on my last self-care journey).

It doesn’t mean we are selfish. It doesn’t mean we don’t care or that we are cold, or broken. It doesn’t mean we’ll never come back in the ring and start fighting hard again. It just means that we have recognized that our candle is starting to dim, and we need a moment to create a new one so that we may continue to burn our lights bright for the benefit of everyone around us. No one but ourselves can know how we feel and give us what we need. We are our own superheroes. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

New YouTube Channel for Interactive Songs

Since my husband has been deployed, it’s been really tough to do it all on my own. I have so much respect for single moms that do it 24/7, as well as moms who have husbands that leave continuously over their entire career.

To be honest, with the Rheumatoid Arthritis I’m not handling it very well physically or emotionally. Some days it seems like I might not make it through all of the things that need to get done. So today I decided that SiSi and I should have a project of our own that we could look forward to- a special activity we could do together that doesn’t cost any money and isn’t too hard to do for me with my physical condition. Something both of us love is singing together. I’ve always loved singing but thought I had a terrible voice. The moment I found out I was pregnant, however, I started singing to SiSi when she was but the size of an avocado pit and haven’t stopped since.

Lately, she’s not only been singing with me, but singing little verses of songs on her own, too. So I asked her today if she would like to record a video of us singing together. The recording process was a little rocky, as I had to figure out what I was doing, but I’m actually pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to make. When I asked her what she wanted to sing, she immediately started signing Wheels on the Bus, so that was that. I just recorded us singing as many verses of it as we could think of then edited it down to the best ones using iMovie. She’s napping right now but I can’t wait to show her the finished product when she wakes up.

I hope this will become a fun ritual for us, and maybe even a a fun ritual for our friends and followers of this blog to sing with their little ones. Click here to check it out and let me know what you think!

Edit: As an 8 months follow up, SiSi stopped wanting to make a video every week, but there are almost a dozen archived on the channel for you and your little ones to enjoy!

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!

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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?

Why Waldorf Works, but Uncschooling Wins

If you look Waldorf up on Pinterest, you will see some Leighton Miester photos from the set of Gossip Girl, but you’ll see bright, maple full sun drenched photos of happy, peaceful playrooms and children playing with wooden toys and many a brightly colored rainbow of play silks can be spotted. These photos will bring about images of organic apple picking and the sounds of acoustic guitars and the giggles of small children.

 

The Waldorf world is much like the Hobbit world of Tolkien, because in Waldorf, early childhood is all about fantasy. There is a strong belief that children are more in tune with the magic realm because their souls are just recently cast onto the planet in their earthly bodies. This is also the reason why free play is at the foundation of a Waldorf early childhood, while academics are saved for when children are older. I can’t begin to list all the facets of Waldorf that are wonderful. So many Waldorf principles could save the future of humanity if all children were given the chance to experience them.

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When the term “real work” comes up in Waldorf, they’re not talking about a salaried job with benefits. They’re talking about old world, back to basics necessities like weaving, carving, cooking, gardening. It seems crazy to me that our society has become so far removed from these basic tasks that make it possible to live. Bringing it back to the origins is such a simple, but vastly important factor in a Waldorf education.

Staying with the same teacher throughout the grade school years is also a great idea. This person becomes a real stand by in your child’s life, not just a passing figure there to fill the bucket with the prescribed body of knowledge and move on to the next group of empty buckets. They build trust, form a bond, and begin to understand one another. Consistency allows a young child to feel secure so that they can mentally and emotionally move on to higher learning. There is also the ever presence of natural materials in a Waldorf school. Natural materials, such as wood, silk, wool and beeswax are so prevalent because Steiner believed that things from nature emitted a higher, more complex vibrational frequency- as if they carried the soul of the living thing from which they came.IMG_0318

There is also the added environmentally friendly factor of having things that last, and also things that are not going to sit there for eons in perfect neon splendor in a landfill. Also, if you have any kind of aesthetic sense, these items are extremely beautiful. No grades, other than a lovingly written report at the end of the year, is a breath of fresh air. Children are seen as whole, individual, unique people, and therefore are not to be measured with the same yardstick.

The spiritual aspect, though one of the things about Waldorf that I absolutely adore, is also what makes me cringe a little. Though Waldorf claims to love and celebrate all religions, Anthroposophy (Steiner’s founded system of religious belief) does play a part in a Waldorf education. I know this first hand, as I once took a job as an after school teacher at a Waldorf school where I was given some books about Waldorf education to prepare me for the position. One of the books spoke extensively about Lucifer the light bearer as a positive figure, among many other Christian constructs.

Many of the holidays celebrated are also Christian in nature. I don’t have anything against Christians per se, but my experience with the religion is not an amazing one. Christianity, however pure people may believe it to be, was responsible for horrendous atrocities throughout time (mind bogglingly, a local Christian university’s sports teams are the Crusaders). There is also a strong belief in angels, and that every child has a guardian angel that watches over them. While this is also not a big deal, my father in law told me a story about his experience with Waldorf school when his son was in Kindergarten. He came to pick him up from school one day, and couldn’t find him. When he asked his teacher where he was, she said nonchalantly that he was on the roof laying shingles. This is where the guardian angel idea can go too far, as there have been many accounts of children left unsupervised, or rather, left supervised by their guardian angels.

Despite all this, I’d still jump at the chance to send my daughter to a Waldorf school, if only it weren’t so expensive and elusive. If you’re lucky enough to have a Waldorf school near you, you still may not be able to send your child there due to the price tag. If you have a job as a professor or a high level administrator, the tuition won’t be a problem, but if you’re a working class family such as we are (try living on lower enlisted military pay for a while and get back to me), the expense would cause a huge strain on the family. There are always Waldorf charter schools, which are free due to their ties with the school system, but they often have waitlists that are more than a mile long.

The next logical conclusion is Waldorf homeschooling, but even with that, why not just graduate to the even more child-centered, child-lead idea of unschooling? While Waldorf has lots of guidelines (no plastic, no commercial toys or clothes, no technology in the early grades, specific sequence of curriculum), with unschooling you can follow your child’s lead and let them blossom using the types of materials and mediums they see fit (Legos, anyone?). That is why, for now, I will take all the wonderful ideas found in Waldorf education and leave behind all of the stuff that doesn’t work for my family.

Parenting Without Fear

I’m a child care provider, but I’m not just a child care provider, I’m a play based child care provider. Which makes me even more fired up about this (as you can tell from the title) than the average progressive-parenting talking head. A big part of that exasperation comes from the fact that if the worries and fears  that parents express to me were a bonus to my paycheck I’d be wealthier than Warren Buffet. Here are a few recent gems:

“If they don’t use flashcards, how will they know their animal sounds?”

“She gets her numbers, but I can’t seem to get her to start at number one.”

“He has no interest in puzzles, and I’m afraid he won’t know how to do puzzles unless I encourage him and show him how.”

These are all well-meaning parents who want their children to succeed. They want to make sure they’re doing all they can for them so that they can develop at the best rate possible. The problem is… the more parents try to control their child’s development, the less able the child is to develop naturally as they were meant to do. The more parents prod and poke toward “mastering a skill”, the more insecure and dependent the child becomes. This goes for all children- newborns to college students.

I know this concept is completely foreign and might seem borderline neglectful to some. Painting outside today, one of my most proactive daycare parents asked me if I’ve worked with my daughter on her colors. When I asked what she meant she said, “you know, like sat down and taught her what they were.”

I don’t want to blame this amazing mom for this naïve idea. Most all of us were indoctrinated with this classroom concept of the heroic teacher summoning the students to their seats so that they could distribute necessary information, as a nurse gives the proper dosage of medication to his patients. Breaking free from this paradigm was the beginning of me finding my calling in life.

So, the truth is I’ve never sat down and “taught” Sierra anything. I’ve never tried to explain anything to her unless she specifically asks me about it.

How did she learn Red, Pink, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple?

 

I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. Yes, maybe it’s because we sing songs, we read books, I ask her what color shirt she wants to wear that day. We might see a butterfly and I might exclaim, “What a beautiful orange butterfly!” But maybe it’s not. And that’s ok.

Sometimes she will say an orange object is red. That doesn’t bother me. I don’t keep a checklist of all the things she says and does perfectly. There is no such thing as a perfect body of knowledge. She is not a computer that I download software to. She’s a whole being, a universe unto herself. She has her own will and her own soul. The knowledge she gets, she acquires through her own senses, with her own methods, from real life experiences. These rich, real-world experiences are so much more meaning-FULL than flimsy pieces of cardstock with cartoon images and bold print. The truth: If you want your child to “be smart,” you are being simple.

What I want, and what I wish, is for children to be themselves. Let them fall behind. Let them jump ahead. Let them experience you caring for them, caring about them. All a child needs to grow healthy, strong and happy is plenty of fresh air, as much freedom as is practical and safe, good nutritious food, and stable, loving caregivers who are there to take care of them in the ways they cannot themselves.

Framed by my bedside is a photograph of a mother lovingly embracing her child. Written over it is the following quote:

“I honor the dignity and integrity of my child with my attention, warmth and regard.”

Lisa A. McCrohan

Remember that at the most basic level- all you need to do to do an AWESOME job as a mom or dad is take care of their basic needs, and acknowledge their feelings. You will make mistakes, and so will they. Learn to let them go. Just feel the weight of expectation lifting off your shoulders, and know that you are lifting it off their shoulders as well.

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.