Tag Archives: school

Working Mom vs. Stay at Home Mom

I have been a full-time working mom.  I have been a part-time working mom.  And I have been a stay-at-home mom.  The nomenclature is deceiving.  I think ‘staying at home’ was the most work I have ever done…and certainly the most challenging – particularly while homeschooling my boy.  But I digress.

As you are aware, Berrik started a new school in September.  It was really great right from the get-go, but I didn’t feel totally confident that the trend of happiness and low stress education would continue.  In October I applied for a few jobs, interviewed, and was given offers.  They were good jobs.  But once I was faced with the reality of going back to work the thought kept me up at night and made me feel anxious.  Clearly, I was not ready.  Or they weren’t the right jobs.  Or both.

So I stopped applying and started to think that maybe it was better if I stayed home.  Time is flying.  It’s nice to be home for the kids.  Our family time was easier because all the household ‘tasks’ were done while everyone was in school, so evenings and weekends were strictly family time (well, technically, strictly ‘drive all three kids all around the city like crazy people’ time).  But at least dinner was on the table, we could eat together, the fridge was full, the laundry clean etc.

In November I had a critical conversation with Berrik’s teachers.  It was the moment that I realized this trajectory of low stress education and happy children was not likely to change – that our new normal was all three of our children settled and happy in school and doing well.  Around this same time I saw a couple of jobs that interested me.  I applied for them both and ultimately was offered both of them.  Pretty incredible in this economy to be actually given a choice!  There was very little choice to be made, however, because one of the offers was one I knew without any doubt would be a job I would love.

Starting in January, I will be working as Manager for the Palliative Care Consult Service.  According to the job description, this means I will be responsible for the operational leadership and management of staff, teams and activities associated with the Palliative Care Consult Service across all sectors of care within the Calgary Zone.  Having worked in the palliative portfolio in the past, and having experienced the benefits of palliative care as a family member, I am beyond excited about being back in this area of the health care world.

These past two years have been life changing for me.  Leaving a job I really liked to be a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom was a major shift for me.  Realizing that being at home was exactly what I needed to be doing, and then even enjoying it (this surprised me) had me re-examining my goals – as a mom and in my career.  Experiencing both sides of the stay at home vs. working mom debate, the assumptions about what I do all day, the judgment about leaving work, going back to work, homeschooling, private school etc., was eye-opening.  There are definitely people in my life who were a bit judgey about it all.  The older I get the more I realize that those are the people that are maybe less secure about their own decisions, and I just step back from those relationships.  I have so many friends and family members who have supported every decision we have made, knowing that regardless of whether the decisions were the right ones, that I am trying my best to do the best for my family.

We are at such a good place right now.  Our kids are happy and healthy.  I am about to start a job that I know I will love, working with people I have so much respect for in an area of healthcare that I feel much passion for.  Kevin has a great job that he enjoys.  Our extended family is the best.  And I have a group of friends who lift me up when I need it, and give me a reality check when I need that too!  At a time of year when most of us are counting our blessings, I have too many to count.

img_1534SIDE NOTE: On the topic of life decisions and change, I got my nose pierced last week.  I have wanted to do it for 25 years.  Literally.  When I left my job a year and a half ago, I told myself that if life ever calmed down and if I ever got Berrik settled and on a good path, I would do it.  So.  I did it.  (Life isn’t super calm, but it’s sure less stressful!)  Bonus: My tween and teen think I’m super cool – or they did for a brief moment – which is perhaps the biggest win of all.

 

Kids will do well…

“Kids will do well, if they can.”  This is a quote from Dr. Ross Greene, an American psychologist.  He believes that “Kids will do well if they want to” is a philosophy that is held by many, but he says it is wrong.  Dead wrong.  Think about it.  He’s right.  It makes so much sense.   He talks about rewarding kids for desired behaviour, and punishing undesired behaviour and how that method is based on the assumption that kids don’t want to do well, so therefore we need to make them want to by motivating them with positive and negative reinforcements.  When you consider that kids do well if they can, you then realize you need only to figure out what is getting in their way and work to remove those ba.

Obviously it’s not simple.  But it IS sensible.  At least from my perspective.  And we are living it.  Berrik struggled in a system that seems to be set up with the philosophy that kids will do well if they want to.  He was absolutely rewarded for desired behaviour (the very few times he exhibited the desired behaviour) and was regularly punished for undesirable behaviour.  There was many a conversation between myself and his teachers about medication – because medication would help him fit the system, ultimately.  (EDIT: Please note that I am not anti-medication to treat symptoms of ADHD (or anything else for that matter).  In our situation at that time, I didn’t feel like it was the best solution for Berrik and I was concerned that it was viewed as the ‘only solution’.  We each are living our experiences and those who have used medication as one of the strategies to help their child do well are doing what we are all doing – trying to allow our children to do well.) There were just as many conversations about reward systems, and removing of privileges. And I say this with no negative feelings towards the teachers. With the exception of one, Berrik’s teachers truly seemed to want to help Berrik achieve success. But with many many kids per class and extremely limited resources, it seemed the only way was to make the kids fit the system rather than have the system fit the kids.

Enter private school designed for kids who do not fit the system.  A school designed to allow the system to fit the kids.  A school where every single person from the Board to the school admin believe that the system should fit the kid, and that kids will do well if they can.  In Berrik’s case, he needs a little extra support to keep him on task.  He was speech delayed as a toddler and this still impacts him as well.  His developmental coordination disorder makes things like writing more challenging.  So, he works with the speech language pathologist weekly.  He works with the OT twice per week.  And his teachers are making accommodations that make it easier for him to do well.  Not surprisingly he is doing exceptionally well.  Because kids will do well if they can.

 

I was at the school’s annual AGM listening to one of the OTs and the family counsellor present about a new program that is being piloted this year.  They referenced Dr. Greene’s quote.  And they talked about developmental age vs. chronological age.  It really resonated with me and if I needed one more reason to know that I have my boy in the correct school for him, this was it.  Think about it.  Chronological age is a pretty arbitrary thing to use to determine things like school grade, ability to drive, ability to drink or smoke marijuana, etc. etc.   Think about the kids you know and all the different phases and stages of development.  Even amoung my own three kids, their developmental ages vs. chronological ages have varied by quite a bit.  My kids’ friends vary dramatically as well.  Take any handful of 12 year olds (or 15 year olds, or 3 year olds) and compare their developmental age.  Some are incredibly mature in some areas of their lives, and some are developmentally younger. McKenna didn’t walk until 19 months.  She never crawled. Her physical development was on the edge of what would be considered ‘normal’ and she was way behind her peers.  Wasn’t much we could do about it, so we just let it be. She’s a strong runner and a competitive dancer now.  Development happens when it happens and while it should progress, the rate at which it progresses varies and shouldn’t be labelled or used as a predictor of future ability.  What is important to note as well, is that kids may be developmentally more mature in one area of development and not in others.  Dr. Greene talks about this as well. If we pay attention to developmental age and give kids what they can handle based where they are developmentally, they will do well.  It’s not unlike giving a first year resident surgeon an incredibly complex surgery on her first case.  The outcome likely won’t be all that good.  Why are we surprised when we ask kids to perform tasks beyond their developmental ability and it doesn’t go well?  It often results in behaviors that we see as negative.  But actually it’s quite normal and the kid is not the problem.

So the next time you see a kid (or your own kid) behaving in a way that isn’t meeting your expectations, think about your expectations. Are they developmentally appropriate?  Stop comparing your kids to their peers.  Its not helpful or useful.  Meet kids where they are at, and they will do well. Because kids will do well if they can.

Berrik is sick. This is the best day EVER!

This morning Berrik woke up with a headache and sore throat.  I made him breakfast and gave him a big glass of water to drink to see if it would help.  I really wanted him to go to school today.  Not because I want him out of the house, but because today is a big day at school.  His class has been studying Beakerhead this week and have been planning to build a big fort in class.  We went through the whole morning routine and just as we were about to get into the car, Berrik said he just couldn’t go as his head and throat were hurting too much.  He is not normally a complainer so I knew he must really not be feeling well.

I took Berrik downstairs and snuggled him onto the couch with a blanket and some Netflix.  And he cried.  Total devastation.  Big gulping sobs.  “Berrik, why are you crying so hard?  Do you feel really awful?” I asked.  “I just wanted to go to school so bad Mom,” he sobbed.  “I don’t want to miss it.”

I’m not heartless.  Or a crazy mean mom.  But while I cuddled my sad little boy, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy.  Berrik is sad about missing school!  He is engaged and wants to attend.  He’s excited about what he has been learning. This has literally never happened before.  Never.  Not one time has he ever said, I’m excited to go to school, or I’m sad to miss it.  Not even when there were cool fieldtrips planned, and not while I was homeschooling him.

So.  I hope he feels better very soon.  But as he feels unwell and rests, I am feeling excited and relieved and a multitude of other positive emotions.  We have had so many ups and downs in Berrik’s short school career, and I truly wondered if we’d ever find a school that would be a good fit for him.  Many hours of sleep have been lost.  Many grey hairs have sprouted (although I believe the girls can take credit for some of those too!).  Our hearts have broken numerous times.  But today, I can look back on the journey and sigh with relief because at least for today, I know it was worth it.

September is the new New Year

I often feel like September is more of a ‘new year’ than January, and this year I feel it more acutely than ever.  It’s the usual ‘new’ beginnings that come with the school year starting – it’s my oldest’s last first day of Junior High, my middle child’s first first day of Junior High, the beginning of dance season (that never really ended) and the beginning of choir season, karate, basketball, piano, which with the exception of piano, means the beginning of chauffeur season for me.   Its also back to seeing my dance mom friends a bit more regularly, and getting back to curling in one short month so I can see my curling friends weekly all winter – I saw them two times from end of curling season in March until now, so believe me when I say I am looking forward to curling season!

This year feels different than most because we are starting (yet another) new chapter with Berrik.  He is headed back to school.  Unexpectedly a spot opened up in a small private school, and luckily Berrik was chosen to fill that spot.  If you have a child with learning disabilities in a classroom of 27 kids (or maybe even if you have a neurotypical child in a classroom with 27 kids) you’ll appreciate my optimism and excitement when I tell you his class this year will have 10 children with one teacher and one teacher assistant.

We had the opportunity to meet with Berrik’s teachers and tour his classroom this past week.  Apparently this is something that all kids at the school have the opportunity to do. We had a scheduled time and it was just Berrik and I in the classroom.  We had the chance to really talk about Berrik and how he learns best.  Berrik got to hear about what a typical school day will look like, he got to sit in his desk, and check out some of the classroom ‘fun stuff’.   The school OT dropped by to meet Berrik and say hi.  She spent a bit of time chatting with him.  While I was talking with her, the school principal came by the classroom.  She was wearing a dress, but she sat right down on the floor anyways to look at the machine Berrik was building with K’nex.  I had met her previously, so she didn’t even speak to me.  She was clearly there for Berrik.  Any doubts or fears I may have had disappeared.

These people really seem to get it.  They get how important it is to have parents’ input.  They get how developing a strong relationship with the child is critical to the child’s success as a student.  They definitely seem to get how important all members of the learning team are to each student and family.  They get how overwhelming this can all be for families new to the school, and mitigate that through one on one attention and time to talk. This is the first time I have prepared to send my boy off to school and am doing so with excitement and basically no apprehension.

I always feel the need to defend teachers here.  I believe almost ALL teachers and school administrators ‘get it’ in terms of all the things I mentioned above.  The difference is that the public system doesn’t allow for this to happen on the scale  that it can happen in a small private school.

As a small aside, I recently watched this Ted Talk about Dyslexia & Privilege which really resonates with me, and I have often talked about how grateful I am that we are able to access resources for Berrik that many many others would not have the means to.  I have wondered many times how I could do something about this…  But that is another blog post entirely.

So today, on the official last day of summer for the kids, I sit here feeling grateful, excited, content, and hopeful.  I look forward to this year of more firsts, more adventures and more challenges too.    Given the natural disasters around the world in this moment, the craziness of the global political climate, and the stresses that many people in my life are facing every day right now, I choose to enjoy this moment and hope for a tomorrow filled with good news.