About that post grad school plan…
To be honest, an unwritten portion of it involved only three to four years of planning work, marriage, a family, and the opportunity to become a stay-at-home mom. Of course I would pick up work again after a few years, but I wouldn’t allow myself to think that far out. Ultimately, my family and I would learn how to live on one income — from day one, and for as long as possible — so that I could fully manage our household. (Yes, I said it. Now keep reading.)
By my mid to late 20s, I understood that any number of obstacles might hinder what had become my ideal plan; however, this didn’t change the fact that, more often than not, I struggled to surrender it in its entirety. My former grad school professor, boss, and now friend, recently reminded me of a conversation we had a few months ago — when I told her that I was not made for the working world and that I wanted to be a mom. Admittedly, I tried to minimize these sentiments, but she knew better.
The Start of a (Somewhat) New Plan
When my last job came to an end, I decided to focus on a list of non-career goals I wanted to prioritize during my job hunt. I won’t go into details about each goal, but most of them pointed in one direction: preparation for motherhood. To me, that meant nurturing more meaningful relationships with young mothers (around my age) and their children, regardless of how well I knew them. This also meant being more flexible with my time.
As a single woman with no children, it’s easy to spend most of my time with other single women with no children; and at some point, I decided that this would have to change — particularly when I noticed my friend groups getting younger and younger. By the time I started grad school, many of my college friends had already moved on to different stages of life, which included the start of their own families. Naturally, I spent less time with these friends and made new (single, and often younger) ones at school and at my church. Soon after, I felt like I was moving backwards; and then I felt stuck in an unsettled student state of mind.
Agreeing to serve as a childcare volunteer at my church (and losing my job a few months later) made me more accessible to married couples and their children. Imagine my delight as all the babysitting requests poured in and new friendships formed. For me, this was a healthy change of pace and a move in a more positive direction.
The New Plan in Action
At the moment, I am a regular childcare provider for 5-6 families, and I couldn’t be happier. When people ask me why I do what I do, I tell them that caring for children comes naturally to me. Most days, it doesn’t feel like work, and it gives me so much joy. Don’t get me wrong, some days are more difficult that others as kids can be some pretty unpredictable little monsters. In my view, however, this comes with the territory and provides opportunities for me to exercise patience and kindness in unexpected ways. Additionally, I get to see these kids change right before my eyes, and that fascinates me — especially when I notice the smallest behavioral changes in them over short periods of time.
It’s worth mentioning that I primarily work with 6-18 month old babies, and there’s never a dull moment with this bunch. I always tell the parents I work with to never apologize for their baby doing “baby things” — like crying, pulling on my jewelry, chewing on inedible objects, or making huge messes out of their meals. These things, and countless other baby behaviors, don’t bother me. I understand that these kids are still growing and learning how to navigate their little worlds. All I can do is love them and provide assistance to their parents who have to raise them. It’s certainly a privilege to be a part of that and to utilize my gifts as a nurturer and as a helper in that regard.
Where To Now?
I don’t know when or if I’ll ever be able to utilize these gifts and experiences in childcare to raise my own children, but for now, I’ll be grateful for the time I have with these families. Because of them, my joy becomes more full each week, and that certainly helps my mood as I continue to apply for jobs and prepare for interviews. More importantly, it allows me to see that regardless of where I am in my job hunt or in life in general, my joy is not tied to having everything figured out.