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Adventures in Work
My Transition To Work
Published on August 26, 2012 by guest author: R.B. Austen

Three months ago, we had our baby girl Kenzie, or should I say she has us now.

We had decided at some point during the pregnancy that I would stay at home with her the first year. We felt lucky to be able to make this choice. But in the spring, right before Kenzie was born, I started a part-time job with an area nonprofit that I wanted to return to, in no small part because it is hard to accept a job offer without explaining that you’ll be out of commission in about 2 months time. It did also help that I like the job.

I work as a parent aide. A parent aide supervises visits between parents and children and provides families with needed supportive services. Each family’s circumstances and challenges are different, which means that I had quickly learned to have no preconceived notions of how a family visit might go.

My first day back, I joined another parent aide during a visit with a family that I would be taking over the following week.  I was there to observe the mother's interactions with her kids and give her suggestions to help her improve her parenting skills. But watching another mother parent her children felt different now. Before Kenzie, I used my years of experience working with kids as well as education, common sense and current parent research to inform my help. Now as I watched the mother diaper her baby, I knew that if I was at home doing this with Kenzie I would be making silly faces and making fun of how gross she was in one of those silly voices people are overcome with around babies. It was even more tangible to me how important that child-parent bond was, even during the most repetitive, dirtiest parenting tasks.

Another family I work with causes me to sweat bullets. During my visits, I hold a 4-month old up to a glass window so his mother can have a half hour of together time. She is in jail, and these visits are a reminder of how poor choices affect family members. I’ve said to my husband that Kenzie is now the most important person in our lives, and that the two of us and our cat rank a close second and third.

During my jail visits, I enable the mom play peek-a-boo by helping the baby jump up and down and repeating her words in his ear. She is able to keep his attention even with the distractions of other visitors on either side of our visit space - they both seem to eat up these short encounters. What's clear is that you can build a connection even without physical contact, but I still find myself recommending in my visit notes that both would benefit from a visit in a room together.

The first time I worked a “long,” which for most folks is a normal day of work, I found myself more tired than I would have been prior to Kenzie. I left home at 7:30 and returned around 5:00 that afternoon. I was tired from getting to know this family and my husband was tired from his day of one-on-one Kenzie antics.

As I sat on the couch holding her, still in her pajamas from that morning, getting ready to change yet another dirty diaper, I felt very lucky. I also understood why the mother I was working with pushed for cuddle time with the kids, even when I had to redirect her to other activities because the kids were clearly not in the mood for a nap. There is just something about holding a sleeping baby, inhaling that baby smell and touching their soft skin that is nurturing for the child and the parent.

R.B. Austen lives in New England and is enjoying her new job.

Previous Posts By This Author: Things I Have Learned Since Becoming a Parent

Life As a Parent Aide

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