Before I was a mother to preemie twins, and a children’s book author, I was a career counselor. During my 8+ years in the profession, I worked with hundreds of young adults struggling to select majors, choose careers, and plan their futures. Many of these students were experiencing significant distress over these decisions. Of course, this was understandable, because there is a perception that you must choose the perfect career. But career research tells us that this perception is false, and most people have several completely different careers throughout their professional life. One thing that always struck me was that after a few meetings, students began to relax. Once they were introduced to the career development process, the stress decreased and they were able to create a plan to find a career that was a good fit for them at this point in their life. If only they had been introduced to the career development process earlier. Perhaps they could have avoided a great deal of stress and unrealistic expectations.
The career development process is the same whether you are 5 or 50 years old. And it is never too early to discuss with children why and how people do the work that they do. In fact, around 3-4 years of age, is the ideal time to introduce the basic tenets of career exploration. This is the age where pretend play is developing, and many parents begin to notice an interest in careers and the future. Here are a few things that parents can do to foster a healthy sense of career development in young children.
Learn About the Career Development Process
The career development process begins with self-awareness. One must know their own values, interests, personality, and skills. Without this information, a career decision is incomplete. Often times people are making career decisions based on one or two of these factors (typically interests and skills). Parents can assist their children by helping them build self-awareness in all 4 areas.
When children are young, exploration is key. Career decision is many years away, so the focus at this age is exposure to as much as possible. One simple way to do this, is by reading books about different careers. Encourage children to explore what they like, what they are good at, and even what they aren’t so good at. Interest and skills can take years to develop, so why not start now. Early exploration builds skills, career awareness, and a variety of interests. All of which will be beneficial down the road.
Share Your Own Career Experiences
A very easy way parents can help their children in the career development process is to share their own experiences. Make sure you are sharing what your work day was like, and what you enjoy about your job.
Children go through many phases before a career idea ultimately sticks. Regardless of what your child is currently “in” to, it’s best to always talk about it in a positive way. I can’t tell you the number of college students that I have counseled that have found their passion, but it’s not accepted by their families. I advise parents to always come from a place of support. There are plenty of people and factors that will tell your child that they can’t do something. What they need from you is unconditional support.
Career development is a life-long process. Its never too early to start helping young children understand the steps. If you want more information, I have many more resources to assist parents, including an Introduction to Career Development eCourse. Check out www.metwobooks.com for more.
This post was originally published by HandtoHold.org in Aug. 2018.
I am all for breastfeeding. I am amazed by the life-saving power of breast milk, that I have witnessed first hand. I know that breast milk is both nutrition and medicine especially for the tiniest of babies. I understand why it is referred to as liquid gold. And yet somehow this description falls short when you are agonizing over every single ounce. So you would probably assume that I breastfed my twins…well not exactly.
I fell into a gray area when it came to breastfeeding, I was an exclusive pumper. Perhaps it was my own insecurity, but I never felt like I should say I breastfed without a long clarifying statement. My twins were born at 28 weeks. Much too small and fragile to eat by mouth, let alone to latch and suck. So like many preemie mommas, I started pumping. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to produce any milk after such a traumatic and early birth, but I had to try. The NICU staff that were caring for my twins stressed the importance of every drop. They said my preemies needed more calories and nutrients to help them grow quickly. Breast milk was one of the best ways to help reduce the risk of NEC, build immunity, and prevent infection.
After a day or two, it finally started to work. It went from, “I think there might be something in the bottle,” to a full ounce, then two. Those sweet nurses cheered over any amount of milk I was able to express, which was promptly walked down the hall to the NICU.
Soon the day came when I was ready to leave the hospital, but my babies were not. It is a heart-wrenching experience to leave the hospital no longer pregnant, but without a baby. I had to rely on the nurses to tell me how my babies were doing, to show me how to care for them, and to give me permission to hold them. But the one thing that only I could provide was breast milk. I felt like I couldn’t do much for my babies while they were in the NICU, but I could pump. So that’s what I did.
Each morning I drove to the NICU with a cooler packed full of milk. It certainly wasn’t easy. I was setting alarms and waking up multiple times a night to pump for 30 minutes and fill those tiny hospital-supplied bottles with milk. I bought another freezer to store all the bottles until they were needed at the hospital. I thought I would continue to pump until they were released from the hospital. And two months later when they were, I didn’t quit. When one of my twins was diagnosed with an intolerance to dairy, I was advised to cut all the common food allergens from my diet if I was going to continue to feed them breast milk. I drastically changed my diet and eliminated dairy, tree nuts, soy, and shellfish.
For 15 months, pumping for my twins was a huge part of my life. I pumped inside, I pumped outside. I pumped in the car, while washing bottles, and while feeding babies. I pumped with clogged milk ducts. I even was able to pump while sleeping. Pumping was important to me; it made me feel like a mother. When I had very little to give my preemies in the NICU, pumping for them gave me a sense of purpose. When I had very little control over their care and their health, I felt empowered by my ability to provide something they needed. When I felt like my body had failed in growing my babies to term, I felt it redeemed itself by producing a perfect food for them. So even though it was hard and time-consuming, I never gave up.
Did I breastfeed my twins? Well not in its purest form. What ended up being true for us was not the picture of a mother with her child at her breast. It was a compromise. The process was vastly different, but the end results essentially the same. So this month as we celebrate breastfeeding and raise awareness of its benefits, remember the exclusive pumpers. We want to be seen. We want to join in on the stories and perspectives of nourishing our children. And we want to share our stories, just as soon as we find an outlet to plug in our breast pumps!
How a Mama chooses to feed her baby is often a polarizing topic. But this is a judgment-free zone. And because August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I would like to share my experience with exclusive pumping. I hope it makes you giggle and you can appreciate another perspective on breastfeeding.