I am a new stay at home mom to my sweet baby girl, Luna and I have basically figured out I have been a 'surrogate mom' since the age of 12 to about 10 different children as their nanny, have babysat over 320 children, in addition to having worked in 5 daycares over the years. So that puts me at changing about 10,000 diapers, wiping 500 runny noses, rocked hundreds to sleep, cleaning up that many messes, scrapes, bruises, you name it! Oh, and I am also an Aunt to 4 wonderful children who are 12 and under.
In addition, with my degrees in child development and psychology (1996) and master's in child and family counseling (2001), and my license (LPC) of 2000 hours of direct contact clients as well as my Play Therapy specialization (Registered Play Therapist) and years of internships and counseling, I figured, heck, it was time to start putting ALL this kid experience in a blog, a good way to de-stress as a parent and still feel connected to my passion, play therapy.
So, for those that want to keep reading and have the long version of where I got where I am today as a counselor and a mom, here it is:
It all started as a young child when I just loved babies and begged my mom to babysit when I was in the 6th grade. My first babysitting job was for a 1st grader and I was only allowed to sit during the daytime. Her mom had to come and pick me up and then take me home! After that, I babysat all over my neighborhood until I left for college.
In college, I decided my first major/career was to be a photographer and I went to St. Edwards's University of Austin, TX to be a photojournalism major, but then decided it was just not for me so I became an 'undeclared' major and transferred to UT Austin. What the heck I was going to do? I had no idea and it was so overwhelming to decide on a career for the rest of your life!
My second year of college, I needed extra money and took the job I always knew how to do well, babysitting! I started my first nanny job from 3-7pm Monday-Friday for a 6 year old boy and his 9 year old sister. I would pick them up from school and take them to various after-school activities and make sure they did their homework, etc. It was hard work that's for sure!
The next semester I worked in my first daycare at UT Presby Child Development Center 5 days a week from 3-6:30pm. I was in the toddler room for 12-24 month olds and loved it! I would also substitute in the infant room at times and loved feeding the babies and rocking them to sleep. The only bad part was that I kept getting sick from all the other sick kids and was missing too much school, so I had to quit after a year :( But I kept in touch with the parents and would babysit their kids on the weekends.
I still had no idea what I was going to major in and I was approaching my Junior year, yikes! So my next idea was to major in Food Science since I loved baking but then quickly decided it was not for me with having to take 3 chemistry classes, no thank you!
So then I just could not decide and kept going over and over ideas. I knew I always loved kids, but what could I do with that passion?? After babysitting one little girl from the daycare I worked at, and having to set her house alarm all the time because her dad I had learned was an 'abuser', I started thinking about how many of the kids I had worked with in the past had family problems and issues while at preschool and how much help they needed in and out of the classroom. I remember sitting up late one night and finally deciding that what I wanted to do was help kids, not just teach them as a Teacher, but to really go beyond that and help them with their behavior problems, family problems, etc. I realized that they could be the smartest kid in the world, but if their parents are fighting at home, there is no way they can do well in school or excel, and these poor kids needed help!
So I decided to focus on Psychology and Child Development majors. I LOVED all of my child development classes and studied the whole NAYEC backgrounds. After graduating, I worked as a daycare temporary worker in several area daycares and then as a preschool teacher for a short time. I knew I wanted to set up shop soon and start helping these poor little innocent things. I found that I needed to go back to school for an advanced degree and wanted a PhD but was like, what another 5 more years?? No way! I found I could get a master's in 2 years and then do an internship after that, so off I went to Southwest Texas State in their Child and Family Counseling tract. They offered a play therapy specialization which I LOVED as it fit the same NAEYC philosophy that I studied as an undergrad at UT.
I was a full-time grad student but classes were luckily in the evenings so my day job was as a nanny to a 4 month old girl. But then her mom quit her job and I found another nanny job to a 3 month old. Well, her mom did the same thing so I started being a part time nanny to them as well as a few other young children so these moms could have 1 day to run all of their errands while I babysat. I was also the babysitting queen on the weekends as I was with a nanny agency that handed my name out as a babysitter as well! If you drove me around Austin, TX I would point out about every other house and tell you I once babysat there!!
I fell in love with the whole play therapy thing while in school and could not wait to graduate and start using it! And now you are probably wondering what the heck play therapy is, so here is my best description of it, in my terms:
- Adults communicate their day to day problems with words, whereas a child communicates through play. Their language is play and they use toys as their 'words' to express themselves. There is a special play room just for the kids to play and with preselected toys for them to express themselves as much as they want (as long as they don't hurt the toys, themselves or us). We don't analyze every thing they play with, it's more that we make comments that will foster self esteem, encourage and increase expression of feelings and basically to let the kids know we are there and they can be themselves safely, without any judgement!
You would expect an adult to discuss their problems such as saying things like, "oh I had a rough day, my boss drove me nuts, I was so tired from not getting enough sleep, and my wife is on my back when I get home, etc" Whereas a 5 year old child uses play to communicate. You won't catch a 5 year old calling his friends on the phone to discuss his day and saying things like "my teacher is annoying me, I am having a bad day, I just need to take a hot bath and relax, I don't know what I am going to do about Fred on the playground tomorrow!'' They just aren't capable of expressing themselves like this and feel better releasing steam by playing, where us adults feel better by calling up our best friend on the phone!! So, to expect a child to come into a counseling room and sit down in a chair to tell you his problems, not going to happen! That is why we have play therapy for kids aged around 9 and under. More on play therapy later, but you get the idea.
So, after 3 years of school, that was 70 hours of classes and 2 internships as a domestic violence counselor, I graduated!! I could not for the life of me find a job in Austin (too many people want to stay there so it makes it hard to find a job), so I interviewed in Dallas for several positions and found one at The Family Place as a child counselor.
I loved my new job as I worked with kids 1 years of age and up that were victims of emotional, verbal and physical abuse as well as witnessing abuse from their parents. I did this for over 2 years and the hardest part was working with the moms!! I quickly learned that the only way these poor kids were going to get any better was if I helped the moms help their children. I was only with these kids 1 hour a week, but the parents were with them full-time! I came to learn that as a counselor, my job to help kids would be to parent train for 75% and then 25% would be to actually do therapy with the child. That was when I learned to love Filial Therapy, training parents about how they can do play therapy at home! So I finally left this non-profit mostly to earn more money as a managed care LPC, and to start a private practice so I had the freedom to do what I wanted as a counselor. I finally completed my requirements and became a Registered Play Therapist and started a part-time private practice while I worked full time in managed care as an LPC.
Then after these experiences and getting my career on tract, and getting married a few years ago, I decided it was time to have a baby! Since I have ALWAYS loved kids, I knew there was no way I could have one and then turn it over to someone else to raise in a daycare. Now, don't get me wrong, nothing against moms that work- we all have to do what makes us happy and what makes us the best mothers! If you are a mom and are happier working then that is the best thing for you to do, seriously! We all want a happy mom or happy dad for our kids, so whatever that takes! I on the other hand had always wanted to be a mom, so I just knew that I would do whatever it took to stay home with my child. If that meant being poor and eating peanut butter sandwiches for dinner every night, then so be it. I have really enjoyed being at home with my precious child and could not imagine anything better!
So there you have it, yep it was long I know, but I had to put it all out there, so that way you know where I am coming from and all your questions are answered, well at least most! Soooo, in a nutshell, this blog is about my day to day occurrences with my daughter and how all of my past experiences have affected me now that I am a parent and a wife, to my lovely husband Todd. I hope you enjoy reading all of our adventures!!