Saturday, June 18, 2011

How I Survived a Master's Program...while being a Mom

Today marks the last step I needed to take in order to complete my degree at Cal. Lutheran University having taken the Comprehensive Exam and completed my program. While I had considered doing my thesis project on creating a network for Moms based on their own community to help them with their breastfeeding goal, I have decided to concentrate more on the aspect of working for programs already in place. That is why I am proud to be the Supervisor of the Peer Counseling Program at Northeast Valley Health Corporation WIC Program in Sylmar, CA—I am actively participating in the implementation of a federal program at the street-level. The ideas that I had to revisit in order to prepare for the six hour long strenuous exam reminded me of the highlights of this program and the important aspects to carry on as I move forward with my career in Public Administration.

But never did I imagine that those same key components would also serve as useful in my life as a parent. The ideas of Mary Parker Follett, which defines the concept of power-with and how the traditional model of power-over is not sustainable. Every parent should learn that this same concept can be applied to our own power struggles with our kids. Her idea is that power-over someone, similar to the dominant paradigm idea in parenting “just do as I say” cannot be maintained without constantly having to use more power every time. I see this all the time with my 4 year old son which is why I try to empower him as much as possible to figure it out on his own. Today after trying every other way to help him understand, I finally resorted to sitting down with him to draw out a feelings chart. With a simple smiley, crying, sad, and mad face, I was able to help him understand how hitting me and his sister makes us feel. He really seemed to get it. I don’t know how long that will last but at least it gives him a visual tool for figuring out feelings, whether his or someone else, and how important it is to be aware of the impact we have on others. I gave him a responsibility not to hit his sister or me and a tool to use to visually understand feelings. Sometimes it really helps to draw out versus simply talking about it. Today this worked. Tomorrow is a new day and as anticipated will come with its own set of opportunities.

In my world of parenting, I am not perfect, I don’t know what I’m talking about every time, but I strive to live in an inward learning environment and am apt to testing out theories as a way to connect when nothing else helps. Not always does change have to happen outwardly in others but usually inwards in the way we perceive a problem, solution, or state of being. It is that learning environment that makes all aspects of life more tolerable. The more rigid we are to that environment, the harder time we will have as we learn to adapt and be a part of the reality of our life versus what we think should be happening. Allowing ourselves to exist in that learning environment is the way we have survived, not only in the programs we implement, but also how our ancestors survived the conditions they were exposed to. There are certain aspects that we should learn from that past as we move forward as a society. Parenting is not easy but if we anticipate certain aspects of it, we will be more willing to adapt. Flexibility and adaptability seem to be a common thread of most ideas: at work, at home, with our kids. Those are the tools that I see across the board in life that not only prepare me as a public administrator but also with my job as a Mom and Wife.

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