That One Piece of Paper: Step Zero

I’ll have to admit that before I wrote up the SMARTER goals for this, I had already done most of Step 0 and some of Step 1. I find that I often start projects with the best of intentions, but without putting a SMARTER list together and holding myself accountable, I rarely follow through. But blogging about this is definitely helping me to make sure I will finish all these steps.

I think that putting these exercises onto my blog from What Color is Your Parachute? is permissible because of the concept of “Each One, Teach One” that the book ends on — it says that because not everyone has these skills, it’s important that we who know about them pass them on. If I get a cease and desist letter, I’ll take down the exercises but I think my answers are mine to share.

The first activity is “Who Are You?”

1. Take ten sheets of blank paper. Write, at the top of each one, just these three words: Who Am I?
2. Then write, on each sheet in turn, just one answer to that question. And only one.
3. When you’re done, go back over all ten sheets and expand now upon what you have written on each sheet. Looking at each answer, write it below, why you said that, and what turns you on about that answer.
4. When finished with all ten sheets, go back over them and arrange them in order of priority. That is, which identity is the most important to you? That page goes on top. Then, which is next? That goes immediately underneath the top one. Continue arranging the rest of the sheets in order, until what you think is your least important identity is at the bottom of the pile.
5. Finally, go back over the ten sheets, in order, and look particularly at your answer on each sheet to What turns me on about this? See if there are any common denominators, or themes, among the ten answer you gave. If so, jot them down on a separate piece of paper. Viola! You have begun to put your finger on some things that your dream job or career, vocation, mission, or whatever, needs to give you if you are to feel truly excited, fulfilled, useful, effective, and operating at the height of your powers.

I modified slightly. I used old, out-of-date business cards that I had laying around my internship. This kept the project much more tactile for me, and helped me think I wasn’t wasting paper. But that was about the extent of the modifying.

Who am I? Here’s my top ten list & what turns me on about them:

1. A woman. I am a person! My body is amazing. The cycles, the way I can be active, the ability to gestate and breastfeed and give birth. My nurturing side, my vulnerable side; my dark, my light; my “feminine genius.”

2. An intimate partner. The safety, the companionship. Working as a team. Backing each other up. Friendship. Enjoying the same things. Having someone accept me for who I am.

3. A mother. A chance to teach her. To learn how to be positive and encouraging. To re-do things for the first time. Seeing beauty and wonder in her eyes. Knowing I am important to her.

4. A writer. A chance to create meaning. To create connection. To know about humanity more deeply. It is part of my connection talent.

5. A fangirl/critic (I couldn’t come up with a good one word for this.) I find joy in the creation of others, and also think about what meaning that creation puts forward. The dialogue of culture, the way it is an area of both protest and oppression.

6. A student. Formal studenthood has a goal, a deadline, an arbiter of right and wrong. But more broadly, this is an acknowledgement that there is much to learn from other human beings, my daughter, my partner. I like to reflect and assess and improve. I like to fail and try again.

7. A researcher. There is knowledge out there that needs to be found, understood and interpreted. Finding out the unknown. The joy of discovery, of putting together the puzzle pieces.

8. A Christian. The social justice. The movement towards a kingdom on earth, thy will as in Heaven.

9. An activist seeking justice. Because making the world a better place, through influence and policy and enforcement/administration is the key to meaningful work for me. Because we NEED change.

10. A healer. Tikkam Olam — I am doing the work of repairing the world.

The common denominators seem to be this:

  • the creation of meaning (writer, fangirl/critic, researcher, healer)
  • the want of or forging of connections with others (partner, mother, writing, fangirl/critic, Christian, healer)
  • wanting to be present and mindful and joyful where I am (woman, partner, mother)
  • wanting to make the world a better place (writer, fangirl/critic, researcher, christian, activist, healer)
  • being willing to fail and try again (mother, writer, student activist, healer)
  • creation and collection of knowledge (writer, student, researcher)
  • want of structure (student, Christian)

This is the page that’s going in my “permanent” file that will become my One Piece of Paper:

This doesn’t help me figure out how to network or search for the right job for me. It only has broad principles. Time to keep going!

What does your top ten list look like?

( PS: I’m rewarding myself with a new dress for my internship. It’s going to be this wrap dress in purple!)


That One Piece of Paper: The Goal


So, you might be aware that I am about half way through my Masters in Public Policy. At the end of these two years of school, I’d like to get a job. To get a job, I will have to prepare. I know from finding my internship this past winter that it will take work to know myself well enough to sell myself well enough to land a job that will fit with me, and allow me to do the work that I want to do in the world.

Early this summer, I pulled a severe brown-nose move and contacted the Career Development Office at the Gerald R. Ford School of the University of Michigan and asked them what might be good reading to prepare for the job hunt ahead. I told them I was tempted by What Color is Your Parachute? 2012 by Richard N. Bolles, and they confirmed that it’s been a best seller since 1972 for a reason.

Most of the book read as common sense, but it did clarify some things. People in the Career office kept talking about “informational interviews” and I had no idea why someone would to want to talk to someone cold turkey about their job. Apparently, it’s something that smart job hunters do to track down the job that is perfect for them.

Chapter 13 of the book is all about the self-inventory that will help you find your dream job. There are several steps.

Step 0: Who are you?
Step 1: Favorite Special Knowledges
Step 2: Preferred People-Environments
Step 3: Preferred Working Conditions
Step 4: Desired Responsibility (and Salary)
Step 5: Preferred Geographical factors
Step 6: With these Goals and Purposes (and Values) in mind
Step 7: Your favorite transferable skills, in order of their priority for you

Richard N. Bolles calls this exercise That One Piece of Paper — because you take all this information and put it in one place, in an organized way, that allows you to see a bigger picture. I’m looking forward to what it says.

Looking at SMARTER goal setting:

Specific Goal: I want my “That One Piece of Paper”

Measurable:  This is an easy goal to make measurable — the steps are already defined for me, with each exercise its own defined mini goal!

Anticipate Success: What are the benefits of achieving this goal? The benefit of having my One Piece of Paper is, potentially, “hope, direction, and a lens to satisfaction,” to quote a text box in the book. The benefit will be in knowing what I’m looking for in a job, instead of reading every job description that I come across and going, “Eh, I COULD do this, but do I want to do this?” It will give me something to network around, because I’ll able to tell my network what kind of work I’m looking for. It will give me something to bring into interviews and ask questions of my interviewers, so that I’ll get to learn more about their company and if it’s a good fit for ME, as they find out if I’m a good fit for their company. Knowing, systematically, what I’m looking for in a job is really important to the process, and this seems like a great starting point for that.

Record your ideas and challenges: I’m going to do these exercises with as much room as possible. The Kindle Edition of the book provides links to download PDFs, but so far those PDFs seem to be small and cramped and hard to write in. I think I’m going to do all of this on printer paper, so it’s easy to lay everything out (I could do it in my moleskine, but then I wouldn’t have the flexibility of seeing everything at once). It’s going to be difficult to find the time — my work day stretches from 8 am until 6:15pm, and  I have a half hour break for lunch. But, I do also take about a half hour break to pump, and that time is my own. I can use that. When I get home, I usually end up putting the baby to sleep and not getting much time to myself before I sleep — but I’ll make this a priority. It’s important that it gets done to reduce stress later.

Track your progress: The official start date for the goal (though parts of the project are started and scattered) is today, July 19, 2012. I’d like to get this done before school starts on September 4, 2012. That’s about 6 weeks, and 47 days. Forty-seven days divided by 8 tasks is almost 6 days per task. So, about once a week I will need to have completed the next step. So, the next due date is July 25 — I’ll need to be done with step 0. Which should be easy because step 0 is almost complete.

Explain your goal to others: I realized recently that my blog is the perfect thing to keep my accountable. Sarah at Feeding the Soil talks about her goals with her community on her blog, and I am always so inspired by it. I’m looking forward to doing the same with you, my Empathizers. I will blog about my progress on this project. I want you guys to see me do this soul-searching work. (You are not alone in not knowing what you want out of life!)

Reward yourself along the way: I’m not sure what my big reward at the end of the project will be, but I think that my little rewards for completing each step will be buying a piece of clothing for my wardrobe. I usually deny myself that, and this will give me permission. Perhaps I’ll finally buy server space to host Practicing Empathy as a stand alone website?

The too long; don’t read version of the above is this: I’m going to do the self-reflection activities in What Color is Your Parachute to prepare for my job search this year. I want to be done by Labor Day, and I’m going to be blogging about my progress. I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with you, and all the rewards along the way (including telling you about how this helps me in my job search later).

How have you figured out what you want to do with your life?


What is respect?

I have a vague memory of being a tween and having an authority figure snap at me, “Don’t disrespect me!”

I remember that I wasn’t sure what they meant. I didn’t see anything wrong with my respect for them, but they obviously did. I tried to ask what I was doing that was disrespectful, and they couldn’t articulate it to me. I just resolved to avoid this adult authority figure who didn’t have clear expectations for my behavior.

It wasn’t until I embarked on a style project that I found a definition of respect that made sense. The lesson was about attitude, self-esteem, and self-respect.

Respect comes from being personally and socially responsible. You build respect for yourself by behaving well. Behave well at work, with your spouse and children, with strangers and when no one us looking and people will respect you, and you will respect yourself. Part of behaving well is listening to others, and being polite.

Though this was a style project, about helping me dress better to be professional at my internship, it became an important marriage lesson. I began to realize that when I got angry at my partner, I did not behave well. I behaved badly. I tended to have a temper tantrum.

This was an embarrassing realization. I was not doing my part to bring respect to my marriage in the face of conflict. In fact, I usually place all the blame on him and whine about how I was wronged while throwing said hissyfit. Wow, that is hard to admit. This kind of behavior made it hard for my husband to look at my hurt honestly and help me heal

Respect is not throwing a hissyfit when your husband signs a card in a different space then you anticipated. (Just did that one…sigh, lesson not yet fully learned.) Respect is picking up trash even when it isn’t yours, our wiping down the wall where your toddler smeared ice cream. Respect is responsibility to yourself and others, socially and professionally, and behaving well.

What do you think? Do you have a better actionable definition of respect? This new found definition of respect connects to other things I have been thinking about.

“Good Job” is dangerous

One day, when I stalked out of my economics class crying, one of my classmates found me. In a display of empathy that I admire, she reminded me that getting your masters degree is hard. She reminded that the grade in my econ course was not a judgment on me personally.

I had fallen into the trap of thinking that the challenges before me (like life/education/family integration) were problems that were caused by flaws in my own personality. I was in the trap of a “Bright Girl.

A bright girl is someone for whom life always came easily, and they were praised for doing the right thing even if they didn’t know what they were doing. And as a result, they grow up thinking that if they have to try, if they have to make more than one attempt, then they probably are not capable. I have lived this way for many years. Luckily, things had come easily for me.

Until I became a parent. Through therapy, I became aware of the possibility of not taking things personally. I began looking at problems objectively. I was so thankful for my classmate’s reminder.

Baby crying? The baby crying is not a reflection on me. She is communicating, and it is hard to understand her. That doesn’t mean that I should let her cry, but instead of blaming myself, realizing that it isn’t my fault opens me up for persistence and problem solving. Does feeding her help? Picking her up? Etc?

The original example: Grad school is hard. There is a reason why not everyone goes. The fact that it is hard is not a reflection on me, it is objectively hard. I don’t have to change myself to make grad school easier. No matter what I do, it will stay hard. But I might be able to manage it, I may be able to problem solve, I may be able to ask for help.

So, Practitioners, what do you take personally? How can you look at it objectively? And how does that change your strategies for coping?



Thinking About Communication: We Should

How many times do you turn to your friends, family, and partner and say something along the lines of, “We should have a party”?

Tim and I have been saying it a lot to each other, as we try to navigate having a small child. “We should do the dishes.” “We should change her diaper.” “We should get food.”

It’s a really interesting statement, if you think about it. First, it identifies a need between two people or a group, or a desire. Second, it completely abdicates responsibility for that need or desire by the person making the statement. “We should” do something often means “you should” do it. (Sometimes, it really does mean “we” — but that requires someone taking a leadership role and taking point on collaborating.) And because no one is taking responsibility, whatever need or desire that is aired doesn’t happen.

Listen to yourself as you talk about household responsibilities with your partners. How often do you say “we should” do something, instead of asking your partner directly? How often does the thing you say “we should” about not happen at all?

Modifying Lullabies

She's holding it...

Look, a man holding a baby! (Photo credit: BenSpark)

I know it’s not the best blogging etiquette to apologize for not posting. But, I’m going to do it anyway. You see, back in September, I started working on the story of my daughter’s birthing, thinking it would be easy to write. It wasn’t, and I’ve been working on it ever since. Her first birthday is in two weeks, so I’m hoping to have it finished by then, but I’m not sure it will be. In the mean time, I’ve been thinking about this blog and how it functions in my life and as a meaningful force in the world. I recently took a personal development class that helped me think about my definition of success.

Enter, bedtime.

I sometimes sing my daughter to sleep. I sing several songs, but the one I am thinking of is “Sleep, Baby, Sleep.” The Lyrics:

Sleep, baby, sleep
Your father tends the sheep
Your mother shakes the dreamland tree
And from it fall sweet dreams for thee
Sleep, baby, sleep

And so I began to think about the message this sent. Daddy works, mommy cares for you. I am more worried about the message it sends that daddy doesn’t care for baby girl than the idea that mommy doesn’t work. So I sing this, too:

Sleep, baby, sleep
Your momma tends the sheep
Your papa shakes the dreamland tree
And from it fall sweet dreams for thee
Sleep, baby, sleep

I know it isn’t much. But I want my daughter to grow up knowing that daddies take care of babies, too.

[Internet MPP] On Equity

A slice of strawberry cake.

Who gets a piece of the cake? How do we know?

I think this is a first in at least a two year series where I take what I’m learning in my Master of Public Policy program and using the concepts to develop my blogging — and more than that, develop my empathy and my activism. For my State and Local Policy Analysis course, we read four chapters out of Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making by Deborah Stone. Each chapter outlined a dimension of policy analysis — i.e. how we know if a policy is good or bad — and how these claims are political and relative. Equity, efficiency, liberty, and security are all goals of public policy, justifications for government action (or inaction), as well as criteria to judge policy.

The first chapter we read was about Equity. I actually have mentioned equity before, in my talk on chores, but in policy we talk about equity because equality isn’t always fair, but equity is an attempt to make a division that is fair, even if it isn’t always equal.

So, what is equitable? Equity is, of course, a political claim. It’s a discussion about who gets what, when, where, and how (which is the classical definition of politics I learned in high school). Or, in the case of chores, who has to do what, when, where, and how. But what might seem straight forward is actually fraught with questions.

How do we define the recipients of a good, or the participants in a policy? A lot of politics has to do with how you define the “in” group versus the “out” group. Since I started with the chores example, I might as well follow through. The current participants in the running of our household are myself and Tim. You might argue that my mom also participates in the running of my household as she sometimes pitches in and does a lot of child care. But I choose to define the household participants as my nuclear family. My mom is in the “out” group; she shouldn’t be assigned any chores. However, Tim and I need to be part of the household management.

What is it, exactly, that is being distributed? When I talk about household management, I am talking about chores that keep our household running; I’m holding parenting as a completely seperate list of tasks. If I were to define household management as inclusive of parenting, it would make sense to add my mom into the participants pool — but because of the way I’m defining the tasks (dishes, laundry, vaccuuming, etc, instead of diaper changes and naps), the participant pool is narrowed.

What is the process by which the good or resource is distributed? I described the process that I used to distribute chores in my marriage already. Part of the reason that process worked was that it was transparent at every step. When I wrote the list, I checked with Tim. When I distributed the chores, I did it with Tim. But other processes might have been seen as fair — like a random number generator. Or a lottery. But it seemed fair to us that we could pick chores that we liked and were good at.

Equity, in some ways, is the most straightforward of these four policy yardsticks, but as you can see — it’s all relative, even as we’re trying to be fair. Different political philosophies might come into this; how you define the “in” group and the “out” group all depends on your philosophy, but these are the basics.

I wrote this as a way to have a framework for my blog, and future discussions. Do you think this is helpful?

Actual Risk versus Social Risk

Breastfeeding symbol

Image via Wikipedia

I posted a link to a book review to my Facebook wall, because I was really interested in the underlying thesis of the book, as explained by the reviewer. I haven’t really the book, but I’ve atleast read the review – and the argument was about what the author calls “neoliberal risk culture,” or the conflation of actual risk and social risk. Unfortunately, the example that was used by the author to illustrate her point was one of the most contentious of motherhood debates: bottle versus breast.

The actual risk of feeding your child formula, or the risk of not breastfeeding, is quite small. According to the review, the risk of not breastfeeding is a few upset stomachs. However, the social risk of not breastfeeding (at least amongst middle class women) is high — because of all the propaganda surrounding breast feeding, the decision of bottle feeding without trying to breastfeed is the social equivalent of saying that you’re not doing everything you can to make your baby smarter… and everything else that breastfeeding claims.

Bottle feeding does not carry real risk — rare is the baby in danger because they are bottle fed. That baby would have to have some severe allergies. But in an age of New Momism, the social risk is immense. So immense that women are pressured into trying breastfeeding when it might be better for them to bottle feed — and women who want to breastfeed feel guilty when medication, mental health, etc., prevent them from continuing.

The conflation of small actual risk into large social risk does a huge disservice to mothers, especially, and also society as a whole.

Another example for mothers is bedsharing versus co-sleeping versus nurseries. Bedsharing is considered the most risky, co-sleeping a nice middle ground (if you must have your child close), and a nursery the most safe. However, a close reading of the studies shows that the rates of SIDS is probably equal, and the cost benefits extremely personal, much like breast versus bottle.

I am a bedsharer. There, I said it. Socially, the sleeping arrangement that allows my family to get the most sleep, it’s the most risky. Common perception suggests that I am willingly risking my baby’s life for convenience, even though it was a decision I researched before making. Trust me, I do not lazily risk my daughter’s life.

I’m trying to think of a non parenting example — something where there is a small risk, but a large social backlash. Smoking is probably one, considering how much government propaganda surrounds not smoking. My occasional fast food eating is something I don’t like to admit, so I’d consider that an example of over blown social risk for something with minimal actual risk. I think that multiple sexual partners probably falls into this same category — as long as you practice safe sex, both physically and emotionally, it probably isn’t as risky as our society makes it out to be.

Life is risk, and yes, some risk is more risky than other risks. But, in the end, some things may be more about what works for you.

How to Talk About Chores

Small yellow bathroom

Image via Wikipedia

A friend asked that I write more about the process of choosing which chores are important, and which ones can be overlooked. She also asked about how to negotiate the standards of cleanliness and the sharing of chores so that in partnership, particularly marriage, they might be fair.

Tall order, dear friend.

I think that it’s obvious and perhaps over stated (at least on this blog, I have mentioned it at least two times before) that men and women are socialized to different awarenesses of the work involved in housework, and if men have had the opportunity to care for themselves, different standards for what might be considered clean. The same might be said for what makes up a healthy diet, among other things I associate with adulthood.

I would not attempt these steps unless you have a partner who believes in equality, and is open to dividing the work that goes into the home equitably. (This means hours of paid and unpaid labor should be treated equally.) If you don’t have a such a partner, you have other work to do.

Step One: Shine a bright light on the work that needs to be done to keep your household moving. I found the housework equality scale from invaluable for this — it lists chores that happen less often, like post office visits and taxes, so you don’t forget anything.

Tim and I actually looked at this scale twice over about a period of a year and a half. The first time was really tense — Tim didn’t seem to think that a lot of stuff on the list happened in our home. Truth was, I did it, and he didn’t notice. Even though it was a tense conversation, it was important because it opened his eyes. A year later, he was very aware of the work that needed doing, and who was doing it. Since I am currently a stay-at-home wife and mother, the split was about 70% me, 30% him. I asked him if he thought this was fair, and to his credit, he did not think so. Which lead to…

Step Two: Figure out what chores are actually getting done in your home. Chores are done in my house for three reasons, as far as I can see: for our safety, like washing cutting boards and knives with hot and soapy water to prevent food-borne illness; for our sanity, like clearing off flat surfaces of clutter; and for our vanity, like my husband’s recent desire to wash marks off the wall. This list has the benefit of showing you what’s really important to you, and thus the “standards” already exist. I made a list of chores that needed to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly, and basis — focusing on safety and sanity, and telling vanity to take a hike.

Vanity is beating myself up for not scrubbing the bathroom once a week, whether or not anyone besides ourselves sees it. But if the bathroom is done once a month, the germs are kept at bay (Safety!), and I have the satisfaction of knowing exactly how clean it is. And knowing how clean it is, I can figure out if I need to clean real quick before guests come over.

Step Three: Present the list of chores that must get done to your partner and ask what they think. Ask them if they think that any chore is missing; ask them if they think any of the chores can be taken off the list.

Tim wanted to add vacuuming and dusting to the list. Me? I could care less that things are dusted, and I hate vacuuming. Tim doesn’t necessarily see the need to fold clothes.

Step Four: Divide and Conquer. Once you have a list of the chores that you need to do to keep your household moving, chores that are for your safety and sanity (and not necessarily your vanity), and both partners have weighed in on what chores should be on the list, take turns claiming chores. If there are certain chores that only you can do, or that you’re an expert at, or you really like to do, claim those first — it wasn’t on the list, but since only I can breast feed our daughter, I would have claimed that first. I did claim making dinner first, because after a day of childcare, making dinner makes me feel human again.

Dusting and vacuuming got added to the “monthly chore” list, which Tim is in charge of. I picked up folding laundry. But more on that next.

Step Five: Make a schedule. Schedules make sure that there are time to do all the chores. I suggest spacing the chores through the week so you’re not doing more than half an hour of chores each night. The nice thing about a schedule is that even if none of the chores get done one week, you can do it the next week and start to come out from under a lack-of-chore pile. At least theoretically.

So far, all the chores are getting done in our home, because Tim and I both feel ownership of our tasks — and we do them. They don’t always get done right on time; laundry folding happened on Saturday instead of Tuesday, but at least it happened.

Step Six: If it’s not your chore, it’s not your standard. There are downsides to sharing household responsibilities. Because your partner is an adult who has hopefully lived on their own for a time before coming to live with you, chances are, your partner has some idea how to do the tasks that they named, agreed to, and claimed as their own. (Look how much consensus we built up until this point!) If your partner asks for input on how to do the task, feel free to give it. Otherwise, let them get on with it — you have your own chores to do.

Tim is the one that cleans the kitchen and the bathroom. He also does the laundry. He checks in with me sometimes, but the majority of the time he applies his own standards to the task. And for me, that’s fine — but it’s a serious ego muncher for some women.  Remember, equality is about sharing power. If you claim all the power and responsibility of the household standards, you’re only hurting yourself.

Step Seven: Rinse, Repeat. The same chore list isn’t going to always work for you. Be flexible, and keep the lines of communication that you’ve created here open over time!

What I want from a Non-parental Caregiver

I’m lucky to be starting grad school at the end of this month. I say lucky because I have a small fellowship, because I have an infant, because I have a supportive husband. I’m lucky because my mom is going to take care of my baby; I won’t have to take out loans to pay for childcare.

I wasn’t always comfortable with the idea of my mom being my daycare provider. Sylvie is familiar with my mom and comfortable with her. And I have had plenty of chances to observe the two of them together. Those two things are not something you can sneeze at; everything I have read about vetting facilities says those are things you want.

Not only that, but I was able to broach the idea of making “Nanny Notes” and sharing them with my mom — that way my mom knows exactly how I would like my daughter to be cared for (i.e. I am clear about my expectations) and she knows exactly how to spoil my daughter (i.e. I expect my mom to still be a grandparent and do what she wants occasionally).

Nothing I found on the internet about preparing your child for daycare really approached the subject the way I have in my own preparations, so I thought I would share my list.

What I want from a Non-parental Caregiver:

1. Someone who will love her, bond with her; someone who will build trust with her. I subscribe more or less to the Attachment Parenting philosophy espoused by Dr. Sears, and I believe that attachment is key in Sylvie’s development — particularly the psychosocial development task of infancy: learning to trust. This means that when Sylvie cries, my ideal caregiver will respond, because crying is a way of communicating need. Which brings us to…

2. Someone to fulfill her needs. Her needs, as I see them currently, are: eating, sleeping, clean diapers, play, and love. Since Sylvia is breastfed, this means that I will be providing her grandmother with expressed breast milk. Sylvia is not too keen on her bottle, so we may be switching to more of a sippy cup soon. She will start solids at six months, so those kinds of equipment will be needed as well. Sylvie will need a couple of swaddle blankets and a pacifier for her grandma’s house. I gave my mom a set of cloth diapers already. We’ll need to make sure there are good toys at both home and at grandma’s. And I know my mom loves Sylvia.

3. Someone to keep her safe and secure; provide limits. This means that my mom and I will work together to make sure that my mom’s house is appropriately child-proofed, but it also means that we will have to work jointly on discipline issues. Right now, discipline isn’t too much of an issue — after all, she is only an infant. But by the time I graduate, which is when I foresee this arrangement ending, Sylvie will be old enough to be willfully disobeying.  We don’t want to give her mixed messages about what is and is not appropriate, which will require communication. Also, I want Sylvie to be disciplined with positive methods, which will also require communication, so that my mom knows what I mean when I say this.

4. Someone to play with her, and to be her partner in learning. I believe that play is the key to learning, and so I think it’s very important that Sylvia plays. Of course, she can and does play on her own, but play with an adult is important too, because it provides Sylvie and opportunity to stretch her skills with a technique called scaffolding. The play should be directed by Sylvie, if at all possible, to give her a sense of efficacy. Reading is play too!

5. Someone who respects our boundaries as her parents. I am the momma, and with my husband we are ultimately responsible for Sylvia’s care and upbringing. How we want things done matters. However, this means we are also responsible for communicating those boundaries. A major way we’re going to do this is through “memo” type of correspondence; I like to have things in writing.

The thing about this list is that it’s basically what I expect from myself as a parent. I think that’s as it should be — the care for my daughter by non-parental caregivers should be as close to what her parents provide as possible.