Julia is an in-house
freelancer who works for our content team. Although only temporary, she is the
author of numerous articles on Care.com and has become part of the Care.com
family over the past few months. But it turns out she has a "deep, dark secret…"
My kids still refer to five memorable minutes one summer as "The Water Country Incident."
The Water Country Incident was when I called some teenage boys out on their behavior – loudly and in a crowd. I didn’t try to be discreet. I yelled at them from the ground level where we were waiting in line so they could hear my voice at the very top where they stood -- leaning over a railing and spitting into the hair of the girls below them.
Yes, I yell at other people’s kids.
For someone pretty mild mannered, I have little patience for kids who are misbehaving. And I won’t hesitate to let them know.
But I don’t mean kids who are laughing too loud or kids who are giving the dog a mud bath or bringing chipmunks in the house (a story for another day). I actually have nearly unlimited patience for messes, general goofiness and kid mayhem. I am talking about kids who cross the line. You know it when you see it because you think, "Where are their parents??!"
The boys at Water Country? Their behavior needed to stop, immediately. If no one else was going to say something, I sure would. Yes, my girls were embarrassed, seeing their mom standing there in a pink bathing suit bellowing at these boys only a little older than they were. "That is disgusting!" I yelled. "Stop that!"
My girls edged a few inches away from me as I got cranked up, but I know they also understood why I did it. "If someone was doing that to you," I told them, "I would want someone to tell them to stop." And if no other adult who saw them (and there were quite a few) would tell them to stop, what lesson does that teach?
Even when my kids were younger, playgroup bullies would hear from me when they pushed some other child (not even necessarily mine). Standing by when something wrong is happening makes you part of the problem, even if the problem is a pint-sized kid.
It’s not like I enjoy disciplining others’ kids. I don’t even like disciplining my own kids. And treading on another family’s actions is touchy to say the least. But if my girls are ever out of line, I hope some other person would speak up. Are they talking too loudly with their friends in the movies? By all means, shush them. Did they sound sarcastic? Tell them they sounded rude.
Let’s face it, these kids probably know what they are doing is wrong. So let’s let them know they can’t get away with it.
In the end, the boys at The Water Country didn’t stop. Instead, they sassed back at me from the security of three levels up. But that’s okay – the point was made. My kids still tease me about it, but I like to delude myself that they might secretly be proud of a mom who won’t stay quiet when something is unjust.
I think they would just rather not be there when it happens.
Tell me, how do you handle another child’s bad behavior on your watch? "Like" this if you have -- or would -- yell at another person’s kid.
June 24, 2013
Julia is an in-house
freelancer who works for our content team. Although only temporary, she is the
author of numerous articles on Care.com and has become part of the Care.com
family over the past few months. But it turns out she has a "deep, dark secret…"
June 17, 2013
You might recognize Brettlyn from our Member Care videos; she also helps place nannies with families. And to complete the picture of who Brettlyn is, she won the 2012 Care.com Spirit Award in which we give an employee with the best "spirit" a free vacation. Here, she reveals how a personal family crisis has helped her look at life.
A few months back, I asked my mom why this is one of the only family shots hanging up. There are so many memories of fun times and places, but where are the pictures?
Why my concern? At age 59, my father was diagnosed with dementia. 6 years later, I wish I had more pictures to help him remember some of the best moments of his life.
My dad was an elementary school principal. He put his heart and soul into his work. He was the person who went to the stores on his way home from work when he noticed kids did not have a proper winter coat. He got Father’s Day cards from students – because this was how they saw him. And from the time I was toddler to the day my dad retired, people would always come up to me saying much they heard about my sister, Dayna, my mom and me. We were his girls, his everything, and anyone he met knew that.
As much as I cherish my memories, I am afraid he’s losing many of his.
I want him to remember the years he was my little league softball coach. How he was so patient when someone was having a tough time, made silly faces to get everyone to have fun, and made everyone feel like they were all-stars heading to the World Series.
I wish I could show him The Father-Daughter dance he brought me to when I wore my favorite green plaid dress – and he matched in a green plaid shirt.
I want him to tell me about the days my sister and I were born. When I turned out to be a girl, and they couldn’t decide how to turn Brett into a girl’s name! My mom talks about those days as the best moments of her life -- I wish he could remember them too.
I want him to remember that he and my mom have always been best friends, their silly cards to each other every holiday, and that they always said, "til the end!" And even through this illness, she can't wait to come home to him every night and tell him what’s going on with her school, make him his favorite dinner, or get his sneakers on and take him to their favorite walking trail. He still says that he’s the luckiest guy in the world. (And it’s true!),
Most of all, I want him to remember the final graduation ceremony for his middle school students, when so many of his former students came to honor him (they’d heard he was retiring early due to illness). There was not enough room in the 500-person auditorium for the students and families who came out. His students were crying, parents were taking photos of him with their families and people were pulling me aside to tell me how my dad changed their lives.
I wish he’d remember that every day.
It’s a funny thing, getting older. You hope your life is going to go a certain way. And then it can all change suddenly. Now, Dad spends most of his days doing very limited tasks, all with the help of his full-time caregiver, and I am forced to find the good in what seems like a horrible reality. And I know exactly what it is: Live a memorable life.
My dad lived an amazing life. And as this terrible disease slowly takes these memories away, I will always have them. My mom and sister have them – and their own. And my dad’s students have vowed never to forget him.
He gave life 100%. And as his memory fades, ours won’t.
As I plan to re-locate back my home state in order to be closer to him, I think about the joy I can bring his days. The memory books I can make for him. The stories I can re-tell. Maybe he’ll love hearing them as much as we loved living them with him.
January 14, 2013
Today’s blog is from Ron. Right before taking a job in the Email Marketing team at Care.com, Ron learned that his father had a very aggressive form of brain cancer. Here he talks about how he helped his mom find someone to help care for his dad – without having the experience of working for Care.com.
Two summers ago, my mother and I found ourselves desperately looking for help. My father was ill, and being that I lived a 12-hour plane ride away, I was home for two weeks to find a caregiver who could help both my dad and my mom. The irony was that I was about to start my job at Care.com and was about to learn the hard way how to hire a caregiver. It turned out that we didn’t know the first thing about what to look for. We had created a caregiver profile that was incomplete and wrong. It took a week of interviewing over a dozen caregivers until we identified our real needs, adding some and dropping others.
So whether you are looking for a babysitter, nanny, tutor, special needs aide or senior caregiver, I thought I’d share some of the things Mom and I learned along the way:
- Include Dad in the Decision Process. This might seem like a no-brainer to you, but to Mom and me, we thought it was obvious not to bother our patient. But in the end, we needed to make sure there was a connection between the two people who would spend the most time together: Dad and his caregiver.
- Consider what the Situation Really Needs. Mom and Dad didn’t want someone living in the house. It meant sharing a kitchen and a bathroom and losing some of their personal space. But it turned out that it’s actually what they needed – and I needed to convince them of that. It took some getting used to, but my parents learned to accept that some loss of privacy was worth the comfort and necessary support.
- Re-think Your Must-haves. We thought we wanted the caregiver to speak Hebrew (the main language spoken in my parents’ house), but this need fell to the bottom of the list as we realized that the combination of a non-smoker and the ability to lift a 200-pound man became harder to find (along with the medical training and compassion he could show my father).
- Don’t Give up or Settle. You’re going to meet a lot of people and believe me, as horrible as it sounds, if you’re in as dire of a situation as my mom and I were in, you’ll feel like hiring the first "decent" person who walks through the door. All I can say is don’t. Don’t settle on decent. Keep interviewing your applicants. If it helps, re-post your job profile with an updated job description based on what you’ve learned along the way. You will find someone who is better than "decent." You just have to keep on trying.
February 06, 2012
A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine passed away. Although it's been very difficult and sad for our family, I have to focus on feeling very fortunate to have had her in my life.
Have you ever met someone who truly inspires you? For me, this was Joan Davin. My husband, oldest son and I moved across the street from the Davins 13 years ago. We became fast friends. She was the type of person who checked in to see how I was holding up, invited us to her family gatherings (our first Thanksgiving in our new town was with her extended family), accepted me as her friend unconditionally, brought us on vacation, gave me advice, and welcomed my family into all parts of her life. I remember finding out I was pregnant with my second son in her guest bathroom (she was the first person I told!). Two-year old Adam (the result of that positive pregnancy test), would yell "Mrs. Davin!" in excitement when he'd see her out the window. Now, 12, he sang to her tearfully in her last days and at her funeral. And our oldest, Ryan, compiled pictures of our joint family vacations to make her smile when we visited her (shown below). My children adored her like an aunt and she treated me as a sister -- and I loved her in the same way.
As you know, the "Mom-friend' can be one of the deepest, strongest bonds. A colleague here compares mom friends to soldiers in the military, going through boot-camp together and living in the trenches of motherhood -- leaning on each other for support and strength. And my friend, Joan, was very strong. Despite her many hardships and serious health conditions, she always focused on loving and helping others. She truly treated each day and relationship like gifts.
Today, Joan's life and how she handled her last few days inspire me. She was the gift. I will always cherish the love and advice she gave me.
As Valentine's Day approaches, I want to honor the mom-friends in our life. The women who make us stronger, who inspire us and check in on us. The women who welcome us into their lives -- with no judgments -- and treat us like family. I encourage you to celebrate these women in your life, to send them a card of appreciation, to take them to dinner, to welcome them as your "beacons," making your work and your life mean even more.
I'd love to hear from you as well. Please tell me, who inspires you? Who is your Joan?
Difficult Conversations: Explaining Death
The Pros and Cons of Hospice Care
October 24, 2011
A 2011 Care.com Guest Writer Contest, hosted on my blog, asked all promising scribes to tell us about themselves and their families. Selecting this winner proved to be an incredibly difficult process – there are so many parents with such moving and inspirational stories! Our panel of judges finally narrowed the selection down to two mothers, Kelsey and Valerie. Both told their life stories with intense passion and heart wrenching honesty. Both are potentially facing the greatest challenges of their lives. And we had no choice but to choose both as the winners of our contest.
Independent. Strong-willed. Fierce. Kelsey, currently living in Iowa, is a college student, future lawyer, and single mom to baby Isaac. In less than a year, Kelsey’s life was transformed. From a typical college student, she became a single mother, fighting her way towards a law degree – six hundred miles away from family and friends. To understand her daily battle to build a successful future for herself and Isaac, the Care Team and I asked her to share some insights into what it means to be on your own and doing-it-all:
Who are your role models?
Immediately upon the discovery of two pink lines on a little white stick, I resented the ironic timing. The previous year, I had five friends become pregnant at the same time. Their situations ranged from married college students to potentially questionable paternities and just about everything in between. But none of them were planned and all of them handled their pregnancies and motherhood with grace. So, Erika, Ashley, Lindsay, Mackenzie, and Miranda were all role models of mine in terms of young mothers, single and otherwise.
My parents got married at the ages of 18 and 19, and they are celebrating their 29th anniversary this year. They didn't go to college, but they worked very hard and struggled with monetary issues – the same issues that I now face – before and after the births of their four children. They've always inspired me to defy popular gossip and expectations and to never lose faith. They're the reason I know it's not love or faith or trust that breaks people, but it's people that break these ideals.
How do you hope your son will describe you when he’s older?
I want him to have intense respect for women in order to help prevent what I went through with his father from happening to anyone else. To that end, I hope that he will remember my strong moments and hopefully never have to see me when I break. When he becomes an adult, I want him to look back at my accomplishments in the same way I look back at my parents’. I hope he will say that I always did what I thought was best for him, for us.
Why have you chosen not to lean on your parents for support?
They've worked hard their entire adult lives for everything they have. They shouldn't have to sacrifice the lifestyle they've spent decades creating for me since nobody did so for them. Like I said, they struggled as much as I did. The only difference is they always had each other to lean on. They do help Isaac and me when they can.
How difficult was it for you to find a trustworthy sitter or nanny?
It was exhausting. I met with a few younger college women, who were too expensive and had crazy-strange availability (of course). Finally, I met the one! I trusted her almost immediately. It's always scary leaving my baby with someone new, but my sitter gives me text message updates, so it's getting better all the time.
What do you look for when hiring a caregiver for your son?
I love to see how they interact with Isaac and their own children. Due to her car breaking down, the women I hired most recently had to bring her family when we met. It meant I got to meet the whole gang. Her entire clan sat at another table, and being able to see how she interacted with her family at a stressful time, while fielding my questions, made me quite confident in her child care expertise. Anyone can have experience on paper and find one or two people to give them tons of praise. Real human empathy, sympathy, and the ability to connect with and truly care for children add up to something special. Something you can sense is being faked.
What is the most supportive thing anyone has ever done for you?
There was a woman I met with from Care.com about watching Isaac. My entire life is constantly in limbo, so I couldn't nail down the exact times I would need her. I told her what I was trying to do. I wanted to finish school. No, no family here. No, his father is not going to move here. It's just me and I-Z. It was a few weeks before I followed up with her, and when I called, she told me she was still interested. She would watch him anytime and wouldn't accept any other jobs because she wanted to help me get through school. I never expected to hear that.
What is one misconception of single moms you want to set straight?
Just because a woman is a single mother, she is a slut. Nobody thinks that about single fathers. What's more, it's usually other women that make such comments. When I was pregnant and chose to break up with the father of my future child because he had committed what I considered an unforgivable offense against our family, I was told more than once, “Well, I want to be married when I have kids.” It hurt so much more than anyone could imagine. Yes, clearly I wanted to get pregnant half-way through my bachelor's degree by a man who had told me for years he wanted to marry me and have my children – and then watch it all go up in smoke at the beginning of my third trimester. Six hundred miles from home. The weekend before finals. Followed by the very distinct pleasure of finishing college and law school while raising a baby by myself.
What is the most annoying thing people say when they find out that you are a single mom?
When I would tell people about my future plans, they would say, “Wow, you know that's going to be hard, right?”
Do you find celebrity single moms like Madonna, Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock, and Katie Couric inspirational? Or does it feel like their star status can set unreasonable expectations for single mothers?
I feel disconnected from them. I believe they're “doing-it-all,” and I'd never discredit that. However, “doing-it-all” on a dangerously small income, is a completely different planet of motherhood. At least, I feel like I'm on a different planet.
Why do you want to be a lawyer?
I actually wanted to be a lawyer when I was very young. My mom was a big “Ally McBeal” fan, but I like to think it was just the budding feminist in me wanting to put on a modern woman's suit and put people in their place. Sometime while growing up, I doubted my ability to defend people I knew to be guilty and prosecute people I knew to be innocent, and the dream lay abandoned. However, when I found out I was pregnant, my new maternal instincts revived the desire to fight. I've found something worth fighting any battle for.
Read more about Kelsey’s story:
October 17, 2011
A 2011 Care.com Guest Writer Contest, hosted on my blog, asked all promising scribes to tell us about themselves and their families. Selecting this winner proved to be an incredibly difficult process – there are so many parents with such moving and inspirational stories! Our panel of judges finally narrowed the selection down to two mothers, Valerie and Kelsey. Both told their life stories with intense passion and heart wrenching honesty. Both are potentially facing the greatest challenges of their lives. And we had no choice but to choose both as the winners of our contest.
For this blog post, I’d like to introduce you to Valerie, from Ohio: writer, wife, daughter, and mother of two. Over the past year, Valerie has been facing a reality that increasing numbers of Americans share. At the same time that she and her husband were balancing work with caring for their two children (ages 4 and 6), Valerie’s father grew sick, and she became his main caregiver. About four months ago, her father passed away, and she has since continued to care for her mother, who has moved to an independent living apartment. To understand how she got through such a tough time in her life and continues to balance care for her children and her mom, the Care Team and I asked her to share some insights into what it's like to be caught in the middle:
What has been the most stressful part about caring for your mom while still caring for your young kids?
Feeling guilty all the time – feeling guilty that I’m schlepping my four-year-old to mom’s doctor appointments and guilty when mom calls to chat and I am trying to get dinner on the table with the kids vying for attention.
What was the hardest aspect of explaining your dad’s passing to your kids?
We were lucky in some ways because the kids were so young that while they understood, they were both too young to feel the pain of grief. I’m so glad they didn’t have to experience the pain. That would have been really hard.
In what ways are you still struggling with the loss?
Because I was the main caregiver for my dad throughout his treatment, I still relive many of those moments we shared: driving to doctor appointments, sitting through chemo and watching his pain escalate as he slipped away that last day. These flashbacks are still so vivid.
What is the best thing someone can do for a friend who has lost a parent?
Be there. Call. Show up with dinner. Take the kids for a while. Don’t just offer to help. Show up and help. One of my dearest friends, who lives four hours away, drove up the day after dad died and stayed for a night, just to help out with whatever. I am still so deeply touched by her caring enough to be there.
What do you look for when hiring a caregiver for your family?
In this day and age, we all have to be cautious. Background checks and reference checks are so important. But ultimately, I think hiring someone to care for my family comes down to a feeling that it is right. Call it Mom’s intuition, you know when it’s right and you know when it’s not. That inner voice has been my strongest guide.
How do you create time for yourself?
I workout. Well, I did until I broke my leg running on September 1. Yes, in addition to all this, I will be wearing the Aircast for two more weeks. Thankfully, I broke my left leg, not my right, so I am still able to drive and walk without crutches. Before the broken leg, I would hit the gym 4 or 5 times a week with my girlfriend. We’d jump on the elliptical trainers and gossip for 45 minutes. Throughout this year there have been many tears on that elliptical, but it’s been good therapy for me. I can’t wait to get back to the gym.
What advice can you offer parents new to the Sandwich Generation?
Take it one day at a time, but that’s been my advice since having kids. Ask me again when this phase of life is through. I’m sure I’ll have great advice then.
Read more about Valerie’s story:
Next week, meet our other contest winner, Kelsey: “Yes, I am a single mother. Yes, I am a college student. Yes, I am that waitress who brought out your steak dinners and scrubbed down the table when you left.” Stay tuned.
Don't forget to take our Aging Parents Survey:
June 07, 2010
Two weeks ago, I visited Haiti. Just over four months removed from the earthquake that wrecked devastation on what was already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, much of the country is still in shambles. And yet, in the midst of the rubble and poverty, there is an enormous wealth of faith, hope, and joy.
I joined a weeklong trip to Port au Prince through Adventures in Missions. We spent the week working in the tent community of Ktadb. This location is on the outskirts of the city and, as far as we knew, hadn’t received any international aid since the January 12th earthquake. Just fewer than 3,600 people live in Ktadb, divided into about 600 handmade shelters.
When we arrived, there wasn’t a single tarp or tent in sight. Families had built homes out of wooden stakes and used bed sheets and clothing sewn together to form walls. It’s the rainy season in Haiti, and when the storms come, they soak through the meager coverings and turn the ground underfoot to thick, sucking mud. Most of the families have literally nothing but the clothes on their backs. The lucky ones sleep on cinderblocks to keep out of the mud—those less fortunate sleep on the dirt. I’ll be honest, it’s painful to see.
There was the old man who had lost his son in the quake and struggled with injuries himself—yet he said he praised God every day for life. That’s belief beyond anything I know.
Two students, Reginald and Yvelise, who are both studying to be doctors, proudly talked about how they’ve continued studying at home while the deanship of the university searches for a new site to rebuild the collapsed school. Both have hope that they’ll return to college, finish their degrees, and then use what they’ve learned to help their country recover.
Remy, a 14-year-old boy living in a shelter with his older brother, pitched in to help us place tarps over the homes of single mothers, women with children, and the elderly. He never once asked for us to cover his own home, knowing others needed help more than he did. Remy showed me strength.
Even before we brought out the boxes of donated toys and sporting goods, we saw so much joy on children's faces. They were more than willing to sing and dance and clap their hands, even though many hadn’t eaten in a day, two, or more. All they wanted was to hold my hand, be asked their name, and hear mine. That’s joy in a place where sadness should reign.
Through generous donations (many thanks especially to Care.com which sent me to Haiti armed with dozens of tarps, boxes of school supplies, and plenty of sporting goods), we were able to distribute nearly 200 tarps, making sure that the neediest of the needy received theirs first. We also purchased over $4,200 of rice and beans, which the local community leaders distributed themselves. It will only feed the residents of Ktadb for a couple days, but it’s a start.
I went to Haiti thinking that I could help—and I did in the smallest way possible—but what really happened is that Haiti helped me. If faith, hope, and joy can survive in a place where none of that should exist, then I believe we can have those things here, too. I left Haiti being more thankful for the things that really matter in life—family and friends—than ever before.
I also left with the reminder that we really can do something to care for those in need. It can be as simple as giving the extra canned goods from your pantry to a local food bank or texting “HAITI” to the American Red Cross to donate $10 to the earthquake relief effort. You don’t have to go yourself. Whatever you choose to do, though, you’ll help make the world a little better and make sure that hope spreads out a little further than it did before.
Thank you for listening to my story. And many thanks to Care.com for supporting my trip, the residents of Ktabd, and donating supplies that will make a difference in the lives of hundreds of people.
May 24, 2010
While family trips are great for making memories, they can be a huge stress on the vacation planner (known as “Mom” in most households). More than ever, parents are turning to the “staycation” as a fun, budget-friendly way to have family fun and keep the stress levels down.
I asked Pilar Guzmàn, (former editor-in-chief of Cookie and new Care.com contributor!) to share her best idea for summer fun and she came up with a fantastic idea for a backyard camping trip. Here it is!
“I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.” —William Faulkner: Sartoris
Despite my best efforts, I am not an advance-planner. I invite friends over at 4pm for dinner at 7—and book airplane tickets a couple of weeks before departure so that I can’t even get two seats together for my family of four. The pressure of planning the perfect summer vacation (a fun experience that doesn't break the bank) can be daunting—so much so, in fact, that I have decided not to plan one at all this summer.
My plan? To pitch a tent on my lawn, project movies onto the side of our house, and roast marshmallows over a fire pit.
Sometimes you need not look beyond your own backyard to find all of the adventure you crave. The key is to make it as fanciful for you as for your kids and that means exporting all necessary (or just plain old fun) creature comforts outdoors:
1. Set the scene.
Camping doesn’t have to mean Gortex and Arctic-proof technical equipment. Your campsite can be more romantic, think Out of Africa not Into Thin Air. So drape campsites with colorful fabric to get that Jeanie’s bottle feel. In other words, feel free to decorate—and definitely have the kids use their imaginations to help out.
2. Don’t be a minimalist.
Since you are steps from your home, you can afford to bring out real pieces of furniture like chairs and side tables as well as hurricane lanterns and big throw pillows. Lay out colorful blankets and cushions on the ground to create casual seating areas. Because you don’t have to carry anything on your back up a hill, you can encourage your kids to bring favorite stuffed animals and books so that your setup feels like an outdoor living room. Part of the appeal of this whole idea is taking familiar items out of their normal context.
3. Make it ceremonious.
Whether it’s a tea party or roasting hot dogs, use real cups and plates (I used old, chipped china but china nonetheless) to elevate the whole setting. This experience is not about practicality, it’s about fantasy.
4. Sleep tight.
Unless you are dying to slumber on the cold damp ground, I would recommend a blow up mattress, sheets, pillows and lots of heavy blankets over a using a sleeping bag. You’ll get a good night’s sleep and wake up ready to make bacon and eggs on the grill!
What do you think? Is a backyard camping trip up your alley? What are some other fun “staycation” ideas you’d like to try?
April 20, 2010
I’m taking a second to give a big shout-out to the team here on my blog. We work really hard to give parents, families, and care providers a safe, easy-to-use way to connect online. Sometimes, I find we work so hard that we forget to step back and take a second to appreciate all we’ve done and how far we’ve come.
So I’m taking it upon myself to give the Care.com team a huge “standing-O.” You guys are great! Thank you for all you do!
April 12, 2010
Here are four Care Stories families shared at the Care Summit:
Audra Rodriguez--a working mom caught in the Sandwich Generation
Claire Maklan -- caring for her elderly mother
Wendy Wang -- a working mother of two facing unexpected child care challenges
Lauren Buttrick -- a first-time mother working to balance ever-shifting schedules