There are a lot of careers where professional development is required to remain licensed. Continuing to learn and refresh your understanding, ideas and sheer enthusiasm for your vocation is essential to staying motivated and knowledgeable about how to offer yourself and your clients the most up-to-date and useful ideas and information.
In my case, as an Early Childhood Educator, my “clients” are children who are building their foundation for the learning and experiences that will carry them through their lives, as well as their parents. I want to be (and need to be) an informed and passionate resource for parents and their children in whatever aspects they need, at the time that they need them. Continuing to learn and be active in environments where ideas are shared back and forth constantly is necessary to fulfill this goal.
This morning I attended a presentation for ECEs in my community on the importance of movement and integrating babies’ primary reflexes in order to set a solid foundation for learning (a subject I plan to devote an entire post to in the very near future).
I haven’t participated in any formal professional development since I became pregnant with my now nearly 1.5-year-old. This period of time adjusting to becoming a new parent I’ve been mainly focussed on how to best meet the needs of my little one (and my new-mom self), and have put my professional life on the back burner. Getting back into the mind frame and engagement of my ECE self has brought about a variety of emotions and thoughts in myself, ranging from excitement, curiosity, and satisfaction, to regret, inadequacy, and failure – all of which I believe are the product of wanting to be the best mother and early childhood educator I can be.
A lot of information about what to avoid doing (along with ideas about what to do) to give your child the best chance at developing a strong base for learning was shared in this presentation. I had to admit I had done almost all of the mentioned mistakes to avoid with your toddler and baby, and that there was more I could be doing with her to promote her healthy development. Everything that was said caused me to compare the ideals of what to do or what not to do, with my own experience of raising my little one. This is where the negative emotions were coming from.
I think it’s important to remember that there are always things we can improve on. There will always be compromises made to achieve balance (and often sanity). No one can do everything 100% perfect any of the time, let alone all the time.
Be gentle with yourself.
Often the things we feel we’re doing or not doing that are so detrimental to our children’s development – social/emotional, cognitive, and physical – are things we didn’t know or didn’t remember. We can’t know everything. No one can. (Especially with mommy-brain.)
So we can’t beat ourselves up for the things we wish we had done differently. But what can we do, instead, that’s more productive in providing the best for our children?
Seek out new information and as many different perspectives as you can. Attend workshops, presentations and conferences as much as you can. Read books, watch videos, peruse articles and studies. Wonder and expand your horizons of knowledge. Be aware of what information is out there to guide your decisions.
Keep your mind open. Listen to advice that’s passed out, even if it seems ridiculous at first or is coming from a unusual source. Try to accept suggestions or information in an appreciative way, and give everyone the benefit of the doubt that they are looking out for your best interests, and then choose for yourself what makes sense in your life to keep, and what to out out of your mind.
Let your decisions be fluid. If something’s not working, reconsider what you’re trying to do and how you’re doing it. Maybe it’s not as important to lay as much focus on now as before. Maybe there are more important things to give priority to now, or more effective ways of achieving your goals. Give different ideas and methods a try and decide what works for you and your family in this specific place and time, and don’t get stuck trying to make your first ideal way of parenting (or anything, really) the only way. Yes, routine is important, but change is also constant, with children especially. Embrace it.
And remember to be gentle with yourself. Aim for balance, not perfection. You’re a great mom, and you’re doing the best you can.