Dr. Seuss once said “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple”. It’s supposed to sound wonky and make no logical sense because it’s a Dr. Seuss quote, right? Yet, there is so much wisdom in this statement that it can be easily overlooked. For example- how many of us were asked as children “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Easy answers- a fireman, a teacher, an astronaut. Then as we grew, the question shifted subtly- “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” Well, that one is a bit more complicated, isn’t it. Many middle aged people don’t know who they are, because their job is completely independent of their inner person. That job may reflect something that they enjoy doing or perhaps reflect some inner character because they stick with a job that they do not enjoy to support self/a family. But knowing is entirely independent of being, thus it can be quite easy to gloss over hard questions about knowing who you are with quippy answers about your daily existence. But, I digress.
Where am I going with this, you have probably asked. Patience, I’m getting there! But before I can, you need a very short history of where I started with babywearing and how I ended up here. Don’t worry, its only 10 sentences.
I knew when I was pregnant with my daughter that I wanted to wear her. So we decided to forgo the detachable infant bucket seat all together and put a convertible carseat on our registry- this made the most sense to us for spending the least amount of money. I wore her from the beginning as many people start out doing, with a stretchy wrap then in a SSC. We moved when she was barely 6 months old and a friend recommended that I find a local babywearing group, to help make some new friends and to learn some new things about different carriers than the ones that I was using at the time.
It was amazing, hard, fascinating, frustrating, and beautiful.
I was intrigued. I fell in love with it from every angle of every style of everything. I was hooked and I knew that I wanted to do something with babywearing, knew that I wanted to be as helpful as I was capable of being to other caregivers, and within 5 months of joining our group as a new member I became an admin and co-leader.
Around my second month of co-leading I was introduced to the idea of becoming a consultant and taking babywearing education to a whole new level (thank you, Laura Brown!). So just over 14 months after joining my local group as a new member, I took the Foundations course through the Center for Babywearing Studies with founder Joanna McNeilly and began my career as a professional babywearing educator and consultant.
I came home from my course and my very first International Babywearing Conference full of ideas, excitement, and an irrational sense of optimism. I had a newfound dream of wanting to work with non-traditional families, with families that had special needs, with families who deal with separation and PTSD frequently, with the underprivileged, with teen parents- the list went on! I wanted to reach out to those who could really use my help but who couldn’t really afford to do it one-on-one. I wanted to make a DIFFERENCE in the babywearing world, to BE SOMEBODY important who people would listen to, who had a voice that could help change lives.
So when I returned home, I dove into contacting local agencies like WIC, Planned Parenthood, and Foster Care, groups that I was certain could use my help. I started to reach out and advertise my business on local forums and on local business boards. I started spreading the word about the 2 non-profits that I had become the contact point in my area for. I emailed and called anyone and everyone that I could think of to get the word out there about what I was doing, and then I waited.
And I waited.
Finally I began to receive emails back from my inquiries, and with every response that entered my inbox, my excitement began to wane as rejection and discouragement began to take root. Where there had been confidence there were now the stirrings of doubt.
I was thanked for my interest in wanting to help their clients, told that I was a great resource of very useful information that could really benefit caregivers, but sadly the agencies that I had contacted that were state funded organizations could not endorse an outside business nor could they pay me for my work if I should come and teach a class because it was not within the budget. However I was more than welcome to come and teach a free class to the caregivers, with the exception of Foster Care, which is a closed organization and allows no one from outside of its own staff to teach caregivers due to legal and safety issues (understandable, of course).
I struggled with this information for another 2 months. Consultants are supposed to get paid for their work, right? Hadn’t I been told over and over again that once I had a good client base going that I could then start offering free services? How could I offer free classes when I wasn’t even getting paid yet?! Surely people would start lining up once they heard about the great resource that I was offering! And babywearing was such a biologically beneficial and cost effective means to surviving daily parental life, how could people NOT want to do it?!
Yet, I still struggled with the decision that I had made when I had thanked the directors for their time and left my contact info with them as a future reference for clients looking for services like mine. I continued to co-lead my local group during all of this internal struggle, though I had stepped back from one-on-one help outside of meetups, to keep fairness with the ‘hats’ that I wore; I didn’t think it fair to help some for free while in my role as admin but having to charge others as a consultant. And even as I fretted about whether I was making the right decisions, I continued to find refuge in my group of caregivers, pouring into our meetups all the things that I had been taught and watching babywearing thrive for them under my tutelage.
Finally one night as I washed my hair (the shower seems to be where all epiphanies come to me), I realized something- I had so many assumptions about how I had wanted this career of mine to begin and where I had ambitiously envisioned it going but I had blindly bypassed one of the fundamental questions from my training, completely taking for granted that I innately knew the answer. I had grandiose ideas of what my overall goals looked like but what were my EXPECTATIONS OF MYSELF? My REALISTIC expectations of not only where I wanted my business to go but exactly how in the world did I expect to get there and where exactly was ‘THERE’?! Advertising? No, this was more serious than ‘Look what I can do!’ and it needed some real feedback that required blunt honesty and no flippant commentary from my innermost self.
‘What do I want from this? What expectations do I have of myself? What do I like to DO? What do I want to do with what I have, with the SKILLS that I possess?? Who or what am I at the deepest level of myself, something that has always been and while it may have evolved over time, it is in essence an always continuing yet ‘never changing’ part of who I am?’
Hmmmmmmm…. Great questions, great questions. Dr. Seuss had it right when he said the questions were complicated! It honestly took me about 3 more days of showers before the most honest answers settled into place and, as easy as the answers will sound it was surprisingly difficult to drag them from beneath The Pool of Discouragement (lack of positive motivation can make for interesting internal conversations, but I digress).
So what has never changed about me? I LOVE to learn. I am at my core a perpetual student; I have the soul of an 85 year old college student with 25 degrees in the most random fields known to mankind (with the appetite of a 12 year old boy). So far in my life I have been a US Marine, a florist, a restaurant store manager, went through EMT school, worked in a hospital as a medical records tech, worked retail selling books, worked receiving and overstock, went through college for multiple areas of study and degrees, traveled the world immersing myself in other cultures and their delightful food, and that’s just the short version of the list! I never get tired of learning something new. I soak up information like leaves soak up the sunlight. Which then brought me quickly to the next question- what do I like to do? Well that’s easy: I like to LEARN.
Now what do I want to DO with the skills that I HAVE? What do I like to do with the knowledge that I learn? I like to teach it to others. Isn’t that what I was doing at group meetups and events? Isn’t that what I was trying to do as a consultant? But how can I teach without clients?
Answer: because I was limiting MYSELF.
If I only wanted to teach people who were willing to pay then I could potentially be waiting forever, because no amount of advertising was going to SHOW people what I could DO. Sometimes to get something back, you have to give something first and I realized that the thing that I needed to give was me, my time, and my knowledge.
About this time I received an email about hosting a free class to teen parents in the spring. I accepted.
I emailed WIC back- yes, I’d love to teach your staff about babywearing if it helps them help their clients! Because isn’t that why I became an educator? To HELP caregivers make their lives easier and to help them build that beautiful relationship with their little ones?
Will I make money? Hopefully, maybe, eventually. Perhaps word of my profession will trickle down from my free classes to people who wish to have more one-on-one private consultations. Maybe some company will ask for me to come work with them, to educate retailers & caregivers about their great product (which has actually happened recently!). Maybe I will convince a local college to make babywearing part of their curriculum for their social sciences program, or as an elective for their nursing program or for anthropology, biology, and cultural studies. Maybe I’ll just be a blogger who writes decent articles that caregivers can find useful. Who knows! But no matter what, I want to be HELPFUL and I want to continue to learn and pass along that learned knowledge. People who have such things should share it because what’s the point of knowing something useful but then keeping it to yourself? I may never be famous or even well known, but I can live with that as long as I’m using my knowledge to the best of my abilities to make the world a better place, one caregiver/child combo at a time…