I’ve always had an interest in child development. My goal as a nutritionist was to work in an outpatient pediatric setting to counsel children and their families on how to lead a healthier lifestyle. After grad school, I was blessed to find a job that did just that, and worked there for 6 years!
Now, working as an early childhood educator since last spring, I am focusing on child development not through the lens of nutrition, but rather overall development. I initially made this career shift in order to be able to work in the same building as my baby daughter (at first, even the same room!). But the more I experience my new role in the classroom and take continuing ed courses, the more I realize how much of a good fit it is.
I love forming relationships with the children in my class and their families. And I deeply enjoy learning about how to support a child’s development.
On the one hand, I am so grateful to be where I am today, but on the other hand it feels so surreal, even strange. I had considered minoring in education in college, but decided to minor in linguistics instead. I had friends who pursued a career in early childhood education in college, but I didn’t feel drawn to it then.
Yet somehow now, it feels like there is no place I’d better be. For the reasons I mentioned above, as well as because I am actually using many of the skills I developed as a nutritionist: effective coaching tools, active listening, motivational interviewing techniques. I feel strongly that I belong in this field.
What feels strange is that, while I always thought I would figure out my career BEFORE having children (or even getting married), now I am finding that having my first child is informing my career decisions a lot. In part, that I am prioritizing being with my child, but, in addition to that, that I am being invited to immerse deeply in the field of child development.
Two summers ago when I had just moved down South and was half way through my pregnancy, I veraciously read a book on childhood development FOR FUN! It was my first time not working as a full time nutritionist in 6 years and I wanted to immerse in psychology, my major in college—and it felt so refreshing!
So I’m not shocked that I am loving what I am doing now as an early childhood educator. But what feels eerie is that for years I wondered if I would ever find “the one,” and when/if I would get to start a family. I saw my peers getting married in their early-to-mid twenties, having babies a couple years after. But I was still a single young professional. When was my turn? Would I even get one?
The trauma of losing my father suddenly at the age of 21, as well as the experience of breaking up with my boyfriend of a year and a half just a couple weeks before that, made me feel that having a loving, nurturing man in my life was a thing of the past.
My forecast looked dark and my black-and-white thinking blocked any sense of hope and light at the end of the tunnel.
Plus, I knew people who were much older than me who hadn’t found their life partner yet. I wondered if that were my fate as well.
My fears about my hopes for a family not being actualized made me miserable—I surely was not about to consider a career change focusing on early childhood education and/or childhood development at that phase in my life.
But today, 10 years later, I am immensely grateful to be where I am: thriving as a wife, as a mother, and even as an early childhood educator.