Learned Behavior

Around 7ish every morning, my freshly awoken daughter usually makes her way to my office upstairs, wiping sleep from her eyes and carrying a plush toy. She always asks if we can spend some time together, and while I’m usually an hour or so into my work day, I try to pause and give her some time. Breaks are healthy. :)I noticed after about a week of this routine, she’s started showing up at my office more often. Truth be told, she’s always itching for reasons to go in there, and I can’t blame her for that. My office is chocked full of stuff a toddler would like to get into – markers, a glass angel figurine, paper, pens, a stapler, a turquoise file cabinet, a vase full of brightly colored artificial flowers, etc. (my office is my own personal paradise). But lately, when she shows up at my office, it’s with one of her wooden chairs, her play “computer” and a dolly that she’s lovingly referring to as her baby that day. 
She will plug away on her pretend laptop, scribble pretend notes on scratch paper, pick up her “baby” and sing to it, then gently tell it that she has a meeting to go to, and talk to her friends on her toy cell phone. 
She said to me, “I’m doing work just like you, mommy!” and I must say, my heart was touched. 

From last year. We like to sing along to the Frozen soundtrack when we do…just about everything.😏

First and foremost, our children learn how to act based on observing our behaviors, and it seems that I’ve been able to pass on some behaviors I was hoping my children would pick up, specifically, my daughter. I want her to see her mom as a working woman. 

I want her to see that it’s possible to be a career woman, and be a family woman, and be happy maintaining both. Now, don’t get me wrong – this is not my attempt to control her destiny in any way. She is free to choose what her adulthood will look like when the time comes. If she wants to be a stay at home mommy, she’s free to. She could marry a rich man and spend her days shopping and lounging (how nice, right?!). She could decide to work full time while attending night school to become a doctor or lawyer. She could also put herself through grad school while taking care of children of her own. I will support all of that as long as it’s what she wants because I love her. I also feel a sense of pride in getting to show her one version of womanhood that I’ve found to be respectable and commendable. 

While I was out grocery shopping with Adrian this week, another mom approached me as I was piling my selected goods onto the checkout conveyor belt with my 3-month old strapped onto my chest. “I’m impressed that you’re out shopping with your baby!” she told me. I thanked her for that compliment, and we chitchatted about diaper deals and managing outings with kiddos. Later that same day, as I was talking to my husband about future plans for our family, he reiterated his appreciation for the energy I bring to our home.

I think all moms can list at least 50 tasks that are just everyday responsibilities that have to be maintained in order for life to go on at home. What we don’t always do is step back to take in the scope of all these tasks. We chauffeur, we cook, we comfort and cuddle, we wake up in the middle of the night, we wipe noses, we wash and fold, and many of us do these things while also working jobs full time. Some of us even work those full time jobs out of the same homes we work so hard to keep clean and inviting (like me!).

Make no mistake, our children see us doing these things. They may not always express their gratitude (just two days ago, Kennedy told me to go away while I was dropping her off with her grandmother 🙄) but they do take notice of us tucking them in at night, waking them up in the morning, and always being there. My daughter sees me working and deems it cool and important, which I take as a positive step in building her identity. When she gets older, I can let her know about the time I spent in school to be able to work the job I have, and hopefully that will inspire her, too. 

I like this version of motherhood on me. It’s been a crazy ride to adjust to the growth of our family while also returning to work, but I feel like myself doing this. I also feel like I’m putting my best foot forward in setting an example for my children, who will hopefully come to conceptualize womanhood as including lots of things beyond just beauty or homemaking – it’s also intelligence, multitasking, and serving. 

I’m No Longer Teaching

…at least for the time being. This is a significant career move for me, so allow me to set the stage upon which my decision was made.

My career in teaching and higher education began almost five years ago to the day when I was hired to teach English classes at California College San Diego. I was elated to start, especially considering that the job I held before it was as a hospital registrar. After that, I began taking jobs at various other schools doing roughly the same thing: teaching English. This has allowed me to gain not only experience in teaching and andragogy, but also to develop key professional skills I’ll forever be grateful for. But for the 42 mods that I taught in the classroom at CCSD, I began each new mod with new students the same way; I’d tell them how long I’d been there, where I studied, fill them in on my career background and let them know that teaching will be my profession until I lose a passion for it. In other words: The day I lost my passion for teaching would be the day I’d leave the profession.

I lost my passion for teaching about a year ago.

I couldn’t just up and quit. That’d damage my already near crumbling financial stature. But when I finally identified what was making me so aggravated, I committed myself to finding something else to do for work. At first, I thought I might journey back into marketing and/or public relations, but after doing a two-day job search in that field, I decided my skill set wasn’t focused enough for the jobs I wanted. I was building a business at this point, but it needed time to grow. I sent out lots of applications for jobs, but none produced any follow up. I had to be picky; I’m a work at home mom by choice, and I refuse to give that up. The pool of telecommute jobs isn’t as great as one might think. Discouraged with my job hunt, I decided I’d need to stay with the company I was working for. It was around this time that I began looking into the requirements to work in curriculum.

After learning that I’d be qualified to work in this department, I turned into a puppy you feed once that just keeps hanging around. I followed up with the director incessantly for months. I also liked that in curriculum, I’d still have influence over the student experience, but no more direct student contact. I liked that the positions there were more steady than adjunct work; the possibilities of becoming a full time instructor were so few and far between, and I didn’t have the will power to wait. I also liked that working in curriculum allowed me to use more of my talents. I write well, but I also create – films, art, sound bites, systems – well. Working with curriculum allows for more of that. It also gives me a chance to collaborate with others more – a part of the workday experience I lost when I left CCSD to go online with IU. Teaching online is very solitary, or at least it was for me. The curriculum department works in teams, so the island feel has less chance to exist.

Evidently, the universe agrees that curriculum is where I need to be, because I was offered a position there this past week, and I gladly accepted.

Some who follow this blog might wonder if this means the return of the machine. No. The machine was surviving partially on angst and bitterness about a situation she didn’t know how to change – not enjoying my job for a while caused friction in other areas of my life which both gave me energy and put a strain on me. Somewhere, somehow, teaching and I fell out of love, and the disconnect made me question who I was.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 11.12.07 PM

Circa May 2012, back when I was still in love with teaching as well as high-waisted pencil skirts. (Maybe I’m still in love with high-waisted pencil skirts)

For five years, I’ve been “Mrs. O.” but I haven’t really felt like her in about two years. Or maybe it’s just that she’s changed. She was 26 when she started. Five years of time flies by and suddenly the life scape looks a little different, and so do the priorities, the perspectives, the passions. I’d much rather retire Mrs. O. as the fire in her is slowly fading, just in case there’s a chance it gets reignited, than drag her along through storm after storm, which will eventually just put her out. It’s important to me that if I depart from teaching, I do so with a sense of my love for it remaining. I just don’t love it as much as I did on that first night I stood up to teach ENG099 to a group of 12. I was scared and fumbling, and all they wanted to know was where I shopped because they liked my clothes. Then they asked how old I was. Then they asked why I’d ever want to teach, and I told them, with stars in my eyes, of my enthusiasm for educating the world on English and communication…

I start my new job on Monday.

Stay tuned…

The Work-at-Home-Mom Balancing Act

My being able to work from home at this time was one of the greatest things to happen to our family, as well as one of the worst things to happen to my personal management. Because Kennedy is still very young, it’s nice to be able to stay home with her and not have to shuttle her off to a daycare center or babysitter. Especially with the enormously high costs of such services, my staying home with our daughter is a huge savings. However, working from home with a 16-month old is not the stress-free cakewalk that many imagine. I even had misconceptions about it before I actually started doing it.

When I began my teaching career nearly four years ago, I held two jobs: one in an on-ground classroom, and one grading papers in an online classroom. I learned very quickly that time management was key to getting things done efficiently with both jobs, especially the work from home position. For the first year that I worked from home, I was routinely working around the clock, putting in way too many hours than what I was being paid for. I’d experience feelings of guilt when I wasn’t working, and I’d fill any free time I had with completing work. It was ridiculous. Once I adjusted to the job more, the amount of hours I’d spend on it became less, but despite these growing pains, I wasn’t working efficiently.

As I moved into my second year of teaching, I decided to take charge of my approach to my work from home job. I established some boundaries for myself, and though I didn’t always want to, I did my best to stick to them. The results were beneficial; I was able to carve out more free time, and my home environment returned to being one where I could relax as well as get work done when I needed to.

Now that we have Kennedy, working from home takes on a different dimension. There are certain challenges that are evident with both roles – that of being a parent, and that of being an employee who telecommutes. Children require a certain level of attention. Some require more attention depending on their age, health, and personality. I lucked out in that Kennedy is a fairly easy child to entertain, though the challenge has become greater as she’s grown older and become more mobile and aware of her environment. Because she is my child, it’s also very easy to get lost in her world. I get enthralled in watching her development from day to day. She is the ultimate distraction.

pop up office

My “pop-up” desk in the living room. Complete with toddler blocks.

On the flip side, I’m working diligently to try to make my exclusively online classroom experience one that is as effective and fun as the on-ground classroom experience was with my last job. It’s easy for me to get caught up in coming up with new strategies for my students, responding to their discussion questions and emails, and brainstorming strategies for live sessions. While this is fulfilling for me professionally, it takes away from the other roles I hold in my family and in my household.

It’s a balancing act.

There are some tools I’m most grateful for as I attempt to balance my responsibility scales, and I recommend them to people trying to manage working from home, or those who work from home while also upholding other domestic obligations such as parenting or taking care of a family member.


Yup, even “calling finance guy” makes the list. I number my list based on priority too.

  1. To-do lists

It seems so simple and mundane, but to-do lists are like a running agenda for the day. If you have the tasks you have to complete laid out in front of you in list form, it’s easy to work on each task and cross things off the list as they’re completed. The mere act of checking or crossing something off just gives you a sense of progress and productivity, and can help energize you to complete more. I can’t move through a week day without a to-do list. Otherwise, I’ll spend all day doing homework (did I mention I’m a student too?) or all day teaching new things to Kennedy, and not much else will get done.


Heavy duty combination lock! Since the move, I’ve been sharing office space with my mom, who does medical billing. Medicare requires her to have a lock like this for her office to maintain HIPAA compliance. I want one for the bathroom…

  1. An office space with a door (preferably one that locks!)

This one may also seem fairly obvious, but it’s become a high priority for me recently. Part of being able to separate the roles I hold and the time I spend on each includes being able to physically separate myself from things and people who will distract me. When it’s time to work, I go into my office and close the door. Thankfully, my father can usually watch Kennedy during those times if she isn’t napping, and when the door is closed, it signifies that I’ve created an interruption-free space in which I can grade, hold live sessions with students, write, do what ever it is I need to. This isn’t to say that all of the work I complete is done in closed room space – in fact, most of the work I complete is done from my “pop-up office” in the living room while Kennedy watches Doc McStuffins or plays with her blocks. Some tasks don’t require seclusion for work, but others do. Having the option to separate myself is the bigger point, and utilizing this as necessary helps me to maintain my job.

  1. Office hours

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, when you elect to work from home exclusively, you’re transforming your home space into a multi-use space. You wake up there, you eat there, you relax there, you entertain there, but you also complete projects there, you attend meetings there, you put in extra hours there, you interact with your boss and coworkers there…it can quickly spoil the mecca of home that you’ve strived for if you’re not careful. For my profession, I have posted office hours during which students can contact me and expect an immediate response. I’ve also built in time for department meetings and conference calls as required. Students still call or text outside of these hours, and I receive emails around the clock from people I work with. However, I don’t respond to these matters unless I’m truly “open for business.” Likewise, my husband understands that during office hours, I’m not free to go to breakfast or to the park for a walk with the dogs. The only one who really is allowed to take me off course even the slightest bit during the workday is our daughter. This is where the true balancing act takes place when I don’t have some help from family. Any time taken from what was supposed to be set aside for work has to be made up for somehow.

Despite the challenges being a work at home mom poses, I’m appreciative of the chance to be near my daughter as she grows up. When she’s older, we plan to look into options for her a few days a week to get out of the house and be near other children, but this lifestyle works so well for our family right now. I never would’ve guessed that this would someday be my life, but I’m happy it is.