We’ve all heard the saying, “Nothing can fully prepare you for motherhood.” And I would have to agree. The exhaustion, the struggle, the love. You don’t get it until you are in it. But, on the other side of this, I would say that being a social worker has given me a great foundation for motherhood. Here are 7 ways my social work background has prepared me:
1. Understanding The Importance of Play:
Play is about mastery. It is how children integrate and make sense of the world around them. Play is also an avenue for self expression. Because younger children lack developed verbal skills they often communicate thru play, art and their behavior. You can learn so much about a child by simply watching. Play is a child’s work.
2. Utilizing a Strength-Based Approach:
Social workers are taught to focus in on the positive and build on one’s strengths. Acknowledging a child’s positive attributes and behaviors instead of always focusing on the negative is effective not only in increasing the desired behaviors, but also in building a child’s self-esteem. We need to build our children up, not tear them down.
3. Understanding Behavior and Child Development:
Routine, structure, consistency and follow thru are key to molding behavior. Children thrive on these things. It makes their world predictable. It makes them feel safe. With that said, children also test boundaries and limits. They desire attention whether positive or negative. They lack coping skills and have trouble regulating their emotions. They are learning how the world works and how to get their needs met. Children are sponges and we are the example. Additionally they are always watching. We need to act as we want them to act. Practice what you preach.
Whether it is handling a crisis, returning phone calls, searching for resources, or getting paperwork done, social workers are pulled in many directions. As a result, we are quite skilled at being organized, yet flexible and understand the importance of prioritizing. At times, motherhood can seem like a three ring circus. Some things need immediate assistance and other things need to wait. Then we do the best we can to juggle it all.
5. The Importance of Self Care:
Being a social worker is extremely gratifying and rewarding, but working and holding space for individuals to work through deep personal and emotional struggles requires a lot of emotional energy. In order to be effective in our work with clients we need to set clear boundaries and expectations of ourselves in order to prevent burnout. If we do not take time to address our own needs, we eventually wear ourselves thin. In order to help others, I need to take care of myself. And in order to be a good mom, you need to take care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
6. Being an Advocate:
Social workers advocate for their clients and encourage them to have a voice. We assist in accessing resources and getting needs met. As a parent it is our job to advocate for our child. We are their voice when they do not have one. If we don’t speak up, who else will?
7. Encouraging Life Skills & Independence:
Social workers teach skills necessary for surviving and thriving in life. Our goal is to help others through difficult times, but also to help them help themselves. This in turn, builds self esteem. As a mother it is our job to teach our children responsibility, to speak up for themselves, to take initiative, and to contribute to the family and to the community. We cannot do everything for them. We can’t fix everything. They need to mess up. They need to fail. They need to figure it out. That is how they learn. That is how they grow. That is how they fly. And that is how they soar.