Saturday, June 21, 2014

Guest Post: Let Mom Be The Judge of That

by Kathy Buckworth

When Peter MacKay, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and notably, father of one,  made the comments that “women don’t apply to be judges because they fear the job will take them away from their children”, and that “children need their mothers more than their fathers”, (according to the Toronto Star),  with one fell swoop, he handed successful working women some more unnecessary guilt, and made Dads everywhere feel marginal, or even, optional, during the first few years of a child’s life. (I’m thinking maybe MacKay shouldn’t go after the Stay At Home Dad Vote in the next federal election.)
There are fewer women than men in every executive office and position of power; that fact is indisputable and statistically easily proven. But continuing to perpetuate the notion that a woman can’t be as successful, or shouldn’t be as ambitious simply because she has a child, versus her male counterpart, is ridiculous. Has MacKay heard of Sheryl Sandberg? Marissa Mayer? These aren’t the only two successful women in the world, although it seems like it sometimes, but they are the epitome of what women, not entirely defined by their motherhood, can succeed.


MacKay’s comments hit the news just as Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin’s “Darling You Can’t Do Both” book hit the shelves, which deconstructs the many “rules” women have to break to find success in the corporate world.  Vonk and Kestin are legends in the Canadian advertising world, and their experiences with gender discrimination and sexism ring true to many, including me, having worked in corporate marketing departments through the 90’s. I had hoped that the next generation of women (women like Sandberg and Myer) wouldn’t have to suffer through the same misogynistic setting.

In the early 90’s, I was employed as a product manager at a bank, and as I crunched numbers in a monthly budget meeting,  was called out to pick up my child from daycare, as she was running a fever of 102. When I returned to the office the next morning, my male manager pulled me in to his cubicle and asked me when he should be concerned that my family was more important to me than my job.  Isn’t everyone’s family more important to them than their job? Was this a Mother Issue? Does it mean that as a woman we can’t have a family and be a judge, or a vice president, or a product manager?

I started looking for another position, at other organizations.  I was being considered for a job at another bank, and the Senior Vice President asked me if I was married, and if I planned on having more children. I advised him that I didn’t have to answer that question (I had two children at the time).  His response?  “I know I’m not supposed to ask you that, but I assume you want the job.  Do you realize that this a real job, not girls playing house?”  I didn’t pursue that job, although I did make a stop at the Human Resources department on the way out. He’s still at that bank; he’s been promoted several times.

“It’s not fair”, said a manager in her sixties, sitting next to me at lunch one day. “Back in the 1960’s when I was your age I couldn’t have a family and keep a good job at the bank. They made us resign when we had children. I had to choose.  I think you should have to choose too.” I think Peter MacKay would have liked her.

These situations happened over  20 years ago, but it pains me that still, today, men in positions of power, who can get media attention, not only make comments like Peter McKay did, but ultimately, that they themselves believe them. Regardless of the fact that perhaps mothers may  have a more biological and emotional role to play in the formative first years of their child’s life (a fact many would dispute), it in no way indicates that they are not capable of doing whatever they want, and need, to do, to be successful and happy. And we all know when Mom’s happy, everyone’s happy, right? 

The blanket statement that “women don’t apply” perpetuates the myth that all women, and by definition, are a homogenous group.  They’re not.  Not all women like to shop, spend hours on Pinterest, bake cupcakes or breastfeed.  Just the same as not all men like sports, hardware, and excel in laundry avoidance.

As Vonk and Kestin have so accurately written about, it’s time to start breaking some rules, further, it’s time to start making some rules about what we can, and can’t do.  

Remember, it’s only work if you’d rather be somewhere else. For the ambitious and successful women who have a passion and talent for what they do, the jobs aren't taking them away from their children; they’re taking them on a path of professional and personal fulfillment. Can’t we choose to do that without being judged or perhaps even choose to be a judge?

Kathy Buckworth’s latest book “I Am So The Boss Of You” is available at bookstores everywhere.

Friday, June 20, 2014

An Interview with Sara Bingham, WeeHands Founder

Sara, you have a very successful career. You have earned Bachelors in Linguistics and Psychology and an Honors Diploma as a Communicative Disorders Assistant. How did you choose your career path?

Languages have always been something that fascinated me even though I really only speak English. I have studied both French and American Sign Language though!

We connect with each other through a shared language and culture. It’s such an important aspect of who were are as individuals and as part of a community. Those who are unable to communicate, for whatever reason, can’t fully participate in their community and the value they can bring to their community is not fully appreciated. I wanted to help these individuals as much as I could. Communication is key to connect with those around you.

You are the author of one of the top selling baby books in America, what do you think led “The Baby Signing Book” to be a top seller?

The Baby Signing Book was written to help parents of any young child learn about language development and to learn motivating American Sign Language signs to use with their little ones. It’s meant to be both fun and functional.  Review of my little book have been very positive because it’s easy to follow, the illustrations are fantastic and it includes a lot of vocabulary that just makes sense for little ones. Parents, educators and speech pathologist love it!

You are linked to over 40 groups on LinkedIn, including Autism Speaks, Preemie World and Early Childhood Education. Can you tell us how sign language improves the lives of children with developmental delay?

Many children with developmental delays have mild to significant language difficulties. They may have difficulty speaking and/or they may have difficulty understanding what is said to them. Using sign language help children communicate when they can’t. It helps children “see” and “feel” language in addition to hearing it when they may have difficulty learning.

Is sign language suitable for all children, or is it specific for kids with speech impairment?

Sign language is suitable for all children and they will show you that they love it! Sign language helps you communicate before you can. It helps your get your point across when you are not being understood. It helps you learn to read. It helps you communicate in places when you might not be heard, e.g., across a park. It lets you communicate in a place where you need to be quiet, e.g., in church.

How does language development improve behavior?

Challenging behaviors occur because a child can’t make themselves understood. They want something; they are tired and want to escape an activity; they want to get your attention and don’t know how to appropriately.  Challenging behaviors may also occur when a child doesn't understand what someone is saying.

When a child can’t communicate using speech because they are too young, too tired or because of special needs, sign language helps them make requests, get your attention, let you know that they are “finished” in a way that is appropriate…before tantrums occur.

What do you think would be the best way to make American Sign Language available to everyone and what is the best way to get involved?

Everyone learns differently. You can start to learn sign language from books, videos or classes. I love the idea of classes because you can get immediate feedback about how you are doing and ask questions that you might not have thought of before. Classes also get new parents out of the house and meeting other new parents. That community is so important for learning and just being happy!

Tell us about WeeHands...

I founded in 2001 as a way to stay home with my own children. Since then we've grown to having more than 60 instructors teaching across North America. We we offer sign language classes for parents to take with their babies, toddlers and preschool children.  We teach parents American Sign Language signs along with age appropriate language development games and activities. The Baby Signing Book, our DVD and music CD were created to help parents learn to sign and encourage language development as well.

What are the 5 most basic signs a toddler should learn?

You could pick signs for things that are of great interest to your toddler. For example, if your toddler really like food, choose food signs. If your toddler loves animals choose animal signs. Some great signs to start with a toddler are: milk, more, eat, finished, dog, cat, hurt, stop (oops, that’s more than five!).

The most rewarding moment teaching sign language...

Oh, when parents stop me in parking lots and coffee shops to let me know how amazing it’s been to be able to connect and communicate with their babies and toddlers. Those are definitely the most rewarding moments!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

New Instructor Alert! New Instructor Alert!

Donna Jones is a mom to three wonderful boys and has a degree as a Respiratory Therapist. She first started learning American Sign Language because her best friend is Deaf and has signed with her children when they were little ones. Donna has taught in her local teaching hospital as well as Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and has taught sign language classes to 5-8 years old at a local Homeschool Enrichment class. She is very excited to offer WeeHands classes in Solon Springs and other communities in Douglas County, Wisconsin.

Donna shares, "My middle child knew over 200 signs when he was an toddler! I never had to wonder what he was thinking, he was constantly telling me what was on his mind and about his experiences using his signs. I am so excited to share my passion for ASL with other families and I love watching children learn."

For more information about Donna's classes just call 715-919-1854 or email: donna@weehands.com 

Tell us about your little ones? How many children do you have and what were their first words?   

Thursday, May 15, 2014

More WeeHands Classes Coming to Illinois!


A big welcome to our newest WeeHands Instructor, Kim Meinke!

Kim Meinke will be teaching in Naperville, Illinois and is excited about meeting new young families! Kim started her education in Early Childhood Development and is currently furthering her education in the Speech and Language Pathology Assistant program at the College of DuPage. Since 1999, Kim has vast experience working with children and parents including different roles as a preschool teacher, curriculum director and much more!

Kim shares, "As much as communication is the essence of human life it is also the essence of social existence, a serious disorder can have a profound effect on a child. I feel as a WeeHands instructor I can teach very young children how to express their needs and wishes earlier than they could otherwise. As a WeeHands instructor I can give the children the ability to sign basic words that could prove helpful in boosting communication and providing a "bridge to the spoken word."

For more information about Kim's sign language classes for babies, toddlers and preschool children, call 815-219-3040 or email: kim@weehands.com

Do you live in Illinois? Which area? If you don't, what area are you from and how old are your wee ones?  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

5 Ways to Get Outside with Baby!


It has been one crazy winter! But now that's it's spring it's time to get outside with your baby and enjoy the fresh air and a change of pace.
  1. Travel Happy: Time your outing to coincide with periods when he is content. After a feeding and diaper change is often a good time for a walk...baby may even fall asleep during your travels!  I remember the days of my 4:00 pm walk with Joshua when he was a baby...he's sleep and I'd walked for an hour. It was a great wee workout!
  1. Baby's Attire: Dress your baby as appropriate for the weather. Layers allow you allow you to peel off anything that is making baby hot or add if baby is getting chilly. Don't forget sunscreen, sunglasses or a hat as well. Of course, you may run into well meaning strangers along the way as well who will let you know that you forgot baby's hat!
  1. Be a Good "Girl Scout" ... always be prepared! Depending on the planned length of your outing, be sure to stock your diaper bag with changing supplies, extra clothes, and feeding supplies if needed.
  1. Carry On! Use a comfortable baby wearing carrier...we love the Ergo Carrier! When your baby is close to you, you'll be able to share more things with him and feel when he is nodding off or sweating up a storm!
  1. Bring your Signs! Narrate the outside world for your baby by naming and signing what you are seeing!  Now get outside and have some fun!