The woes of a non-mother

DISCLAIMER – the views and opinions shared by the writer of this blog are offensive to all, and no one should read it. If one proceeds to read it and disregard this warning, the writer of this blog will not be able to accept responsibility for any feelings felt.

My mother was not just a full-time working mom, but one who was forced to raise me single-handedly. Money was tight and she made innumerable sacrifices for me and for our family of two. Not for a second do I discount the difficulty one faces in trying to juggle children, work and money problems.

There are so many videos, posts, stats and especially blogs about and from mothers, who share their many experiences and struggles that they face daily. Much societal admiration exists for working mothers and stay-at-home mothers, and even more sympathy and empathy is extended to them. I do not for second disagree with what they experience daily, in fact, I can’t. I don’t walk in their shoes, and I don’t judge them…contrary to much public opinion.

It just seems quite negligent of us as women and as a society at large, to assume that mothers should be admired more than non-mothers, and are somehow off-limits from any type of criticism. Men and fathers are criticised relentlessly and are all judged the same, because of few who are as valuable as a cent. I cannot understand the over-sensitivity women feel because other women disagree with them. I think it may be because I’m not easily offended. However, we non-mothers also face our struggles, which should also be highlighted as much as the struggles that mothers face. It seems only fair and equal.

So here are some struggles and complaints of a working, childless, therefore and obviously heartless woman, with whom one should not empathise.

– Who is going to take care of me when I grow old? I have no children. I have no idea what is going to become of me in twenty or thirty years, when I am too old to care for myself! Is there no one to feel sorry for me that I must face these last daunting decades of my life alone? It should not matter that I chose not to have children. Mothers who choose to be mothers are sympathised with. They went in with their eyes open and facets intact, yet we must all feel sorry for their daily frustrations. Why are my choices not being sympathised with? Who is going to take care of me when I get old? Will I have to be placed in a home where there are absolutely NO parents, because their children always have them at home taking care of them…always!

– I will never experience unconditional love. The love of a child is seemingly the only love that matters when a child is born unto a mother. Their lives are complete and nothing can describe that love that is given by a child; a child that you created all on your own! I will never feel that love. I am now forced to go through life not knowing what it is like to be loved unconditionally. I will never be called ‘mummy’ and have my heart melt in my chest. I can’t understand why no one feels sorry for me that I will have to make do, with the love of JUST my husband, who can leave me at any time, but children never leave. They always stay and care for their parents. A part of my life will always remain incomplete because I chose a different path. It being my choice, is of no consequence. It is my FAULT that I will never feel this mystical love.

– My time just doesn’t seem like my own. I never have enough hours in the day. I never have enough days in the weekend. For that matter, if I want to be truly honest – I need more god damn hours in the work week! Between the work that I do at work, and the work that I bring home with me, I feel sometimes that all I do is work! Who cares that I chose to be a teacher (and love it, btw)? Work comes with the territory. But then, I have to juggle into my work, at work, and my work-work at home, the time for nail appointments, hair appointments and the oh-so-necessary wax appointments! In addition to those struggles, I constantly have to decide what to cook, which is four times harder than actually cooking! By the time I finish work, do the groceries, have my appointments done, cook, do the laundry and prepare to do it all over again tomorrow…it’s….night fall!!!! I’m exhausted and have no time to do anything other than shower and hit the sack. Where is my time going? I mean, it’s not like I have children.

– Is money ever going to be enough? My bills are somewhat different from mothers. I have a cell-phone bill (which is admittedly way too high), mortgage, car upkeep, groceries, electricity bill, entertainment, clothing and travel expenses. Granted, I have no pampers, baby food, school fees and other child-associated expenses. That simply means that my entertainment, clothing and travel are increased to fill the void that is my childless existence. I feel very frustrated that I can’t always buy whatever I want for myself, because I have to consider things like retirement and medical money that would be needed later on! It is so unfair. You would think that since I don’t have children that I should really be exempt from such tedious responsibilities. I really thought that it was only parents who faced these struggles. If I had only known that we, non-mothers, face the same financial woes, well I don’t know, I may have just popped one out!

– Oh the judgement! The hurtful, deliberate and insensitive judgement I face from….the world! How selfish I am made to feel that I didn’t want children. My time is judged; my money is judged; my travelling is judged; my drinking is judged; my appearance is judged; my life is judged!! I just can’t take it anymore! It hurts the depths of my soul when people find that I don’t know what it is like to be a mother. I mean, I am not a mother, but I am somehow not empathetic enough towards them, and I am judged so brutally for it! I feel like if my accessories match or I buy a new handbag or I eat out four times a week, that I am being judged for being irresponsible, and I am brushed off as, ‘well she doesn’t have children’. I want to be part of club too, in which I am understood and empathised with for facing this type of daily judgement.

– It is only obvious that I hate children. I must be a meanie who thinks that all children should perish in hell. Because if you aren’t a momma, you cannot possibly love children! It is such a struggle to be looked at as a child-hater. Mind you, my JOB is taking care of and educating other people’s children all day, in their absence, and I have only been doing it for a mere twenty years. Why have I stayed in a profession for so long, that exposes me to teenagers on a daily basis, if I cannot possibly understand what it is like to have a child?? The struggle is just too much at times. The thought that I actually love other people’s children is not accepted or acceptable in any way, because the only way one can love a child is if one makes one for themselves, on their own, alone. The amount of times I have had to endure the torture of being accused of not having children and therefore have no clue how to interact with them! Because, of course, you must be a parent to understand children and interact healthily with them. Me being a teacher really counts for nothing. Don’t even get me started on how I actually feel about my students, because no one would even believe me! I actually love them and I care about them and I think about ways I can be a better teacher…all the time. But no one cares! I make tea for my girls when they have their period; I keep extra pads around as well; I counsel them when they are upset; I endure the complaints about their parents while trying to get them to understand how hard it is to be a parent. I hug them when they cry. I check on them when I know they are having a bad day. I clean and bandage bleeding toes; I make myself available 24/7 to my older girls; and sweet Jesus, I love it. Yet not a person would or should believe that I know a thing about children or loving them, because I have none of my own. This is so unbelievably hurtful. I must be overreacting and just accept that I must just hate children.

– I hate when mothers deliberately post things about their children, JUST to make me feel lesser about myself. All the beautiful pictures and videos of how much mothers are loved by their gems, is sometimes too much for me to handle. The report cards, the pottery…things they make (I really don’t know what they are called), the mother’s day cards, the hugs and kisses and, oh, the matching outfits! Why, oh why, do people share these things for me to see? Do they not know that I take offense to these posts? They were obviously MEANT to make me feel barren and irresponsible and heartless and jealous! It could not possibly be that they are just proud of their children! Oh no! They MUST want me to feel bad about myself, because God knows that when I post about loving my child-free life, I MUST be trying to deliberately offend all parents, and not just enjoying my choices. Don’t even get me started on those vehemently offensive ‘motherhood challenges’! They tear me to pieces! Please stop hurting me with your beautiful family pictures.

Thank you cyber world, thank you. Thank you for allowing the downtrodden childless women like myself, to vent! It is really important that I am allowed to share these feelings, even though I am not lucky enough to be a mother. I feel so understood now that I have shared this. I feel…normal. My struggles are so real. I feel like no one really understands me and that society has made insignificant all that I go through. But now that I have faced who I really am and shared my frustrations, I so hope and pray that some semblance of empathy, or at least some sympathy is extended to me.

The 17 Fcuks that won’t be given in 2017

Every New Year it’s the same thing with everyone – resolution after resolution. Every year we decide that this is the year we lose weight, we eat healthy, we stay positive, we remove toxic people from our lives, and we develop ourselves professionally. Most people are quite successful for the first few weeks of the New Year, others make it to February, but most of us fail within a month or just don’t bother at all.

Some years ago I stopped even thinking about resolutions. I have even stopped giving thought to making them. As I grow older I realise that resolutions are nothing but a bother to me; an unnecessary and usually unreasonable expectation that I force unto myself, and for the love of God above, I cannot figure out why I even bothered in the first place. The truth be told, resolutions often, if not always, consist of starting to do things I hate and stopping doing things that I love. So for 2017 I decided to make a real change…which I suppose is a resolution in itself, minus the pressure if I fail.

Instead of making a New Years’ Resolution List, I decided to make a ‘’Fcuk It’’ list! This is a list of things that I have decided to NOT do for the New Year, and the Fcuks I plan NOT to give!


  1. Accept disrespect

This can be a difficult one to understand and even remove from our lives, because we often think of disrespect in a very direct way: someone cursing at us; someone embarrassing us in public, etc. Disrespect, however, takes many forms. So, for me, I decided that 2017 was my year to stop allowing the disrespect in the more subtle forms. No longer am I going to allow anyone to assume my time. I can’t have plans made for me to do things for others on their time, with no respect for my time and my life. My time is my own, to do as I please, with whom I please. Disrespect only occurs when we allow it to occur. When people treat me as though I am not good enough for some things, but good enough to run errands, I will have to make the necessary adjustments. So for 2017, if I am not good enough to be part of the fun times, then don’t make plans for me to pick up your junk, do your dirty work, or accept the scraps of your tribe. I’m out, bitches!


  1. Need acceptance

I’ve always been somewhat…or quite a bit…of a non-conformist. I have never felt, seen or understood the value of fitting into a group, society, family or clique. While teamwork is an entirely different concept, I have no desire or inclination, in my personal life to be accepted by anyone. To make matters even more complicated, I have tattoos, a bitch face that offends, a teacher’s tone of voice even when I’m actually being nice, and a clear intolerance for people in general. I’m tired of trying to smile at random children who actually irritate me in the supermarket and other public places, or at people who are deliberately stupid as though it’s in style. Usually people accept you more easily when you conform to their idea of what you should be. I have decided that in 2017, if you can’t accept me as is, you need not accept me at all. I am not at the age of the possibility existing of drastic change. In fact, I am pretty comfortable with who I am, numerous faults included. My faults are cute to me and since beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, I really don’t need anyone else to appreciate my ‘cuteness’. So with the exit of 2016, though for me I think it may have actually been 2013, so too is the exiting of filling a mould. Like I have said many times before, moulds are for cakes.


  1. Smile through insults

Our parents have always told us that if we can’t say anything good, we shouldn’t say anything at all. Value in this took quite a long time to penetrate my psyche. I suppose I never saw the importance of that golden rule because of the brazen confidence of youth, perfect bodies and pretty faces. As my old ass approaches 42, and my body has decided to grow in its own direction, without my direction, I realise that there is never any need for people to be blatantly unkind to others. However, since one good turn deserves another, I will no longer be accepting the unwanted observations of unimportant people without the return of an equally discourteous observation about them. So the next time some scholar notices any weight gain, or doesn’t like my new hairstyle or comments on the difference in age between my husband and I, 2017 shall meet them with a relentlessly politically incorrect me. Usually the ones who notice your faults are blind from their own. So, if I am going to be insulted, my 2017 reaction to it is going to be less than accepting.


  1. Reduce my vices

Every New Year meets us feeling guilty about our vices, accompanied by promises to break them. Why? I quite enjoy my vices, which is why they ARE my vices. Coffee is a necessity on a morning, before I can even have a rational thought that is even applicable to life. It is also a necessity at least two more times during the day, since alcohol is not as yet allowed in the workplace, if I am to even function on a semi-normal level. And to be clear, I love coffee. I love it so much that I’d prefer to be caffeine deficient than have to lower my every standard and swallow instant coffee. Life is way too short for anything other than French-pressed Italian espresso. The other vice I intend to NOT eliminate or even reduce, is my love for, as well as my consumption of alcohol. I am not an alcoholic (as all alcoholics say), because I don’t NEED prosecco; I just LOVE prosecco and yes, there is a difference. Prosecco makes me happy; it makes me tolerant and tolerable. I can’t understand why we must cut out the things that we love the most. Isn’t life just way too short and unpredictable to not eat the cake? To not buy the shoes? To not drink the prosecco?


  1. Stop dropping the ‘F’ bomb

The extent to which people’s sensibilities are so offended by curse words, has become ludicrous, if not comedic. I think they are offended by these words because they believe that they should be; good people are not supposed to like curse words; intelligent people don’t need to use curse words to express themselves. Don’t get me wrong – I do take time and place into consideration for all that I do. I obviously won’t curse in front of a class, around children, in the presence of my in-laws – all for the same reason: respect. But seriously, I curse and I really don’t care. There are so many worse things I could do – like kill, scheme, cheat, lie, be cruel to animals! But if I just like to drop an ‘F’ bomb or two in every conversation. Wtf is really the problem?


  1. Feel guilty

This is a pretty big one! Family especially does a great job at guilting you into doing things that you really have no interest in, no time for and really just don’t want to do. I’m pretty much done with it. I am no longer going to be dancing to anyone’s music a minute before they need me to help with something or someone, on the ridiculous assumption that I MUST have the time because I don’t have children. Neither am I going to be guilted into cooking, running errands, dropping or picking up anything or anyone, if it isn’t convenient to me and not ASKED of me in a considerate amount of time in advance of the favour. Respect my time. Respect my life. Respect me. ‘No’ is a perfectly acceptable answer. People finding me to be rude because I opt for that answer, simply have an inflated sense of self, and believe that they are entitled to me submitting and committing to them in ways that aren’t convenient to me. In 2017, guilt has been put out of this house and got its ass kicked to the curb.


  1. Grow old

I have just pretty much decided that growing old just isn’t for me. What does that even mean? Growing old? Growing up? It is quite overrated if you ask me. Responsibility is a part of life regardless of age or status. I don’t see why I need to grow old and fit a mould of what people in their 40’s should be or should do. For example, the amount of times I have heard that I am too old to be enjoying social media as much I do. But why? I am technological – in my job, in my personal life. So why should I not be keeping up with technology, while having a job in which teenagers are everything? So old folks like me should just sip some tea, take their calcium and not understand how a computer works. We should not dress trendy, sexy or risqué in any way. We should not dance until the sun comes up. Well! These limitations do not work well for me. While my girls stand straight without the sag, I intend to enjoy any bloody-hell low cut top that I want. Not only will I dance until the sun comes up, but I will do it on a table, if I so desire. Age isn’t a number; it’s a state of mind, a mentality, a hindrance. I will live and dance and drink and love until the day I die, because life has no meaning if we stop living while our hearts are still beating.


  1. Save useless relationships

I have often compromised myself in order to avoid confrontation in relationships. I have often turned a blind eye to disloyalty, dishonesty and destructive behaviour in order to save a relationship, whether it was a platonic, familial or romantic one. The only result was me always feeling disgusted with myself and others for remaining part of a toxic relationship. Family and friends who truly love you and care about you, would not have you accepting their poor behaviour and sacrificing parts of you, just to have you keep them in your life. These types of relationships are truly useless. They serve no purpose other than to suck the joy and life out of you. In 2017, I will work on the relationships that are worth it, with the people who work on their relationships with me. Everyone else can go toxify themselves elsewhere.


  1. Stop dancing

No, I am not too old to dance. I am not too old to be a dance teacher. I am not too old to dance on tables. For so long, dance and dancing have been silently associated with children, whores and the shameless. I’m none of those…well at least not the first two anyway. Every time my husband and I travel, we somehow end up somewhere, in some bar or restaurant or club, in which they play our local music. For anyone who knows me, I cannot hear ‘soca’ music without ‘bussin a wine’. So yes, when I get called out in Mango’s Tropical Café in SOBE, or in Café del Mar in Ft. Lauderdale Beach, I will dance! In front of everyone, I will represent my country, my music and just be me. So my answer is no – I do not feel shame to just get up and dance. I am a dancer, I am a dance teacher….I mean, seriously, have you met me?


  1. Worry

I just can’t do it anymore. I can no longer worry about what might happen with my health as I get older. I can no longer worry about how my life may look to others. I can no longer worry about useless relationships. I can no longer worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to come whether I am here to celebrate it or not. Tomorrow will bring its new joys and its new sorrows, regardless of how I spend today. So, in 2017, worrying will not get the better of me. Tomorrow will come until it doesn’t, and I will deal with it however I need to. Until there is something to worry about, I’ll just sip my hot, rich, French-pressed Italian coffee, guzzle my fresh, bubbly, extra-dry prosecco, dance like there are no worries in this world and just live my life. Shit happens regardless.


  1. Feel ashamed of what my body looks like

Oh mother hell! I’m almost 42. I only exercise when I feel like it. I juice my vegetables and then eat fried chicken. I don’t work out like a mofo and I refuse to starve myself into skinny! That’s for people who still need to impress others and receive their validation accordingly. Don’t get me wrong…I think exercising regularly and eating healthy is great, but only when it’s for the right reasons. Validation and recognition can never be some of them. I have cellulite, granted, not as much as I should have at 41. I have wrinkles around my eyes, probably because I spend so much time laughing with (and sometimes at) my husband. I have lines on the sides of my mouth, probably from the constant smile he has on my face. I will no longer entertain a navel breaker or a micro mini. But that’s ok! After one time is another. I enjoyed my twenties, maybe a bit too much. I was even able to dress as I wanted way into my 30s! What more could I ask for? So now, I wear what’s comfortable and I accentuate that which has not as yet started to sag or wrinkle. I’m ok with my highly imperfect body, because this ‘temple’ of imperfections still allows me to dance every single day and share that joy with my students. So I’m good…tattoos, sag, wrinkles and stretch marks alike.


  1. Be impressed with people’s perfect pictures

Seriously parents! Just before you finally got that perfect picture of your little angel smiling just right, he or she was eating his snot, digging his ass, or peeing his pants! You post away and I will continue to hit that ‘like’ button, but don’t be fooled into thinking that we don’t all know the reality of parenthood. As for the pictures of the non-models putting VS models to shame with their posing techniques, feigning aloofness and unawareness of the orchestrated photographer…gosh you do look great, but at the expense of some poor husband who has no choice but to feed your ego and take only 15 shots before you find the perfect one that will project the image that you so desperately NEED to project so that you can be validated by people you don’t know and by those who don’t matter. I’m no model and I don’t know how to stand to look sexy, cool or slim. My husband takes THE WORST pictures, because he only believes in ‘candid’. Like, wtf! I will always look like a crow if he’s taking the pic, which is how I know how many snaps it takes to get a perfect one, or in my case a semi-decent one. So this year, I will like the crap out of your posts and pics but you ain’t fooling me!


  1. Need an HGTV home

Yeah, I’m not the best homemaker. I’m uncreative, and very likely unambitious when it comes to having a picture perfect house. My home is my haven. It is where I need to just relax and be me. It’s clean and organised but the buck pretty much stops there. Ornaments are the devil’s gifts and dusting is the lifelong punishment for having them in your house. I like simple and uncluttered and I absolutely love convenient. So our TV snacks are kept in the living-room ottomans; we have a completely separate beer and prosecco fridge that’s usually fuller than the food fridge. The treadmill is in front of the TV, because there is NO WAY I can exercise without watching one of my shows. Our second bedroom has been converted into a ridiculously well-equipped gym, which I actually use. There is no TV in the bedroom, because we take our night sleep very seriously. Every single room is air conditioned because i feel hot all the time. I hate to decorate for Christmas, because it is such a bore to put up and take down a tree. The only two clocks in the house, reflect dance, coffee and alcohol. I do not make up my bed on mornings, because when I get home after work, an afternoon nap is a high likelihood. We have no children to entertain and dazzle with Christmas trees and gifts, and we don’t allow people who intend to judge us, into our home.


  1. Publicise charity

Public charity is always easy, and I suppose fulfilling in many ways. It has its value, I am assuming, in group and team work, pooled resources and maximising of time and effort. However, there seems to be a movement and mentality that has surfaced, especially in this age of social media, where all charitable offerings and activities are shared with the world. It isn’t something I understand or necessarily subscribe to. While I would never bash any form of helping others, I am highly irritated by people who feel the need to TELL me that they are going to feed the starving, help the poor, clothe the downtrodden and house the homeless. Do your thing! Why must you make that the sole topic of your conversations with others? Is it that you need the validation or recognition or reverence? Or maybe you think that if I knew about your ‘selflessness’ that I would be so inclined to follow in your footsteps. However, that would then be your inflated ego assuming that I don’t do anything to help others. Well I’m not the oak up which you should bark. I do not ever feel the need to let anyone, and I mean anyone, know what I do to help others. In fact, no one except my husband even knows what we do. It doesn’t mean that our hearts are in a righter place than anyone else’s but we simply do not NEED anything in return, especially attention. People who must always tell me about all the good that they do, don’t impress me; they worry me. I worry that your hearts are in a place of doing, so that others can see. Karma is real. If you do it for the wrong reasons, that shit comes back to bite you in your ass. For 2017, and way before, this boastful mentality has turned me off tremendously and disgusts me when that is the only thing about which you can converse. So this year, my response to your boasting is simply, ‘Yeah ok’. Charity is the way you live your life and the way you treat others everyday, not just when there is a reverent audience.


15. Allowing last minute demands of myself

While this was touched upon in previous points, I feel that it needs to be re-iterated and expanded upon, all by itself. I think people believe that because I have no children that my time is more available than theirs; or because my work day ends at 2:15 p.m., that I have more free time that others. But what needs to be clearly understood, is that being childless is a choice; being a teacher is a choice; having a husband who helps with all that needs to be done at home is a choice in partner. While my choices have allowed me certain comforts, it must be understood that they are still MY choices. They are not up for discussion or assumption. So when people continue to assume that they can call me for favours at the umpteenth hour, I will have no choice but to say ‘no’. I almost always have plans; whether with my husband or whether by myself. I value my time alone and even more so, our time together. I will not upheave my plans for anyone who didn’t have enough respect for my time, in the first place. Most times, the very people who don’t respect my time, know very well that they cannot do that to others or to their own people. That in itself sends a very clear message to me. I have no problem assisting family and friends whenever I can, on the condition that I am given ample notice to check my plans and choose if I want to adjust them accordingly. But you cannot expect me to give a care in the world about what YOU need from me, when I am not important enough to you, to be respected. So toodles to you and your assumptions of my time. Not this year!


16. Allow anyone to mistreat those I love

While I am quite aware that I am neither Superman or Wonder Woman, and I can’t stop people from treating others badly, I can control my interaction with them and limit it to the absolute necessary. In 2017, out the door goes any respect I used to or would have had for people who are exhibiting a blatant disrespect for the people I love. So, you treat my grandmother as though she is a second class citizen, who is supposed to be a punching bag for insults, you can fcuk yourself out of my life. You treat her as though she must bear the burden of your incessant complaints about me, you can fcuk yourself out of my life. Man the hell up and deal with ME if you have a problem with me. She is 85 years old. She has NO control over me, so attacking her will never get you what you want, except a very special place in hell. If you treat my parents as though they are there to serve you, you can fcuk yourself out of my life. Be clear, any courtesies they extend is out of the purity of their hearts and not to be taken advantage of. They can continue to do as they please and I will always respect them and their choices, but I will see people for who they really are in 2017. As for my husband! Well!!!! The buck stops there! I will not only allow you to fcuk yourself out of my life, but I will do it for you. He is an amazing, loving and generous man with no ill feelings or ill intentions towards others. So when people decide to speak ill of him and assume I don’t know what is being said, all hell will and has already broken loose. I will not be tolerating anyone to speak of him or treat him as though he is some sort of nuisance. The most ignorant parts of my soul will surface and I am happy to sin my soul for him! So in 2017, please be aware that I know more than you think I do. My husband is off limits!


17. Stop boasting about my husband

We love to talk about our failed relationships and blacken the names of friends and spouses who have wronged us in some way. It is so easy and entertaining to make horrible people look bad. We take pleasure in portraying ourselves as the victims at the hands of others. So if I think that my husband is the most amazing man I have ever met, I don’t see why I can’t shout it from the roof top! He does everything in his power to make my life easier, happier and less stressful. He is attentive and thoughtful, hardworking and dedicated to our life together. He is incredibly accepting of all of my faults, having very few himself. He is considerate and accommodating to who I am, who I truly am. He doesn’t just allow me to be me and and to do the things I love, but he encourages it. He has made my happiness and comfort his priority and treats me as though I can do no wrong. He loves the people that I love, because they are my people. His commitment to us has been resounding. So, if I want to post on social media about him, and post pictures of all that we do, it isn’t to show off, or to make anyone feel bad. It is to revere him, because I know how much he deserves it. So in 2017, the people who feel the need to ask me if I must post everything we do, and ask me if I don’t feel like I am embarrassing him, please think twice. He is perfectly happy with my posts and I am perfectly happy with him.


So these are the Fcuks that will not be given in 2017. I shall continue to live carefree, think happy thoughts, forgive endlessly and love completely. Cheers to good health, acceptance and lots of prosecco!


Happy New Year!!

Success vs. Happiness

I have been an educator for over 19 years, and even though I made the decision to not have children, I was a very involved step parent for 13 years, before the divorce. I have always maintained a close relationship with many of my former students and even some of their parents. I love being an involved teacher, going way off and beyond the curriculum to get to know my students…who they are, what their families are like, their interests and goals, how their parents think.

What I have learnt over the past decades is that almost all parents that I have encountered, truly want the very best education and opportunities for their children; they want them to be successful in life and in their careers; they want better for them than they had. I have to assume that if I was a parent, I’d feel the same way. But I am not a parent. So, I have the advantage of seeing it all from the outside. And sometimes what I see isn’t always pretty.

Our education system forces students to choose school subjects at the age of 14. These subjects determine what subjects they can then do at a higher level of secondary education. These choices, of course, affect what they would have the pre-requisites for at university level. Therefore, the choices they make at 14 years old, in essence, dictate their future careers. This entire process is disturbing to me on so many different levels, but seems so normal and to so many other educators and parents. The fact that they find nothing senseless about a teenager making major life choices at that age and stage of development seems almost cruel to me.

To compound this already dire situation, I meet parents and teachers all the time who decide for their children and charges, what career they will pursue. It’s almost always the same answers I get – she wants to do medicine, law, architecture, engineering, actuarial science, leaving me amazed that they all believe that a 14 year old actually knows what these fields entail and actually have a passion for any of them!

In many cases, the subjects that a child loves, aren’t the ones they are encouraged to pursue. In fact, many parents discourage any thought of following a path any less than the careers previously mentioned. In all my years as an educator, I have never had a parent tell me that their child wants to be a business owner, accountant, fashion designer, dancer, athlete, physiotherapist, HR manager…or God forbid, a teacher.

There are the students who hate the science subjects and are not very good at them, if we base it on the marks achieved. Yet their parents insist that they must do the sciences in order to enter a good, high paying profession. I would ask if the children had a say in what they wanted to do, knowing how much they loved and how good they were at art, literature and the social sciences. Parents tell me all the time that it didn’t matter. She is to get a degree in the sciences and change careers later on if she wants. So a particular student that always stood out to me, did as she was told and succeeded at all her science subjects, hating every minute of it. And her parents continued to be oblivious to her self-harming, unhappiness and resentment. But at least she is on her way to an excellent career, if not a happy, healthy life.

These stories are endless over the years of me teaching and they differ in subject areas, families and careers. The constant is always that she must get a good job in order to be successful. In speaking with and more so, in listening to my students overs the years, I have come to understand that their parents have taught them that success has been equated with wealth, and that happiness comes from that genre of success.

What we are doing, essentially, is raising generations of children and students who see success in terms of prestigious jobs and wealth. While not wanting be a hypocrite and undervalue the importance of a good education, a substantial standard of living and a successful life, I wonder why we are not teaching our charges about what happiness should really be. I have not met a parent in many years who has said to me that I want my child to follow whatever path will make him/her happy. Job satisfaction no longer seems to be that feeling of fulfillment you get on an afternoon when you get home, or that excitement you feel on a morning to go to work. Job happiness seems to be determined by the pay cheque received at the end of the month.

So many of these very parents are in jobs that they hate, in which they are underpaid and miserable. Yet, they are seeing no value in preventing THIS outcome for their child. To hear parents of toddlers saying that he is going to become a lawyer seems only psychic to me, rather than ambitious.

I had a conversation with some students recently, and was of course very careful not to present views that were opposing to the ones in which their parents raised them. I explained to them, that I teach Dance and French, my two passions, and there is no greater feeling than to be paid for what I love to do most in this world. Because I am academically qualified in both areas, I am paid the same salary as the teachers who teach the ‘important’ subjects. I told them the truth – I don’t feel Monday blues; I don’t dread the end of a vacation; I love what I do. This is all that I want for them as well.

Now I am not saying that becoming a lawyer or doctor cannot be someone’s passion. I know a doctor who is young and vibrant, thorough and caring. I have never met a doctor who loves what he does more than him. He has expanded his practice into a very dependable, high tech machine that is still surrounded by love and care. His parents should be enormously proud of him, but not for BEING a doctor, but for BEING so happy at his job. That is his true success, whether he realises it or not.

Parents are admirable for wanting what is best for their children. But what is the best for them? Why are we proliferating a life full of success is success is wealth? Why aren’t we encouraging them to be happy in what they do? The money will always come. But to become a professional who loves your job is the true success and will bring true happiness. We were not all made equal or alike and not all of us fit the moulds of the same professions. My former dance teacher always told us that, ‘God is not a Communist, we aren’t all the same.’ This has always resonated with me, regardless of how funny she made it sound.

Parents and educators are no longer tapping into the real strengths and passions of students in order to really help them choose a career path. We are helping them to make loads of money when they are adults. So essentially, we are helping to mould generations of rich, miserable professionals who resent what they do and who made them do it. But at least they can buy nice things.

What Is Intelligence?

Being a teacher at one of the most acclaimed and successful Girls’ High Schools in the country, I feel that we help to produce some of the most brilliant minds and critical thinkers of tomorrow. However, is it at the expense of basic common sense?

As I listened to a colleague correct mock exam scripts of her Form 5 students, I became increasingly concerned about the type of student and child we were helping to develop and send out into wider society. The student stated, without any finesse of writing or remorse of thought, that there was no need for education in the career of cooking. Other students in her class stated similar ideas, like the “common classes in society educated themselves and were, therefore, less educated”. And these are bright girls sharing such thoughts.

It provoked a memory in me from not too long ago, when I was watching an interview with one of our country’s most popular female soca artistes who was sharing her views on the importance of soca, and by extension, the arts, in our education system. She felt that teaching our youth about the soca and music industry in Trinidad and Tobago, was essential, because it created an outlet for students who were “less academically” inclined.

I then remembered many a Parents’ Day when meeting a countless number of parents who did not hesitate to share their absolute support of the Arts being taught in our high school system BECAUSE it gave the students a “break” from the academics; or the parents who tell their daughters not to bother with dance and drama assignments, as they should concentrate on the more important areas.

Sometimes it feels as though Parenting goes against everything I believe as an educator. Our prestige schools seem to promote careers that have traditionally been considered of a higher class…..medicine, law, architecture, engineering. Of course, there is nothing wrong with such careers that derive high incomes, help people etc. But are we promoting these careers at the expense of creating students who understand the value of all other careers, or understand the value of job satisfaction? Have we aligned success with net income and happiness with wealth? Or are we producing a society of rich professionals who don’t love what they do?

Developmental Psychologist, Howard Gardner, proposed the theory of multiple intelligences in 1983, in which he proposed that intelligence existed in specific (primarily sensory) “modalities”, rather than seeing it as dominated by a single general ability. “Gardner argues that there is a wide range of cognitive abilities, and that there are only very weak correlations among them. For example, the theory postulates that a child who learns to multiply easily is not necessarily more intelligent than a child who has more difficulty on this task. The child who takes more time to master multiplication may best learn to multiply through a different approach, may excel in a field outside mathematics, or may be looking at and understanding the multiplication process at a fundamentally deeper level. Such a fundamental understanding can result in slowness and can hide a mathematical intelligence potentially higher than that of a child who quickly memorizes the multiplication table despite possessing a less deep understanding of the process of multiplication.”
Intelligence exists in many varied forms. A lawyer may not be able to fix a car. A musician may not be able to balance accounts. A financial adviser may not be able to read music scores. Who is to say which one is the true mark of intelligence and which career is the true mark of success?

A holistic approach to education should be one in which our students are tested to find the career in which they are most pre-disposed to succeed. Gone are the days when one has to be academically low achieving in order to pursue a career in dance; or the thinking that all sportsmen and women must be less inclined to be able to hold an intelligent conversation; or that one teaches because one can do nothing else.

I remember, with a small degree of hurt, when I was in Form 3 and choosing subject for CXC, that my grandfather, a retired Electrical Engineer, had stopped speaking to me for weeks, because I chose Modern Studies rather than Sciences. I wanted to be a Teacher instead of a Doctor. With my mother’s support, I pursued my career. I don’t earn $30, 000. a month but I wake up every day excited and hopeful to go to work. I have never felt a sense of dread when I think of Monday mornings and do not understand Monday morning blues. Sure, I love my vacation, but always look forward, with renewed exuberance, to the opening of every term. When my students succeed at my subjects and achieve excellence, the sense of fulfillment I feel is unmatched by any monetary earnings. When my students come to me to confide their fears, problems and joys, I feel something that cannot be described accurately. My worth is not measured in money, or raised salaries or in society’s opinion of what I do. It is measured in the development of my students.

All I want is for them to feel the same job satisfaction that I do…the same happiness I feel every day to face them. I want them to know that success is not measured in money. It is measured in happiness. We live in a society in which University degrees, both undergraduate and post-graduate, can be pursued in all aspects of the Performing and Visual Arts, Culinary Arts, Counselling. I want them to understand that they don’t have to be Doctors and Lawyers to be considered intelligent. I want them to be happy…..



How to compliment our children and students

I was always slim, with a healthy, lean body. So when I put on a whopping 25 pounds some years ago, all in a matter of 3 months, depression was the next inevitable step. The weight gain was a result of medication so, therefore, out of my control. I tried for very long to drop the weight, as I was no stranger to exercise. However, the effects of the medication were long-term.

What started to become obvious to me was how badly my self-esteem was shattered by my weight gain. My body image dictated my self- image and no matter how much or how often or how sincerely my loved ones told me how beautiful I looked, and how little weight they found I gained, it didn’t matter to me. When I looked in the mirror I was always astounded by what I no longer saw – the slim, pretty me.

Opting to solve this problem, I started researching causes and reasons for this connection between what I looked like and who I felt I was. My findings were overwhelming to me, as a woman, as an educator.

As a young child, I was always told how pretty I was. As a teenager I was always told how pretty, talented and slim I was. Even as a young adult, I was always complimented for my good looks, nice body and ability to dance. Boyfriends, their friends and families were always so impressed by how I looked. Academically, I did well in school and pursued all my academic goals conscientiously, and with success. However, academic achievements seem to have been expected, but what always stood out was how good looking I was.

It is, therefore, no surprise that my self- worth was more closely connected to how I looked, rather than who I was or what I accomplished. Luckily, these revelations led me to work on my self- image and body issues. I’ve only since lost a few pounds, quite a few inches but care less about it. I’ve come to like what I look like, even though it isn’t what I used to look like.

Further research led me to realize that our image of ourselves are so closely determined by the way in which we are complimented and validated as children, teenagers and even young adults.

When students do well on tests, we don’t hesitate to say how bright they are. Continually over time, the message that is sent, intentional or not, is that a high test score was the deciding factor to the child’s intelligence and that the end was more important than the means. It is again no surprise that teaching in an accelerated learning institution such as a prestige school, these students have heard for most of their lives how bright they are. Therefore, it explains the frustration we feel as teachers, when our students argue with us for a half of a mark, cry because of a 75% result in an exam and hate to answer questions in class for fear of being wrong. Their self-worth in the school environment is determined by the receiving of the highest marks and always being right. It reaches the point where they are willing to accept a half of a mark for an ambiguous display of pseudo intelligence, once it meant a higher mark. Comprehension and analysis of the work is of less importance, once the success of a high mark is achieved. The success of understanding the curriculum is of wavering necessity.
How do we resolve this disconnect between wanting to encourage our children and students to achieve, wanting to compliment them, without sending the wrong message? The answer is quite simple. It lies in HOW we compliment them.

When a 7 year old scores high or even total in a math or science test, we need to stop and ask ourselves, WHAT do we want to compliment? If we say that we want to compliment their intelligence, then we must realize that as students, their intelligence has not yet developed or has been determined. Intelligence, as defined on Wikipedia, is an ongoing process that can be “defined in many different ways including, but not limited to, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, reasoning, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving”. None of these can be fully developed in a 7 year old, or even in a 57 year old. So we must re-visit WHAT we want to compliment. Already knowing the effects of complimenting a child’s intelligence, we must next consider complimenting something else – their effort. We always try to tell our students that hard work results in good results but it isn’t enough to say it, even repeatedly. We must show them. By making an unbreakable connection between their study habits, work ethic and effort to their result, we don’t just say that hard work results in success, we show them, we prove it, or rather, they prove it.

Similarly, if their result in a test isn’t as high as they would like, a connection should be made via questions about how well they prepared for the exam compared to last time when they did better. Consequently, discussions should occur about the topics tested and that it is normal for all of us to understand some themes better than others, none of which is a reflection on out intelligence.

Likewise, when we compliment our young girls of varying ages about their good looks, we must differentiate between them looking pretty on a particular occasion and being pretty. We must try to not let good looks stand independently, as a sole defining factor. Rather, remind them of an achievement they made in another aspect of their life. This, however, can only be made if a child is exposed to more than just school – this way their sporting ability can also be highlighted, their achievement in a test, their ballet recital. Complimenting a child holistically, shows them their overall worth that isn’t dependent on one factor only.

When my Form 1 class performs well, as they have every term this academic year, thus far, achieving results way beyond that of the other Form 1 classes, I am very careful in what I say now. I always tell them, as I am about to distribute report cards, how hard they worked this term, how consistent they were in their studies, and how, as a result, their report cards should be a source of pride. I tell them that YET AGAIN they worked well in their classes and well together in groups and these are their results. I don’t know what is said at home, but somewhere, somehow I can only hope that they feel the connection between working hard and doing well.

According to Thomas Edison, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration’’. Accordingly a genius is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.