Making the Grade


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Quite a few years ago I worked as a program manager for a “Home and Community Habilitation” program for adults with developmental disabilities. One day I discovered that one of the employees I was in charge of was billing for times he had not actually been with the client and I had to fire him. The owner of the company joined me during the meeting with the employee and supported me as I confronted him and let him go. Afterward, as I cried a little bit, I told the owner that this job of being a program manager was just not for me and I wanted to go back to being a TSS. What he said to me at that point has stuck with me all of these years later and was just so spot on; I’d like to share his wisdom.


My boss said some people definitely like to leave their job at the end of the day and feel like they “got an A”. They want to feel like they have done everything they needed to do, to the very best of their ability, and that there was nothing they really could’ve done differently. In management and administrative positions, you are not likely to ever feel like you got that A at the end of a day. There is always room for interpretation, improvement, and there is always some uncertainty as to whether you did everything you should have done and whether or not you made all of the right decisions. My boss had known me long enough to say, “Julie, you need that A. I completely understand.” And within a short time I was back to being a TSS, working directly with kids, right where I felt most comfortable and confident.


I haven’t worked outside of our home since Lucy was born, but I think of that conversation with my old boss often. Unfortunately, parenting is like working in management; I seldom ever end the day with the feeling that I got an A. One of my favorite times of the day is when Lucy is fresh from her bath, in clean jammies, and we sink down into her recliner to read her bedtime story. At that point I feel relieved that we have made it through another day and are ready to rest, but my relief is not because I feel I earned an A, just that we made it and nothing catastrophic happened. There is always doubt and worry that I didn’t do enough that day with Lu, and the things that we did do, did I do it right? Is she happy? Is she bored? Did I spend too much time doing housework? Did she spend too much time watching cartoons? Did I feed her enough, did she drink enough, and will she poop tomorrow? The list goes on and on! I don’t think this is a special situation due to all of Lucy’s special needs. I think there are just many more things to worry about in addition to all of the things I would worry about if she was a “typical” child. I don’t think this feeling is unique to me either. Do any parents ever feel like they got an A at the end of their day?


My boss was absolutely right when he said I was a person that needs an A! I do! I yearn for it, even though I fully realize that the nature of parenting is simply that I won’t ever get it. In my mind and heart, I believe that our daughter is so precious and amazing, and wonderful that nothing I ever do will be good enough to earn that coveted grade. Honestly, if Lucy was in charge of doling out the report cards she would probably give me and her Dad A+++s every day! She knows we love her to pieces and will do anything ever for her, and she’s happy! It’s the grade I give myself that I agonize over. But maybe it is a good thing because then I am always trying to aspire to what I think I should be and I am always trying to be better than I was the day before.


On the flip side, we as parents should probably not be so hard on ourselves, if there are any of you out there that also feel you are just shy of your A. I do my best, and it’s exhausting, and sometimes emotional, and heartbreaking. But, it’s also amazing and even though I might spend the rest of my life never giving myself an A, I will still love parenting Lucy more than any other job I have ever had in my entire life!




About Julie Shaffer

My name is Julie Shaffer and I am a stay-at-home mom. It is the greatest job I have ever had. I write about Lucy because she is amazing, and I want the world to know about her. She defies Rett Syndrome every day with a smile on her face.

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