“The Baby Wrangler” sounds a lot cooler than the other titles I came up with (“pediatric logistics specialist”, “part-time volunteer assistant caregiver in training”) for my latest role as a PULSE volunteer. I earned (self-assigned) this moniker while assisting my supervisors at a three-day training class for newly-hired Community Health Workers (CHWs).
Although mothers were instructed to arrange for their children to stay at home with a caretaker or to bring a caretaker with them, circumstances dictated that Clifford, Harriet, and Phoebe, all between 16 and 18 months old, attend New CHW Training – Class of 2013 in the classroom with their mothers.
I have never been in a training class or meeting with colleagues’ children in attendance, but I must say that I was delighted they were there. Although I have none of my own, I LOVE kids. I’ve experienced nothing as effective as three toddling, babbling, curious tots to break up the monotony of continuous PowerPoint presentations.
I will take credit for improving the quality of health care the provided by their mothers by minimizing (or very, very slightly delaying) their distractions. I stood guard at the door to prevent the babies from escaping the classroom and chased them down if one happened to slip by me while I was distracted with adult learning. Clifford and I stepped out of afternoon lectures for about an hour so he could catch a little shut-eye and recharge for the evening sessions, and Phoebe and I exhausted ourselves picking up leaves and handing them to each other.
One of the training rules established by the class on the first day was: “mothers feed your children when they are crying”. If the babies got fussy during class, their mamas would simply breastfeed them without leaving their desks. Sometimes the mothers would breastfeed AND speak in front of the class simultaneously. Impressive. Breastfeeding in public is a normal, accepted practice here, and no one blinked an eye.
I am not long for this life as a baby wrangler. It’s hard work, and I’m not getting any younger. One of my goals for this volunteer experience is to find my professional niche, though, and I had to at least test my wrangling chops. Look at those faces. Who wouldn’t want to give it a try?