Daycare CEO Reveals How To Choose Your Childcare Provider
This Mom Makes It Happen
This series introduces you to some amazing Moms who make it happen. These are Moms who inspire us to keep going and persevere through life's ups and downs. Thanks Mom for Making it Happen - and for teaching a thing or two along your way.
I recently had opportunity to interview the CEO of Origins Natural Learning Childcare, Dr. Erin Schryer. The Origins Team will forever hold a special place in this Mom’s heart. This was the first place I ever trusted with both my kids, beyond my family. I got to know Erin because we worked on a project together. In that interaction, it was clear to me that this Mom/CEO was someone I needed to get to know better.
Reading about Erin’s experiences with the transition to motherhood makes me even more interested in learning about the different impacts maternity leaves can have on Moms in Canada. For Erin, maternity leave wasn’t even an option.
Q: Please tell me a little bit about yourself
A: I am a mother of two young children and wife to Sean Illman. I live in Quispamsis not far from the home I grew up in and now just a few houses away from both my parents and my brother and his sweet family overlooking the beautiful Kennebecasis River. My passion for early learning and reading science in particular is very personal, stemming from my brother’s very difficult experiences with learning to read as a child.
When I found out in my undergraduate degree that nearly all children can learn to read well I became determined to be a part of the solution for getting more New Brunswick children there. This begins in early childhood and is a big piece of what brings me to Origins, aside from the sweet voices, hugs and smiles that melt every worry away each and every day.
Q. Did you take maternity leaves with your children? Did your maternity leaves influence your career?
A:. I did not take maternity leave with either of my children. For my first child, Beau, I was finishing up my doctorate degree (I collected my final dataset the day before she was born!) and therefore did not have access to the Employment Insurance Program (another conversation…).
For the first six months of her life I madly wrote my dissertation and then went to work for Elementary Literacy Inc., a provincial nonprofit I am just leaving this month, when she was 9 months.
With my son, who is now 18 months, I also did not take a maternity leave. As the head of a provincial nonprofit organization I did not feel I could step away and leave my responsibilities behind. My work is very passion driven. I wouldn’t have stopped working anyway! Thankfully, I had a supportive board of directors behind me who allowed me the flexibility to have the time I needed with my infant and also work to advance our mission.
I think both of my potential maternity leave situations were very unique in terms of my circumstances and ability to not draw leave dollars. I do, however, recognize that most women are not in such a position and worry about the impact of maternity leave on their finances and increasingly on their careers. This is perhaps the more noteworthy piece. I have spoken with countless women who worry about the impact a leave for maternity time will have on their careers.
Q: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced balancing a professional career and family? How did you overcome those challenges?
A: I don’t know if I will ever overcome the challenges associated with balancing my career and my family. I aim to function as best I can with the competing pressures by blocking out time for focused family time (for example, each evening from 5:30 to 8:30) and limiting my use of my phone/computer (this is a definite work in progress). Because my work is my passion, it can be very hard to turn it off. I think about child well-being and development, reading instruction and activities for children constantly, and when I read something interesting, I want to share it. Having young children myself is helpful, but also means I am truly “in the space” all the time which again makes it hard to turn off my working brain!
Q. What’s your vision for Origins Natural Learning Childcare?
A. My vision for Origins NLC is to be an early learning and childcare company of choice by parents, but also one that other early years professionals follow, contact and engage with for advancing the entire field of early learning, including the education and skills of early childhood educators. I envision a national early learning landscape that is professional, respected and revered. The science is clear, the early years (0-8) are the most important years of our lives. Our brains develop more, and faster, in this period than at any other time in our lives. The people working in this field deserve to be skilled professionals. I want to help us get there and will do so by leading by doing.
Q: What advice would you give new parents transitioning their first baby to daycare?
A: We joke internally that early learning centres are the first to know about a women’s pregnancy because booking spaces must be done so early! Unfortunately, we aren’t joking. To book a space I always recommend going for a tour of the facility first. You need to find an environment that brings you comfort and find people that resonate with you as kind and attentive. Provincially licensed early learning centres, like Origins, prioritize compliance to the regulations that govern our practices, all of which help us ensure your child’s safety and security. Then, once your baby begins in care, keep in mind that it is harder on you than on the baby! Really, it is, I promise. At Origins we offer transition time where parents stay with their child for regular blocks of time to introduce baby to the environment. Our spaces are purposefully meant for babies and young children to learn, explore, play and more- it’s like their very own amusement park every day!
Q: What are the most important things parents should ask themselves when choosing a daycare?
The first step is ensuring the environment you are considering is provincially licensed. A list of licensed centres can be found here.
All early learning and childcare (ELC) facilities in New Brunswick must be licensed under the authority of sections 3 and 4(1) of the Early Childhood Services Act. It is an offence to operate an ELC facility without a licence issued by the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development. Among many other things, licensed centres must maintain strict adult-to-child ratios enabling close supervision always. Safety is paramount.
Licensed centres are also mandated to offer the New Brunswick Curriculum Framework for Early Learning and Childcare. This curriculum is research-based and provides educators a strong base from which to plan their program each day. The framework mirrors strongly the values we’ve held as a company for over 20 years- that is, that each child co-constructs their play to guide us in their learning. We fully support learning through play and do so passionately every day.