Student-parent like me

Kelly Symons navigates the road from career woman, to single student mother

I never thought I’d be opening my own daycare to solve the problem of what to do with my daughter while I went back to school. Never mind the fact I never thought I’d have a daughter in the first place, or even go back to school.

I guess I’m like a lot of women; I grew up believing I had to be practical, get a good job, have a career. Other women struggled before me, right? So I earned a degree in engineering and went to work in the mining industry, moving to financial services after that.

I never questioned why I was doing it; I was fulfilling requirements, doing my duty. I paid rent, bought food, travelled. Yet, while I was enjoying some of it, there was something missing. I felt as if it wasn’t quite right, and I was waiting for something to happen.

So there I was, working in the risk analysis department of a third-party payment processing company, when a friend asked what I really wanted to do with my life, and I got to thinking. I had talked about music over the years, and I even considered pursuing it, but it wasn’t practical. For some reason, this time I reevaluated the idea, and I decided to take it seriously – no more waiting.

Going back to school was a shock to say the least. But, I discovered that I really loved music theory and was able to play well enough to pass auditions; I even got a scholarship in my first year. Music was like second nature to me. I loved what I was doing. I felt ecstatic, exhilarated, fulfilled.

Then I got pregnant.

I had always said I would never have kids – it was a certainty. I had other plans with my life. No kids for me. I don’t know what changed, but suddenly I felt like maybe I could have a kid, and maybe I wanted one. So I started to think about it, to imagine and feel it, and that was that. The man I was seeing talked about it, and we gave it a try, and to our surprise, it worked – I got pregnant. Things didn’t work out with the man, but we had a beautiful daughter together who is now the light of our lives.

Going to school with a newborn was a lot to deal with. My professors allowed me to bring her to class, which I did from the time she was two months until she was about five months. At that point I needed a daycare.

The problem is that the waiting lists for Montreal daycares are notorious. You actually have to go on these lists before you’re pregnant if you want a space. I put my name on a few, but it’s been nine months and they still haven’t called.

I’m on the McGill daycare waiting list too, but only since April 2008. There’s been no response there either, but maybe that’s because they also don’t accept children less than 18 months old. So, again, I have to wait longer than I’d like, even if a space becomes available now.

Quitting school was not an option, although I did think about it. Then I realized that even if I went back to work I’d still need a daycare. It quickly became obvious that daycare was indispensible regardless of what I chose. It was then that I decided to open my own.

That was now my plan. I had gone from a steady job to going back to school, then having a baby, becoming a single mom, and opening a daycare. People questioned it; they thought I was getting in too deep, doing too many things at once. And I’ll admit, it does feel like it sometimes.

The hardest part was learning the business and figuring out how to present myself to people in an acceptable manner. I studied the Montessori method to get a more specified idea of what I wanted to do, and I received my certificate after three months. This gave me a structure to stick to as much as it gave one to the kids.

Let’s face it, I never imagined I would be designing a Montessori curriculum based around music, for a roomful of hungry little minds and hearts in my own daycare. But it works. I’m fortunate to have great staff, and they enjoy working with me in part because of the environment I’ve created. Caring for children has allowed me to discover many things about myself. For instance, I care deeply about the correctness of everything, but if I allow myself to relax a bit on that, I find that I enjoy children a lot more. I also think that they find their true selves by engaging in the activities that I’ve set up for them.

Because of this I’m still in school. There are still a few spaces to fill in my daycare, but it’s catching on. It’s all working out in ways I couldn’t have predicted. Montessori was the right choice. I’m seeing results in my daughter’s growth, as well as in the kids who come to me.

I took a chance and chose from the heart. It was a challenge, but it was worth it. Now all I want to know is what’s next?

Kelly is a U3 Music Theory student. She can be reached at