I am often asked how and why I do what I do every day. How do you juggle being a wife, an Operations Manager of a very successful and busy healthcare business during a pandemic and on top of that, an Autism mom?
I am very often asked this question and I never really know what to tell people. “I just do what I gotta do.” When Bentley came into our life, I was young and very unsure of how to be a mother, but I figured it out. My instincts kicked in just like everyone told me they would. My husband and I kicked butt as new parents. I often think of that when it comes to work as well. “I do what I gotta do”.
I think back to the beginning of my healthcare experience. I started working in a retirement facility kitchen when I was in high school and I just fell in love with it. I had applied and they had no openings at the time. I continued calling the retirement home every single day, inquiring if they yet had a job opening that would suit me. At the time, I somehow knew that that’s where I was supposed to be. I knew I was born to help people, just not in what capacity. After about 3 weeks of calling that home every day, the kitchen manager finally said to me, “Come in tomorrow! I am not sure what I am going to do with you, but if you want to work here so badly, I definitely want a staff member like that!” I started in the kitchen serving meals, doing dishes and just being another pair of ears for the residents. I was another person they could tell their stories to and another smile to warm their day. It all started there and I have never left. I can’t imagine I ever will.
Moving forward a couple of years, once I graduated high school, I took a year off, while still working. Shortly after, I decided to take the PSW course. I loved it and graduated with honours. I then proceeded to work in home care and LTC for 7 years, right up until a week before my now four-year-old daughter Bentley was born.
Fast forward to now, I currently spend my days as the Operations Manager of Plan A Kitchener Waterloo/London. I believe I was just born to help people. My passion for helping the elderly has always been on fire and I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. It’s like I have a lifetime supply of grandparents. So one question again I am asked is “How do you help run this business, especially during a time like this?” “It’s my passion, and I do what I gotta do”. This has been a very trying time for everyone. I believe that we have learned more in the last six months than many do in a lifetime. It’s been a stressful, wonderful, crazy, amazing and wild ride and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Being in this business has so many rewards and so many challenges—but rewards outweighing challenges, by far!
As mentioned, I often get asked “How do you manage to be a wife, help run this busy healthcare business AND be an Autism mom?” I will revert back again to a couple of years ago when our daughter Bentley was two years old. During Bentley’s first two years of life, we had noticed things here and there that may have been different. She began crawling a little later, walking a little later and there were just some things that we needed to investigate a little more.
With the support of our parents, and more or so less a kick in the butt, we had Bentley assessed for Autism. We were asked to send our Doctor videos of Bentley doing regular everyday things and after what seemed like six months later, (but was in fact only about three weeks) we received her official diagnosis of Autism. With tear-filled eyes reading every last word of that diagnosis, my husband stood me up and said “We’ve got this, we just do what we gotta do”. Our daughter is a fierce, and absolute force to be reckoned with…but in a different way. Having been enrolled in many forms of therapy, we started learning how to navigate through the huge, very different and wonderful world of autism.
Now again, fast forward to today. Although Bentley is doing very well, she still faces and will always face many challenges. And here I am, an Operations Manager of a healthcare business in the middle of a pandemic. How on earth are we going to do it? Well, we just “do what we gotta do”, that’s how.
If you know me, you will hear me say it 1000 times: relationships and trust are key. Every person you meet presents you with an opportunity to build a relationship. Every phone call that comes to our office, every email, and every new partner or staff member is an opportunity for a new relationship. So, with Bentley sharing the world of Autism with such amazing people, we know everyone has challenges, hers are just different than yours, mine, the residents, the facilities and so on. We build all we have on relationships and trust. Whether it be our daughter, her therapists, doctors, our staff, partners, friends and everyone we meet along the way, we see everyone with their own strengths, challenges, hills to climb, victories they just celebrated and everything in between.
Always treating people as you would want to be treated is important and it goes a long way. My daughter teaches me this every single day. You see, one thing about Autism is that she can tell me what she thinks about someone and doesn’t even need to say a word, which is often far more accurate than the words that get spoken to me by so many people. It’s the way you make someone feel–that’s the thing they will never forget. We have to rely on and trust others to treat our daughter well, with respect, to see her as a person, and a flower that blooms — just with different water so to speak. I apply the same empathy for those I work with, and those our staff care for.
I come to work each day and we fill lines within the facilities we partner with and I go home each day and I am a mom, an Autism mom. I don’t always sleep that well and my daughter may have a meltdown 10 minutes before I leave the house, but, at the end of the day we are so incredibly privileged to do what we do each day. We are literally responsible for hiring people who take care of “somebody’s someone”–your mother, your neighbour’s sister or your best friend’s uncle. Every single resident in a LTC home is somebody’s someone. Just like our Bentley is to us. The work we do every day MATTERS. Being an Autism mom has taught me the importance of that and I can apply every single day to the role I am in. How did you make them feel? How was the relationship and trust? Will they remember you? Do they trust you when you say “I’ve got it” or “I’m here for you.”?
People will never forget how you made them feel. Because of what I do, because of my life experiences, because of my Bentley, I take this with me every single day and it truly helps me do what I do each day. I want people in this world to remember how I made them feel. I want them to remember me, for being their partner and being there when they need us the most. It matters. When I send staff into a home, I want the homes to know that I would have our staff take care of my very own family members, because it matters. They trust us to make it matter. I think this is why I can do what I do every single day. I may have to pull over and shed a few tears on my way home every now and then, but I do this because I love it, I am passionate about helping people and I am passionate about being a wife and a mom. I consider myself incredibly lucky. “I just do what I gotta do.”
~ Chelsea Vero, Operations Manager, Plan A Kitchener Waterloo/London