It’s been two years since I started working for the Family Care Office, also known as the “FCO.” It has been a rewarding, inspiring experience, but ultimately, it is time for me to move on. Everywhere we hear that families are important, that societies are built upon them, and that nations and international laws must protect and care for them. Having the opportunity to take a closer look at the complexities that every family experiences and being able to work in an office whose sole objective is to lend a hand to families in their day-to-day lives hugely augmented my understanding of the importance that the family has.
It would be impossible to mention all the activities and projects that I had the opportunity to be a part of these last two years. As such, I’ve documented the three main takeaways that I owe to my time with the FCO.
Asking For Help Is Brave
The FCO is designed to provide service on a very specialized basis. Every family is different and is confronted with a unique set of challenges and difficulties. The FCO gives confidential advice to individuals seeking support, and provides a safe, discrete environment for students and staff to talk about their family care-related concerns. Sometimes the first step to resolving a problem is sharing our preoccupations and anxieties with someone else; a detached, outside ear can often help us to change our perspective on things.
Workshops Grow Community
As I said in the previous paragraph, the challenges that families experience on a daily basis are diverse. This means that the way we face them vary as well. Notwithstanding this, it can be helpful to have the opportunity to engage with others in similar situations to ourselves. The workshops I had the chance to assist with during my work-study position —on communication in family life, on elder care and retirement, on Alzheimer’s and other conditions that people may live with, etc.—were a point of convergence for those in attendance. Exchanging experiences and advice, and knowing that others are living something very close to what you live every day creates an immediate a community. This can bring comfort, knowledge, and support.
Family Has a Place at U of T
Finally, a very interesting opportunity I got from my position at the FCO was the ability to observe university life through a family-oriented lens. I myself am married and have three kids, so in a sense my life as a Ph.D. student is as inseparable from me as my identity as a student-parent. However, the FCO broadened this perspective, helping me to see myself as a part of a specific group (student parents), a particular community that has its own character, needs, and that leaves its own imprint on the University of Toronto.