Child Whisperer, Caregiver, Austin, Texas
I'm thrilled to feature this woman because I feel like we can all learn a ton from Bev - tricks of the trade of how one keeps groups of kids engaged and learning in a home setting. To me this is beyond inspiring - a mix of patience, creativity, kindness. Some people are lucky enough to answer their true calling and be their best self, doing what they love. With Bev you feel that faith in your gut, and I'm not the only one. Over the years she inspired hundreds of children who adore her and many alumni entrust her with next generations, the biggest compliment of all. I'm privileged to call this boss lady, a friend.
My name is Beverly Childress Harkey. I am a wife, a mother and I own my own business, caring for children. I answer to many names depending on who's calling! The kids I care for often call me "Bev," but sometimes I answer to "Boss," "Mom" or even "Dad"! My husband of 40 years still calls me "Babe," but "Mamacita" or "Mom" are my favorites because that's what my own three children call me.
2. Where is your hometown?
I currently live in Austin, Texas, but my first 18 years were spent in the small Central Texas town of Goldthwaite. I still refer to both places as home and probably always will. My ties with my hometown remain strong. I feel I have the best of both worlds as I believe both places have had a significant impact on who I am. I am a small-town girl living comfortably in the big city.
3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?
I have owned my own business for 24 years, a registered family home, and I care for 12 school-age children each day. The moment I knew this was my life's work is a story in itself. When I left Goldthwaite for The University of Texas, I intended to go into the medical field and return to Goldthwaite to work with my dad, a general practitioner, at his clinic and hospital. I considered becoming a nurse, like my mother and two sisters, but chose physical therapy as my major. I was convinced this would be a perfect pathway to work alongside my dad. Then, one fateful day, I attended a required child development course and felt my professor's enthusiasm as she spoke about children. Her joy was clear, and I recognized that I, too, possessed that same joy. I always had a strong love of children and worked well with them, whether babysitting, life-guarding, teaching swimming lessons or working in the church nursery. I instantly realized I was in the wrong field. When I told others that I was considering changing my major to child development, they discouraged me by saying, 'You'll never make any money doing that," but at that moment I decided to follow my heart. I have great faith. I trusted that if the Lord put that desire in my heart, He would take care of me and show me the way.
4. Biggest accomplishment since making the (physical/mental) move?
Looking back, I am so thankful I had that epiphany. Creating a business that allows me to live my dreams and use my gifts on a daily basis has been a great accomplishment and joy for me. I love my work and look forward to each new day. I hope to continue working with children for many more years. The joys I have experienced with my own and other children are beyond anything I could have imagined or hoped for! This career choice enabled me a way to work with children and raise my own. I learned how to meet my own needs in business and, at the same time, how to meet the needs of the children and their parents. It has been a real blessing to realize that, with some creative thinking, all parties can feel their needs are being met. I've learned that I can be kind, caring and gentle and still set important personal and professional boundaries.
5. What was biggest disappointment and plan to overcome it?
I seldom focus on the disappointments in my life. I wish writing came easier to me. I find it such a challenge to put my ideas down on paper. Through the years, I have learned some incredible tricks and bits of wisdom that parents and child-care providers would benefit from, but as much as I would love to publish these, it seems to be an insurmountable task. If I were to overcome this challenge, I would have to focus on specific topics, one at a time, and then maybe I could share some of my wisdom and experience without feeling overwhelmed.
6. Advice for other women?
Follow your heart. Listen to your inner voice. Look for the good within yourself and others. Believe in yourself and look for your unique gifts, then build on them. Surround yourself with people and things that inspire you and make you a better person. Know that what you do and say does make a difference. Be kind.
7. Where in the world do you feel the "tallest"?
I feel the tallest when someone lets me know I made a difference in their life or that they have wonderful memories of being in my child care. Often my graduates return to show off their new phone, new drivers' license, new car, new girl/boyfriend, wife/husband or baby, and this means the world to me. To know that they still consider me a special part of their lives is priceless.
For example, one of the middle schoolers in my care has been playing the harp for several years. We were having a conversation one day about how it was going, and she said, "Well, you know I'm playing because of you." I was absolutely shocked. I had no idea about what she was talking about. Then she reminded me that I was the one who suggested her parents get her harp lessons. I still had no idea what she meant. Then her mom explained how, two years before, I had encouraged the children to list their personal goals for summer, and that hers were to learn how to pick up our cat, Stanley, and play the harp. I teared up with the realization that I had anything to do with this young woman beginning her musical journey. She plays so beautifully! Making a difference like that wows me. I don't plan it that way, but when I hear little bits and pieces of how I've touched children's lives and the lives of their parents, I know why I'm in this business.
Here and there my own children will let it slip that they look up to me or that I inspire them, but they often keep me guessing! My own children keep me humble!
I also feel a sense of accomplishment when I look at our children's elementary school and see a project that I started in 1994 still going strong and making the school a much better place. Also in our neighborhood, 30 years ago, a friend and I started a supper club that continues to gather once a month.It has helped to create a close and caring community that continues to enrich the lives of all who live in the area.
8, What is the future goal/challenge (career and/or life goals in 5-10 years)?
I want to continue my child care business for as long as the children and I are enjoying it. I want to simplify my life, get my photos better organized and declutter! I also want more time to read and travel. I want to continue to surround myself with people and stay active and involved in life. I want to continue exploring the world with my best buddy -- my husband -- looking for those special moments that inspire us both. I am hoping to have grandchildren in the next few years and to be an important part of their lives in any way that I can.
9. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?
Cockroaches? No. Things that hop at me? No, Fear of public speaking? Well...I'm getting better in front of a small group, but I do not feel I will ever be comfortable in front of a large group.
10. Anything you'd do differently if you had another go at life?
I would start exercising, eating healthier and caring for my teeth earlier. I would be kinder in my teen years. I would ask more questions of my dad and grandparents and record their stories. I would see that I had exposure to other languages at an early age. I would take piano lessons as a child and continue them for years.
11. What inspires you?
I'm inspired by the stories of people handling challenging situations, doing the most right thing in the kindest way. I'm inspired by strong, gentle individuals. I get inspired by those who make a difference where they are.
12. What are you reading now? (What books do you gift most often and what are your favorite reads?)
I gift The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease because it's a treasure for all parents, new and not so new. It encourages reading aloud to children of all ages and offers many suggestions of books that are especially good for reading out loud. I am catching up on my own reading with the help of audiobooks, from romance novels to WWII historical fiction to Malcolm Gladwell to the books that the teens and preteens in my care are reading.
13. Who is a "WOW woman" in your life who inspires you and why?
All my life I have been surrounded by nurturing and patient women who are kind and inspiring. Having lost my mother at a young age, these women include my grandmothers, sisters, friends' mothers and relatives. My exercise partners are an extremely important part of my life. We walk every morning at 5:20am. We're inspired by everything from shooting stars, owls, coyotes and the enormity of the galaxy. We keep each other uplifted and laughing through all of life's joys and challenges. Our ritual has transformed from mere exercise to a whimsical party every morning, whether we're watching a social media post that's gone viral, planning one of our children's weddings or getting through another one of life's bumps in the road. I recently lost a dear friend of mine, who was 96-years young and maintained her interest in the world, from reading to healthy eating to navigating Facebook. She was my first child-care supervisor and a strong woman of faith. I had both my first and final conversations with this gracious woman on my birthday with a glorious 44-year friendship in between. I want to live and enjoy each day with as much fullness and laughter as I see in all of these "WOW" women.
14. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs etc.?)
No blogs, no websites but my door's always open, and I'm on Facebook. I'm happy living my life and enjoying every minute. My arms are wide open!