Northeast Woman: Taking Care Of Babies Part Of Dickson City Caregiver’s Heart
Tina Norton holds a huge amount of love for her career taking care of the tiniest people.
The Dickson City resident is an infant caregiver at University of Scranton Early Learning Center — Bright Horizons, working with the organization for 13 years of her 20 total spent in the infant care field.
“I went straight from college to a nursery,” Norton said on a recent night. “It’s the most rewarding career. You go through all of their firsts with them, but you’re bonding with the parents, too, lifting them up. It takes a village to raise a baby. I’m happy to be part of that.”
Norton got her start with children when she was pretty young herself. Norton’s mom had several siblings who each had several children, and Norton was the built-in baby sitter. Her aunt would call her the “baby whisperer” thanks to the skilful way she handled her younger cousins. By the time she was in high school, she had begun baby-sitting children of family friends. She enrolled at Keystone College right after high school to pursue a degree in fine art but couldn’t find her niche. Then, she moved to English, which still didn’t feel right. Something else called to her.
“Photography and drawing and sculpting and reading and writing just felt like hobbies to me,” she said. “For me, taking care of babies is what is at the heart of me. So, I just said, ‘That’s it. I’m making a career out of it.’”
Shortly after graduating from college, Norton landed her first job in a nursery taking care of infants and loved it. During her time at Bright Horizons, Norton has developed relationships with families, especially ones who have one or more children come through the infant room.
Norton said her main job is to make the parents, especially moms, feel comfortable. Many times, new mothers have to leave their babies, some as early as 6 weeks old, in Norton’s care. The parents typically are emotional or apprehensive, and lots of moms feel guilty about leaving their infants. Norton aims to quell their fears and support them as much as she can.
“I love my job. I love what I do, but I wish my job wasn’t necessary,” she said. “I always say that. I adore my job and my babies and their families, but working parents, especially mothers, do not get enough maternity leave. I want to make them feel as good as possible and for them to know I will love their baby like it is my own baby.”
Norton forms bonds with the parents and becomes part of the family. She joked many drop-offs take up to 20 minutes since she and the parent go over what the baby’s sleeping and eating schedule was like. Nursing moms also come to the school for feedings, and it’s typically just them and Norton, which offers a time for the women to chat about everything from baby’s congestion to mom’s well-being. She said it’s really about being there for the entire family.
“Here’s how it will go: mom cries, dad cries, I cry, but the baby just goes with the flow,” she said. “As an infant caregiver, you’re really involved with the whole family. A lot of times in childcare, it’s about the child, but we’re there for the parents, too.”
Norton also can offer advice from experience. After the birth of her older daughter, Edie, now 18, Norton found it difficult to return to work. She opted to keep Edie home with her until she was old enough to attend school, though she felt Edie had a hard time adjusting to being with other kids. With her second daughter, Coco, now 7, Norton had her in the infant room then passed her along to the toddler room when she was a year old.
Both girls are exceptional in own their right, though night and day, Norton said. Coco is a natural leader and social butterfly who loves sequins, mermaids, cheerleading and singing. Edie excelled in school and scored off-the-charts on standardized testing, including the SATs. She was recruited to attend Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Massachusetts, an early-entrance college at 14. She waited two years before attending and will graduate with a degree in May.
“It blows my mind how she’s made her life. I am so proud of her,” she said. “Both of them, they make me proud. I love them.”
In between her shifts at her day job, Norton spends time with her family. She’s a music lover, and since her husband, Justin, is the manager of Guitar Center in Moosic, there’s constantly music their home. Norton hopes it has instilled in her children a love of music, which included taking them to see her favorite artist, singer/songwriter Tori Amos.
“I grew up with my dad playing Joni Mitchell and my mom listening to Black Sabbath. I want those moments with my kids,” she said. “We sing in the car, we sing everywhere. I want music to be in their lives like it was in mine.”
Norton also finds time to give back and stay involved. She’s a homeroom mom for Coco and attends every one of her cheerleading practices, games and competitions. Norton works with St. Joseph’s Baby Pantry and Bright Horizons to coordinate fundraisers for the pantry, about two times per year. She’s donated more than 2,000 diapers in the past and hopes to keep growing that number and become more involved in helping families in the area.
Whether at work or in the community, it’s all about being there for babies and their families.
“I get up every day and love what I do,” she said. “I love these families and their kids. Everyone should know that, if they can’t take care of their baby at every second, there is someone there who loves them just as much. That’s me.”
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Meet Tina Norton
At home: A Dickson City resident, her husband is Justin and she has two daughters, Edie, 18, and Coco, 7.
At work: Norton is an infant caregiver at University of Scranton Early Learning Center — Bright Horizons, where she has worked for 13 years.
Inspirations: Working moms; the Humans of New York project; Tori Amos’s music and the fact that she is a working mom herself; her older daughter.
Aspirations: To do more volunteer work for St. Joseph’s Center Baby Pantry and for the area families with babies in general; to start a mommy blog Diversions: Reading, listening to music, going to concerts, especially with her daughters Aversions: The fact that working parents don’t have enough maternity or paternity leave; clutter and disorganization; laziness; crummy drivers Quote: “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” — Kurt Vonnegut