Back to Work

Or rather, back to my job. It’s not as if I haven’t been working the past 12 weeks. Today is the last day of my maternity leave and I am feeling very sad. On monday our family of three will adjust to a new normal and sadly I will be forced to adjust to seeing less of my little girl.

On the one hand I am looking forward to going back. I miss my coworkers and will appreciate the adult interaction. I am interested to hear how some of my clients are doing and of course I am looking forward to seeing the kiddos on my caseload. However, I have done the math and I know that the time I see Gracie will be very limited. I am thankful to work for an agency that is supportive of working moms and I will be able to work from home a day each week. I also know that Gracie will be very well taken care of while I am gone and she will be close by.

If I could go back and do the last 12 weeks again, I think I would tell myself to relax (but what new mom wouldn’t go back and say that to herself?). When Gracie was a month old I went to the office Christmas party and at that point I was so ready to go back to work…taking care of a newborn is exhausting! Now, though, everything is so much fun and she is so much more expressive and learning new things. Just this morning she rolled from her tummy to her back.

I’ve been been forced to slow down and take things a day at a time, an hour at a time. I have had the luxury of getting to spend so much one on one time with my daughter for which I am so grateful. A small part of me wishes I would have done more, but really all that matters is that I took care of Gracie and the time I spent with her. I think if I could go back and do anything differently I probably would have spent less of her wake times doing stuff. Now, it was stuff that needed to get done…like putting her laundry away, but still.

I think one thing that will change for the better at work is that I will be more focused. Not that I wasted my time before, but I just know that I will be wanting to get things done so I can get home to the people that really matter. As much as I love my work kiddos I don’t want to see more of them than I do my very own child. I think I will have better boundaries with my time and when I am with clients I am going to be focused on why I am there, get that done, and just leave. I am not going to listen to the same stories over and over and I will not let them suck me into the drama of their lives.

Also, this snow had better be done because one thing I really looked forward to about leave was not driving in treacherous winter weather.

Reflections on 2012

It’s only December 21st and I feel like Christmas is over. I feel like I have wasted the advent season yet again. I didn’t listen to enough Christmas music. I didn’t just enjoy the beauty of my Christmas tree. I didn’t reflect enough on what the season is truly about.

For the first time since July, I am off work for more than just a weekend. I actually have time to just sit. Time that I don’t have to do anything. I can just be. I laid on my living room floor and realized I have ran, ran, ran since July. I haven’t paused for 2 seconds since then.

I am realizing I need margin in my life. Much more margin than I have been giving myself. I need to find a better work/life balance. My life has definitely been off balance lately. I have felt off kilter for quite awhile. Today at our office Christmas party we were counting off 1-2, 1-2 and so on. I had to think about what to say after the person next to me said 2. Yesterday I went totally the wrong way to a client’s home. I have forgotten so many things that should be second nature to me. I have been overworking. to be honest, I could be more productive at work. Sometimes, I socialize much more than I need to. I am really, really bad at telling myself no and making myself get back to work.

I am just shy of working my job for a year. If I continue at this pace, I will burn out. This morning I was thinking that I couldn’t believe it’s been a year already. But, time does go fast when you run yourself ragged. Tonight I am realizing what a long year it has been. I do have hope the next year will be better, since I’ve heard it takes a solid year to learn the job of a caseworker. I’ve definitely been feeling the learning curve, more so in the last few months than I did in the beginning.

As I think about how I’ve been so busy I’ve nearly missed the advent season, I wonder if that can’t be said about 2012 altogether. I’ve been far busier since I graduated than I ever was in grad school. I think I’ve shifted more towards extraversion, but tonight I’m thinking I shifted a little too much and my inner introvert is the pounding in my chest. The introverted part of me has been in hiding and is begging to be let out.

In 2013, I hope to swing the pendulum a bit closer to the center of my work/life balance and perhaps learn how to savor this life that is quickly passing me by.

I Will Be Thankful

I don’t know if it is just me, but the holiday can often be a time when I dwell on everything in my life that I would like to change. Ironically, I end up thinking about everything I am not thankful for. In an attempt to combat my ungrateful spirit, here is a list of what I am thankful for. In no particular order.

  • My car. It is paid for and it is a tank. I ran over (yes, over) a deer a few days ago and my car was not damaged in the least.
  • A job. Not only that, a job I enjoy most days. I am thankful for having some really great coworkers that make the job even better.
  • A roof over our heads. Even better, some well insulated walls to boot. I am more thankful than ever to live in an apartment that is energy efficient.
  • Family. I am blessed with some pretty good in-laws, and I know I came out ahead on that trade off.
  • Last but certainly not least, Seth. He is the reason that I can continue to be thankful most days. Every year that I am with him, I love the holidays a little bit more. Which is no small thing, since it use to be the most dreaded time of year for me. He loves me in a way I cannot understand, I don’t know what I’d do without him.

On Change

“All changes are loss, and losses are to be mourned.”

I don’t know where that quote came from, I read it in a book once and the quote has stuck with me, but the source has not. I’ve been thinking about change lately. After we got married over two years ago, I had more change than I can handle, good change. I had just started grad school (a mere 20 credit hours per semester) and was newly married. Yet, I could barely get out of bed in the morning and had no idea why.

This was *supposed* to be the happiest time of one’s life. Why had I been left out?

For the same reason that mother have postpartum depression. Change. (That’s a very simplistic answer.) Just like a mother who has recently given birth, there was the expectation that I was *supposed* to be blissfully happy. When I wasn’t blissfully happy I thought for sure something was wrong with me and something was wrong with our marriage. For nearly six months I was in a fog, a haze. I could hardly get out of bed in the morning and was exhausted perpetually. I poured myself into grad school, which only left me more exhausted. Ironically, it was one of my classes that was like the sun burning away the fog. I began to understand why I was so unhappy. No one told me that marriage was hard work, and I had expected bliss.  That coupled with the change of living with someone, a man, no less was just too much. No wonder I stayed in bed all day.

In a way I spent those first few months of marriage “mourning” the loss of change. It sounds very melodramatic to say “mourning the loss of my singleness,” but that is what is was. I’ve found very few people talk about it, that singleness is something you can actually miss. I know I certainly wasn’t thinking about missing my singleness in amidst all the wedding planning. I certainly wasn’t thinking about missing the wedding planning either :). A season on my life was distinctly over and yet all I had done was focus on the next one so radically I didn’t realize what I was leaving behind.

This is where I should tie this story up with a cute little bow, but I’m not sure how to do that. I literally just woke up one morning and the fog had lifted. I suddenly started to feel hopeful about the future and not as though I was in the bottom of a pit. Maybe I realized that expectation really is the root of all heartache and I came to terms with what I had expected the first six months of marriage to be.

The reminder I need for myself is that change, even good change, can still sting. With every change I am losing something, even if I think it is something I don’t want to lose.

Pass the Xanax

Work has been insane lately. I’ve worked well past what I am supposed to this week and have even brought my laptop home with me for the weekend. This is the first time I have ever brought my laptop home. That is an indicator of just how overwhelmed I am feeling at work.

I am finding that I have a limit. I cannot do it all and do it well in 40 hours a week. Or, I at least cannot do things like I have been doing them and get it all done in 40 hours a week. I know I haven’t been the best at time management the last few months, but up until now it didn’t matter. Back when I started, I had had hours to spare and felt guilty for leaving early. Now, I understand that I need to take advantage of that because I am paying for it now. I am coming in early and staying late and I am still behind. Just when I think I am getting caught up, someone has a mental break and I am behind the 8 ball once again.

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So, would someone please pass me the xanax coffee so I can enjoy my weekend?

A Fall Brain Dump

There are so many things going on in my brain right now, but not a one of them is substantial enough for its own post.

1. I closed my first case last week. This was obviously a joyous occasion, but it doesn’t really equate to less work. By the time cases get to a point we are recommending they close I probably spend 1-2 hours each month, depending on the number of kiddos involved. Despite the fact that my workload isn’t really decreasing any, I was ecstatic that the case closed. I did a lot of work up to that point to keep the kids stable in their home. Not to mention, the report I wrote that convinced even the toughest critics that this father can adequately parent. Yes, I am pretty proud of myself, but even more I am proud of this family and the strength and perseverance they showed me.

2. I downloaded iOS 6 and I’ve noticed it really drains my battery. I am hoping since I turned off location services my battery life will improve. Or it could be that there is almost always an app update loading. Either way, not cool. #firstworldproblems

3. I’ve worked more overtime in the last two weeks than I ever have. If I worked in any other industry I would be making mad money, but instead I am a social worker and I get paid in hugs. My job is great in that I can usually flex my hours and just come in late if I know I will be working late. Unfortunately I have had so much going on I can’t “just come in later” because I would probably have a panic attack just thinking about the work I should be doing. So instead I continue to go in at 9 (or earlier) and work until 6 (or later). One day this week I worked 12 hours. Not cool. I still came in at 9 the next day.

4. Every time I try to type “worked,” I end up typing “worker.” I use the word “worker” about a gagillion times per case note.

5. The weather transition to fall was NOT a transition. It’s like I woke up this week and BAM! It’s fall! What the heck? I am enjoying the cooler temperatures and enjoying getting to wear sweaters and jackets. It’s like I have a new wardrobe again. Also, I enjoy giving the air conditioner a break.

6. I worked from Starbucks on wednesday and I felt like everyone in the place was judging me on my ancient Dell laptop. I really wanted to tell them “I have a macbook at home.” But I think if I had been there with my 4 year old macbook, they would have been judging me anyway. A 4 yr old laptop is ancient no matter what brand. At least with my mac I would have felt more hip and trendy. Ha!

I’m Not Heartless

Let me be the first to admit, it’s pretty easy to become jaded working in child welfare. I feel like most of my time is spent trying to sort out truth from lie. Then, I have to call out my clients when I catch them in a lie. Then they tell me I don’t have a clue what I am talking about. It is very easy to get frustrated. Let me say that again, it is very easy to get frustrated.

This routine has been played out several times over in one particular case. I have had to confront this woman so many times on so many issues and yet every time she gets mad and insists that I am the one making things up. To be honest, I am just sick of it.

I can think of others I work with who hear me talk about the case and would say that I am a bad worker because I think my client is lying to me. This coworker seems to think it is impossible to be lied to by a client. She thinks I am too harsh in my judgement of the situation.

Let me be more clear: I am taking the word of a child over the word of her parent. The parent has a reason to lie, the child does not.

Deep down, I want this family to be reunited. I want it to work. I want change to happen. But right now I want these children to be safe.