Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Lately I've been thinking a lot about who I was pre-children versus who I am now. One of the things I've focused on is my professional self.

Before the kid came along, (as I've mentioned before) I worked for our state's child protective services and a home visitation program for first time parents for a total of about 6 years. Somewhat regularly I was asked if I had kids. I typically responded that I didn't, but that I did have lots of education and experience (along the lines of men don't have babies, but they can still be OB's). No one ever pushed me on it. I fully believed that whether or not I had children made no difference in how I did my job, or in my competency. And in a way it didn't.

But, I realize now that in other ways it did.

I never understood how someone could shake his/her baby, until I was standing on that precipice myself. Intellectually, I knew that people got frustrated, but to actually feel intense anger for this tiny, innocent baby who I loved, well, that rocked me. That moment forever changed me, personally and professionally. And, to be honest, there have been many of those moments over the last 7 years. So many.

While those moments specifically don't make me a better social worker, they do affect the way I view the parents with whom I am working. I find myself being both more empathetic at times, and less tolerant at others.

What I think I've come to is this - it's not that I am necessarily better at my job now that I am parenting. It's that I am different in the way I approach my job (and by "job", I mean being a social worker in general). Fortunately, I am a much better social worker than I was 13yrs ago, fresh out of school. I attribute that to experience and time. Some of that experience I have gotten from other children/parents/families. A lot of it, though, I have gotten from my own children/parenting/family.

I think we don't have to have done something ourselves to understand how to do it. But, the doing of it, well, that changes our perspectives. It, I suppose, makes things more personal. And that can either hinder or help, depending on the situation.

Today's Lesson: Apparently feeling disconnected from the rest of your life can leave you with lots of time for introspection. Whether or not that is a good thing, well, that I have yet to determine.


Elizabeth said...

I think about this a lot in terms of my former career as a teacher (before kids). I know I would definitely do things differently if I was teaching now and woukd be more empathetic with the parents because I "get it" now.

Venessa said...

Totally get this post. I currently work as a therapist for families in the child welfare system. I dont know that I would be able to understand some of the things I see before I had kids. And they all want to know if I have kids...maybe it is because they need someone to understand. Does not make the job easier or harder just a different lens is used to see circumstances differently.

Em said...

I can definitely relate. I used to think the same thing - how could someone possibly shake their baby? But when my daughter was younger and we were having such trouble getting her to sleep, there were times that I'd notice myself picking her up a little more roughly or patting her back harder than necessary...not even close to hurting her, but I still experienced that frustrated tension in my body that people probably feel before they become violent. It's obviously not an excuse. We all need to know when to take a break, when to walk away. But having that experience with my daughter really opened my eyes and broadened my empathy.