Monday, June 24, 2013

I'm back...with a bitch.

I remember when I was in high school I couldn't wait until I was in university. I had visions of being surrounded by mature people who all held the same respect for each other and learning. The douchebags, I assumed, would be weeded out. 

I went to university and quickly discovered that maturity does NOT always come with age; a lesson that has certainly resonated. I became fixated on finishing university and starting "real life.”

Real life finally arrived. With all the responsibilities I had been yearning. But, not necessarily the experience I needed to get the respect I felt I lacked because of my years. I knew it would come, eventually. 

My second job out of university I worked in strategic planning.  Project coordination.  Communication.  I worked directly with senior management.  I'm not claiming to be brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but I've always had a decent head on my shoulders.  I am smart. I work hard. I am mature. I've been working in some capacity since I was 11. Needless to say, most people, even when I was a teenager, always thought I was much older than I was. I'm certain it’s something I won't necessarily appreciate at 40, but in my early twenties, it was welcomed. Because, inevitably as it does when people found out my *real* age, I got raised eyebrows and the predictable statement of ‘Ohhhhh, you’re still a baby!”  And, whether it was perceived or not, I immediately felt all respect and confidence fly out the window.  I yearned to be 27.   Because of course 27 is when people finally start to take you seriously. Ha.

I vowed I would never tell anyone professionally how old I was.  And I did a pretty good job of holding out.  I started my current job when I was 26.  Just before the magical age.  I was the youngest in my office.  By far.  For two and a half years I held out.  Until one of my colleagues (whom I love dearly) stole my driver’s license while we were travelling for work together.  Shit.  The jig is up.  And I waited. Besides a little one really cared. I still presented my reports to the Board of Governors. I still got my pay cheque.  The world did not fall off axis. 

You know what I did discover?  It always feels like something.  Finally, when I think I have professional respect, it’s something else.  And I can appreciate it’s an internal battle.  And I KNOW the shift isn't an external shift, but an internal one. 

I call today's challenge the parental experience conundrum.  Nope. Not the mommy wars.  I feel like it’s almost a generational-mommy-wars, perhaps. Although, it isn't exclusive to parents-only! No, I feel like you’ll get offered judgement from anyone. If you don't choose to have kids = judgement. If you decide you're only having one = judgement. If you have more than two = judgement. And it started while the poor baby was in utero. 

I was about half way through my pregnancy when I returned from my lunch break with some cloth diapers I had purchased.  My colleague (who I ADORE and who had two teenage daughters of her own) proceeded to smirk and say “Yeah, we’ll see how long you stick with THAT” (15 months and going strong, thankyouverymuch!).

And it feels like it has been a barrage of condescension and judgement ever since.  Not just from my colleague, but people in general.  Constant negativity. We can’t just be happy for each other.  We can’t just wish each other well. We have to interject with our patronizing judgement.  Waiting to see everyone else fail.  Poised and ready to rub our noses in it when we do.  This, of course, just makes me bound and determined to succeed at whatever-it-is.

“How are you feeling about going back to work?” I was asked, with a smirk.

 “Oh, not too bad, actually. I’m not really emotional about him being in daycare. Sure, I’d love to be home with him, but he’s going to a fantastic daycare and it will be great for him. It was harder a few months ago to accept that I couldn't stay home with him, but I've accepted that, and I'm okay with it now.”

“Ha ha, suuuure, you say that now.  You’ll be crying on your drive in to work.  Or at your desk in the middle of the day!”

And then, when everything is *fine* the first week.  I get

“Oh, you wait.  You’ll break down eventually!”

 And when I don’t…the subject is somehow magically dropped. 

And today, another conversation (perhaps the key is to stop having conversations? Heh. Kidding.).

 “Oh, you just wait. You’re not going to do well at ALL once NJ starts playing with *real* kids. When the hitting and biting start. When they're actually mobile and *really* playing.” 

I replied “Naw, he’s a kid, he’s going to come home with bite marks and bruises and all that. I expect it.  Sometimes he’ll be the one getting them and sometimes he’ll be the one giving them.  And I have confidence  his care providers will monitor to the best of their ability.” 

All of this stemmed from a bigger conversation that sidetracked into me saying I wanted NJ to take some kind of martial arts/defence program when he’s older. I expect he’s going to be a small kid and I want him to be able to defend himself.  Like, when he’s a teenager and douchebags are trying to intimidate and pummel him.  Not when he’s three.  But this all fell on deaf ears and all they would repeat was variations of

“Oh you wait. You won’t deal well.” (that particular quote from a woman who has known me for one month.).

And we wonder where our schoolyard bullies are being cultivated? You wonder why children are cutting each other down verbally, emotionally, and physically? Everyone thinks bullies come from broken homes.  We think bullies are relegated to the schoolyard.  I've been surrounded by them my whole life.  How can we expect to stop a bully culture when we have seemingly respectable adults perpetuating it?!

And when NJ is 18 and we've overcome all the trials and tribulations of getting him there, I expect someone else will be ready to start with

“Oh, you’ll never survive an empty nest.”

And you know what? I will.  

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