28 June, 2008

The ongoing dilemma

I lead a very interesting life. Especially since February second, when I began my current job as a nanny. I have had a lot of jobs considering I am a 23 year-old woman with as of yet no college degree.

My first job was a day care worker at Crown Hill Child Care, which happens to be owned and operated by my aunt and her lesbian partner. I love my aunts, and I loved that job. The pay was great, my co-workers were (obviously) fantastic, and I loved being with the kids all day. I was so sad when I had to quit to return to high school. Who wouldn't be? I have never liked teenagers, and this was especially true when I was one.

My second job was at Eric Gorbman catering, based at the Beth Shalom synagogue. Very good high school job: once again good pay, evenings and weekends (since our clients were all Jewish I lost a lot of gigs that were on Sunday ... but no big deal), and all my closest friends worked there too. Not to mention that we got to take home extra hummus and roast vegetables. Don't even get me started on the pita bread. Eric, our boss, was tough but fair. He was funny and dramatic ... a lot like the Jewish deli owners you see on TV shows like Seinfeld. But he was respectful and professional, and paid us under the table. Bonus: I learned how to tie a tie.

The summer between graduation and moving to Utah I worked at the law firm of a stake leader I had worked with for several years, who liked me and knew I needed money for college. He paid me much more than I deserved to organize files in the basement, type and man the phones while the "real" secretaries were away. I enjoyed it, and it looks good on resume to say I worked at a law firm as long as I don't go into too much detail about what I did.

My sophomore year I got a job for the Education in Zion Exhibit Project at BYU. I was hired by the AV department (by a guy named Ben, who loved my writing and is still a hero of mine ... I would probably have a crush on him if he weren't married with three kids) initially to write scripts, but the research for said scripts was so time-consuming that research was pretty much all I did. I also did odd jobs for Ben like tracking down ancestors of a certain person we'd like to interview, go to museums to set up interviews with eccentrics who are really into the history of the printing press ... stuff like that. Although looking back, I wish I had taken better advantage of that opportunity to network and get published, it was in every way a great job.

My freshman year I didn't work at all. But the one summer when I went home, I got a job at a UPS Store , which was in fact the worst job of my life to date. The work wasn't that bad. I don't mind retail; although plenty of people are obnoxious and demanding, I would say far more are civil and reasonable. I didn't mind wearing a dorky brown apron, and my co-workers were nice. My problem was I could never seem to satisfy my boss no matter how hard I tried. Everything I did was sub-par. Every day I did something that made her yell at me. When there was nothing to do after I had cleaned everything and checked the inventory twice, I was lazy. When someone had a question about the postal system and I didn't know the answer off the top of my head, I was stupid. When I had trouble with any of the complicated math for calculating packaging (which they now have a computer program for, darn it) I was grossly incompetent. Every little mistake was a reflection on me as a person. I came home every day close to tears. It was miserable. The really interesting thing was I worked great under pressure--as long as there were lots of customers and lots to do, I was fine. That's why I worked there during Christmas break once or twice. But as a summer job it was hell. My self-esteem took a terrible beating--I honestly thought that I was such a terrible worker, I might never be able to find a job again. And let's face it, working for UPS ... beggars ought not to be choosers. I was smart and I tried hard and had half a college degree. Some people are just never satisfied with what they have. To be fair, my boss is normally pretty likable. I stopped in to ship some stuff when I moved back to Utah after my mission and she was ecstatic to see me. She even told my dad I had been one of her favorites. Well, pray for the employees she doesn't like.

My junior year, the year before my mission, I had two jobs.

One: research assistant for the Mormon Studies Department in the BYU library. We read diaries written by Mormon pioneers, wrote summaries of them, organized and edited them, and supposedly they were to be published someday. There were two problems with this job, and both were my fault. The first was I had so much other stuff going on I put that job very low on the priority list, and it showed. The second was that my laptop kept crashing and I kept losing the little work I had done. I don't know why I never bothered saving that stuff on a jump drive. Truth be told, I wasn't very good at writing those darn summaries. I cringe to think of what Mike, my boss, thought of me at the time. That is one job I wish I could do over.

My other job was a model for the art department. I loved that job. See the entry below for details.

So now I have my first full-time job, and from my limited understanding of the US employment hierarchy, nannies rate above the food service industry, but below garbage collectors in terms of pay and benefits.

I love the kids, but of course, I love all kids. The pay is OK for Provo but still not that great. I save lots of money on groceries since I eat with the kids, and most weekends off. But the stress of this job is unbelievable.

It's not the kids, so much. The youngest two are two and one, and they can drive me crazy sometimes, but most of the time they are cute. They love me and by now know how I operate, so we are in good together, I would say. The older boys treat me like a big sister, except they do what I say. I try not to order them around, just ask them to do normal things like clean up after themselves, do their chores, call when they are going to by late, etc. Good kids all. A little spoiled, but not terminally so. Once they move out of the house and have brief reality check, they will be good men.

The real interesting thing is my boss. I love her, let me say that first. But my opinion of her is in constant flux. I just never know what to think. She hired me because she is bi-polar, first of all. I have a lot of experience with mentally ill people in my family and personal life, so I thought I knew what to expect when I took the job. But the thing about mentally ill people is that the only thing you can really expect is to be thrown for a loop. All the time.

Raising kids is stressful, let us all agree. But until recently I was in serious doubt about whether she wanted to be with her kids at all. While I watch the kids and spend time with them, she goes out to eat, goes to movies, goes shopping, gets her hair done, drives kids to various sports practices, runs various errands ... all the running the household stuff, and then some. I have never been rich, so I don't know what it's like to feel that kind of pressure. Compounding the rich people pressure is the Utah pressure to be a perfect Mormon wife and mother who always looks perfect and has it all together. I have never been a real Utahn, for which I am immensely grateful. I have never been a mother either, although I technically spend more waking time with her children than she does. Nevertheless, I could never quite get my mind around my employer's priorities.

These kids love you, lady. I thought to myself. They want to be with you. How long does that last? I started not wanting to be around my mom when I was eleven. Every kid is different, but eventually parents start chasing after their children instead of the other way around. And it made me sad how she always seemed to be avoiding her kids.

However, about a month ago I hit a huge low. I was so stressed with the kids I literally had to just put them in their cribs and leave the room, because I was afraid I was going to do something I might regret. I called my mom and asked: am I a terrible person? This two year-old kid defies me and I am filled with rage? Is this normal?

My mom said: yes. It happens to everybody. Sometimes you get so mad you want to hurt the kids. It happens. But what you have to do is take yourself out of the situation and try to remember that a baby's brain works differently than yours. You cannot put adult expectations on a baby because it won't work. Try not to freak out at them, and if you get too mad put yourself in a time out. If your kids are still alive and unharmed at the end of the day, you are a good parent.

Grown-up time outs saved my sanity. Also, I started praying for patience with the kids every day. It worked. My ability to pick my battles was honed, and now very little fazes me.

Anyway, so this little exercise taught me several things.

1. Parenting is frustrating for even the most sane of us.
2. Divine help really ... helps.
3. If parenting is hard for me, a young adult in good mental health with a ton of energy and a reputation for being slightly more patient than the average person, then how hard must it be for a mentally ill middle-aged woman with an overall high-strung personality?

I thank the Lord every day of my life that I am not high-strung by nature, incidentally. I could never marry someone like that, either. The only thing that makes me high strung is high strung people. Which is why the MTC kicked my emotional butt.

A companion of mine said that one day my husband will come home from a night with his buddies, listening to them rant about their crazy wives and their insane emotions, and he will say to me, "Baby, I don't know what I did to deserve you." Ha. We'll see.

I have strayed so far from my original topic, which is that I have finally developed compassion for my employer and am hoping against hope that she really is doing that best she can with the mental resources she has right now.

Proof: yesterday she was having a really rough day and asked me to stay until six instead of five. I had no plans for the evening and she was clearly in a fragile state, so I agreed. Then she said something on the phone that startled me.

"I know this might be a lot to ask ... and you probably do this anyway ... but could you please hold my babies for me a little extra today ... I haven't paid them very much attention lately ..."

And then she dissolved into tears. Sheesh. Poor woman. How can I criticize someone who lives with that every day? I'm going to do as the Temple Presidency always suggests and assume she is doing the very best that she can. I need to be better about that, in general. My habit of expecting the worst from everyone means I have very minimal faith in people. I'm pretty sure that Christ has faith in people even when they have done nothing to deserve it.

2 comments:

Sterling and Cori Anne said...

I didn't know your job was so stressful. You've been handling it well. way to go, babe!

mathistown said...

Elisa dear..you may not even know I read this (why haven't I commented yet?? I don't know). I have this bad habit of assuming that people know what's going on in my head, and that's what's happened here. Well, I do read your blog, and it's great. This post especially means a lot to me because motherhood (and humanity on a broader scale) has been weighing heavily on my mind lately. It feels weird to have it looming in front of me at some point, but to be unsure about how I'll be as a mom, and what my kids will be like etc etc. Anyway, this is getting to be very long, but I want you to know I have your blog on my Google Reader list, and love reading what you have to say! I miss you and am sad it's been so long since we've seen each other! We should have lunch sometime? Let me know if this strikes your fancy. xoxo Alli (formerly Rowe) Mathis

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