Thursday, November 19, 2009

On the Job Training

When I sat down at the computer this morning, the first thing I saw was this. It showed that social work ranked as the number one most stressful job that doesn't pay well. I know how to pick 'em, huh? :) Of course, I am not currently working as a social worker, just paying off loans for my piece of paper that says I am qualified to do such work. Right here I want to give a shout out to my blogging buddy Lori. We have a mutual friend and actually graduated from FSU together even though we never met. She got her master's degree in social work the same day I got my bachelor's. She has worked many years now as a social worker and I have SO MUCH RESPECT for the work she does. I know it is a God given calling and that many lives have been touched by the work she does.

The reason I'm talking about this is because of the post traumatic stress attack I experienced just reading the article. JUST KIDDING! (Kind of.) The truth is that the time I spent in social work, both interning in a woman's halfway house and the ER and officially working for hospice, were some of the most rewarding times of my life. But what I really started thinking about was how much on the job training took place. I know this is the case in most jobs. I literally graduated one week, got my MS. license the next Friday and started my job the following Monday. I mean I had two years and two internships worth of knowledge. I read pages of protocol books and took a bazillion and a half little quizzes that assured the company I knew what I was doing from how to properly wear my name badge to how to handle a suicidal patient. But let's face it, there are some things books just can't prepare you for.

I stink at math. I mean really, I do. But one thing I understand is the idea of the variable. And the variable in social work is always: people. People are different. Every last one of them. The way they handle situations, the way they react to problems, the way they interact with other people. It was so easy in class to write case studies when I could decide how I would handle a situation based on a character that didn't have feelings, opinions or issues. I could write: "Mr. A. accepted the option offered and is forever grateful for my presence in his life and is planning to name his first child after me." In real life my notes read more like: "Patient finally accepted option F when I threatened to call the state. He hates me and his family called me on my cell phone while I was dying with the flu to convince me of what a horrible person I am and that I in fact know nothing." I left my job still not fully sure of how to document "This person just gives me the heeby jeebies" in a way that sounded professional.

As I began reliving these wonderful memories I came to the realization that what made my job so challenging was not so much the issues faced as the constant feeling of inadequacy. The never ending feeling that I wasn't completely sure I was doing the "right" thing. That is the tough part of on the job training.

I am sure you have gathered through reading my blog that I am not Martha Stewart Super Mom by any stretch of the imagination. I guess what I have learned after 7 years of motherhood is, I don't really know what I'm doing. There, I said it. As if you had not already gathered that. I don't know everything. I'm not sure how I feel about vaccinations. I gave them to my children and prayed fervently for God to protect them. I know that a diet of organic fruits and vegetables is best for my children, but I cannot for the life of me figure out to get them to be satisfied with that. I experience guilt from the amount of time they spend playing video games, and yet I let them do it because I am pretty much with all 3 of them 24/7 and sometimes I need a break. I don't even know how to keep all of the socks in this house together.

I am hard on myself. It's just my nature, my personality whatever you want to say. I've always been that way. I want to be the best, do things the best. And yet, I always seem to fall painfully short of that goal. So now, I am giving myself a break. And maybe you will give yourself a break too, if you struggle with this. Let's face, on the job training is hard and it is pretty much all we get as moms. I started baby-sitting when I was eleven and have read all kinds of books on motherhood. It's a lot like college. Nice theories. Application is a whole other story. I often admit that I have gone from saying "My child will never act like that" to praying "LORD, please don't let my child act like that because I know there is a good chance they will."

Sometimes I think, "LORD, wouldn't it have made more sense for me to know what the heck I am supposed to be doing BEFORE I became a mom? A social worker? A preacher's wife? I mean, it might have helped for me to know how to be a grown up. " But then, I am reminded of the very way Jesus taught when He was here on this earth. There were time He took His disciples into remote locations to intensely teach them spiritual things. But most often He took them straight into reality and said, "Here, let me show you how this will be done." He didn't just teach that they were to love others as themselves, even those they had been taught not to even acknowledge. He showed them when He went out of His way to meet a Samaritan woman. (John 4). He didn't just teach them to trust that God would provide for them He showed them when he told them to gather a few loaves of bread and some fish to feed the 5,000. (John 6) They felt inadequate. They were stressed out. They had to gain some on the job training. Even at the Last Supper, they still didn't get it. (John 13) I wonder if Jesus felt the same way staff meeting use to feel. Did He ever want to say, "I don't know how else to break this down for you. I don't know how many more times I can explain these things." Of course He didn't. He knew they still had a lot of on the job training to go.

I had a favorite song as a teenager that said "Life is hard, but God is good." I won't lie, as I have gotten older and experienced more life, that song seems simplistic and cliche. But you know what? It is still true. Life is hard. We don't know all of the answers. We don't ace every test. But as believers we have this assurance:

"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God."

2 Corinthians 3:5


Lori said...

I think our profession is one of the reasons I have identified so well with you. It just seems like you say exactly what I want to say sometimes.

The second day of my job, they gave me gloves and a mask before I went to a visit. I needed that for a place that children LIVED!!NOTHING in a book prepares you to do this job!!

I am so thankful as a mom, wife, social worker and someone who just isn't good enough to get it together on my own that His grace is sufficient!

Thanks for the shoutout:)

Karen said...

You ARE waay too hard on yourself Emily. You are an awesome preacher's wife, mom, and one of the best Social Workers SC ever had. I am totally amazed by you and Lori and your ability to deal with people. We discovered a few weeks ago when that guy from Rose Hill called needing help that I would totally suck as a social worker b/c I have no compassion. :/ It is a calling and I'm blessed to have two wonderful friends whom God called to be his hands and meet the needs of others. Y'all have my utmost respect.