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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Kids and The Workplace

It's been over three months now, that I've been back in the workforce. I'm no longer the at-home dad I once was. Bubs 2 stays with a lady who watches a handful of kids in her professional, home daycare during the days. Bubs 1 attends a preschool in a district-funded pre-k/k charter school (The same school that initiated the concern about his ASD). Instead of working for the three-going-on-four-year-old Bubs 1, and his one-year-old sidekick, Bubs 2, I now work on a nearby community college campus. I work in an office full of moms. All of their kids are older than both bubs - much older. But they have great stories to share about their kids growing up.

The other day, one of my bosses was showing me how the college audits curriculum requirements for students who are applying for graduation. While going over the myriad of benchmarks to check, we got to talking about her kids. This discussion occurred after she received a phone call from her younger boy. While sitting in her office, and waiting for her to wrap up a quick phone call with younger boy. I realized that I was listening to a mom who loves her boy with all her heart. Her voice changed while talking to him and she never stopped smiling throughout the quick phone call. It made me think about both bubs and I then found myself quietly smiling to myself.

After the call, she apologized for the interruption. This was when we began telling me about her younger son, whom is now in his late twenties. Although to me, it sounded like she was talking about a much younger boy, but that's because parents tend not to recognize the fact that their kids become adults. She told me how different her youngest was from her older boy. She said that she loved them both the same, but that she had "different" relationships with them. Her younger one is gentle and thoughtful. However, her older one is much more independent. He had some troubles during his teens/early twenties, she said. My boss (I have three bosses in the same office, by the way) went on to tell me about her older boy's troubles as I watched tears build up in her eyes. I listened to her voice quiver at certain points during her story, I mean, his story. I was amazed at the love she poured out while discussing the fears that she had for her older guy. He certainly pushed the envelope many times in his early life. But after a few rough years, she said that he seems to have made the transition to managing himself better. He's healthy and is even talking to her about proposing to his girlfriend, of seven years. She told me that she could not be prouder of him. After her story about her older boy, I realized that the relationships are quite different, but her love for them is the same. I felt myself getting a bit choked up as I listened to her describe his obstacles. Listening to her made me miss Bubs 1 and 2. Part of me doesn't want them to grow up and leave his mom and me for the world. It's selfish, I know.

Listening to my boss, talk about her boys, also reminded me of my mother. Coincidentally, I just had received some pictures of my mother, who's been gone for over 22 years now. I received them a day after talking to my boss about her boys. It made me think about how much my mom loved to talk about her boys, and how much she loved us. Pictures of her always stir me up inside. As random thoughts connect, one from another, I began thinking about when I accompanied my mom to work. This thought led to when I recently brought Bubs 2 to work with me. In fact, it was just last week that I brought Bubs 2 to work with me. Bubs 2's daycare provider had come down with a fever and couldn't take in the bubs for a couple of days. So I took a sick day on the first day and brought him to work on the second. I'm relatively still new at my job, so it was hard for me to even consider taking two days off in a row. I didn't want to be labeled a "slacker" by my peers. I found it hard to transition from a guy who never took a sick day (pre kids) to a guy who now takes a sick day because his kid is sick, but that's the way I'm evolving.

I had a presentation to give on that second day and didn't want to miss it. It was a short presentation, but I still didn't want to miss another day of work. Before I presented my portion of the meeting, I addressed the group by saying, "I apologize for the disruption in bringing my little boy to the meeting this morning. Before I had kids, I would occasionally see a coworker (in previous jobs) bring their kid into the workplace and I remember thinking how unprofessional that was," I said. I continued, "I remember thinking how I couldn't believe that they actually thought that bringing their kid to work was 'ok'." I then stood there for a moment, in silence. I then ended with, "I know better, today."

 Everybody laughed in approval. I was talking to a bunch of moms.

These moms knew what I was talking about. Not only could they relate, but they all gawked over Bubs 2's presence. In fact, the same boss, of mine, who shared her story with me (above) came down to the podium where I was standing with Bubs 2 and asked to hold him while I presented my part of the program. In hindsight, she might have not even asked, but rather just took Bubs 2 from me. He was asleep and I could tell that she wanted to hold him. She held him while I did my part of the presentation (and continued to hold him even after I was done). She didn't want to give him up just yet. I really appreciated that. I appreciate all the moms that I work with.

I appreciate them, because they "get it." They understand that kids spend their parents sick days. They don't frown upon my absences and they don't frown upon me bringing my kid(s) to work. In fact, they support me. "Scott," they say, "we're all moms here. We've been there. Don't sweat it," they tell me.
So, back to "accompanying my mom" to her work. She worked as a secretary in a high school in Sussex County, NJ. She was in the Guidance Office. Although I work in the Registrar's Office at the college, the environment there is interestingly similar to the office environment at the school where my mom worked, over 30 years ago.  While at work with my mom, I remember hanging out underneath some couches. Two couches, to be exact. They were positioned back-to-back in the center of the Guidance Office. There was just enough room below the couches for me to scootch around down there and watch people walk by. I felt safe there; hidden. I could also clearly see my mother's feet at her desk. I would try to guess who's feet belonged to who, as the feet walked by the couches. I would hear my mother's laugh as she interacted with her coworkers and students. She had a distinctive laugh, like all mom's laughs.

Perhaps there's a connection that I'm working in a similar environment as my mother. I think there is. There are laughs that I hear coming from distant offices while at work. I hear these laughs over the discussions going on nearby my desk. I seem to zero in on those laughs too. I think it's because a few of them sound like my mother's laugh. It's a comforting feeling. At those moments, I could close my eyes and pretend that I'm under those couches again. I think it is a big part of why I enjoy my job and my colleagues, that much more.

Thankfully, there are no couches in my office, because I'd likely would have already found myself underneath one.

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