Work’s most wonderful and best kept secret
Children are work’s best kept secret.
I recently introduced a visibly pregnant woman to the members of a career-based group. I asked how she would integrate her new membership with her upcoming event. She steered clear of the reference to the birth of her child as she eloquently answered my question. Why avoid it? Because children are still (though changing) a taboo subject in the workplace.
This disconnect about children reminded me of my most difficult job interview, seven years ago, at Elkhorn’s Lakeland School for the cognitively impaired.
The panel of four interviewers sat stonyfaced, serious, professional. They asked me the usual experience and “what would you do IF” questions and then a query I’d never heard before: What is your greatest accomplishment?
In other circumstances, I might have hit a homerun with some financial accomplishment or the number of years my organization partnered with a village in Haiti.
This was different. The staff at Lakeland held a unique world view: Every person who walked in that school’s front door, no matter how physically or mentally different from “the norm” was fully appreciated and celebrated. Students were encouraged to find their potentials — not just their limits.
So I shirked my normal answer for the one most honest: “I became a mother.” For the last 24 years, I have cared for, worried about, futzed over, complained about, cried over, supported to the ends of my means, been amazed at, feared for, argued with, and loved MY CHILD.
The experience has been my most difficult and most rewarding. A million memories fill my head from his birth to this past weekend when we attended the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival, chatting long into the night about the films we saw.
Babies, children, and teens are rarely something we speak formally about at work. That’s part of the explanation why women are paid 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. It’s cause for stay-at-home fathers to be the butt of lunch-room jokes. It’s the reason corporations are now making policies because they HAVE to, not because they WANT to.
We acknowledge our offspring with desk-top photos and bring-our-daughters-to-work days. But, we have yet to really recognize, respect, celebrate them in the workplace like Lakeland does with its students. Children are too often thought of as “a woman’s issue,” “the balance struck between work and family life,” and something a business-successful man just won’t mention.
Children are our society’s bees knees. They’re unique, special, and rewarding. They will carry on both our personal and societal legacies. As Lakeland staff encourages their students to find their full potential, our places of work should do the same with its workers, parents and non-parents alike. Often the fulfillment of our adult potential involves children.
Let’s enjoy our children for every minute we can — even at work, ESPECIALLY at work. Let’s celebrate them and their contributions.
And, yes, I got the job.
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Judy O Haselhoef, a social artist and author of “GIVE & TAKE: Doing Our Damnedest NOT to be Another Charity in Haiti,” blogs regularly at her website, www.JOHaselhoef.com.
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