As a social worker / therapist, it's easy to develop pet peeves. As in, really easy. As in, it's probably a good thing to watch those immediate reactions you start having to people - OR - you might lose sight as to what's really important: empathy / respect / appreciation for the journey most of my clients have been on. (Most people don't just wake up one day and think, Man, today would be a GREAT day to (fill in the blank) ....)
I'm an in home family therapist for families who are at immediate risk of losing their children to foster care. When Children's Administration (meaning, CPS, or Child Welfare, or the Department of Children and Family Services, or whatever variation your state has) calls me, things have gotten pretty hairy. That's a euphemism. I don't really want to detail right now what kinds of things happen in homes that help facilitate my presence, mostly because when I do that, the back story as to why families are going through the hardships they are gets lost. Most people are not psychopaths. Most people do not want to hurt their children. That might be hard to believe, but people's stories are so widely varied and complex.
I mean, really, really complex. Do I get frustrated? Sure. Do I have to call in new CPS reports? Sometimes. Do I still have hope? Absolutely. Do some families make it?
Do some families make it? (Not a typo. I asked that twice.)
Some families stay together, and people have widely varying definitions of success. I've had to really, really examine my class issues in defining success and have had to really, really examine how comfortable I am with the concept of minimum sufficient level of care.
Oh, my word. I digress all over the place. The job is complex, much like many jobs!, and I find myself re-explaining what I do again and again out of habit.
Back to the point. I have worked with children and families for 12 years. Not always as a therapist. Not always at the Master's level. But I have a lot of experience with kids. I've seen a lot of kids heal. I've seen a lot of kids go through some earth shattering, heart breaking experiences. I've been around kids.
I've been around kids who have been physically or sexually abused. I've helped take injury photos of bruises and I've listened to kids disclose physical torture. I've advocated for them in court. I've worked with kids in therapy who have PTSD because they've witnessed family members die in gang shootings. I've detained some of them involuntarily to psych beds for their own safety. In one season of my life, I was a Detention Officer and I physically restrained them for their own safety. In that same season, I stayed up all night with them when they had nightmares, wet the bed, needed someone to talk to. I have chosen a life of public service (long hours, terrible pay, etc) because my heart is wrapped up in kid healing. This is a choice I have made.
(Loop back to the beginning of the post ...)
So I do not take it well when people tell me, "You'll know when you're a mom" - or - "You don't understand because you don't have children."
I was in a training today on cognitive interventions and REBT when a training participant purposefully ignored a statement I made, turned to my co worker and said, "Well, you know about kids, because you're a mom."
Sweetheart, I have been to more dark places with kids than most moms will ever go. I do not know what it is like to be a mom, but I know about kids, and what I know is that giving birth does not make you an expert on all things child. (I didn't say that. I took a drink of water and doodled on my handout.)
Strangely, none of my clients have ever had a problem with me not having kids. Some of them, in our closing work together, have stated that they had initial concerns that I would not be able to relate because I do not have my own kids, but that those concerns dissipated quickly. I have only ever received the cold shoulder from some colleagues (not most), conservative Evangelical moms (not all) and some acquaintances (my good friends are generally supportive). I do not have to have schizophrenia to treat schizophrenia. I do not have to be suicidal to treat suicide ideation / depression. I do not have to have kids to be a good kid / family therapist.
Also, strangely, Shoes and I are having long, complicated discussions about when to start our own family, (if we start our own family), with no clear answers as to when, in part because I am so busy taking care of other people's children. (Calm. That's not the only reason the discussions are complicated).
So. In sum. My uterus is empty. It might be empty for a good long while. And me and my empty uterus? We're still a good family therapist. I can still jump rope, shoot baskets, make a worry box, and depersonalize an issue like nobody's business. I haven't stayed up all night with a colicky baby, but I've stayed up all night with a suicidal teenager. I haven't dropped my 5 year old off for his first day of kindergarten, but I've worked hours and hours and hours to get a child the special education service he desperately needs.
Not a mom.
Still an advocate for all things child.
Funny how that works.