Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Not a stay-at-home Mom

I blog about mommy stuff a lot. Honestly, I have a lot to say about being a mom, even though, all things considered, I'm still pretty new at it. My kids have taught me more in five short years than I have learned collectively my entire life. They are the best teachers on the planet. 

What some people don't know, is that I have this entire other life. It's a life filled with the pressure to be perfect, deadlines, public scrutiny, and it requires an endless amount of God's grace and His mercy. My career isn't something I talk about often, because honestly, most people wouldn't get it. There is this fine line that I walk between public service, and hard business, that is extremely tricky, rarely easy, and occasionally rewarding. It doesn't pay well, but I'm not complaining. I rarely am acknowledged for accomplishments or achievements, and most of the time, by doing the right thing, I am certainly making at least half of the population angry. Literally, we never win.  

Every day, I think about what is best for an entire city. I consider how every news article, every Facebook post, every buzz feed headline will make us look. I worry about colors, and fonts, and spacing on every document I see. I obsess over the language we use to communicate to our residents, and the phrasing we choose to explain the process, whatever process, to those who aren't familiar with our work. My desk is cluttered with hand written notes about unresolvable issues, promotional items, newspaper clippings, advertising tear sheets, drafts of documents that no one will ever care to read, photos of presentations, ceremonies, and hoopla, and gadgets and gizmos that make all of it easier. 

I plan events. The events I plan aren't like a birthday party, or a wedding, but most likely a somber public meeting on a technical issue with an audience of three, or a town hall session to settle differences and make information available. The events I plan have to be accessible, informative, professional, and are often heated and intense. Apathy is my enemy. Apathy is also my blessing. 

The very next day, and sometimes the same, I represent our city to leaders, dignitaries, businessmen and women, and community mobilizers who have very passionate opinions about the job we are doing. More often than not, I'm half their age, and the wrong gender to be taken seriously. All in a day's work. 

My days range from fire station open houses, to community wide yard sales, to ordinance recodification, to website maintenance, and graphic design. One moment my audience could be senior citizens who are seeking meal assistance, and the next I'm addressing a Senator or Congressman. My job requires flexibility. 

The funny thing is, that I seriously love my job. 

A friend on Facebook asked this question the other day: "If you could quit your job...if money was not an issue, would you do it? If so, what would you do instead?" 

I thought about it for a minute. I wouldn't quit. If money weren't an object, I would keep going to work. I would keep diving in to the career that I absolutely love. I would continue to better myself, receive training, and engage in conversations about my profession that further the trade. I would keep trying to make life better for large groups of people, through communication, logic, and collective and representative decision making. I would keep on. 

My job isn't something I do to make money. My job makes money, because of who I am and what I love to do. When I go home at night, when I show up at church, when I go buy groceries, or attend a Movie in the Park with my family, I never stop being the representative for the city. I am always, in some way, wearing my professional "hat". It's not just a career; it's a lifestyle. 

Once you've worked in the public sector, you quickly decide if you have the heart for it, or not. I've seen lots of people take a job in various levels of government, education, non-profits, religion, only to figure out that it doesn't pay enough and the gig itself isn't easy. They'll tell you it was an anomaly, and that what happened to them was unfair, unjust, and crazy... but truth is, that's what public service is about. Most think that since the job is stable, and it isn't as competitive as the private sector, there isn't much to stress over. To a certain extent, they are right. Working in the public sector can be stable. Usually, benefits are paid for, or at least made accessible, and there isn't a cut-throat competitor breathing down your back. What folks fail to realize, is that being in the public sector opens you up to public scrutiny. Often, my decisions are left open to 70,000+ opinions on a daily basis. What we work on is often on the front page of the newspaper, on the nightly news, and on the web within moments of release. Who else wants that kind of attention? Who else gets that kind of pressure to be perfect? 

I've seen this life tear people apart. I've seen it rip families from each other, throw individuals into a spiral of disrepair, and I've seen good people lose everything because of a "mob mentality" that takes over when we remove the people from the decisions and lose site of the personal factor. It's a scary risk we take when accepting a job such as this. Don't get me wrong, it isn't the same kind of risk that Brad takes when he puts on his bunker gear and responds to the fire alarm, but it's a risk of family, quality of life, and peace that we all cherish and love. 

So, how do we keep on? How do we hold our head up, show up at work, stay in our office, keep answering the phone and opening emails, when we know that disappointment, frustration, and challenges are most of what is lying ahead? 

For me, the answer is that I know this is a calling. I know that God wants me to be right where I'm at, and as long as He is blessing my work, it will be fruitful. There are two verses that I keep coming back to when I find myself in a hard spot professionally: 

Galations 6:9-10 
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Colossians 3:23-24 
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Here's my prayer about my work life: 

God, sometimes I don't make it home before they go to sleep. When I sneak into their rooms and watch them sleep, I cry out to you silently, because I need your help with the guilt. Sometimes I travel for two nights of the week and I don't get to participate in donut Friday. More often than I'd like to admit, I find myself checking my work email and responding to an "emergency" when I should be playing with them. God, sometimes that 40 hour week turns quickly into 80, and honestly, I know the strength I have to keep going can only come directly from you. Please take the guilt away. Thank you for the assurance that I'm right where I need to be. Thank you for the continued blessings on my career, and thank you for the supportive husband, and sacrificial mom who keep allowing me to follow this path. God, I know you have big things in store, and I can only imagine that these years of preparation will pay off in a big way later on, but God, I need your help to keep on. I need your help to respond with grace when I have no patience left. I need your help to love on those people like Jesus would. God, please help me be more like Him. Help me to see the needy and the broken with mercy, instead of justice. Thank you so much for the skills you've given me to be effective. Help me to improve the areas that I fall short. Thank you for being the ultimate communicator, and being the perfect example. 

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