Saturday, September 30, 2023

End of an Era

It's over. My pediatrics coverage for my co-worker on maternity leave has ended. I am re-retiring from working with kids, and I gave away every single workbook, manipulative, curriculum set, and intervention tool I had. Even better, it ended on a great note with an awesome last appointment with a child and her grandmother. And now I am done. 

I was going to call this post "It is done." But... Ha! Apparently, I already did that in this post here when I quit my last pediatrics position and retired the first time (after working with kids for 25 years). This last stint really drove home the fact that I have moved on. I have moved on in terms of what I want to learn, how I want to grow, and whom I want to serve.

Quite honestly, the last three months felt like major regression. It was a big hit to my mental health, and I processed a lot here on this blog. Working with kids felt so different for a lot of different reasons, the details of which I won't go on about here anymore. It's over. But the changes really confused me. And bothered me. But now I accept them. And I'm glad to be done.

It's the end of an era.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Unexpected Conversation Turn with a Neurodivergent Kid

I've worked with a lot of kids with autism spectrum disorder, and this pediatrics coverage is no different. Some kids are verbal, some kids are nonverbal, and some kids speak in a scripted language, meaning that they repeat what they've heard on tv or in movies. 

There are a lot of different schools of thought about scripting, including why people do it and how others should handle it. I see scripting as a unique way that individuals function. They may do it as a coping strategy when feeling overwhelmed or socially anxious. Others may engage in scripting as a way to communicate and connect. Every person is different, and I try to learn about each individual and help them along their way as they improve their ability to function in life.

One kid I've been working with repeats a lot of dialogue from the movie Home Alone, the movie with Macaulay Culkin where his whole family goes on vacation and he gets left behind. When I first met this kid he asked me, "What would you do if your family went on vacation and you were home alone?" Seizing the teachable moment I said, "I'd call a grown up and ask for help." 

For the first month, he continued to ask me this question every week and I would give variations of the same reply, always emphasizing safety and asking for help. However, he continued to ask me this question throughout the duration of our sessions. I didn't feel like I was helping. 

Over the last two months, the question evolved into, "What would you do if you went on vacation and your kid was left home alone?" Again, I always gave an answer that emphasized being safe and asking for help. But I was starting to question the effectiveness of my answers.

So this week I took a different approach. 

It wasn't planned. I just tried something different in the moment. The kid arrived for his appointment. He took off his shoes like he usually did. And he quickly jumped into his usual scripted language. He asked me, "What would you do if you went on vacation and your kid was left home alone?" And I answered, "I don't have any kids. I don't have to worry about that."

And then...

It just ended. The scripted conversation stopped.

We went on and talked about other things like school and what he had for lunch that day.

This unexpected turn of conversation may not have had anything to do with me being childless. Maybe I just interrupted his script. If so, I hope it wasn't harmful. He didn't seem agitated or upset. Or... Maybe something registered for him. Maybe he briefly understood the irrelevance of that question for me. Maybe he got it.

Whatever it was, it was the first time he engaged with me and we didn't talk about Home Alone.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Toast & Gratitude

I've got two different thoughts on my mind this afternoon.


The first one is burnout. I am burnt like toast. I can barely manage my life right now. Last weekend I felt genuine pride for doing the dishes and laundry. This pediatrics coverage is killing me. It is very demanding and the pay is not good. Oh well. Only one more week to go!

Burnout is different from depression, although burnout can lead to depression. Burnout is also different from grief, although grief can also lead to depression. Combine all three (burnout, grief, and depression) and, whoa, it's a lot to manage. It's too much to manage. It's not sustainable.

I know I'm not the only one feeling this way. Infertility sucked. Involuntary childlessness sucks. The pandemic sucked. Inflation sucks. Climate change sucks. Suck, suck, suck. It all literally sucks your energy.

But the sun sets and the sun rises again. I employ my strategies. I decrease the demands I put on myself, and I cultivate appreciation for all the things. Big things like food and housing. Little things like hobbies and laughter. Well, really, the little things are big things too.

So yeah, I am burned out. And I do blame this pediatrics coverage. It's like I told another blogger over email earlier this week: kids are different these days. Parents are different. Most importantly, *I* am different. And I just can't do it anymore.

There's nothing in it for me. I don't have to work around a school schedule so I don't want to. Other people don't care if their kids can't read or write, so I can't afford to care either. I am not motivated to learn more or grow in this area, so I'm not interested in being a placeholder. I feel ineffective and disinterested, and that's not good for my mental health. (Although if I was interested in learning more, I'd delve into the research about screen time and neurocognition. There are some major things going on among iPads, You Tube, and smart watches and creativity, attention span, and executive functioning. Major.)

So yeah, burnout. I know I'm not the only one. And it's not exclusive to being in the wrong job. There are a lot of factors affecting us in 2023... But keep holding on! Life is still worth living. I truly believe that. Even when we're tired.


The second thought is this: I am sooo glad I moved.

Are you thinking about moving? Do you need a change? Do it. Do it, do it, do it. 

Go where you want to go. Go where you want to be. 

I would be so depressed if I still lived where I lived for 25 years.

However, I am extremely excited about my trip to go visit in a couple of months. I already have it all planned out, and it's because of this pediatrics coverage that I can afford to go. So there's that to be thankful for.

But I reached out to a lot of friends last month to get on their calendar. I haven't seen anyone in 5.5 years, and I was hoping, with over 3 months notice, to be able to see as many as possible. So far, so good! I've got several dinners scheduled and a couple of events planned.

However, I might not get to see one of my best friends from high school. She works during the week (completely understandable), and then her kids have sports games on the weekends (also completely understandable). I wish she could skip one afternoon of games to meet up with me, but I don't know if I'd skip a game if I was in her shoes. So, I don't fault her for her schedule. That's what her life is right now. But... 

I am sooo glad I moved!!! If I hadn't moved, I would still be living my life according to everyone else's routines and schedules. Talk about a recipe for depression.

Now I am living MY life. It is structured around my needs, desires, routines, and schedule, which are inevitably different from all of my friends who are parenting. That's just the way it is.

So. There ya have it.

I am so grateful to be living a life I want to live. Even if I am temporarily burned out.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Peer Support

Most of the time these days I am at peace with being childless not by choice. Except lately I haven't been. I don't know why. Logically, I can appreciate the life I've created for myself. I can remind myself that my kids would grow up. I can tell myself that everything has its challenges. Just like being childless not by choice is hard, parenting isn't easy either.

But there is logic, and then there are feelings. The two don't always align.

I guess it's all a part of my process, a part of my grief. Sometimes I just feel sad for what I've lost.

And that's okay.

That's why I'm glad I have this blog. I have found a community that understands me even when I don't understand myself. I've formed online friendships with other women that support me when I'm feeling up and when I'm feeling down.

The power of peer support is immeasurable.

I've been reading what people have written for World Childless Week this year. It has been really helpful. It happened to occur at a time when I inexplicably needed it. I appreciate everyone's honesty in their writing and bravery for contributing.

Thank you to our community. 💙

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Excluded at Work

I got mad last week. Really, really annoyed.

I am somewhat used to birth announcement emails at work. I do not think they are appropriate, and I definitely do not appreciate them. But, I realize that they are a thing. I don't know why, but they are an accepted practice in the workplace. 

(And, no, I'm not against celebrating people's good news. I just know that for every birth announcement email accompanied with a picture of the newborn, there is at least one person who has just had a miscarriage or is struggling with infertility. And that person definitely did not need to see that email as they are managing everything on top of their work responsibilities.)

So, sure, whatever. So-and-so had a baby. And now the baby is born. Fine. I'm glad everything went well. Truly. That is not sarcasm. I am not a monster.


Last week I received a department-wide email that really pissed me off. It was about the woman I am covering for while she is out on maternity leave. The subject was "[Baby's name] Update." And I was like, what the... I clicked on it, and there were FIVE pictures of this baby.


I didn't need that in my life.

The email said they are so happy for mom and baby and cannot wait until she is back at work. There was no mention of me who is covering while she is out. I felt like I was unappreciated, like they just want me gone so my co-worker can return. But I realize I may be reading too much into it. My feelings about everything may be coloring my perspective.

But here's what made me mad. There was never a department-wide email sent out about my graduation. That actually has something to do with the workplace. My doctoral degree is directly related to my profession and career. I don't want the accolade for my ego. But if we're celebrating people's babies, I just wanted equal recognition of my hard work for the past 16 months. You know, since it is actually an appropriate announcement for the workplace... 

I felt so excluded.

I guess only babies are celebrated as an accomplishment where I work.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Labor Day

Labor Day doesn't make me think of work. Or a break from work. Labor Day just makes me think of pregnancy and, well, labor. Something I never had or did. I was always scared of it though. I kind of wished the stork thing was true. I would've loved it if a bird had dropped off a baby for me at my front door. Biological or not, I didn't care.

But I do appreciate this day off. I've appreciated this whole weekend. I haven't done a damn thing. I still feel so maxed out from my pediatrics coverage, school and graduation, and just the last 12 years in general. I'm limiting the rest of my year to what I already have planned and nothing else: working part-time, continuing my research project, and participating in the quilt sew along that started this month. I also have two trips planned, one to see my sisters and another to see my friends where I used to live (for the first time in over five years!).

I am very excited about my trip to see my old friends. I'm going for a long time--a whole week and I still won't have enough time to see everyone and do everything. Then I started thinking about it... The first two nights I'm staying with one of my best friends. She doesn't have kids. She never actively tried, but she never actively prevented either. Even though she's married, I suppose she is childfree by circumstance.

Then I'm going to spend two night in a hotel. I'll spend those days visiting old places and meeting up with friends at my favorite restaurants. I actually signed up for an all-day workshop and texted one of my best friend's sisters to see if she would like to join me. She's going to! We've never actually hung out without her sister. I just knew she'd be interested in the workshop. Also, she doesn't have kids. I'm pretty sure she and her husband tried. I think she is childless not-by-choice. Maybe it will come up; maybe it won't.

Then the last two nights I will spend with my oldest best friend (the one whose sister is joining me for the workshop). I haven't seen my friend in EIGHT years. We didn't have a falling out, but we were going through our own things for awhile and didn't keep in touch. I texted her on her birthday a year and a half ago, and we've been back in touch ever since. We are both very grateful for that. And guess what. She doesn't have kids either. She never wanted them. Well, it wasn't that easy. She wasn't sure if she wanted them or not and spent years in counseling before realizing she didn't. So she is childfree by choice. 

Also, we have plans to have dinner with a third friend who ALSO does not have kids. I think she might have wanted them, but... Her husband didn't. Nevermind that she is divorced now. So maybe she considers herself childless by circumstance? I'm not sure.

On the final day I will meet up with my best friends from high school. Among the three of them, they have seven kids. Now that I have grieved my losses and created a new life for myself, I can enjoy the occasional picture and updates about their kids. I love my friends, so therefore I love their kids. Even if I've only met two of the seven.

Weird, huh. That's a lot of women without kids. I used to feel surrounded by mothers and fertility, and now my world feels so much bigger. Thank God.

My feelings about having kids have changed too. That's been weird for me. I don't want a baby anymore. And that is completely crazy to me. My whole lifelong dream was to be a mother. What do you mean I don't want a baby anymore??

But I had to change. My life depended on it. 

I could not continue to exist with that deep, unquenchable yearning. I don't know how I did it. And if you would've told me ten years ago that there would be a day where I wouldn't want a baby, I would have known that you DEFINITELY didn't get it.

But I had to change. And, step by step and year by year, it happened. I think that's another reason that working in pediatrics just doesn't resonate with me anymore. I don't live a child-centric life, and I don't like entering and exiting that world every time I go to work.

It's just been a lot. A lot, a lot of hard work. What I've been through, how I've changed.

And those are my rambling Labor Day thoughts.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Blue Moon

We had a blue moon on August 30th. This phrase is used when we get an additional full moon, and it doesn't happen very often. You've probably heard the phrase "once in a blue moon." Well, I really wanted to do something significant for the blue moon, but I didn't know what.

It figured itself out.

I've been writing about my pediatrics coverage a lot. How it feels different this time even though I've worked with kids for the majority of my career and even since knowing I wouldn't be having kids. How it has felt confusing for me. (And yes, I know those last two sentence were incomplete. I'm using my stylistic license, haha.)

Last Wednesday I got home from work and knew what I needed to do. Last summer I cleaned out boxes and boxes of teaching materials and kids' books. I mailed some to a friend, gave some to my boyfriend's sister, and donated the rest to the thrift store. But I still kept two tubs of things I couldn't bear to part with.

Last Wednesday I admitted to myself that I was never going to use those things. They would be better in someone else's hands where they would be used (as opposed to sitting in a storage tub in my still overcrowded house).

I gave it all away.

I took the best things up to work where they can be used with the kids there. The other stuff is sitting in bags that I will take to the thrift store. And then tonight I was talking to a friend and learned she is homeschooling this year. Her middle daughter is taking algebra and I got really excited. I had several helpful books and resources that I knew would be perfect for her. I ran home real quick to get them, and her daughter gladly took what I had to offer. I love it when I find a perfect new home for things I no longer need.

I could not let go of those things until this week. Now I don't have any materials left from my teaching and pediatric days. I am free and open to continue developing the second half of my career to work with older adults.

I honored my process and celebrated the recent blue moon in a way that was perfect for me.