Friday, September 27, 2013

In Defense of the Night Shift: A Manifesto.

Have you every considered the term "regular business hours"? Generally regarded as sometime between, say, eight a.m. and six-ish, this is when the normal people work. When the OPEN sign is on, a real human answers the phone, and you can still find food for sale that hasn't been rotting under a heat lamp for 6 hours, this is when regular humans are out and about.

But not me.

I work at night.

We are a strange breed, we workers of the night. A little crazy, a lot of fun, and a whole lot of slap-happy by clock-out time, we love each other with a fierceness unmatched when the sun is up. Our team, made up of a couple of doctors, a handful of nurses, and the cops and medics that stop by to visit a few times per night, is a tight-knit ragtag bunch. Throw in a few Walmart employees, gas station attendants, a Betos cashier, a couple of folks at the McDonalds, and some delivery trucks, and guess what? That's the crew who keeps the world spinning after the sun goes down.

Mike Rowe should do a show on us.

Because many people haven't had the pleasure of working through the night (count your many blessings, name them one by one), here is a bit of education for you in the form of a list of things that really bug us.

1- Referring to our sleep in the daytime as "naps." Example: Oh, you took a four-hour nap today?! That must be nice! 

It's not a nap, ladies and gentlemen. It's all the sleep we get. And, generally speaking, it's crappy, door-bell-ringing, sun-shining, neighbor-running-the-lawn-mower-filled sleep.

2- This: "Oh yeah, I used to pull all-nighters in college all the time." Of course you did, Sherlock. Everyone pulls all-nighters in college. It's like eating horrible frozen burritos and stealing your roommate's milk for your cereal; it's part of the experience. This is not the same as working overnight over and over again until your internal alarm clock throws up its pointy little hands in defeat and takes off for El Paso. In fact, I'm barely qualified to write this at all since I only work part-time. (Read: WIMP!) My full-time graveyard coworkers are the real rockstars, and their experience is nothing like that one time you crammed for that American History: Pre-Revelution through the Antebellum Period final.

3- Scheduling required meetings repeatedly during the daytime.

Now, I get it. Sometimes meetings have to happen. It is what it is, and mostly, I'm cool with it. But do you know what I sometimes want to say?

"Fun! So is the next meeting going to be held at three a.m. then? Hmmm? HMMM?"

I see you smiling, like we're in on a secret little joke, the two of us. Of course we won't be holding a meeting in the middle of the night, you chuckle, because that's when people sleep.

Except, not me. I'M NOT ASLEEP.

Do you know when else I'm not asleep? During that daytime meeting. Admittedly, it's not just because of that daytime meeting, although that is incredibly inconvenient. No, I'm not asleep during that daytime meeting because--get this-- I have other things to be doing during the day. Believe it or not, that's why I work AT NIGHT. Believe it or not, I'm not some sort of bat or chinchilla or any other sort of mammal identified by Wikipedia as nocturnal. (I know, I checked.)

Actually, I sacrifice my sleep and my sanity as a result of a very conscious decision about what works best for my life and my family. I slog through a shift while everyone else sleeps and snores because that's my preference. It works for me, and if it means enduring the extra ten pounds that have taken up residence on my hips due to that accursed midnight cafeteria run, well, so be it.

Don't get me wrong, I consider the flexibility of my job to be a very tangible blessing, and I don't ever, ever forget it. I have lived through the alternative in the daytime working world, and in my case, it was horrific. I feel very, very lucky to work while my children sleep. I work with people who are smart, funny, and overwhelmingly fantastic, and I am better for it. I love the night shift.

That said, please don't call it a nap.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Confessions of a Never-Danced Mom

When I was about 7, my mom drove my little sister and me to our first dance class. I sort of vaguely remember wearing a leotard and some tights, but I acutely remember NOT wearing a tutu. (Maybe I was a little bitter about that.)

In that dance class, I learned the following things:
#1- How to point and flex my foot while happily shouting "Pencil point! Fishhook! Pencil point! Fishhook!"
#2- How to sashay across the stage in tap toes. 

That's it. That's everything I learned. I never took another dance class again. 

(It's a miracle, then, that the modern dance moves I execute while wearing socks in my kitchen look so graceful and balanced. Just ask my husband.)

(My husband doesn't think that my dance moves while wearing socks in my kitchen are the least bit graceful, balanced, or even awesome, even though they clearly are.)

(He's a terrible judge of talent.)

Anyway, now I'm all grown up and so is my little girl. She's got another entire year before preschool, so when I saw a friend mention on Facebook a perfectly adorable and affordable dance class very near our house for three and four year olds, we approached Bug with the idea. She was on board almost instantly, and that's how I found myself the mother of a dancer. 

I'm going to be honest--I have fears about dance. Not three year old dance, really, but dancing as she grows up. I worry about ballet and eating disorders and body image and injuries. I worry about hip hop and costumes and choreography that sexualize my little girl. I worry about interpretive dance and how I just don't get it.

I know lots of women who danced growing up, and in every case they are lovely, healthy, well-adjusted people with fond memories of recitals and practices and friendships and opportunities, and I want that for my daughter. I am a mother and a social worker and I worry about things, but long ago I decided that fear alone is not a good enough reason to miss things.

So, on her first day of dance, I'll tell you what I want for my baby girl. 

I want her to love the way it feels when she moves her body. I want her to be happy and grateful for the way her legs are strong and sturdy, the way she can run and jump and skip, and the way her feet connect her to the earth. I hope she learns to care for her body. I hope she learns to treat her body with respect, to feed it when it is hungry and rest when it needs rest. I want her to learn to move gracefully, and carry herself with pride. I want her to learn how to sit quietly and listen, and then follow instructions from her teacher. I want her to learn to be the leader, and I want her to learn to let other children have a turn at being the leader, too. I want her to learn to be independent and brave. 

I hope that dance helps to teach my little girl that being a girl is wonderful and amazing, and that her world is full of opportunity. I hope she learns that it is a gift and a pleasure to be soft and lovely, and that it is also a gift and a pleasure to be strong and powerful. I want her to know that her femininity and her strength are not mutually exclusive, but are important parts of her whole self. She need not sacrifice one to satisfy the other. I want her to learn to let her natural happiness bubble out of her. I hope she learns to always, always do her best, and learns that being her best self never, ever means making someone else feel like anything less than their best self. She can choose to dance and she can choose to do things other than dancing, and I hope that each of those experiences help her to love herself and love other people, too. Maybe dance is one of those experiences and maybe it isn't, but we're going to give it a try.

So today, we twisted her hair into a little bun and got dressed in the perfect little leotard that Grammy Lu got for her and we took pictures before we left the house. She looked like this:

Just kidding. That's just what she looked like in my mind. Really, she looked more like this:

Bug excitedly marched right into her dance teacher's house and headed down the stairs without even looking back. "Have fun, sweetheart! I love you!" I called from the porch.

"Love you too, Mama!"

And that was that. She's learning already.

I guess it'd be ok if along the way she picked up a little "Pencil point! Fishhook!" too.