Don’t try too hard

Imagine having your boss greet you in the morning with: “Don’t try too hard to get things done today.”

What would you think of your boss? What would you think of your place of employment?

If you heard that someone else’s boss greeted them with that, what would you think of their boss? What would you think of their place of employment?

I think of city road maintenance crews. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how their bosses greet them every morning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a road maintenance crew try too hard to get things done. And everyone knows (right?) that government agencies have to use up their full budget by the end of the year in order to get a full budget for the next – so it’s in a government boss’s interest to waste money.

Certainly, I never heard that from my bosses when I worked in the private sector.

But, honestly, I’ve never heard that from my public sector bosses either.


Bosses are interested in getting value out of their employees. They want their employees to work hard and get things done.

Sure, some bosses are better at motivating their employees to work hard and to accomplish things – but no employer would go so far as to tell their employees not to try too hard to get things done.

Except my boss right now.

My husband is not interested in getting as much hard work out of me as possible. That isn’t his goal for our home.

I’m not at home so I can be hyperproductive, so our home can be immaculate, so I can finish a to-do list a mile long. I’m not at home so my husband can arrive home to a harried, exhausted wife who is frustrated with not meeting her expectations of the ideal housewife. I’m not at home to be frustrated at our daughter for keeping me from completing my to-do list.

I’m not a homemaker so I can “get things done.”

Does that mean my husband was encouraging me to lie in bed all day long, to not rinse and wash the diapers, to not make him dinner, to not tidy the house? No. He was not encouraging me to idleness.

No, he was encouraging me to have perspective.

Because trying too hard to get things done makes me worse, not better, at my job.

It makes me impatient and unresponsive as a mother. It makes me frustrated and unhelpful as a wife. It makes our home a place of chaotic frenzy instead of peaceful rest.

Right now, I am called to fulfill a role (or several roles), not merely to complete tasks.

Which means I need to listen to my boss when he tells me not to try too hard to get things done. I need to stop and consider what is really important.

In which I am no longer employed

Today marks a last for me – and tomorrow a first.

Today is my last day of employment. Today, I remain a WIC dietitian.

Tomorrow is my first day of…

Well, what exactly is tomorrow my first day of? What exactly am I as of tomorrow?

Calling today my last day of employment might lead one to think that tomorrow is my first day of unemployment. But that wouldn’t be true. You see, the technical definition of unemployment is that one is not working for pay but IS actively seeking work for pay. That’s not me.

Maybe I’m joining the ranks of the underemployed-as one who is highly skilled but working a low wage job that does not use her skills. I doubt that. For one, unless you count my monthly “allowance” (Daniel and I both have one), I will have no wage whatsoever. Secondly, I disagree with the idea that what I’ll be doing is low-skill or won’t make use of my education or expertise.

Maybe if I told you what I’d be doing, we’d be able to come up with a better label for my employment status.

But what exactly will I be doing as of tomorrow?

I’ll be at home, taking care of my daughter. I’ll be feeding her, changing her, bathing her, rocking her to sleep, and making sure she gets that all-important tummy time. But I don’t intend to be a stay-at-home mommy.

I’ll be doing laundry, doing dishes, making dinner, and scrubbing the toilet. But I don’t intend to be a housewife.

Let’s call it being a stay-at-home wife. My goal is to care for our daughter and care for our home in such a way that Daniel is able to be happier, more productive, and better loved.

Yes, I’m leaving paid employment to be at home with our daughter – but ultimately, I’m leaving paid employment so I can be a better helper to my husband.

I’ll be taking a pay cut, sure – but I have a feeling this job will require every bit of skill and education I possess.

I’m not going to be unemployed or underemployed – I’m going to be a happily unpaid full-time helpmate.

Employment statisticians can make if that what they will.

You don’t LOOK pregnant

I hear it often enough that I sometimes feel like yelling.

“You’re not even showing,” they tell me – and I know they mean well. When the time comes that I look like I’ve swallowed a beach ball, I’ll be glad for the days when I “wasn’t even showing.”

Truth is, I weigh more than I’ve ever weighed in my life. My belly has definitely expanded. Baby jabs at me day in and day out. What do you mean I’m not even showing?

What makes it even odder is how those who know me well are absolutely certain that I AM showing. My sister tells me “Anyone who knows how stable your weight is has to know that you’ve been gaining.”

Which is probably what explains things. Those who know me and have seen me regularly know that this current weight, this current distribution of weight is far from normal for me – those who don’t see just an average looking woman (not necessarily a pregnant one.)

As frustrating as it can be to be disbelieved when I announce that I’m due in December, it really came in handy with one client I saw last week.

Now, I generally don’t discuss my own pregnancy with clients. They’re in my office to discuss their pregnancies – and while my own pregnancy can help me empathize, that doesn’t mean that they need to (or want to) know the details of my pregnancy.

But this young woman was in the first trimester of her first pregnancy and was nearly thrown into a panic when her friend told her she didn’t look pregnant.

I tried to reassure her that every woman is different and shows at different times – but that many women don’t show until the fourth month or so, especially in their first pregnancy.

My client tried to believe me, I could tell, but she was still worried.

I stood up and smoothed my skirt over my bump.

“I don’t know if you could tell,” I told her, “but I’m in my fifth month.”

Her jaw dropped open and she gasped. “You don’t LOOK pregnant,” she said.

Exactly my point.

She got it – and told me before she left that she’s looking forward to seeing me again once I do start showing.

Where’s baby’s bottle?

I keep a doll in my office to demonstrate breastfeeding. I keep it behind my desk because it’s really there for demo, not for children to play with. But that doesn’t stop children from wanting to play with it.

Generally, I let the children play.

One child, however, had a serious question: “Where’s this baby’s bottle?”

My breastfed baby doll

I told her that this baby didn’t have a bottle, that this baby was breastfed.

At first, mom tried to find something else in my office to take the place of a bottle. Could her daughter use the banana from the puzzle as the baby’s bottle?

She tried, but the banana just didn’t quite work.

Mommy realized that she’d just about missed a teachable moment.

“That baby doesn’t use a bottle. She gets milk from her mommy.”

Child’s eyes got wide – her mind was blown.

Milk from mommy? What a novel thought.

Small steps towards normalizing normal.

I make my own

Occasionally, I get really curious about my clients. Not a professional curiosity, a personal curiosity.

Like when one of my clients told me she makes her own herbal tea.

I knew that I should be asking her about what herbs they contain for professional reasons, so I can ensure that what she’s drinking is safe for her and baby. But what I really wanted to know was what herbs she uses…for personal reasons.

I’m a huge fan of herbal tea (actually tisanes and not tea at all). I’d love to make my own blends. But I just haven’t gotten around to it.

So when she said “I make my own herbal tea”, I said “Really? Tell me what you use.”

“The tea bag from the natural foods store and water.”


I really will make my own one of these days. I will not be using the tea bag from the natural foods store.

Literally Lying

Names and other details have been changed to comply with HIPAA; otherwise, this story is closely based on a true story :-)

“Are you going to get Shirley some new food?” she asked.

I agreed that yes I was–I would be back in a few minutes.

I returned with checks in hand, delivered them to Sherry and Shirley’s mom, and wished the family a good day.

“She said she was going to get Shirley some new food.” Sherry told her mom.

Mom explained. “She did. She gave me checks, which are sort of like money so I can get Shirley her food. Now we have to go to the grocery store to get the food.”

“Can I tell her something?” Sherry asked her mother.

When Mom said yes, Sherry turned to me. “You said that you were going to give Shirley some new food.”

I tried to explain while Mom laughed, “Sherry, you take this so literally.”

Finally, I realized that the abstractness of a check was beyond Sherry’s 3 year old mind. “I’m sorry, Sherry. I should have been more clear. I was going to get checks so your mom could buy Shirley some new food.”

As Sherry and her family left, I heard mom trying to explain again while Sherry continued to insist: “But she said she was going to get Shirley some new food.”

There’s never a boring moment when you’re working with kids.

Have you ever unintentionally “lied” to a child?

What compels me

Sometimes I don’t know what compels me to ask how “You and baby” are doing at a postpartum visit (instead of my standard “How is baby doing” and later “how are YOU doing?”)

Then a woman shares her struggles with having to quit breastfeeding due to baby not growing and stooling appropriately. And she tells me she doesn’t have an appetite. And that she cries all the time.

I have the opportunity to empathize with her, to agree that it’s hard. I tell her about postpartum depression, how it’s normal to feel this way when so much is going on in her life. I tell her she can get help.

I encourage her to take care of herself–to make a list of things she can have people do when they ask how they can help. I give her suggestions for her list: watch the older child for an afternoon, hold the baby while I sleep, go grocery shopping, wash and cut some vegetables for me, wash and fold the laundry, just listen to me tell you how *I* am.

I encourage her to loosen her standards for household activities–to let herself be okay with laundry that isn’t put away or a toilet that isn’t scrubbed. I encourage her to get some sleep when baby’s sleeping, or even to just lie down and rest. I tell her it’s okay if things stay undone for a while–this is just a season.

I encourage her to talk to a doctor about postpartum depression. I tell her about how he might be able to recommend counseling or medications that can make a big difference.

I give her ideas to help her get adequate nutrition, even when she doesn’t feel like cooking or eating.

And I realize that I know what compelled me–No, WHO compelled me–to ask this woman how *she* was doing first.

Because God knew this woman needed someone to listen and understand. Because God knew this woman needed someone to tell her that she’s normal, she’s okay. Because God knew this woman needed someone to give her hope that this dark time won’t last forever.

Liar, liar, pants on FI-AR

As a dietitian, I have a few hard measures, but the majority of the data I collect and analyze comes from self-report.

I can weigh and measure a child. I can poke their finger to determine what their hemoglobin is. I can observe whether the child is drinking out of a bottle in my office–and sometimes whether they’re drinking water, milk, or juice.

But the majority of my information comes from parents themselves.

Before they come to visit me, they have to fill out a diet questionnaire that attempts to ascertain health and dietary patterns. Once they’re in my office, I interview the parents for additional information.

I rarely have any way of corroborating whether the story the parents are telling me is true or not.

I *do* happen to know that at least some of my client’s parents lie to me though.

Probably the most frequent example of a client lying is when the health interview reads that “no one in the household smokes”–but the diet questionnaire I’m reviewing reeks of smoke so badly I’m having coughing fits in my office trying to prep for the interview.

Then, there are the lies that are evident to anyone who is thinking.

How many hours a day does your child spend actively playing? the questionnaire asks.

“18 hours/day,” a parent replies.

If so, he’s getting far too little sleep, I want to point out.

But my favorite lies of all are the kind that the child contradicts.

Like the time when I had a picture-perfect diet questionnaire in front of me. According to the questionnaire, my client drinks 2 cups of whole milk (great, since he’s one), 4 oz of diluted 100% fruit juice, and several glasses of water in a day.

I asked mom to describe what her son eats in a typical day–and then I probed deeper. “And what does he usually drink?” I asked.

Big brother (age 6) answered, “Mmm…pop, Koolaid, Gatorade, juice…”

Mom was quick to cover, insisting that she only gave her one year old SPRITE, not the BAD kinds of soda with CAFFEINE in them. And Gatorade is only if they’re outside. And…


In other words, you lied.

Liar, liar, pants on FI-AR.

Then there’s the ones you wish had a little shame and would at least try to be embarrassed about SOMETHING. But that’s a WHOLE ‘nother story.

My “Personal” Collection

I don’t think my client’s intend to steal from me.

They’re in a hurry, the kids are screaming–they don’t notice that one of the kids has a toy up his sleeve.

Little Jenny has her bucket of personal toys. Mom checked to make sure she’s carrying the bucket out, but didn’t notice that Little Jenny had stashed all my sorting shapes inside.

I don’t make too big a deal of it.

Life happens.

I take the sorting lid off the bucket and now I have my own bucket, devoid of shapes to sort.


Likewise, I don’t intend to steal from my clients.

They’re in a hurry, the kids are screaming, I’ve got ten minutes to chart on all four before we close down the office–I didn’t notice that Little Johnny left behind his toy car.

By the time I find the toy the next morning when I’m tidying up my office before new clients, I can’t say for certain whose toy it was–and the client is long gone.

I don’t make too big a deal of it.

Life happens.


I collect the detritus in a corner of my desk.

So far, I have

  • 3 matchbox cars
  • 1 teething toy
  • 1 flip phone without a back
  • 1 gray and pink burp cloth

They nestle carefully in the shape sorting lid from my bucket, reminding me that sometimes you lose things and sometimes you gain things–but, generally, life happens.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Snow doesn’t usually accumulate in Wichita.

A snowstorm means snow flies, people get in accidents, and the streets are clear within an hour.

At least, that’s the way it usually is.

This week, though, Wichita experienced a Nebraska-quality snowstorm.

We got several inches Wednesday afternoon–which meant most of our appointments were no-shows. I e-mailed my family telling them of the snowstorm around four–and then kicked myself when I walked out of the office at five to find the streets clear.

I left my boots at Daniel’s house that evening. After all, the streets and the skies were clear as of two Thursday morning.

When I walked up the stairs Thursday morning, ready for work, the woman I live with asked me if I was sure I still had to work.

I was a bit confused until I looked out the door. In the six hours since I’d last looked, we’d gotten six inches.

Nena was kind enough to help me clear my car (meaning that I only soaked my stockings up to my knees, but left my clothes themselves relatively dry). I slipped and slid and spun my tires a bit on the way out the driveway.

I got to my training a half-hour late–but I did make it, as did one other participant. I couldn’t tell whether my eye doctor was still open based on the message on their phone, so I geared up to go at the appropriate time, only to find that I was STUCK.

It took about 20 minutes to get myself free–digging out my tires, placing a carpet underneath them, rocking forward and then back before finally getting enough traction to move a couple of feet. Digging myself out again, repositioning the carpet, etc.

Once free, I drove across town to find the eye doctor closed. Big surprise there.

It turned out no one could get into our clinic. Since it’s attached to a school and the schools had a snow day, we had no one to unlock the door.

Rather than returning to the Main clinic for the second half of the day, I went to Daniel’s and took a nap (and then made supper, did laundry, helped Daniel with some data entry for a project, organized cleaning supplies, and cleaned the toilet.)

Over the afternoon, we got a third snowfall–another three or four inches maybe. Daniel cleared my car before I went home–and thankfully, we haven’t gotten anymore.

Nevertheless, it is cold and wet today. We actually have accumulation. The streets are piled with snow that is only just beginning to be packed down by slowly emerging drivers.

And, a curious young client looked carefully at my pantyhose this morning before proclaiming, “You can’t wear THAT! It’s SNOWY outside.”