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Thursday, 31 July 2014

You’re in an Abusive Relationship–with your Boss

I have to admit that one of the great things about having been on parental leave (other than your children) is that you are clear of office politics for a while. Really helpful for taking a breath and fostering a greater awareness of things you take for granted.

While I was on leave I caught up with a friend and she shared her nagging fears about returning to work after being on a lengthy holiday. prickly

Her shortness of breath, clammy pallor and tense body language as she spoke gave away the high levels of stress she was under.  As you have probably experienced yourself, being away from the office can often reveal a moment of truth, and she seemed to be experiencing hers.  She was literally fearful of what might await her when she returned.  As I listened to her I couldn’t help but compare her situation to an abusive relationship.  Too extreme you think? Well I ‘m not so sure and checked out a few resources on abusive relationships and definitions used for workplace bullying.  The similarities are too close to ignore.  White Ribbon Australia provides some guidance on the types of abuse that exist in a relationship:

Emotional abuse - blaming the victim for all problems in the relationship, constantly comparing the victim with
others to undermine self-esteem and self-worth, sporadic sulking, withdrawing all interest and engagement (eg weeks
of silence).

Ever witnessed something similar in the workplace? The silent treatment and undermining a person professionally can be commonplace, yet the word “abuser” is rarely used in that context.  A “bully” is recognised the workplace, but for many is as equally dismissed as it is in the playground (entirely unacceptable).

Hidden Hurt (UK) spelled out some warning signs of an abusive relationship, of course not all of which are relevant in the work environment but take a look, there are a few too many to dismiss:

  • Jealousy – of contacts, relationships, friendships, praise from others, respect of others
  • Isolation – removal of responsibilities, exclusion from meetings, projects, opportunities for development
  • Controlling Behaviour – all hail the micro manager, diarising, reversing decisions
  • Unrealistic Expectations  - far too common in the workplace, unachievable tasks/goals
  • Blame-shifting for Problems/Feelings – the ‘scape goat’, setting up for failure,
  • Verbal Abuse – “running down accomplishments” – out and out dismissing them?
  • Dr Jekyll & Mr Hide – frightening for the victim, praise followed by ridicule, inconsistent instructions, fabrication of information

(My examples in italics)

It really gives me no joy to say that I have witnessed all of the above take place in the working environment. The complexities of office politics and power imbalance mean that advice often given to children on how to handle bullies has an unrealistic chance of success in such an environment. HR departments are riddled with managers of varying titles tasked with averting risk, for the organisation. This rarely protects the interest of the victim.

And that friend? Well in her case she started out in a positive supportive relationship with her manager, she was his ally and unwavering loyal servant. They were a great team. As he built his empire he soon grew tired of her, when her personal circumstances caused disruption to her work life she was soon dropped like a hot potato. Oh if only it were the premise of a badly written romance novel. Her environment was nothing short of toxic and her boss quite frankly an asshole.

For my readers in Australia, do you think there is enough protection for workers in situation like these here?  Do those in Corporate Australia even get to meet union representatives? Do you need to be below a certain salary level to be able to access help of a union? Is Fair Work Australia meeting the needs of people like my friend?

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Secret World of Baby Wearers

I had never heard of it myself. Not before the dragon entered my world. Didn’t realise it was a ‘thing’ or that it had the potential to define what particular style of parenting  you ascribed to (a whole other post on that subject one day I think!). All I knew from before dragon landed earthside  was that I would have to deal with a growing child and a medical condition that meant the physical toll would require some careful management. Something a lot more primal than careful transportation and reduction of mechanical strain had me convinced it was something I wanted to investigate further though I didn’t realise I would be entering a whole other world.

There was also something very easy, natural even, about keeping my baby close to me. Hells I even observed a ‘confinement’ period (ask me about that some time!).  I had spoken to at least one mother who  mentioned a Bjorn and Ergo. We decided on a ring sling (breeze baby) that I could use in the water (I spent my entire pregnancy attending the pool 3 x a week so of course baby would too!) and a Stokke carrier, organic cotton, highly structured and informative video on its efficacy. The RS got put to use not long after we returned home as round the clock breastfeeding sitting down too long, too much indian food and a need to get mobile again got me back in the kitchen again. I don’t even know if the position was optimal or safe at the time, but she was up high, I could feel her breath and she was content to be close. I even earned the, albeit brief, admiration of my mother for just ‘getting on with it’. Trips out of the home involved the Stokke, all manner of clipping, buckles and well secure (complicated?) but it elicited positive comments from the radiographer scanning dragon’s hips at six weeks – my first wearing ‘validation’ moment.  A few short weeks of carrying dragon in the blasted capsule to “parent’s group” I spotted a mum in a stretchy wrap and bubs looked so snug and content. A chance purchase from a buy/sell/trade local page from another mama who couldn’t quite conquer all that fabric resulted in a Moby coming to live with me and well the love affair began and the “stash” started to grow.

There is an entire community of baby wearers out there. It has a wide range of members of varying walks of life but there is a very strong sense of “community” within it which was great for a new parent navigating this strange new world where there was more expected of me than being a corporate clown. On the positive side of meeting this group of fabulous people is a lot of parenting support, exposure to all sorts of parenting styles and philosophies, on the negative side you can also develop a really rather manic addiction because you know some of these wraps start at around $100 but also into the range of the highly desirable in around the $1500 mark.

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Benefits of Baby Wearing

  • Helping babies with reflux remain upright;
  • Nursing discretely in public;
  • Helping unwell babies remain close without tying both wearer and baby to bed;
  • Rocking a fussy baby with natural movement much like that experienced in the womb;
  • Enables skin-to-skin between wearer and baby – particularly helpful in regulating high temperatures;

This list is by no means definitive and any physical benefits are best shared by an expert but I can say that babywearing …

Saved my life. Dramatic it seems maybe but the bond that I have with my daughter has greatly benefited from babywearing. With a chronic pain condition, no family support and some difficult challenges that have come our way I have had a “village” of other women support me through those times. These women came to me through the babywearing world and have been there when I attempted to avoid the difficult stuff or needed to pour my heart out when I thought it could not break any more than it already had. It has not been a parenting philosophy, a dogma or any other indoctrination – we come from different walks of life, religions, cultures, backgrounds etc but have enjoyed a shared love of the world of amazing wraps, fabric blends, machine woven, handwoven, from around the globe, exclusive releases, well worn and loved “beater” wraps and everything else in between. To them I am eternally grateful.

Optimal Wearing

I’m going to only briefly mention to those that may be curious and wondering why the dearth of carrier options when the likes of Baby Bjorn (known as a front pack carrier ‘FPC’), can “do the trick”?  The  latter and its copies has had the benefit of significant marketing and product placement but has only recently improved its design.

Baby wearing is about the comfort of both baby and wearer. “Optimal carriers” is the term used to define any carrier used to carry an infant-toddler, and they are not created equal. With recent attention on introducing safety standards it is absolutely worth being educated on what carriers are suitable for baby safety and wearer comfort. This illustration sums it up many respects and as someone that does wear with a chronic pain condition I can’t emphasis enough on the difference a well designed carrier or well executed wrapping job will make to your wearing comfort. I frequently wear for several hours at a time, today alone we completed shopping in six stores while I wore my now 18 month old dragon in a hemp/cotton blend wrap. In a back carry we managed to avoid tantrums, visited toy shops without losing too much of my mind and she even clocked a quick nap.

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Do you babywear? Have you thought about babywearing? I didn’t even mention that our household also has a ‘babywearing Daddy’ in it who has his own carriers of choice!

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