I'm going to bare my soul a little bit tonight. The last few weeks in my work have been very difficult. And honestly, the "price" that is required to be in my line of work feels like a lot right now. There are so many blessings in my work, and I love what I do, but there is no perfect "job" and I guess that's what I need to whine about tonight.
When things are going well in the adoption world (for me, this means the Ghana adoption world) life is grand. I get to make people happy, and in return they feel happy and I'm a "good guy" in their lives. But lately things haven't been going all hunky dory in the Ghana adoption world. It's not the end of the earth, but the government is changing requirements and standards...travel times are increasing...costs definitely aren't going down...and I think people are starting realize that Ghana is never going to be a program that is super-standardized. When a standard in the program changes (no singles, parents going to court, longer travel time) I am the one that delivers that news. Of course I should be--I'm not saying it should be different. But it's hard.
Adopting families are usually highly emotional. I certainly am when I'm adopting (!) so that isn't exactly news to me. But it makes it hard. I know that when I deliver "bad" news I am impacting a family's entire day, week, or year. That makes me a bad guy, even if families know in their minds that I am just doing my job. Whether it's reminding folks of list rules, or giving news of a major change in the program, I feel like a huge bad guy. It changes the way a family looks at me.
I wish people could see that those bad days--delivering bad news--impacts me too. I would never say it is to the same extent; I don't have a child riding on the news I give. But I hurt when things don't go well. It feels very personal to me when someone has an issue with our staff in Ghana, or when I have to give someone news that will affect their future.
Back in the early 2000's when I helped people adopt the experience got away from me. I got so personally involved that my adoption cases ate up my personal life. I got up in the middle of the night several times a night to see if there was news from the other side of the world. I spent time in my office "working" when I should have been caring for my young family.
The thing is...when I am working in adoption my families aren't just "clients." I become friends with most of them. I truly care about them. But when something goes wrong, sometimes friendships goes out of the window in that family's eyes--and I turn into just some "adoption person" that they think doesn't care. That's what happened in my previous experience working in adoption. Eventually a few families that I called friends decided that I was the bad guy and began to really verbally abuse me. At the time I decided that no job was worth such abuse and I resigned my position.
When I started working for AAI this time I tried to put things in place so that history wouldn't repeat itself. But I just can't seem to NOT become emotionally involved with a family's experience. I can't NOT take it personally when someone changes me over from a good guy in their mind, to a bad guy. It hurts. It really hurts.
I spent my Friday afternoon crying. The price that has to be paid for this job felt too high at that particular time. It feels too high a cost sometimes to sacrifice being able to have friendships within the adoption community so that I can have this job (remember,I have a child from Ghana so I just want to be another parent sometimes). I have tried to have my cake and eat it too--carry close friendships with families while at the same time working to help them adopt from Ghana. But on Friday it felt impossible to do both things effectively. Just impossible.
So I am at a crossroads. The emotional cost of trying to maintain friendships with the families I work with is very high. But trying to do my work without being friends with those I work with feels hollow. I don't know how to separate myself, be more objective, and just do my job. But it is excruciatingly painful when a family decides I am a bad guy rather than a good guy. People just don't understand how much that hurts.
So please pray for me as I try to figure out how to proceed with my work. No way am I resigning--nothing like that. I just feel like I've got to get a better handle on things. How do you call someone your friend and then not feel hurt when they decide you aren't their friend anymore?
I look at people like Merrily (director of AAI) and wonder how she has done this work for 30 years. She has a secret--she must have--and I want it. I want this to be my life's work. Thirty years from now I want to still be doing this work. I have to figure out succeed at this--hopefully without sacrificing my desire to be friends with those I work with.
Sunday, October 05, 2008