The past few months have been interesting, and glorious, and difficult. I have been immersed in what it means to create an authentic personal brand – what that looks like, feels like, what it will do for others? And I have faced significant personal challenges.
We have been struggling with an ongoing situation that started with one little incident. An occasion where we heard someone talking down to our autistic son. Being angry at him for asking an innocent question when they thought we weren’t there.
It was clear there was no understanding or training around autism or sensory sensitivity. As a consequence it affected whether or not he could be in care and whether or not we could continue to be physically present in our respective workplaces.
We outsourced a lot of stuff and hired a private nanny. And then found out that it’s not always the easiest of arrangements to keep – when you can only offer a few hours a day – and your Nanny has other charges and occasionally gets sick. We thought our workplaces would provide family friendly flexibility….. When in reality, I cannot even begin to express my disappointment.
Despite the challenges that we were facing with care and supporting our son my work suddenly seemed intent on ensuring that I couldn’t perform my role unless I was sat on a chair in my office from 9 to 5. This is despite the fact that I had offered long-term flexibility. My role involved community engagement – and community does not engage 9 to 5. They have events – they want you to be there.
I had significantly increased the size and efficiency of the service by providing relevant and useful feedback and common sense responses to the issues that were barriers to our clients. Apparently this was less important than whether or not I sat in a particular space. Why?
The need to be sat, on your backside, in a completely uninspiring (in fact the room I was in had been noted to cause serious lung infections in everyone who had sat in it) space was utterly ridiculous and not in any way related to the performance of my role. I left hoping that there would be significant change in my new role and in the place I had left – as I had let them know the situation was less than ideal.
To this day it seems as if nothing has really changed. To go to a new role where I had clarified that I needed to ensure it was family friendly (a stipulation I had insisted on prior to taking the role) and find that they hadn’t even heard the term, came as a mild shock.
I had been wanting freedom for some time – to create another way to support my family, and then to find that it is necessary – because workplaces are too inflexible – made me really question the types of environments we are forcing people and families to participate in. It seems desperately unhealthy, unhelpful, and to be completely frank, toxic.
My passion for creativity has been quite stifled since the birth of my son. I don’t blame him for that. I blame a culture that hasn’t yet learned to prioritise the needs of our young people. And no, I don’t think parents are solely responsible for the disastrous way we have decided to sideline those needs. Surely we have a collective responsibility to ensure we all do the right thing.
We question why there is such a high suicide rate among young people. When I sit in front of a Head of Department in a major arts organisation in Australia and hear her say that I cannot spend time taking my son to school in his first week of Grade 1 because “she doesn’t have that luxury” I have no doubt that the statistics we see are innately connected to the callous heartlessness of self-interested, and pressurised individuals.
It directly relates to our inability to sit with young people and teach them to be okay in their difficult times. When they will only seek out the support of someone they know intimately, because quietly, they feel they are dying on the inside.
People who put petty “performance issues” before the needs of a child to feel safe, attached, connected – to not have anxiety that is spiralling out of control – these people are a problem – and indeed they are the ones who need to be managed. It makes me think, “Wow, we are a country in crisis. A country that has become so fixated on protocol that we have lost sight of what we are here for and that we all have an investment in; the young people who will form the future”.
I feel mildly nauseated that this person is given money while (or perhaps for) maintaining her desperately ignorant opinions. What we all need is heARTspace, creativity, room to breathe, appropriate flexible support for families, lifestyle solutions that meet the needs of families (instead of frustrating them) and an understanding that everyone is different – and this should be celebrated, not stifled!
Thankfully I am surrounded by a team of awesome folk who I have met along my journey. Gratefully they have a clue and are deeply passionate about the social issues we face and the fact that collaboratively we can make a difference. So now that the chips are down it’s time to back myself and my team.
Watch this space!