Well, Since You Asked

On this Monday, since I’m going to spending most of the day flying across the country toward my next two weeks of work, I thought I’d take the opportunity to clear up a few things. You see, I’m often asked about my job, my schedule, and the implications of being away from my daughter for two weeks at a time, amongst other things. So here’s a little Q & A on some of the most common inquiries.

What is it like out there in Northern Alberta, really?

Honestly, not as bad as you’re imagining. Yes, it’s incredibly cold in the winter and pretty hot in the summer. The air is also really dry, so people like me who have sinus problems on a good day tend to be stuffed up a lot and get regular nosebleeds. But it’s not an awful place to work. Now, mind you, a lot depends on the site you’re working at and where you’re living while working there. The site I’m on right now – Kearl Lake – has a lot of good points, including an excellent view of safety. The camp that most people at Kearl stay at is a perfectly fine one. It has its problems, like thin walls and a couple of odd rules, but it also has nice gyms in each building and pretty good food. There are definitely places you want to stay away from out in that area of the country, but I’ve been lucky so far.

Isn’t it weird being out there with all those men?

First of all, yes, I’m a woman in the trades, which is a male-dominated field. But that doesn’t mean that I’m, like, the only woman out there. There have been several other women on my crew, and there are lots of women out there in construction, not to mention all the ladies who are out there doing things like booking flights and running the camps. Yeah, I work overwhelmingly with men, but it’s not like I’m the only woman out there. Plus a lot of the camps have rules designed to make the women feel more comfortable. At the PTI camps (like Wapasu, which is where I used to be) they have rules stating that men and women do not share bathrooms. They mess up sometimes, but as long as you point out the mistake they’ll fix it.

All of that aside, even if I was the only woman on the crew and I did have to share a bathroom with a guy, it actually wouldn’t seem weird to me. I’ve always gotten along easier with guys than girls, so…*shrug*

Don’t you just want to die after so many straight days of work?

When I first went out West I really thought I’d lose my mind working for 14 days straight, all 12-hour shifts. But to be perfectly honest, it goes by much faster than you’d imagine. This likely depends on how much you like/hate your particular job, but for me it’s not too bad at all. I don’t love my job by any means, but the days go by pretty fast, and usually the second week of work just kinda slips by. Mind you, by day 14 I am SO READY TO GO HOME, and I can’t imagine having to do a longer shift than that, but the two weeks really isn’t as awful as it sounds.

Isn’t that kind of work hard? (*Imagine this question asked in a super-whiny female voice, or a super-condescending male voice.*)

I’m a woman. I’m not useless. Both sexes really need to stop assuming that because I’m physically small and genetically female, somehow I can’t do physical labor or anything dirty or requiring tools. Grow up, people. Geez.

Isn’t it just awful being away from your daughter for so long?

This is the one I get the most, particularly from my mother-friends who often follow up the question with phrases such as, “I could never do that,” and, “You’re so tough.” I do appreciate the sentiment, believe me, and when I first began to travel out West for work I really though it was going to result in an emotional breakdown. Surely being away from my daughter for two weeks out of every four would be just the worst thing ever, right? Well, yes…and no. I can’t honestly say that I don’t miss her a ton when I’m away, but the truth is that my schedule actually affords me more time with my daughter than a traditional work shift would. Some simple math explains how. If I were working a normal 9 to 5, the baby would barely be awake by the time I was leaving for work, and by the time I got home and we had supper and she had a bath, we’d have a grand total of between one and two hours together before it was time for bed. So during a normal four weeks we’d have approximately 136 hours of awake time together (10 hours a week throughout the week and approximately 24 hours each weekend), and during a lot of those hours I would be tired and stressed-out from work, so it wouldn’t all be fun, happy time. Alternatively, with the schedule I’m on now I get two straight weeks (minus approximately one day during which I’m flying), or 156 hours of awake time together, and that time is fatigue- and stress-free because when you leave your job on the other side of the country there is absolutely no reason to think about it while you’re home.

It’s not an ideal situation by any stretch of the imagination, and of course it sucks having 14 days in a row during which I don’t get to hug or kiss my baby girl, but it isn’t nearly as horrible as other people imagine it to be. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can. I’m a huge wuss.

Conclusion!

All in all, when people find out that I work out West they make a lot of assumptions. They imagine that I must only be there out of desperation because they assume that every aspect of working out West is awful. And they imagine that I must have a heart of stone to be able to stand being in the middle of nowhere, far away from my family for so much time. Unfortunately this is the kind of attitude that keeps people from trying the whole “out West” deal. Like I said, it’s not ideal, and I can certainly understand why people choose not to do it, but it’s not nearly as terrible as the imagination makes it out to be. Not to mention, if it weren’t for my taking the plunge and trying it out, we would be significantly further behind in life than we are right now.

And the morals of the story are: don’t judge something before you’ve given it a shot, and never underestimate your ability to do big, scary things. A lot of the time it turns out to be not such a big deal after all, and can even change your life for the better.

The_more_you_know_banner

On Discipline

They say that deep down all kids desire discipline. The idea is that young children can’t make reasonable, smart decisions for their own health, safety, and positive upbringing, so subconsciously they want us to do it for them. I’ve read about this time and time again in parenting magazines, on websites, and in the occasional newspaper article. I think it is, for lack of a more proper term, complete and utter b.s.

Yes children need discipline. There’s no argument about that. But no one, regardless of age, wants discipline.

Think about it logically for a moment. Say it’s bedtime. Your kid needs to go to bed or they won’t get enough sleep and will be cranky in the morning. But they want to stay up. Even if you could explain it logically and have the child completely understand where you’re coming from, telling them that they need to go to sleep isn’t going to make them want to go to sleep. You want to know how I know? Okay, now imagine yourself, staying up late doing something you really enjoy, whether it be playing video games, watching a movie, drinking with friends, or whatever. Your spouse/parent/friend/whoever comes up to you and says, “You really need to go to bed now, or you’re going to be worthless in the morning.” What is your reaction? If you answered, “I’d take their advice and go to bed, of course!” then you are absolutely in the minority. Most people, I’m willing to stake my reputation, would shoot a glare at the kill-joy and angrily state, “I’m a grown adult and I’ll go to bed when I want to.” Key word there: want.

We are creatures of ‘want’, every one of us. It’s nothing to get upset or argue about, it’s just the way we’re made. Logically we know that we need certain things (proper sleep, healthy food, etc), but other parts of our brain simultaneously tell us that we want certain things that conflict (to stay up late, junk food, etc). Similarly we want certain things (unnecessary expenditures, for example) even though we know damn well that we don’t need them and could exist perfectly fine without them.

So returning to the idea that kids want discipline. No, sorry, I refuse to believe that. Kids need discipline; no one wants discipline.

And that can make life difficult sometimes, even for adults. I’m going to use myself as an example because, hey, my blog:

I currently have two immediate goals. One is to finish editing my zombie novel so I can try to have it published, the other is to lose at least 30 lbs. Both require a good deal of discipline, and therein lay my problem.

It can be just as difficult to discipline yourself as it can be to discipline a child because a very large part of you simply doesn’t want to be disciplined. I tell myself that I need to do so much editing per day, but then I find something else I want to do more and the want outweighs the need…I go have fun instead of working. I tell myself that I need to take in fewer calories in order to lose weight, but I also want to eat that snack-cake and, oops, look, there it goes down my willpowerless throat. Sometimes I can almost agree with the claims that have been made about kidsĀ wanting discipline, because I imagine that if I had someone standing over me telling me exactly what to eat and when to work on my novel, all would be well. But then I realize that if I actually had such a person, I’d spend most of our time together struggling not to strangle them because, let’s face it, no one enjoys being told what to do. That’s why very few people have anything other than disdain for their immediate boss.

It all comes down to attitude and whether you’re able to set aside current ‘wants’ for future gains. As adults we have the ability to decide for ourselves…whether it was necessarily the right decision or the wrong one, at least it was ours. Small children are different. How do you explain to a toddler that she can’t have sweets for supper because it’s not healthy and she’ll get fat? You don’t, because in the toddler’s mind all she knows is that she wants the sweets and you’re not letting her have them, not letting her make the decision herself. Obviously we can’t allow such young children to make all their own decisions because, as previously mentioned, we are creatures of ‘want’, and that road leads to disaster. But we also have to be patient and understand where the kid is coming from. The next time you’re out at the mall and you hear a kid shrieking his head off because mommy won’t buy him toy he wants, think for a moment about how you’d feel if you wanted something and were told, for no other reason than “because I said so!”, that you couldn’t have it.

I bet you’d be pretty angry too.

New Job, New Time Management Issues

My husband’s uncle asked me a question today. An innocent question: “How’s the book going?” The answer was not quite as innocent: “Not as good after going out West!”

I haven’t written a thing since the week before my flight to Alberta. At first it was because I (obviously) had more important things on my mind, like figuring out how meals work on the camp, and becoming acquainted with my many new coworkers. As the days went on, writing continued to go by the wayside because I was adjusting to a new job that involves a hell of a lot of walking, climbing stairs and ladders, and hanging out in stifling heat while wearing flame-retardant, long-sleeved coveralls. In other words, I was tired. By the time the last few days of my two-week rotation began to wear down, I continued to fail to write because of good old fashioned laziness. Even after returning home, I got no writing done over the past five days because I’ve been too busy enjoying my daughter and filling other obligations (i.e. my niece’s birthday party…enjoy being 3, cutie!), and no one can possibly blame me for that.

Reincorporating writing into my schedule is one of the things that I’m going to have to work on with this new job, but other than a few minor complaints (I never did get the internet working in my room) the entire ‘Out West’ experience has gone much better than I expected. I don’t mind the camp at all, the work is easy and laid-back, safety is actually number one for a change, my coworkers are all good guys, and there is no way anyone could possibly complain about the money. All in all, I have to say that I am honestly enjoying the job. Yes, of course, being away from the baby for two weeks at a time is less than fun, but look at it this way: how many people get 14 days out of every 28 off? 14 days that I can spend doing whatever I want, which in this case is enjoying my adorable daughter? Not to mention, this job is so stress-free that my days off (so far) are being spent in a great mood, actually enjoying myself, rather than coming home from work every day cranky and tired and inadvertently taking my mood out on my daughter and husband.

Everyone is different of course, and I’ve only had one rotation so far so I can’t definitively judge, but it’s looking good so far. I really think this job might be the start of something good. If nothing else, it will allow us to ditch some debt that we’ll be ridiculously happy to see the backside of…we’re coming for you, student loans!

Now if I could just squeeze the writing in there somewhere as well, I’d be doing great.