Friday, May 8, 2015

Nosy Rosy

I work outside of the home one morning per week.  My sister-in-law and my mother-in-law come to my home to babysit.  My elderly mother-in-law is very loving, but has antiquated ideas of childcare and horrible judgement in general.  My sister-in-law is stable, steady, trustworthy and has worked in daycare for years.  I've made it clear that sis-in-law is solely accountable for my son's care, but to spare my mother-in-law's feelings we've let her believe that she is the primary care-taker.  

Well, my sister-in-law and I had a falling out.  She refused to babysit for me until the matter was cleared up and there were no more hard feelings.  That left me without a trusted babysitter, but mother-in-law was totally expecting to sit for me alone.  Well, we were able to have an uncle watch the baby once since it was his day off.  We sold her on the idea that he had been wanting to take a turn.  I was confident that the matter with my sister-in-law could be smoothed over relatively quickly, so I didn't want to come clean and alienate another family member.  

But, then I had to appear for jury duty and my sister-in-law was still refusing to speak to me.  I was careful not to let anyone know about jury duty lest my mom-in-law offer to babysit.  I got another relative to babysit and my jury service only lasted for a single morning.

Well, my sister-in-law announced that she was ready for my apology.  So, I met with her and we patched things up and ended the conversation visiting about life.  She asked how jury duty had been for me, since her husband had appeared for jury duty on the same morning.  He and I had seen each other, but were separated for different trials.  The question seemed like innocent conversation, until the follow-up question was "Who is babysitting for you when you work next week?"  She was volunteering in part, but also fishing to find out who had watched my son during jury duty.  I just asked her to babysit and didn't give up any more information.

The next day, my mother-in-law asked how my jury duty had gone.  I said, "Fine."  But I was angry that my sister-in-law had obviously been talking to her mother--probably about our fight and our reconciliation for her to know about my very recent business of jury duty.  She asked another question or two, but I kept answering with single words.  She was running out of innocent questions, but wasn't ready to give up looking for information.  So, she asked, "What was your juror number?"

Please explain to me what would be of interest to someone after jury duty was completed what my juror number had been?  How desperate was she for information?  And why not just ask "who watched my grandson while you were at jury duty?"  They're determined to find out--without appearing nosy.  I'm determined not to tell.

Not sure how long this peace will last...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Walkout

After being given the official title of Human Resources Manager at my workplace, I started talking with individual employees.  The new owner has been running things for over a year now, so there have been a lot of ups and downs that the team has had to ride out.  The team is a good one, and the teamwork is building very well.  So, I expected employee engagement to be on the rise.  I expected some complaints, suggestions for improvement, and challenges to face.  But what I found was a very dissatisfied lot!  The entire team was on the verge of staging a walkout!

I work from home, so I decided to spend a few hours in the shop to see how their work conditions really were.  I witnessed the boss have a melt-down when his employee left for lunch.  I saw that all of the employees were very disgusted by his reaction.  So, I asked him to explain to me what the issue was.  He said, "Gerald just left us high and dry!"  I said, "Where did he go?"  He said, "I don't know, that's the problem.  He just disappears on us!"  I asked the receptionist if she knew where he had gone.  "To lunch, I think."  I asked her to confirm whether he had clocked out or not.  She said he had.  The I asked the boss when Gerald was supposed to go to lunch.  "He's supposed to go at 11:30"  I said, "Well, since it is 12:30 I suppose he was getting rather hungry.  But why didn't he go at 11:30?" I already knew the answer was that Gerald had been waiting on the boss to return to cover the front sales counter and the boss had been late.  Further, when the boss arrived, he did not relieve Gerald, but hid in the back to avoid me (I had an 11am appointment with the boss which appointment he had missed and apparently did not intend to hold even though I had stuck around).  The boss claimed not to know why Gerald hadn't gone to lunch at his usual time, but emphasized that the problem lie in leaving his post with no one watching the front counter.  I said, "Well, he did take care of all of the waiting customers before taking his leave.  And he did clock out.  And he is allowed a lunch break.  And the receptionist is keeping an eye out for customers, so I still don't see the problem."  The boss said, "Well, why does it have to be a big mystery?!?"  I said, "When he asked you if you'd like to have him bring you some lunch, that didn't tip you off to his plans?  That would have been the right time to say, 'I need you to delay your lunch until I've finished with ____'."  (The boss didn't realize that I had been privy to that conversation.)

Then I spoke to our technician.  He was upset because the boss would hardly speak to him and when he had cornered the boss to find out why, he had been told that he was working too slowly.  But the job he was just hired to do is one that takes a year to learn and after 3 days of training, he'd been left on his own to just "figure it out, that's what I'm paying you for."  Poor guy has been having to read the instruction sheets to install parts--and you know the instructions were written in Chinese and translated into English by a German.  Gee, I wonder why he's so slow--duh!  And the installation that was "taking too long" was done perfectly and the customer left us extremely happy with his purchase.  And I checked with our sales manager who used to be our head installer and he confirmed that the project was a difficult one if you'd never installed that part before.  So, again, what is the problem?  Or rather--who is the problem?

After speaking to the others, I realized that they all loved their jobs, loved the work and the customers and coworkers, the hours and even the low pay were satisfactory.  But the treatment they--and at times even customers--received by the owner was unbearable.  

A customer had witnessed one of the boss's fits and overheard bits of the team's subsequent conference attempting to meet his unreasonable demands with the least inconvenience to clients.  They devised a game plan and went their separate ways to tackle their respective assignments.  The receptionist noticed the customer's inquisitive gaze and apologized for the scene.  He said that as a manager of grocery store for 15 years, the only option the employees had was to wait for the busiest time of day and walk off the job, leaving the fallout to their unappreciative boss.  He had no idea how many times that suggestion had been entertained between the staff!

I begged them all to allow me time to address the issue with the boss, before they took such a drastic step.  So, I have my work cut out for me!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Tattoo Taste

I'm cool with marking your body with ink.  I just don't like when it looks like a dozen artists took turns doodling on you.  It is odd to me when one person has a Snoopy cartoon character on one shoulder, an enormous apocalyptic skull on their back, barbed wire around a finger, a delicate fairy on their ankle, and Chinese characters on their butt!  If you're going to commit to permanently marking your body, pick a genre, style, and stick to it for life.

Everyone should have to visit a water park before deciding whether or not to tattoo.  Tattoos do not age well.

I considered getting a tattoo above my navel once, but a coworker told me of her daughter's cute little mushroom she had on her hip.  After the girl had a baby, the mushroom looked like a one-legged centipede!

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Generous Cheapskate

My mother-in-law has a reputation for being a generous person--someone who would really give you the clothes off her back.  How she got this reputation is something of a mystery.

A year and a half ago, she wanted to throw me a baby shower.  My sister had already volunteered, so I asked her to assist my sister instead of doing a party of her own.  She never contacted my sister, but badgered me about the details of the party questioning whether my sister's home was big enough to accommodate all of my mother-in-law's guest list and suggesting that we allow her to rent a hall.  I thought the offer was rather generous, but suspected that this was just her way of taking over my sister's shower. Well, my sister ended up losing her job and her home, so she asked if my mother-in-law could do it.  I expected my mother-in-law to be elated by my sister's bad fortune since it meant she would have her own way regarding the shower.

Her first response was as I'd expected.  She planned to book a hall that she'd rented on several occasions for dances of various kinds.  She would not include my sister in any of the plans, but we gave her all of the materials we'd accumulated in preparation for the shower including the guest list.  After a few days, my mother-in-law informed me that she would not be able to host a shower for my side of the family.  I was puzzled because the hall she'd spoken of renting would easily hold over 300 people.  Her response was that she couldn't be expected to rent a hall when she could use her own house if she limited the guests to her own family.  Then, she played the fixed income card.  (Admittedly, she is on a fixed income, but it is a generous fixed income--about twice what my family of 3 lives on and she has virtually no expenses.)

My husband and I rented a hall of our own liking and had a beautiful shower at our own expense which my mother-in-law did not attend.

Now, my sister-in-law is pregnant.  And our mother-in-law wanted to take over the shower planned by the other side of the family.  Sister-in-law thought it would be better if both grandmas-to-be did their own parties separately.  So, our mother-in-law planned to invite her friends and family to a buffet-style restaurant for the shower.  This way, she would avoid incurring any expense of food or renting a hall.  The invitations were to include the price of buffet and tip.  She asked me to print up the invitations so she could send them out immediately.  I asked whether she had cleared the plans with the mother-to-be and she said she'd been told to do whatever she wanted.  I thought that was a rather defensive response, but I pressed a little more because I knew my sister-in-law would think it very tacky to ask guests to bring gifts and pay for their own meal.  Judiciously, I said, "Well, at least clear the date and time with her.  You don't want to plan a shower and then have the guest of honor unable to attend!"  She agreed to do as much, but insisted that I go ahead and finish printing the invitations.  I refused more firmly.  So, she said that she would talk to her on the way home.  In about 20 minutes I received a text to go ahead and print.  I couldn't believe that the matter could have been ironed out in such a short time, so I called my sister-in-law to be sure.  She was shocked and angry because the entire conversation she'd just had with our mother-in-law was as follows:
"Hey, what are you doing Saturday, the 28th?"
"I don't know; I don't think we have any plans."
A huge family argument resulted with everyone coming to the defense of one party or the other and after several days of not speaking and a few apologies, a new plan came together.  A family friend with an enormous house hosted the party, did all of the decorations, and most of the food.  Our mother-in-law attended this shower as it's nominal hostess, but did not speak one word to her daughter-in-law, except "oh, you're here" as a greeting.  The lady of the house even did the games and prizes.

A few of months later (delayed due to a house fire), my sister-in-laws mother held her shower.  My mother-in-law saw my invitation to it and asked if I planned to attend.  "Of course!  I wouldn't miss it for anything!"  She asked if I knew why she was having another shower--as if to say,"wasn't the shower I threw good enough for her?"  I said, "Well you don't suppose her mom would cancel her shower just because of a little kitchen fire do you?  The remodel will be finished in time."  (I was gifting her a kinder motive because I wanted her to know what she ought to be concerned about).  Then she asked if I planned to bring another gift.  I said, "Well, I'm sure it is optional, but I picked up a little something for baby."  She seemed to be insinuating that she'd spent enough on the unborn child already, but she couldn't have spent much since she managed to have someone else foot the bill for the party she had thrown.  Then she asked whether I'd be bringing my baby.  In that moment I decided to leave him with my mother, because it seemed she was going to volunteer to keep him instead of attending the shower or perhaps monopolize him at the shower as an excuse not to participate.

So, my mother-in-law attended (she was the last one to arrive, and one of the first to leave), but spoke to no one besides her son who did the cooking for the females.  I didn't see whether or not she brought a gift, but I never saw her make her way to the gift table either.

Our mother-in-law is also planning to have a show-off party for the women in her family, and she has asked her brother if she could use his house for the party and whether he would be willing to barbecue for them.  If he agrees, she'll get to host yet another party without going to any personal expense.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"They Won't Let Me Lead"

For the past year, I've been coaching the new owner of the business I worked for before my son was born.  He is a young man of about 25.  He is very charming and well-spoken, but very inexperienced when it comes to running a business.  This lack of experience is a real challenge because his leadership skills are so weak.  When he is disappointed in an employee's performance, he pouts or stomps around huffing angrily, but refuses to confront the employee or the issue.  He is always wanting me to mention these offenses at staff meetings.  I explained to him that while bringing up the topic in a general way at a staff meeting has value, it doesn't usually cure the problem.  He needs to follow up with individual conversations and disciplinary actions for repeated offenses.  When I first broached the subject of leadership, his response was, "I try to lead, but they won't let me."

I had to bite my tongue to keep from snorting or laughing out loud!  I don't think there was ever a leader who needed permission from those being led to lead.  Besides, submitting to be employed is permission enough.  A good leader will be followed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pushing, Shoving, and Posturing

My husband's brother's wife is having a baby girl!  My 11 month old son will probably be an only child, so this news really takes some worry off my mind.  Having someone so close to his age, so nearby, whose parents I'm already close to is great!

My sister-in-law is well aware of the challenges I've faced with our mother-in-law regarding my son.  And she has a shaky relationship with the woman to begin with.  Now, with a baby of her own on the way, she's really feeling the pressure.  And our mother-in-law and her daughter are already trying to solicit promises of access to the baby.  I told her, "I hope I've paved the way for you, but I may have set you up for disaster because I've made so many compromises."  Her response was, "Well, let's just say you're nicer that I will be."  Yikes!  Then she said they start every conversation with "Well, she [meaning me] let's us take him for a photo shoot every month."  Which is true.  "Well, she [meaning me] let's us visit as often as we want."  Which is false.  And besides, she's not under obligation to do what I do, much less what they say I do.

So, she decided to head things off early by having a sit-down to discuss some boundaries.  Her first and foremost concern was the unannounced visits and the frequency of visits.  Mother-in-law lives 2 blocks down from her and popping in without phoning first has been an ongoing issue since she married into the family.  Tearfully, mom-in-law (always playing the victim) agreed to it, claiming that she always calls me first.

Two days later she pops in unannounced at 8am (early for a visit since sister-in-law is known to be a night owl).  And, a first for her, pushed her way into the door and went through several rooms as if she was looking for something/someone.  Well, sister-in-law was babysitting my son.  Apparently, mother-in-law had found out and had to see it for herself.  She was furious because she had not been asked to watch him despite her frequent offers to take him.  Her lame excuse for stopping by was that she didn't know how to type in the wifi password on her tablet (something she has done for herself daily for a year).

This does not bode well.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cold Hands, Warm Thoughts

My mother-in-law is very possessive with my 8 month old son.  Our family gatherings are very frequent and he is the focus of everyone's attention, but she finds ways to get him alone.  She will use a diaper change to excuse him from the festivities and disappear into a back room, or she'll whisk him away down another path when we're on an outing.  I don't mind her having time with him one on one, but we want him to socialize with the group when appropriate.  And on occasion, she has fed him baby food so that she would not have to bring him to me when I was ready to breastfeed.

Well, we went to a restaurant last night with several members of our extended family and she tried several of her usual tactics, but my husband was diligent in keeping the baby accessible.  She ordered the smallest meal on the menu and finished it in record time so that she could be the first to attend to him while others ate.  As I finished my own meal, the baby got a bit restless and reached for me with eager eyes and a smile.  He was ready to nurse.  As I reached for him, her arms came toward mine.  At first, I thought she was spotting him so that he would not fall as he leaned into me, but actually, her hands grabbed mine and she snapped with intolerable venom, "Your hands are cold!"  The implication was that I shouldn't handle my child unless/until my hands were warm.  I flashed her a solid eye roll and my sister-in-law broke the tension with a shrill giggle.

I find myself feeling very threatened by my mother-in-law.  She feeds him so that he won't want mother's milk.  She prevents him from napping so she doesn't get bored while babysitting.  She positions him so that I'm not in his line of sight.  She incessantly requests to take him places--anywhere that I am not.  She is showing her disapproval of me as a parent in an unexpectedly daring way.  The only comment that has ever gotten back to me through the grapevine is that she feels the need to 'toughen him up because I'm raising a sissy.'  So, I don't think that she has any actual, legitimate, serious concerns with my parenting.  I think the issue is that I am his mother.  My position itself as mother seems to be the apple of discord between us.  I find my own jealousy growing, even as I revolt at her jealousy.

My sister-in-law often remarks that my mother-in-law "needs her grandson so much right now."  I think to myself how odd to put the needs of a grown woman on an 8 month old child's shoulders.  His needs are my focus, but they see things differently.  My husband supports me outwardly, but I feel that he is conflicted.  He wants to share his joy with others, whereas I tend to want it all for myself.  I share my son beyond my personal comfort level, and yet I'm known as a stingy mom.  How is it that I am being greedy and she is just being a grandma?