There are a few times that being a social worker is just a pain in the butt.
There is the "Please tell me your life story" sign that I wear on my forehead. This has encouraged all manners of people to come up and talk to me while I was minding my own business. I have been approached in Wal-Mart by complete strangers and made to listen to 30 minutes of issues as I nod understandingly and wish I had gone to Costco instead. I have had more than one delivery people arrive on my doorstep only to stay long over the acceptable time period in order to provide me with detailed descriptions of where their lives went wrong.
Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge their need to share with someone. I just wish I could charge for it at the end of the day.
But the worst part about being a social worker -- especially one in child protection -- is being at public events. Public events -- especially FREE public events -- bring out the worst in people. The worst in parenting. Normal people are freaked out by the things they see at public events. When you are a social worker, it is even worse.
I have a hard time going to things like: Canada Day in the Park, the Exhibition, picnic areas, shopping malls, etc. I can spot a child protection issue as it happens. It makes enjoying any event next to impossible.
I spend my entire time scoping the crowd. I look for lost children, found children, abandoned children, children who are not being supervised, children who are doing something stupid, parents who are intoxicated, parents who are not paying attention, parents who just plain suck. I see kids that should be apprehended and I see kids that I have apprehended before.
This weekend, we went to the park for the Canada Day festivities. As we walked to the main event, I saw: a woman high as a kite pushing a stroller, a gaggle of children under 10 without any supervision, a baby left in a stroller while his/her parent went to get a beer, over 30 children in the beer gardens with all the drunks, and one little girl get lost from her mother for over 10 minutes. I'm not sure who was more freaked out about that one -- me or the girl. I scanned the crowd for her mother as I kept an eye on her. The Guy thought I had lost something.
I did: my mind.
I try to separate the social worker mindset from my "I'm just a normal person" mindset before I go in public. I do a good job (or at least I think so) of pretending that I'm not constantly on guard when we're out at events. But I am always happy to get home and sit down with a book, a drink, and a dog knowing that I can hide from bad parenting for awhile.
You know, until I become one.