Sometimes when I go home after my shift, I think about how tired I am after work and on the weekends. I wonder why I keep turning up to work. It’s not the wages. I know I could be paid more elsewhere. It’s not the amazing staff I work with, but something much bigger. You see, I work at a place where there are pregnant teenaged girls and young moms with babies. So imagine this. There are hormonal girls from all sorts of backgrounds placed with moms nurturing babies all sharing everything in one house. At any one time there are two house parents and up to nine girls plus five or more babies all wanting something from the two house parents.
There is a large house to maintain, schedules to meet, appointments to be made and kept, food to be organized, clothing and donations to be sorted, state laws to be honored, and an individual’s case to be managed. There are visits to be monitored, classes to be run, and volunteers to aid and encourage. Everything that is required from management and everything that is needed meets at one point—the house parent. So it’s tiring. House parents also have all sorts of backgrounds, history, stories, ideas and needs. They walk away from their issues at home and their only focus is where they work. Sometimes the girls will reject every good work that is sent their way, and sometimes there are girls who embrace it.
So, why do I go back? It’s for that one. For that one who wants to learn to make apple pie from scratch, that one who helps pick up the leaves in the garden, that one who wants to learn to open a can, cut onions, or set the table. The one who sees us struggle and helps us carry things. The one who offers to make us a drink. That one who wants to learn how to clean a toilet, or wash the floor, or is grateful for a lift to work. It’s for that one that shows she is thankful in her actions, words, or deeds. This is the evidence that when that one leaves we know she is the one who will make it out there because she has been willing to learn, think outside herself, see ahead so she can take what she has learned today and build upon it. As house parents, we are happy for you when you leave because we know you will make it. But as for the others? We just have to let you go hoping that what we have planted in you will awaken and grow you towards a bigger future. In the meantime, I return to work each day for that one.
Rhonda Lee Smith