Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Part Two: what shall i do with my second fifty years?

It is almost exactly 7 years since I started to work in the brand new ABA Victorian Branch Office. That office had previously been the onsite print shop at the ABA Head Office in East Malvern and was lovingly cleared, painted and prepared by our Branch President Karen and her team of volunteers about a year before and had basically been acting as a storage space until such time as funds became available to employ staff.

I was that staff.

A couple of years on and some big changes happened. You can read previous entries here if you are not familiar with the story.

Since September 2008, the Breastfeeding Centre in Dandenong, has been my second home. I have watched it grow as a seedling, seen it bloom and blossom, casting deep roots in the local community.

Yesterday, with deep regret, I resigned from my job in this wonderful place. Change is always disconcerting, but change driven by others, which goes against your own hopes and dreams, is change unbearable.

My vision of our Breastfeeding Centre, which came to reality in this past four years, was a dual-purpose space balancing administrative support for our volunteers and breastfeeding support for the community. Our three day work week included one day dedicated to drop-in day, open to all - no appointments, no limits, no restrictions, no waiting lists, no fees.The other two days were focused on admin work. Yes, we also did admin on drop-in day and saw unannounced drop-ins on admin days. The staff expanded by one, with two of us sharing drop-in day. Then last year, two more staff were added.

My dream was that we would boost our finances through local breast pump hire, through Mothers Direct sales onsite. One day, hopefully, we would be open five days a week and able to support women each day and manage our admin workload.

Yesterday, with great sadness, I tended my resignation.

My vision is not that of our current management. They see the role as primarily administrative and question offering a full day drop-in, breast pump hire, onsite sales. It has been mooted that drop in be reduced, limited or even cease altogether. A review is under-way and it is a very real likelihoods that the face to face support will be affected

I have agonised over this, through all my health issues this year, through my grand-maternity leave, through discussions with co-workers, even through counselling. The stress of my dilemma was affecting my physical and mental health, the approach of my return to work in two weeks had me losing sleep again.

In the end, the ethical thing for me to do was to disassociate myself from decisions I did not support. To stand by my principles. To put up or shut up. To walk away. To re-focus on that which is important to me: improving breastfeeding rates in the City of Greater Dandenong by providing face to face support, a range of educational aids and resources and to network with service providers in the area who work with pregnant and breastfeeding women. I can continue to do all these things, without being employed and working at the Centre. As a volunteer Breastfeeding Counsellor, I can give my time to the community in other ways to reach out to these people who are least likely to access ABA's traditional model of support.

The world is my oyster, apparently - my children are grown, I have a yummy new granddaughter to enjoy and I am on the brink of turning fifty. What to do with the second fifty years? Shall I dedicate myself to volunteer breastfeeding support in the area? Will I study to become an IBCLE and offer discount lactation consultancy to women who cannot afford the normal private practice fees or even work pro-bono? Maybe I will share my skills and knowledge with nurses and midwives? Or move into other areas of interest, like baby massage or baby wearing? Perhaps the breastfeeding books floating around in my imagination - Breastfeeding & MS; Grandmothers Guide To Breastfeeding; simple breastfeeding picture books for migrant women ... - may come to fruition.Or do I turn to my art and crafts and explore my creative side instead? Or just retire and be Granny, who knits hats in funky colours and reads endlessly to any small child who sits still long enough?

In 2000, I found myself in similar circumstances of pausing my work life for a second time, due to my MS. I had no idea of my future then and look what happened! So, I can't wait to see how this will pan out.

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