When to Disclose, When to Smile and Nod

The backstory

When Little Green was just four months old, I left my full-time job to be a stay at home/freelancing mom.

It seemed like the right thing to do at the time – I was pumping at work (in a “library” room without a door) and she wasn’t really taking well to the bottle, my husband was her full-time caregiver and wasn’t happy and also couldn’t get his own work done, and I was just really wanting to be home with my baby.

Then she started missing milestones, got a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, and changed my entire path.

But you know this, probably, by reading my blog. It’s the story I tell often.

For about nine years I worked from home – sometimes steadily, sometimes not. We were always struggling financially during this time, though for a few years I had a steady freelance gig that filled in some gaps. When that gig went away, things went back to being pretty tough.

And I’d been searching for a full-time job – or at the very least, some sort of replacement for the steady gig – for about three years. Lots of false starts. Lots of hope that went nowhere. Lots of nothing.

And then…..I got a job!

As I wrote, I had finally scored a short-term job that paid pretty well….and then it was taken away from me very abruptly.

But at the exact same time, a friend’s company had an opening – an unadvertised opening, more of a wishlist, more of a need – and she told them I was the person they needed.

By the way, this friend had never met me in person. Our connection was strange and funny, and she wasn’t even my friend on social media when she referred me. She trusted my husband, basically, and she trusted me. I sent over my resume and writing clips, I held my breath, and they essentially offered me the job with very little in the way of interviews (I had one half hour meeting with the head of the department). And they offered me a very whole lot of money. Like….more money per hour than I have ever made (and that includes some of my highest-paying freelance jobs). When they told me that part, I basically would’ve said yes to any project they wanted me to do. But they wanted me to write. And to edit. And to do the things I like to do. YES.

I have now been at my new job for a month. I’m still just a contractor, paid hourly, but the idea of going full time floats in and out. I make enough money that I am not in a rush. I qualify for health insurance! (I have to pay the entire premium but….it’s so much better than what we currently have. In fact, tangent-note, our current plan was impeding LG’s ability to go to PT for a lot of bullshit ridiculous reasons, and this new plan removes the blockage completely at exactly the right time.) (Second tangent-note: the renewal application for LG’s supplemental services is in the hands of the people I imagine sit in the top of a tower in a locked room, deciding our fate – I do not yet know what will happen with that.)

ANYWAY. That is not what I intended to write about. No, really.

I want to write about disclosure. About how it’s a new thing for me to have to figure out when to disclose “I have a child with cerebral palsy” and when to just say “I have a daughter. She is nine. Yep, she’s gorgeous!”

The two people who work most closely with me know about LG and her disability. Another person who works with me sometimes also knows. All three people are parents and the conversation just sort of….went there. We are all becoming friendly and it felt important to explain that my parenting journey is not the same as theirs (none of the three had a similar tale to tell).

But my boss still doesn’t know – my boss is a busy person and may not even know, really, whether I have children at all or how many or anything. And I don’t really care – it will come up someday, I’m sure, and just….be. It’s just weird to me that my boss doesn’t know (or care). My boss cares that I do my job, my boss signs my timesheets, my boss does what my boss does.

The other day one of my close co-workers was talking to a man from another department, and the co-worker and the man were talking about their children sleeping through the night. I didn’t think about it when I said “Ah, you’re lucky, my daughter is nine and still doesn’t sleep through the night!” The co-worker understood, but the man looked confused. And I realized I didn’t feel like disclosing or explaining. I laughed and said “She’s complicated!” and changed the subject. Let him think what he thinks. Part of me felt bad for saying what I said. Part of me felt that I should’ve explained. Most of me thought “you really need to watch your mouth, Mama.”

Today I was talking to another person from another department and happened to mention I had a kid. I showed this person LG’s photo, which is on my computer’s desktop. “She’s cute! Nine is such a fun age!” said this person. I nodded. I didn’t explain further. If you look closely at the photo, you’ll see LG’s ankle braces, but who is going to scrutinize my computer screen like that or even know what they’re looking at, unless they too have a child who wears SMOs.

I’m out in the world with a job for the first time in nearly ten years and I just don’t know how to….do that. I don’t know what is appropriate or inappropriate. I don’t know who needs to know what – but then I think…maybe I do know, a little. Maybe I do need to trust my gut.

And it’s not that I’m ashamed or embarrassed (which is what I sometimes wonder – am I hiding LG? NO I AM NOT) – it’s that it’s nobody’s business, I guess. Personal vs. work. Separation of lives. I’m trying to figure out who I am there vs. home anyway. All you need to know is that I have a husband and a child – and perhaps you don’t even need to know that much.

It’s a learning experience for sure.