Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

EERs! Taxes! EERS and taxes! I'm terrible at both.

Actually, I'm pretty solid at writing EERs for other people. Or writing my EER for someone else to pretend they wrote it. Or writing my EER for someone else to offer the person who is supposed to write it so that the person writing it thinks they just plagiarized the other person but really they plagiarized me. True story and: well played.

But now we've moved to the 5055 and I have to write the first part in my voice. For the non-Foreign Service types out there, especially for the aspiring Foreign Service types out there, your EER is your Employee Evaluation & Review. The old form (still used by the untenured) consists of two sections written by your rater (in theory, but not always, your boss), one section written by your reviewer (in theory, but not always, your boss' boss), and then one section written by you (frighteningly referred to as the "suicide box"). The form for tenured employees is now: a section written by the employee, one by the rater, and one by the reviewer (with the terrifying "Area for Improvement" shoved in there somewhere).

On both forms, the alleged purpose is the same: to offer a constructive annual evaluation of an employee's fulfillment (or not) of her work requirements and of her potential for performance at a more senior level, using the Foreign Service Precepts as a rubric.

Ha. Ha ha. Hahaha.

The reality is that your little pile of EERs (plus any awards) forms the sole basis for your promotion fate. Your boss wants good employees to succeed and wants to be known as a great boss who helps you get promoted, so to do his or her best by you, a one-day task gets blown up into something full of international consequence and the really valuable work--daily management issues--get no attention whatsoever.

I put a lot of effort into my junior officer's EER. He's a fantastic officer who really pulled through on some pretty significant tasks. My section for him was done early and is now with my boss.

My EER was due up to my rater on Friday. What am I currently avoiding by blogging? My EER. I don't like writing about my moments of international consequence in the first person. It seems braggy and arrogant. Statistically*, women don't do as well as men with this format; we are much more likely to credit the team than praise ourselves. Ironic, because you might want the team player to be promoted, but there we are. I wouldn't suggest that the men aren't team players, but generally men seem less inhibited when it comes to horn-tooting.

So here I am, late on a professional deadline (which I normally would never be). In the end, I care a lot about those who work for me, but not nearly as much about my own career. I blame motherhood. I used to be ambitious, but now I just hope I manage to shower before work.

When you combine this discomfort of crafting self-aggrandizing prose with the brutal assault of taxes, which are slamming us royally as household employers, this time of the year is a great argument for giving up the dual-income ghost.

*Can't link to the statistics because there is a slight chance I made that up. Pretty sure I heard it somewhere, but even if I didn't: it seems like it would be true, no?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sleeping Feminist, Awake!

Maybe we should call it Slut Shame 2012.

Or My Interest in Your Uterus Is Greater Than Your Interest in Your Uterus 2012.

Or Let's Forget That Half Our Voters Are Women Plus The Additional Men Who Are Happy To Have Birth Control 2012.

As if this couldn't get any stranger, Arizona is considering a bill to allow employers to intrude between a woman and her gynecologist and, what's worse, fire her if they don't like the medical decisions she is making in her private life.

Dear People Who Think This Is a Good Idea,

I can't decide if your goal is to shame women into refraining from premarital sex and then refraining from sex for the sake of sex with her spouse. Perhaps you think babies are so grand that no one should control the number that they have. Perhaps you really enjoy blaming parents for the cycle of poverty, violence, and underachievement their children find themselves in, without giving a woman the tools she needs to advance in society and, in the end, provide the children she already has with better opportunities.

Maybe you just really like hearing the details of your female employee's menstrual flow? How many tampons is she soaking an hour? Does she feel lightheaded? How many cysts are on her ovaries?

Inquiring employers want to know.

If you would like women to have more babies, here are some ideas that might have been successful:

  1. Paid maternity leave.
  2. Childcare subsidies. 
  3. Lower the cost of university education.
  4. Improve public schools.
  5. Move back to a midwifery model of birth for the vast majority of normal, healthy pregnancies.
  6. Improve access to adoption for the many couples who would love to have a child: gay families, older parents, etc.
Debbie Lesko, the Republican who introduced the legislation, said "government should not be telling...employers to do something that goes against their moral beliefs."

Oh, but Debbie, we do it all the time. What about that employer who doesn't think women should work outside the home? I am legally protected from his bias. He does not control my personal morals or behavior, even though he may pay my salary. I imagine the EEOC would have something to say about a woman dismissed for pursuing hormonal birth control.

Over 20 states have allegedly felt the threat of Shariah law so acutely that legislation was proposed to prohibit Shariah law from becoming state-accepted jurisprudence. The rest of us rolled our eyes at a solution in search of a problem. After all, religious beliefs don't trump civil law and liberties, do they?

Do they?

In the end, it would behoove you to accept that what happens in a woman's body is between her, her doctor or midwife, and her partner. You wouldn't like it if you employer requested a doctor's note about your viagra, would you?


A Voter, But Not a Broodmare

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Girl just spent her second night in the hospital. I think, though I can't be sure, we'll be here another night. A week of stomach virus left her zapped of fluids and energy, so here we are.

I am the first to say I probably needn't have learned Estonian for work. I read Estonian correspondence and news in the office, but I really don't speak it to clients or counterparts. My local staff could have translated the written stuff for me. Waiters and waitresses all speak impeccable English. Bizarrely, Estonian has come in most handy in the bank and pharmacies. And now, in the hospital.

There are many English-speaking Estonian doctors. In Finland. The residents we've been seeing here are certainly capable, but speak less English than one might expect. The nurses don't speak English at all, but I find that, as native Russian-speakers, their Estonian is slow and crisp and therefore much more intelligible to this plodding American.

The nurses alternate between speaking to me as if to a baby: loudly repeating nouns while pointing to the object in question, and speaking at their normal cadence. I'm not insulted by the former; my Estonian brain only works when I turn it on and anticipate the context of the question. I've occasionally misunderstood basic questions, leading to my own infantilization. It's not their fault. We are in Estonia, after all; it would be presumptuous to expect that everyone speak a non-local language.

I've always been intimidated by doctors. So when the doctor discharged Girl yesterday, I didn't know the right way to ask to stay. I didn't know how to tell her that it took three sticks to get an IV in and how I didn't think 500 mL of fluid was enough. I didn't know how to say that Girl wasn't herself. I couldn't advocate for her. They didn't teach us "intravenuous" and "lethargic." She sleeps more than generally. She is very dry. I wasn't making my case.

The discharge instructions were understandable when predictable: no dairy until her poop is normal, lots of fluids, probiotics. Look for a dry tongue. The rest, I have no idea. She could have told me to hang Girl by her toes and I would have just been nodding compliantly.

After six hours at home and a mere three tablespoons of water, we were back, tears in my eyes as I apologized. For what? I don't know. For not explaining my doubts earlier. For not successfully hydrating her. For being at the office for every bad diaper that week. For not being able to explain what it looked like, not because my language skills weren't adequate, but because I hadn't been there when she was sick.

I apologized to Girl for the five more sticks it took to find a vein again.

Girl is sleeping now, IV back in place. She won't let me put her in the crib, so she's on the bed, beloved elephant and blanket in tow. She'll be alright, thanks to the luxuries of sterile needles and IV fluids.

Intravenous. I'll have to look that one up.