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What being fired taught me about being a parent

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“Karlee, can you come into my office?” my boss asked.

I had only been with the company for six months. My skills matched the job description and the office was close to home. With a husband and two little girls, I appreciated not having to commute.

I sat in the uncomfortable, square chair across from his desk and stared at the floor. Moving boxes sat unpacked. Paintings leaned against the wall still covered in bubble wrap. Why hadn’t anyone unpacked?

My boss made a small, throaty noise. He was 6’4 with shoulders that hunched forward like a turtle shell. I stared at him. Tears formed in his eyes. His hands pinched a small white envelope.

“We have decided that today will be your last day,” he said and pushed the envelope across the desk to me.

I considered the things a person should ask when being fired.

“Can you give me some feedback?” I asked.

“No. Turn in your computer. You can stay at your desk for the rest of the day if you want.”

I would rather change dirty diapers at home than sit at my desk. The office was quiet as I gathered my things. It was a small company. Eyes burned into me as I walked out. Embarrassment stung like dozens of tiny wasps. Hot tears rolled down my face.

I had never been fired before. I pride myself on being a hard-working mom. The realization that I had failed my family knocked the wind out of me. I got home, settled into the couch and held my daughters close.

After months of wallowing in self pity, one very long session with my therapist, and daily encouragement from my husband, I realized that my lingering sense of failure was rooted in my childhood. At sixteen, there was a period of time that I was the only person in my family with a job. My mom was in and out of jail. My parents, siblings and I were squatting in the house we had been evicted from. While other high school juniors hung out at football games and the local movie theatre, I was trying to get another shift at the grocery store where I worked.

Being fired had triggered me, unearthing painful memories and experiences. It was time to face the truth: I didn’t even like the job I’d been fired from. Actually, I had actively been looking for another position.

Although people say that it’s bad form to do anything drastic after a big life event, I dyed my hair purple and reveled in the power and freedom of change.

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Here’s what I learned about myself as a parent: I will never expect my daughters to carry the financial load of the family. And, if they are ever fired, from any job, I will tell them my story, then hold them close and let them know that being fired doesn’t make a person a failure. It’s just another human experience.

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