New Beginnings

 photo credit: changeboard.com

photo credit: changeboard.com

I can't stress enough how important work life balance has become for me since having a baby and finding that right balance between the two.  Retail pharmacy isn't the easiest for working moms as you're obligated to work nights, weekends, holidays, and during hurricanes/blizzards - you name it.  That leaves little room for family. It might've been easier when it was just us two and no baby, but burnout is huge and especially with a little one at home... it takes a toll on you physically and mentally. It's just draining and exhausting where I have little to no motivation to do anything when I get home but to just decompress.  We have plenty of vacation/personal time that we can't get approved off.  We aren't allowed to call out sick because there is no coverage yet at one point we have had plenty of floaters; floater pharmacists that had hours cut back and eventually quit because they couldn't afford to work 24 hours a week and pay bills/school loans on that salary. We are constantly working understaffed, no lunch breaks, no bathroom breaks, standing on your feet for 12 hour shifts, dealing with difficult customers while administering immunizations, patient consultations, keeping verified time under 15 minutes, and all trying to meet corporate metrics.  Pharmacist just don't count pills or slap a label on it.  We are monitoring drug interactions, making sure dosing and therapy is appropriate, preventing opioid abuse and therapeutic duplications while maintaining and upholding quality patient care .  We as pharmacist have a dual liability of what we fill and if there was an error on the doctor's part that we did not catch, we are the first to get reprimanded - not the doctors.  Unfortunately, that is the reality and retail pharmacists are being spread thin.  

So many pharmacy schools are pumping out pharmacists in an already saturated area and that makes us easily replaceable. What is trending in the world of retail is that companies are pushing out older "slower" pharmacists to make room for faster younger pharmacists who are eager, who are power hungry, and out to prove themselves.  When I say older, I have colleagues who are in their mid 40s who are afraid of their jobs because they may not be as fast as they used to be.  I may not be able to speak for all, but I feel the culture of retail is changing to where we are all expendable at any given time.  There is no longer job security or any recognition but more of  questions of 'why aren't you doing more?' with less - (less hours, less help, less support). 

I can honestly say that I had great store managers and district managers supporting me and helping me grow my career through the years. But after working in retail for 17 years (8 years as a pharmacist) in the same company, the right opportunity came along and I knew I had to take that leap. Every retail pharmacist has that dream of leaving retail in hopes of a more positive work environment where work life balance is key.  Finding that right work environment and network to support your career and life at home is where we all want to be (in the present and future).  It is attainable - with the right job.  I actually interviewed twice for this position and got rejected the first time. 🙃 But I guess my determination and perseverance paid off for what I really wanted.  I found it kind of awkward to reapply for the same position that had opened up again but it couldn't hurt right? If I don't put myself out there and go for it, I would've never had this opportunity come up (and it doesn't happen often). I had to compromise on some aspects of this new job ($$) but everything was screaming WORK LIFE BALANCE! It has been my dream to work for a PBM (pharmacy benefits manager) or insurance company working that cubicle life, Monday-Friday, no nights, weekends or holidays. I'm super excited about this opportunity and new area of pharmacy.  Not because the hours and positive work environment is great (okay, huge plus!) but I'm grateful that someone gave me that chance. It's super hard to break out of retail pharmacy when that's all you have on your resume.  I can only further my career from here and be able to focus on making lasting memories with family and friends.  

Certain things catch your eye,
but pursue only those that capture the heart.
PROVERB
  

Chuc Mung Nam Moi

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Happy New Year! It's the Lunar/Chinese New Year - celebrating the Year of the Dog.  I really enjoy this time of year, not because we get lucky money (haha not anymore now that I'm married) but for honoring traditions and spending time with family.  I don't consider myself a practicing buddhist but I do believe in a higher being and that our ancestors are watching over us and their spirits are amongst us.  During this time, we make an offering to the gods and honor them and our ancestors (all referred to as ong ba) to bring us prosperity, good health, and fortune.  Days leading up to the New Year or Tet (in Vietnamese), the house should be clean and tidy as it sets the tone for the upcoming year.  Deep cleaning shouldn't be for days after as it may wash away your good luck and fortune. I tried my best to clean the house and organize but having a sick baby and husband the week leading up to Tet didn't go exactly as planned.  I always remember my mom talking to the spirits as she sets out this elegant paper meant as money and fabric for clothes along with fruit and flowers on the altar (of Ba Quan Am - kindof like an all encompassing god that takes on many forms and roles).  On New Years Eve, we cook all this food and offer it to the gods, burn incense and bow to show our respects.  Only after the incense has fully burned is when we can eat.  Now that I have my own home, I wanted to keep part of the tradition and set up some fruit and flowers for Tet by keeping it simple since I don't have an altar set up.   Usually red gladiolus flowers are traditional for New Years, but since I couldn't find it locally, these red and yellow flowers worked well too. I always find it a little awkward when I burn the incense and bow not because I don't know what to do but more so of what to say (since my mom has always done it).  In my head I know what I want to say, but it doesn't always translate out loud the way I want it to.  To thank the gods for watching over us this past year, to thank them for keeping us healthy and safe, and to ask our ancestors to continue to watch over our family and bless our home this upcoming year.  I always start off speaking in Vietnamese, then English, then stuttering and stopping altogether because it's semi-awkward for me since I'm not used to doing it.  But I know that they hear the thoughts that I express from within and can feel that I am beyond grateful for what we have.  

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It was pretty awesome to receive li xi or lucky money given in red envelopes when I was growing up.  Only when you are married do you start giving money to the kids and siblings younger than you and stop receiving money (although some parents still usually give it).  It's fun to use that money to play the lucky game of Bau Cua Tom Ca (Gourd Crab Shrimp Fish). My aunt's family came up from VA to celebrate the festivities as my grandfather is here visiting from Vietnam also. So to have all the kids and family in one place was pretty awesome.  

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According to Chinese tradition, once you are married, the daughter can't return home on the eve of New Years but only after the start of the year since it may bring bad fortune.  This I did not know! lol I guess it worked out since I had to work that morning and traveling home after would have been too far and a long night traveling with my babe.  I did get to spend Chinese New Year with my husband's family which was nice.  I didn't realize but in Chinese tradition, the meal cooked on New Years Eve is to celebrate this past year and lunch usually that upcoming weekend is to celebrate the upcoming year.  Last year I missed out on lunch as I was going into labor with Liam.  I really want to be able to show Liam the traditions, honor, and respect we have in both our Vietnamese and Chinese families and hope that he doesn't loose part of that culture as he grows up.           

   

A Year In Review

Where do I begin? This entire year felt like a whirlwind that fly by way too fast.  My journey began when we decided we should start 'trying' to grow our little family.  What I didn't expect was that it was happening much sooner than later.  I was pretty lucky and fortunate to conceive easily and not get morning sickness or have any food aversions.  I felt pretty normal and sometimes even forgot that I had this precious life growing inside of me (call it preggo brain? jkjk). I even helped build our kitchen cabinets during our reno, minus all the heavy lifting 💪🏻.  I enjoyed being pregnant; watching my belly grow knowing that baby boy was growing strong and healthy and that my body was capable of keeping him safe.  I didn't really know what to expect when "it was time" - he's coming! I wasn't even sure if I was having contractions and sure enough, he arrived about 12 hours later and a week before his due date.  I was so nervous to meet him.  I knew I loved him sooo much and the time was finally here where I can hold him in my arms, snuggle and kiss him, and knowing that this is REAL.

Life with a newborn was definitely a learning process and parenting still is.  Who knew they pooped right after every feeding. I have never changed so many diapers in my life in those first few weeks.  As I was getting the hang of the routine of nursing, eating, napping, diaper changes ect, the sleep deprivation was setting in and I can say it was definitely a life adjustment.  Showers became the golden hour (or minutes lol) as I had time to myself and only myself.  Some days were definitely more difficult than others.  The routine became normal but when baby cries and fusses for no reason or cluster feeds every hour, it's so demanding on your body and it definitely took a toll on me. On those days, it made me question 'How am I supposed to be able to do this every day? How long does this last? Will it get better? Do I have a difficult baby?'  Those emotions running through my head didn't last very long because this is what I signed up for after all, right? jk. In all honesty, just knowing that we created this life, he is a part of me and my husband, he came from our love, and that his cute little face staring back at you and coo-ing makes it all worth it and all of those worries of doubt and questions on whether you will be a good mom or not, just disappear.  No mom is perfect. I realized that I don't need to look flawless and make mommy-life look easy and glamorous, but to be able to give the best of myself and providing my unconditional love would be enough.  

As the months flew by, Liam started hitting his milestones with rolling over, sitting up, crawling, to now standing on his own and even taking a few steps.  It was slightly creepy when you wake up from a nap to him sitting up on his own and looking at you like a stalker. The infamous sleep training was hard. It definitely pulls at your heart strings when he started to stand up in his crib crying out for you to pick him up. We initially did sleep training around 6 months and because he got sick from a cold and starting teething around 7-8 months, we held him and rocked him to sleep to comfort him.  That disturbed his sleep cycle for a little bit so we  started sleeping training all over again not too long ago.  I hated listening to him cry for so long but I knew in the long run it would benefit both of us if we could sleep through the night.   We did a combination of crying it out and revisiting with pats and comforting.  I sometimes wondered though, if by leaving him there to cry, 'Will it give him anxiety? Will it make him feel as if we don't care about him? or Will he fall asleep and forget any of that even happened?' I definitely felt like he had slight separation anxiety at first.  For a while, he would work himself up so much that he would throw up.  Sometimes sooner than later and he knew we would rush in to clean him and hold him. He was fine when we were in the room with him but as soon as he heard a sound when we were sneaking away, he would shoot up in bed and scream out bloody murder.  A few weeks in, he knows his bedtime routine now and is falling asleep easier and sleeping through the night again.  

There was a point in time where work was consuming me, mentally and physically - and it still does a little.  Little work life balance and working long hours left me even more exhausted than normal.   Liam definitely preferred my husband over me for a while as he is home nights to give him a bath and get him ready for bed when I'm stuck at work well after the pharmacy has closed.  He just wouldn't let me comfort him when he woke up in the middle of the night either.  I just felt like, WTF. How did I let work take over my life? How did I let work prioritize over my baby, my family? He doesn't even recognize me or want me?! I question how is a mother supposed to succeed in their career when the mentality now is, 'do more with less' and still be able to keep up with the demands, hit all the metrics, rise above all challenges, be more clinical, ect when we just don't have the man power that is needed to run a pharmacy efficiently and effectively. In order to "succeed",  I had to sacrifice time away from my family to get things done that otherwise can't be finished during open hours.  I've come to the realization that, my family is more important and if that means some aspects of corporate metrics don't meet goal, I've tried my best. I refuse let my family suffer as a result.  As long as I'm still providing quality care and consultations to my patients, that's all that matters to me.

Life definitely isn't the same as before; it doesn't even come close. It REALLY is sooooo much more. My life is full of love and laughter.  Full of little hands holding mine, drool all over my shoulder, and burps & poops for mommy.  Life gives you the unexpected but as long as we have each other, I'm ready to take on the world.