Thursday, May 17, 2007

Posting it*

Policy and Parenting Parallels

I've been thinking a bit about why I am missing work less with this maternity leave than I did when Hunter was born when I enjoy the job I have now more than I enjoyed the last one. I think I've figured it out. With the type of work I was doing when Hunter was born (providing social assistance) there was crisis and instant gratification on a daily basis - client has no food, I take action, client can buy food.

Policy, on the other hand, is a lot like parenting. With policy work you think about the outcome you want** (or the outcome you've been told to want), research interventions and theories about how to alter behaviours so as to create said outcome, examine what other jurisdictions are doing and assess the effectiveness, consult with stakeholders (ideally), choose the policy instrument (often based as much on instinct as research), implement it (if the electeds give you the okay), and while you periodically evaluate your intervention and make adjustments, the true implications of your choice are not known for years and unintended consequences are likely. All the while people are judging your intervention confident that if you had just consulted with them you would have made a much more effective choice.

With parenting you are trying to create healthy, well-adjusted adults. You read a ridiculous amount of books with theories and case studies, talk to other parents, assess (i.e. judge) the effectiveness of what those around you have done, and eventually go with your gut and make choices about how you're going to raise your children, when your approach isn't working you adjust it and in twenty years or so you know if you have created a well-adjusted healthy adult. Of course, as is the case with policy interventions, you don't control all the actors so can't completely own the successes but you're likely to wear the failures (at least somewhat).

Upon further consideration, though, there is a lot of instant gratification like I love yous, hugs, kisses, smiles, and homemade pictures; and there is definitely (minor) crisis management. Maybe I should just enjoy it and not question it.

** Policy wonks of course know that this is only one approach - there are gap-based models, problem centred approaches, etc. but this is the approach that fits so I'm going with it. If I had the inclination I'm sure I could make the other approaches fit too but you get the idea.

* This is a repost. I deleted because it wasn't quite right but I've decided it speaks to what I thought in the moment so am putting it back up.

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