By: Holly Arroyo
Having a good sense of humor is essential in this line of work. Most of the time, I laugh to keep from crying and laughing about what is bothering me helps to cope with the stress of dealing with things that are beyond my control. And social workers work in environments with limited resources and control. Of course, it is important to be able to process our feelings, talk about what is bothering us, and work through our emotions in a healthy way, but let’s be honest, we do not always have time at that moment to stop and process. So, when you are overworked, underpaid, and have limited support or resources, you cope the best way you can at that time. For me, I make jokes. I laugh to myself or find something to laugh about because that is what helps me get through the day. For this post, I decided to look to the internet for laughter and examine the wonderful world of memes, specifically social work memes. Below are 8 memes that I thought best encapsulates the daily struggles of social work and helps us to laugh at them. Enjoy!
Perceptions of Social Work
“I chose social work because I want to help people”. We have heard and said this phrase ourselves too many times to count. Like any profession, there is the expectation we have and then the reality. There is society’s perception and then the perception of our family and friends about what we do. In the above meme, the boss’s perspective and the reality of what social workers do is probably the funniest to me. I vent to my supervisor during supervision, but I don’t cry (even if I want to) and the paperwork seems never-ending. But ultimately, I am frustrated by what society thinks I do. The most common social work stereotype is that social workers just want to take everyone’s children away from their homes. In most cases, that is the absolute last thing we want to do and it not an easy decision to make by any means.
Photo credit: http://www.picturequotes.com/social-work-quotes/2
The first day of my current job, I made sure I wore my best work outfit, my hair styled, and my make up on point. One year later, it is all comfy work clothes, my hair goes in pony tail and I wear hardly any make up. When you have a million things to do and a finite amount of time, you must prioritize. For me, my looks come last. The wear and tear of the job can take a toll on the best social worker which is why self-care is so important to avoid looking like Beetlejuice.
Photo credit: https://socialworktutor.com/the-best-social-work-memes-of-2016/
The topic of self-care comes up a lot in social work, both in school and in the field. I have lost count on how many lectures, trainings, and seminars I have attended that talk about the importance of self-care. While practicing self-care can help to avoid burnout and compassion fatigue, I find myself asking the question above: “Is this self-care or procrastination?”. Can’t it be both? Some days, I am just so tired and exhausted that I know if I do not take a break, the quality of my work will suffer. Call it what you will. I choose to call it self-care.
Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/508977195358797106/?lp=true
Although this meme only mentions lunch breaks, I think it applies to any time that a social worker is “off duty”. When you’re overworked, the moments where you get a break are vital. Unfortunately, other people may not always see it that way. People forget that social workers and other professions, like teachers and nurses, are human beings too with lives and families just like their clients. We are not robots that can function 24/7. Lunch breaks, weekends, and vacations are essential, even though it can be beyond aggravating to catch up with the work that backed up while we were on a break.
Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/social-work-humor/
The Social Work Lens
Movies can be a great place to escape the stress and burden of everyday life. While the story may be funny and heartwarming, creative license is often taken that pushes the limits of reality. Home Alone is one of my favorite Christmas movies but when I watch it now that I have been in social work for a few years, I see where this meme is coming from. The family dysfunction, indifference of the police and the community’s either gullibility or lack of any awareness put Kevin McCallister in danger. Yes, it’s a movie and its hilarious, but it is a bit telling when the only the reliable person in the whole movie is the misunderstood elderly neighbor who saves Kevin from the home invaders at the end of the movie.
Photo credit: https://socialworktutor.com/the-best-christmas-social-work-memes/
This is probably the most common issue that my family and friends bring up when I talk about being a social worker. Why is it that money is the main factor in choosing a profession? Can’t I value something more than a huge paycheck? I know most people in social work feel this way, but it gets old when people bring it up constantly. The other thing that bothers me is that while everyone wants to say that social workers do not make a lot of money, but they don’t want to talk about why that is in the first place. Yeah Karen, I can’t make rent this month because funding for my program was cut by that guy you voted for in the last election!
Photo credit: https://davidethmkwon.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/when-can-i-call-myself-a-social-worker/
Academia of Social Work Practice
I am convinced that every social work student’s vocabulary only consists of the phrases “evidence-based practice”, “systems theory”, “strengths-based perspective” and “person-in-environment”. We use this language so much that it becomes comical. Despite what other disciplines may think, research and the scientific method play an important role in developing effective interventions. Research can be scary topic for many social workers, but I believe once you find an area of focus you are passionate about, the research comes easy.
Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/509821620293901405/
I am probably my harshest critic and I constantly question whether or not I am any good at my job. Did I say the right thing? Did I make the right referral? Did I listen enough? Am I helping at all? I try to have confidence in my own abilities without coming across as egotistical but sometimes I just beat myself down. That’s why it is important, especially as social workers who hit road blocks constantly, to give ourselves that daily affirmation that what we do and who we are is enough. And if we can’t say it to ourselves, then maybe hearing it from Ryan Gosling will help.
Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/567172146793227795/?lp=true