In my Everything-Falls-Into-Place dream, I walk into my meeting with the SAFH official, and he says, apologetically and graciously, “I looked over your nursing application that my underlings denied, and considered your well-presented points, and have overruled them. You are now certified to work as a nurse. I would have emailed you this information, but wanted to tell you this in person.”
That was my dream meeting, and it didn’t happen. I’m not sure what my nightmare meeting would have been, but it was pretty darn close to the reality meeting that we had last Thursday in Oslo.
Erik and I took the 2.5 hour train ride to Oslo, arriving a few hours early. I rehearsed my argument/speech/conversation on the way, and we discussed our tactics as we walked through Oslo. If he says this, I’ll say this. . .
But I wasn’t expecting his opening statement (nor was I expecting the western Norwegian dialect, making me look like a deer in headlights. I also had rehearsed saying, “Excuse me, but I had hoped we could talk in English because there are some technical terms that I just don’t know yet. . .). Anyway, he said, “So. . . you’re here to discuss your midwife application, right? Because the time to register a complaint on your nursing application is over. That application is dead.”
Erik told me later his heart sunk to his stomach with this remark. Not a great way to start off a meeting. I wasn’t quite so sunken, but rather annoyed. We had made it very clear in our email exchanges that we first and foremost wanted to discuss the nursing application, in hopes of avoiding filing a formal complaint. We pointed this out, and he diplomatically said, “you can file the complaint, and include the emails, and state you want the complaint time extended. And if we deny that, you can complain again.”
This was his refrain for the entire 50 minute meeting: you can reference that and put it in the formal complaint. And if we deny the complaint, we’ll send it to the higher up complaint people, and you can file another complaint.
And that was that. He was not in a position to reverse any decisions, at least not on-the-spot, and he was very clearly a by-the-books guy. We were so hoping—believing--that once we could talk face to face with someone, we could reason with them; “look at these degrees, look at my work experience, let me tell you what I’ve done, let me tell you what I want to do, and then tell me why this doesn’t work!” But there was none of that. Every point we raised was met with bureaucratic indifference.
It’s hard to explain what my first reactions were leaving that meeting. I was disappointed, yes. I was shell-shocked, but on the other hand, not at all surprised. I will admit that I went into the bathroom to change back into my wool long underwear under my cute skirt that I had so carefully chosen to portray professionalism and individuality, and I did not cry in the solitude of the bathroom, but was instead mentally selling our house, packing our boxes and moving back to the US. I was completely disillusioned.
Seventy-nine hours and several tearful conversations later, I will say this: we are not packing our bags, and this is, in part, why not: we can’t go back to what we had. (I don’t think I can have two colons in one sentence, but I just did). We had wrapped up our time as grad students (me employed) and life must move on. So the reality of our life back in the US would be this: Erik would fight against hundreds of other applicants to get a post-doc, and be underpaid and working 60+ hours a week, only to have to move on again in a few years to another post-doc. Midwives in the US deliver 10% of the babies; if I could find a job in the same area as Erik’s job, I’d also be working a full time job of 50+ hours a week, nights, weekends, etc. Even my own 90% position of 36 hours a week at my old job no longer exists.
In Norway, Erik (officially) works 37.5 hours a week. Midwives deliver something like 90% of the babies. Their full time work week is 36 hours a week.
Looking at the big picture, the hoops seem worth it. Looking long term, the hoops seem worth it. Looking at our home, our thriving daughter, our community, the hoops seem worth it. But looking at every single individual hoop. . . that’s when I feel like packing my bags.