As I conversed with Katie Adams from Connecticut, I was instantly drawn to her positive outlook and passion to give to others. She is a mother to five children, wife and has a full-time career as a clinical social worker. In her spare time, she writes for her blog, The Soulful Social Worker. Within our interview together, Katie shares the importance of taking ownership of your own story, why we should be cautious about what we expose ourselves to and describes a very purposeful journey that made her a better clinician, a better mom and a better wife. I know you will be inspired by our conversation below.
BY&T: Katie, you’re a wife, mother to five children, have a career in clinical social work and author of a blog. Did I read in a recent blog post that you also home school?
KA: I can’t take much credit for that! My husband is a stay-at-home dad and we sort of collaborate to develop our homeschool day or what each week might look like. He’s really the one that’s home with the kids and doing the work. In my role as social worker, my focus is psychotherapy. I’m a social work supervisor on a psychiatric unit and I do a mix of administrative work as well.
BY&T: I really enjoy reading your blog, ‘The Soulful Social Worker—Wholehearted living for real people.’ When did you start blogging and what inspired you to begin?
KA: I had a blog back when I just had my oldest two children. My journey to parenting sort of happened unexpectedly, as I got pregnant when I was 18 and it really changed the course of my life. When I was in graduate school I was really struggling with having a preschooler, working and having this clinical practicum that I was doing. I really felt this pull towards home schooling, and towards things like connecting with nature and being with my children. And so I started this blog as a way to connect with that community, while also still in the throes of social work, graduate education and the workplace.
At home I am listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, ‘Magic Lessons’ and studying Brené Brown—both great inspiring women and authors. And I try to integrate that work as much as I can into my life at home. Spirituality is also important to me. When you’re in a clinical position in a hospital setting, there’s only so much of yourself that you can infuse into that, and so I was looking for a creative outlet to put my own spin on the social work piece.
BY&T: You recently posted a quote of Brené Brown, ‘Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we will ever do.’ As a social worker I imagine this is somewhat of a theme within your various communications. Can you share your thoughts with us about the importance of owning our own stories?
KA: That quote stems from the theme of vulnerability. She also quotes something to the affect of, ‘When we own our story, we get to write the ending.’
To me this is so significant. I meet with people every day that have a pretty wide range of issues, and for them to be in an acute unit, they have to have something really significant happening. And there is so much shame around that—shame around getting that level of care and level of treatment. But really what are we ashamed of? If you can take ownership of your own story, who can challenge that? You’re writing the script and that’s empowering.”
BY&T: I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always thought it takes such a special person to be a social worker. I don’t disregard the qualifications to get the clinical and practical knowledge needed, but the compassion and empathy, the good judgment, patience and even the qualities of being a listener. How do you make self-care a priority as you give so unselfishly for the betterment of others?
KA: That’s something I’ve definitely gotten better at with time. Right around the time I had my youngest child, I was at a place where I had been pregnant for about three years straight. And I felt like I had been on autopilot those three years. It was wonderful to be pregnant and to be bringing home new babies, but I wanted to have ownership of myself again. And to really feel a sense of ownership over my body and my life and have some space that was mine. I’m a mom and I’m a wife, but I am me too. This became a very purposeful journey for me.
I started keeping a journal and had a moniker for it that I titled, ‘The Purposeful Pursuit of Pleasurable Activity.’ I was making it an intentional activity, to do something for myself every day. I started exercising more and developing some routines that work for me. I went back to those things I know I’m comfortable with and that I like. I also make sure I do special things. I recently had an amazing organic facial with a friend and I’ve felt great for the last two weeks after doing it! These activities make me a better clinician, a better mom and a better wife.
BY&T: I’ve read your thoughts within your blog on ‘conflict is inevitable but combat is optional.’ Well, in truth, I actually had to use your advice today in regards to conflict! Happy to report that I managed to keep my integrity! (We share much laughter). When in the midst of conflict, how do you suggest we stay away from the combative approach in our responses?
KA: I’m a processor when it comes to conflict and if there’s anyway possible that I can avoid reacting in the moment, I avoid it. As an example, I took a couple days off last week and every time that I take time off someone uses my office and leaves my desk filthy. Every person’s knee-jerk reaction is, ‘Who did this?’ ‘Who doesn’t have their own space that they have to come and trash mine?’ But I think it’s so important to take a step back to think about your words. One thing that works for me if I know something needs addressed, is to wait and handle it after I’ve thought about it a little more vs. coming from a place of reactivity. It’s so much easier to wait and avoid combat. I think as humans were programmed as ‘fight or flight,’ so if we can ‘flight’ for a little while, and that’s a reasonable option, I vote for that option every time.
BY&T: I was so thrilled that I was under that mentality today. (More laughter shared). As we sit here together not knowing one another but still laughing, it brings me joy. We’ve all heard the motto, ‘Laughter is good for the soul.’ It eases tension, relieve stress and I find it keeps a work environment from getting too rigid or too formal. Do you feel like a sense of humor is important considering your line of work and the various roles that you play as a therapist, wife and mother?
KA: You have to find time to laugh and I’m also a big believer in carefully choosing your space and the people that you allow into your space. If you’re someone that I’m going to invest time and energy into having a relationship with, whether it’s professionally or personally, you need to be someone that I can smile and laugh with. I get teased about my catchphrase, ‘I don’t want any bad juju’ in my space. There’s only so much we can control in our lives and there’s only so much we really want to control in our lives. But what we expose ourselves to is something that we should be cautious about. You have to find a way to just enjoy your space as much as you can and laughter is a really important part of that.
BY&T: Be You and Thrive is about honoring women and honoring their stories. We nurture the realization that each of us has the ability to touch others lives. We are unique and have much to share. In honor of celebrating women, who is your most inspiring role model?
KA: I have been really fortunate that I have had great professional mentors and I don’t know if I can necessarily point towards one person. I’m someone who’s been so fortunate and so blessed—I believe it takes a village. I’ve had this phenomenal village of really supportive women who pointed me in the right direction; from social work professors, to clinical supervisors at internships that I’ve had, to colleagues and people that I work with now. I am so lucky to have been surrounded by this great network of women. It’s really inspiring and intellectually stimulating. In my personal life I have two sisters and a sister-in-law who are fantastic. I think that it’s important for women to be connected with each other. We all have something to offer one another.
BY&T: Thank you for sharing with us Katie. You have really shared some great insight with us today. Do you have any final thoughts for the readers of Be You and Thrive?
KA: One thing that I think has always been important for me, is if you really want something, you should never ever accept ‘no’ as the answer. As a young mom, I struggled to develop roots and develop professionally in order to get to where I am now. I got told ‘no’ a lot of times. And if you’re going to accept ‘no’ you’re not going to get to where you want to be. As long as you still have opportunity and desire, ‘no’ is not an option.
Link to Katie’s Blog: The Soulful Social Worker
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