By heather | March 31, 2008
Brett and I had a long discussion this weekend about parenting, pregnancy, babies, the definition of fun, and work in which he got a true taste of what goes on inside my head when I’m sans anxiety meds.
Yes, we are still married. Sometimes I think he is a saint to put up with me and my psychoses.
Anyway, a small part of our discussion was about how being pregnant changes the way people see you and how I wasn’t quite ready for that in my new job. If you are already a parent, then your personal life is just that. You may share small slices with your co-workers but it isn’t exactly on display coloring everything you do. When you’re pregnant, your personal life is expanding and growing right before their very eyes.
I still haven’t told anyone in our satellite office that I’m pregnant. Despite working for a family friendly company, when you work in a primarily male dominated field like I do, there are subtle changes that occur as soon as your co-workers find out.
For example, personal questions that I find weird and uncomfortable are no longer off limits. Like, are you going to breast feed? and What kind of birth did you have the first time?
Is it just me or are the images rendered by those question inappropriate for work discussion?
Do I ask you if you’re having trouble peeing as you get older? How’s that ED been treating you lately?
More insidious than being fodder for inappropriate questions is being left out of things. By things, I mean discussions and copied on emails about future projects. I don’t think it’s intentional, or maybe it is.
Once you tell your co-workers about your upcoming
maternity leave 3-month vacation – ha – all of a sudden you stop being involved in the planning of projects that will execute near that time. You become someone who can’t be counted on.
It amazes me how many people, and this includes other women, just assume that you are no longer interested in work – the utmost thing on your mind is what color to paint the nursery.
If I’m not interested in the work being discussed, it’s more likely because a) the person managing it is an idiot b) it’s already been done c) it’s already been discussed to death or d) by the time you all stop talking and actually do it, it won’t matter anymore.
When assignments are being discussed and resources being figured, you are all of a sudden a non-starter. Maybe in some cases this is deserved, just last week I wrote about how I was torn between pitching for new business and just saying screw it. But even though I wrote it, I worked my ass off to the tune of approximately 14 extra UNPAID, uncounted hours to do it.
Or maybe the laissez-faire attitude comes from having no energy to fight for it. Just last week, someone I work with informed me that there really is no glass ceiling for women anymore – according to him, if a woman can run for president or run a company it just no longer exists.
I’ll give you a minute to absorb your outrage.
I thought about explaining that not all of us have connections and money like Hillary. Or despite the fact that I’m not Hillary’s biggest fan, she has worked hard. Or about the guilt you feel balancing a career and parenting. Or that research shows you are still judged as much on your looks as what you do.
I considered trying to describe the thought process behind deciding to go to the gym after work or going home to spend 2 hours with your child and the dissatisfaction you feel making either choice.
In the end, I said something along the lines of seeyalaterneedmorecoffeebye. I could have had a 30-minute discussion to try and convince this guy, but then I would have been late to daycare and subtracting time with Alex wasn’t worth it to me.
Because while the government mandates that I can’t be discriminated against, how do you explain my college roommate (who worked for a hospital) being sent off on maternity leave with nothing more than a buh-bye? No benefits, no short term disability, nothing.
Or why one of my former co-workers just assumed I was leaving to stay at home, not being able to hack it since having a child? Or why if I were in the military, FMLA wouldn’t apply to me and I’d be expected back at my desk with a smile exactly 6 weeks after giving birth? Or how a breastfeeding mother can be deployed just because her number came up?
If the implications of those things never even occurred to you, the world probably does look pretty rosy.
I’m not asking for affirmative action because I don’t think that does any good except enable a poor-me mentality. I’ve made a choice to work and I stand by it.
You know what you’re signing up for when you go in the military or when you take a job with benefits like that.
You come to expect the close minded assumptions.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck.
I suppose all I’m asking for is to not make assumptions, unless you are going to assume that I can handle it and that I won’t just leave to go have a baby and not cover down.
In the meantime, I’ll let you keep guessing as to whether I’m just “letting myself go” (as someone asked me the other day) or if I’m really planning that 3-month vacation with stars and moons and teddy bears in my eyes.