Thursday, February 28, 2013

Out of My Pump Slump

So the other day my boss referred to breastfeeding as a disability. And I thought, "gee, making like a 40 of milk a day seems more like a (supernatural) AH-bility."

I think I'm out of my pump slump (I had no idea that would be so catchy), but I'm back to pumping three times a workday instead of two because I saw production going down to less than what le bebe needed while I was gone. Now I am outproducing him and keeping my door closed at work as much as it's open, but I don't mind trading water cooler talk for playing chem lab in my office. Actually, that's not true...have you been watching the Bachelor??

Well, anyway, I had to talk to my boss about getting advanced notice to cover hearings for him. I had just the day before asked about getting out of the office a little more, letting him know that I'm available to cover hearings and then he comes by a few minutes before pump time and says "let's go to this hearing together, you can cover it." First, I don't want to necessarily go along with him. I am still new and shadowing and learning, but I also want to cover stuff when it's necessary and we're not doubling up. Especially if I can't bill my time. (Which is, by the way, the worst and most stressful part of my job: accounting for EVERY moment of work I do. Or don't do. I can feel like I'm getting a lot done and then when I do my time sheet I wish I hadn't talked to my coworker about his wife's fad diet for five minutes. Or to one of the secretaries about last night's episode of the Bachelor or whatever trash I watched the night before with the baby attached to my breasts. And let's be honest, that's 15 minutes, not five.)

Anyway...Second, I just couldn't up and leave like that. The morning pumping was set to occur in just moments. But I didn't want to appear like I was reluctant to go to the hearing. I had just asked to go to hearings. Neither did I want to explain that I couldn't go because of my parenting responsibilities. He is a very family-oriented guy but I still feel like you have to leave your family stuff at home in order to appear driven and professional. And it doesn't matter what I think, this is simply true. I didn't know how to approach the topic with him so I asked our secretary who has worked for him for a number of years and who actually left years ago to raise her kids and then came back to work about a year ago. She suggested she get involved to recommend a better system for planning ahead. And also to avoid a one-on-one discussion with my boss about my boobs. About which we ended up talking anyway because he was really pretty dense about understanding what we were talking about. So that's how breastfeeding became a disability, because I need "accommodations" to pump while at work.

I've been a little feisty about having to work while I am trying to exclusively breastfeed and my son is still only four months old. But this is a whole big topic of its own that I just don't have the energy to write about now. Or maybe ever. My conclusion, without explaining all the stuff going around in my head (for example, --oops there I go--the company that provides generous paid maternity leave with unpaid leave of up to a year to management employees pays its union workers according to the collective bargaining agreement, which provides what? ZERO paid days of maternity leave.)...My conclusion is that we need more female lawmakers to think about how things like work and family go together and more female lawmakers creating realistic and practical paradigms for economic success. It really gets my dander up when I hear people--single white men, I mean--my age and even younger bitching about how Susie Q doesn't do her work because she has kids.


Now I need to calm down by talking about something nice for a minute. My husband (who needs a snarky nickname for purposes of this blog) cooked dinner of rice and stir-fried chicken and fresh veggies all by himself and all from scratch tonight. He asked me some basic questions, but I am really proud of him for stepping up and getting things done without me. (Not that he is extraordinarily dependent or anything, but he is still a man.) It was even almost done by the time I got home from work.

Le bebe is a crabass tonight because he got some shots today, but he's in the 98th percentile for length/height and I just had to brag. True to his breast baby roots he has fallen to 50th percentile for weight, and, thank goodness, he is about 75th percentile in head circumference, down from off-the-charts* at his four-week visit.

*I really wish that were true because it is funny that way, but he was more like 95th percentile.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Breastpumping Is Unfair

I was 20 weeks pregnant when I started my job. I did some research and knew that you're really not supposed to tell your prospective employer that you're knocked up* so I didn't and on my first day wore a ruched shirt and a suit with the jacket open. When I told my boss on Friday of that week he did confirm that I should not have told him during the interview process (shew) and also said he was very happy for me and thought it was great (double shew). He even said a few weeks later that it was better I was going out on maternity leave in the first six months, rather than down the line when they will actually be depending on me to produce work. He also interrupted himself to say--not that you can't have more kids!--so that was cool too. After I came back from leave he said he thought I was pregnant because he thought I had "gained some weight." Now that was the worst part. I thought I was pulling it off!

I started the job and worked for exactly four months, and people still thought I might not come back to work. Like who works for four months on purpose? Why bother? I didn't even take their health insurance. So I found out when I returned that I wasn't really being trained because no one wanted to invest the time and energy in case I didn't return. Turns out the associate who was supposed to train me wasn't into it either, then he left for a new job about two weeks before I went out. Like, why do you have to blame me, dude?

I pretended I was advocating for someone else and made the argument to my boss that I deserved the raise a man would get in my position. I am not sure if I was successful but he somewhat apologetically said he was getting me a very small raise. He said if a guy were there for six months but broke his ankle so only worked for four months, then he wouldn't get a raise. But ankle-breaking is an equal opportunity accident. I said if I were a man and my wife had a baby I would have worked the whole six months and gotten the raise. So you really can't say that women aren't penalized for having the babies. I understand the argument, that four months of work should get rewarded at the four-month level, but again, that is the mentality that keeps women behind. Look at that guy Josh on Top Chef. He's in Alaska on the best thing ever for his career, and his wife is home giving birth. If he were her, he would be missing out. I know there is merit to the argument that you pay to play. However, when we as a society keep wondering why women keep lagging behind men, we can't keep treating two unequal things equally while expecting equal results.There is a partner at work, whose children are now teenagers or older, mentioned that she had two of her children while working for a real "hard ass" firm, and she took four months leave with each child. I sort of want to ask her about that, but I am still afraid of looking like I am not serious about work. So how will anything ever change? I can say I want the raise, and that I should get the raise, but then I still feel like I look like I am not serious about work if I show interest in being available for my newborn whose sole source of food is me!

Which kind of brings me to my next topic. Pumping at work!** I admit, I am in a slump right now. I've been back to work about six weeks now and the idea of being le bebe's exclusive source of food for two more months is kind of intimidating. I have hearings to drive up to two hours to, I have meetings with my boss as I try to understand what the hell I am doing at work, and sometimes I just get involved in my work and look up and it's an hour later than I thought I should be pumping. The good news now is that I don't have to be that precise about the timing of pumping/feeding. But it is still so exhausting to keep on track while trying to lead a normal work life. And I know that I have it pretty good. I have my own office to which I can close the door with a "do not disturb" note on it. I've got my system now so that I can be pretty efficient. But even so, one day I had to leave early for something and I was scrambling to get everything together and it's stuff like this happens: you pull the plug out and it falls into your ankle bone. Or you leave all the pump parts in your drawer so you can't wash them one night. Or your brand-new car adapter decides not to work for some reason. Or you learn that there is a car adapter and that women pump in the car. While driving. I realize that if I think this is hard, then anyone who doesn't have such a good work environment, or a flexible schedule (except for hearings) like I do, must think this is really hard! And my conclusion right now is that new moms should be able to stay home for six months...without sacrificing career mobility/advancement. So maybe that is why I am in a slump right now...because I am sort of bitter about having a baby and being gone for only 10 weeks and I already feel like I am sacrificing career advancement.

*I have a love/hate relationship with this term. It's kinda like, not pejorative if you adopt it yourself, nah mean?

**I promised this post as Adventures in Breastpumping, but I already forgot everything I was going to write about, except for the big end of the plug hitting me in the ankle bone. That really happened.