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.

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