breastfeeding, daycare, employees, employers, hiring, jobs, schedules, work, working mothers
Yes, I’m blogging about work because… well, I don’t care any more.
…not going well.
While I always knew that motherhood restricts life in many ways, including in the workplace, I never really fully comprehended how much it damages me in the eyes of an employer.
I did know that employers look down on breastfeeding mothers, which is why I expressly (pardon the pun) avoided discussing my breastfeeding ways in the interview stage, and why I was so dismayed by my boss bursting in on me pumping guiltily in the bathroom on my first day.
But I didn’t really grasp how very undesirable motherhood is.
Before I signed the employment agreement papers, I brought up my daycare’s hours.
It hadn’t come up in the interview because, well, it hadn’t come up. He didn’t ask, and I wasn’t even sure, at that point, what my daycare’s hours were.
But before I agreed to work there, I made it clear that my daycare closes at 5:30 pm, and that official policy is to charge me 5 bucks per 5 minutes that I am late. I asked if they had morning or afternoon shifts available.
I was told yes, there usually is an earlier shift and a later shift, leaving an employee alone in the clinic for the first and last two hours of each work day, and two in the hectic middle times. I asked if it would be okay that I could only work the earlier shift.
I was told yes, that it shouldn’t be a problem.
Ever since then it has been a problem.
Every time the schedule comes out, I find myself scheduled for late shifts. The first time, I was told that my restrictions had not been passed along to the office manager. So they were duly passed along, and apparently she was highly displeased with the news.
“She doesn’t understand how hard it is to find good techs,” said the other tech reassuringly.
This felt like a double-edged comment. On the one hand, I was lumped in with “good techs”. On the other hand, I was clearly scraped from the bottom of the barrel.
My boss, having been chewed out for hiring someone with such restrictions, sulkily asked me if I wouldn’t consider switching daycares to one with more “reasonable” hours of operation. I told him that I loved my daycare, and that all daycares closed at 5:30 or 6 pm at the latest.
My shifts were altered, with some grumbling about my inconvenient hours. The next week, I was schedule late again, supposedly by accident. Again, they were changed. I felt bad, and I did stay a little late a couple of times on busy days, which my daycare lady kindly didn’t charge me for, because she is awesome.
Then, on Sunday, I picked up the schedule for then next two weeks: OH LOOK, LATE SHIFTS ON WEDNESDAYS.
Not only the late shift, but the late shift at the location (they have several) that was an hour’s commute from my home and my daycare. So I would not only be working til 6 pm, but I wouldn’t be able to get to my baby until past 7 pm.
So I called her and pointed this out.
“Well,” she said flatly, “Coworker A has a class, and Coworker B has… something that she does Wednesday nights. You have the least seniority, so you’re working that shift. If Coworker B will switch with you, fine, but otherwise, this is just how it is going to be.”
Coworker B was not willing to switch, which left me with two options:
- Stay late and leave Little Owl abandoned at daycare
- Walk out
It all just seemed too much.
First of all, I have enough trouble just finding time to pump milk.
In a vet clinic setting, those who take the time to eat, rest, etc when things are busy are considered lazy and selfish. In the world of veterinary medicine, when the question comes up “do I miss lunch, or make a cat wait for its medication?” the correct decision is ALWAYS in favour of the cat.
So it is really noticeable when I disappear into the bathroom for 10 minutes while phones ring, vets bellow, and clients line up at the front door.
Some days I don’t get a chance to pump until 6 or 7 hours into the day. A couple of times I didn’t get a chance at all, and had to pump after work. My daycare lady tsked at the watery foremilk I handed her the next day and asked if I was eating well.
You know that if I didn’t have time to PUMP, I definitely didn’t have time to EAT.
Add to that the fact that I am decidedly rusty at some of the more complex procedures, and I felt like my stock was plummeting. Add to THAT an impatient and irritable veterinarian (not my boss, who is very sweet), who sends my anxiety levels through the roof, and my self confidence goes into free-fall.
And now they were telling me that I HAD to work an evening shift. If I said no, I was very clearly risking my job.
So Perfect Husband and I sent some frantic text messages back and forth, and then we had a short voice call conversation.
“Tell them where to go, and how to get there, from me.”
I believe “fuck those panda bitches” was also in there somewhere.*
So I pulled my boss into his office and told him that if working late shifts was a requirement of this job, that it just wasn’t going to work out. I told him that I could leave immediately, or continue working non-late shifts until he could find a replacement.
Well, there was some back-pedalling. I felt bad for him, since he wasn’t the one who made the schedule and therefore was caught in the middle. He didn’t want to lose a tech when he was already short staffed and still looking for a second employee, so far without any luck.
He made it clear that he was unimpressed with my daycare, which he accused of “gouging” by making closing hours so early and then insisting on such crazy late fees. He wouldn’t believe me that this was standard practice, insisting that when his kids were little, daycares were open later.
So the next day, I went to Twitter.
(Of course, I couldn’t show him this, so this provided me merely with personal validation).
He was also (and this was a bigger problem) unimpressed by me.
“We all have to decide where our priorities are. Yours are clearly with your family. Mine are with my business. And for me to have to close early? I’ll lose money. But that is not your priority.”
He also implied that I had bait-and-switched him, by not bringing up my daycare’s hours in the initial interview.
Basically, I was everything he didn’t want in an employee.
But I was still a warm body, and he needs warm bodies.
So I still have a job – for now – and I have won this battle.
My daycare lady then agreed to stay open an hour later so they could stay open a little later – as a sort of compromise. I think she felt bad for me, and wanted to show my boss that she had no intention of “gouging” anybody.
I told you she was awesome.
But I don’t feel like I have struck a blow for motherhood. I feel like I have proven what I have been suspecting all along:
I am the bottom of the barrel.
I bet they won’t hire another young mother any time soon.
*PH wants me to elucidate: the panda comment was a Robin Williams reference, and not some sort of racial slur. My employers are caucasian and not at all connected with the great country of China or its endangered wildlife.
I’m so sorry to hear that!!! What you may want to look for is a vet who is also a young mother…then some understanding might be there. Good luck!!!
Yes, I really miss working with women vets. They were very different – I could call them by their first names, and they didn’t treat me like a servant.
Jacki Evans said:
you can’t even call your bosses by their first names?! just that on its own is enough to make me think they’re archaic idiots. taken with the rest of the story, they just sound like arse-wipes.
Jessica (@jessicaesquire) said:
I am so with you. I have a nice boss who has been tolerant, so far. But between missing work because of childcare issues, pediatrician appointments, and now my OB appointments on top of that, I will have virtually no time left when it comes time for me to take maternity leave. And now I’m trying to work with all the crazy corporate hoops to have me start working part-time from home so I can have something to do and still help and keep everything stable-ish. But the second I start working, I am off leave and it’s getting rather complicated.
It is rough. I know I am their least reliable employee. I feel guilty about it. And my husband can rarely chip in and help because his job is more demanding.
It sucks. Sucks sucks sucks. I can’t feel like I’m being a good parent or a good employee. I don’t really believe anything I hear about family-friendly workplaces anymore.
I’m sorry your work is being so unaccommodating. I think you’re completely within your rights to walk out if this keeps up. But yeah… yuck.
I was listening to the radio and they started talking about a new survey that said that “80% of employers try to provide a family-friendly workplace” but that also most workplaces admitted that people without family commitments were more likely to advance.
I think I need to go give my boss a hug for being such a champ. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that he has seven(!!) kids, and a wife who wants to work, but he is really awesome about all of this. Even his hard sell for me to come back full time next year is flattering rather than pressuring.
I’m trying to think of some sort of home-based business for you…
Oh, you are so lucky!
It also doesn’t help that I didn’t have an established relationship with these people before.
My friends are trying to convince me to run my own dog training business, but I’m too scared.
Oh, this sucks. I’d like to say it’s surprising, but that would be a lie. Most workplaces *do* punish parents… both hubby & I have run into this problem. I’ve heard the “your priority is your family not this job” speech (I lost a job because of it). At hubby’s last job, he was constantly being forced to work later and later hours because his boss knew I was home, so what the hell difference did it make if the kids never saw their dad? (He lost that job, too. For the same reason – we both feel that our kids come first).
Sometimes you do just have to tell your employers to take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut. After all, why are many of us working, if not to help pay for housing & clothing & feeding our children?
I’m glad they backed down but sorry you had to get all confrontational first. I know just how much you *love* confrontation. :p
And I’m sure this goes without saying but you’re putting aside some monies to get your daycare lady a nice bonus at the holidays, right? Because she is, in fact, a saint. I don’t change my hours for anybody – because my family takes priority over my job. Ironic, isn’t it? 😉
Oh yes. I also offered to pay her extra, which she turned down. I may just give her a really useful present. Get your thinking cap on to tell me what would be useful to a home daycare!
I’ll come up with some things that I would like my clients to give me. Although last Christmas one of the moms bought me a beautiful tree ornament and got a couple of little things for the kids, and I was tickled to death. It needn’t be expensive or large – just an acknowledgement is usually gift enough. 🙂
This post made me want to cry, and to give your daycare lady a hug! I’m so sorry you are dealing with this. I was under the impression that Canada was more family friendly than the US, and I am saddened to be proven wrong. I am lucky that I have a job with set hours of 8am-4:30pm, and for having a boss who despite his many faults, is himself a “family-first” guy, so I feel little guilt when I miss work for sick kids, dr’s appts, school events etc. I thought the fact that you don’t get to eat (isn’t that illegal by the way?), or have time to pump was bad enough, but making you feel bad because Little Owl comes first is offensive, as is accusing your daycare provider of “gouging”! I’m with PH on this one – tell the nasty vet to stick the job where the sun don’t shine!! I hope things get better soon.
Canada is better in one very important way – we do have a much more generous guaranteed and legally protected maternity leave program. But once we return to work there are very few practical protections in place. By that I mean that under the law Carol, and me, and my husband, and two moms I know who both lost their jobs right after coming back from maternity leave would all have cases if we chose to file complaints with our local Human Rights Commissions… and we would probably win. The cases though take months if not years to adjudicate, legal fees are expensive, and in the end what usually happens is a mediated settlement whereby you end up with the job back. Only now you’re the bitch who took your boss to court.
It really all depends on your boss and whether or not they understand that a happy, confident employee who has a good work/life balance is going to be a better investment for their company & their business than a stressed-out, starving, swollen-boobied mommy who is constantly feeling pulled in two different directions. I had a boss once who was a father of four & married to a wonderful woman who held down a full time job in addition to raising their boys. He was the most understanding boss ever when it came to family time and conflicting responsibilities. We worked for a non-profit though and the Board of Directors that we answered to were total Neanderthals who thought that if I wanted children, I should just stay home and have ’em. Unfortunately, that is still the prevailing attitude among far too many companies & employers.
Yes, @hodgepodge is exactly right. Canada has excellent laws to protect the working mother. Legally, they can’t fire me for breastfeeding, or even dock my pay for the time I spend pumping. If I go on maternity leave for a year, they can’t replace me – they have to give me my job back when I return.
But in practice? How do you enforce that? Legally, I shouldn’t have been laid off by my previous workplace, because they did it two weeks after I announced my pregnancy, laying them in very sketchy territory. But a legal battle, and then what? You get a job working for the people who didn’t want you or your sprog. Who wants that?
Yeah – the daycare I used was open until 6. 5:30 was the normal day, you paid extra to go to 6.
I was so very lucky to be able to move my hours around to accommodate daycare; sucks that it’s so hard for so many.
See, my boss is nuts!
Grace Goldragon said:
Good for you for standing up for yourself! I don’t know if I could have done it! (at least, not without crying)
I am suddenly so very grateful for where we live, and Mr. Goldragon’s workplace. They are very family friendly. The studio head was once a working single parent of two smalls, and she’s determined to make things easier for parents who have smalls at home than she had it. And the cost of living is much lower here, so we can live quite well on a single income.
Your situation just goes to show how far we haven’t come in equality for all.
Well it helped that a part of me seriously hoped that he would tell me to go. I really, really, REALLY hate working with this other vet.
Talk about lack of equality. I’m tired of being treated like a servant and a faulty automaton.
Ugh. I am so frustrated and pissed off for you!
I try not to get too annoyed with the inconveniences of military life, because the bad things (him having to be away for months at a time for courses or deployments) are kind of balanced out by the goodness of affordable base housing that allows our cost of living to be low enough that I can stay home with the kids. We made sure we could swing that before having them, because that was something that was VERY important to me. (But comes at its own cost, of course, which I’ve been discovering and trying to deal with lately — namely, how I’ll EVER get back into the workforce at some point with such an outdated resume and managing childcare and work shifts around my husband’s often erratic schedule.)
I can sympathize with that type of work environment. This is how it is in a pharmacy as well — you only get to stop and have lunch IF there’s a lull and/or someone else there to cover for you. I remember being eight months pregnant and not getting to go pee, eat, or even SIT for the first six or so hours of some shifts. I can just imagine trying to fit pumping into that. Ugh. These kinds of working conditions SHOULD be unacceptable, and yet they exist. It’s unfair.
I agree with PH. Give them their two weeks’ notice, then leave. You will find something else.
Yeah, I think I’m going to have to look elsewhere. The busy work environment will be everywhere, but a more understanding staff would make a huge difference.
Hi, I'm Natalie. said:
Ewww. I am so lucky that I essentially choose my own hours… I can’t imagine having to deal with that kind of bs. Can you look for something else?
Yes, and I’m going to! I don’t know how long I can take this.
This is one of those times where I really wish that companies would make their priorities people and quality care rather than money. Clearly his priority is on the bottom line.
The funny thing is, I chose him because of his commitment to his clients and to patient care. The boss is a sweet, kind man who will sit and talk with the clients while appointments back up behind him. When we hear him starting to chat about his garden, we rap on the door.
But talk about a bait-and-switch! They showed me the clinic near my house and the sweet vet, and now they have me working in the one an hour from my house with a complete asshole.
I studied abroad in Spain in Spring 2008. One of our professors told us it was not uncommon for employers to (illegally) ask women their relationship status because they do not want to deal with expensive and lengthy maternity leave.
And what can you do? You can see where they’re coming from, but it doesn’t make it right.
This is really shocking and I feel angry for you. I think you are dealing with the situation very well – good for you.
I just wish I liked the job more, you know?
Unbelievable!! This is unacceptable.
Your boss should brush up on his obligations as an employer. A friend told me that by Canadian law he is supposed to allow you time to pump, and also to give you a quiet place to do so. Working women do not lose the right to breastfeed. Otherwise, it’s plain discrimination! But I guess you know that, and I share your outrage.
Raising a healthy family is in everyone’s best interest, including your boss’s bottom line. If you have to quit or get fired, I’m sure you can contact the Canadian Human Rights Commission: http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/contact/default-eng.aspx
And here’s a little extra ammunition for your rights: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/resources/Policies/PolicyPregBreastfeedEN?page=PolicyPregBreastfeedEN-VI_.html
3. Reasonable and Bona Fide Requirements and the Duty to Accommodate
3.1 Providing Appropriate Accommodation
Employers have a duty to accommodate the needs of women during pregnancy, or when they are breastfeeding. Women should not have to choose between their own health, or the health of their baby, and their jobs. As a Human Rights Tribunal has stated in relation to breastfeeding:
In their working lives, women face particular challenges and obstacles that men do not. A woman who opts to breastfeed her baby takes on a child-rearing responsibility which no man will ever truly face. In order for a working mother to bestow on her child the benefits that nursing can provide, she may require a degree of accommodation. Otherwise, she may end up facing a difficult choice that a man will never have to address. On the one hand, stop nursing your child in order to continue working and making a living for yourself and your family. On the other hand, abandon your job to ensure that your child will be breastfed.
Good luck sweetie!
I’m rooting for you.
I’m aware of those laws, but as hodgepodge points out above, they don’t have much practical application.
What is more, he isn’t NOT letting me pump – it’s more a matter of there being too much work and lack of availability of breaks, which is not unique to this clinic – it’s ALL clinics.
There’s a bathroom I can go to, so there is a place to pump (although I get more if I’m alone in the clinic and can do it sitting in a chair in the back).
There are so many grey areas in situations like these. If only there was a law preventing him for firing me due to my daycare’s hours!
Even if there were, though, employers have a handy loophole through the ‘probationary period’ that employees go through. Since a standard probationary contract indicates that employer or employee can terminate the job without warning and for any reason, this means that I have known someone to be fired… for being out of work HAVING A MISCARRIAGE.
And there’s nothing to be done, legally.
Woops! I guess I pictured you sitting in a stall and your boss accidentally swinging the door open demanding you to get back to work. Well, just because it’s endemic to all clinics, doesn’t make it right.
I’m really so sorry about the stress from work. Thank goodness you have a very supporting and loving husband. I hope you find a job that fits better in your life. Sometimes, life will push you in a better direction.
i’m proud of you for standing up for your priorities! and for pumping this long!! kudos to you, i think with all the stress of it i would have given up:)
i hope it all works out, whether that means staying at this job, or moving on.
Wombat Central said:
For them to lay blame on your daycare is insane. Love the “on glue” comment via Twitter. Start looking. Not every place of business is going to operate like this. I hope you find a family friendly option very soon! You are not the bottom of the barrel. You are a wonderful mom, and any business should be thrilled to have someone with your educational background, love of animals, and expertise. Period.
Thanks. I’m dropping my resumes off today at every vet clinic in the area. None of them are advertising at the moment, but hey – you never know!
Erin B said:
I managed to go back to work full time for a few months after the end of my mat leave. In the end, everyone was unhappy. I didn’t get much time with my daughter, my boss was always complaining when I needed a day at home if she was to sick for daycare. My co-workers got all snotty about my pumping on my breaks. My workplace just got more and more hostile.
My hubby and I refinanced our house so I could stay home and now I work part time at a clinic with weekend hours. I work a couple of weekends a month to keep my right to practice and my daughter stays with my hubby. No daycare helps balance out the change in income.
I has been a major adjustment, but very worth it.
I’m glad you found a happy ending 🙂
Pingback: Ouch. « If By Yes
I completely understand what you are going through! I’m a GM of a theater & my boss wants me to work nights (I would go in @ 6 until about midnight). My husband works late & my daycare closes at 5. Another manager has a daughter BUT has her in-laws & her parents to take care of her daughter, so she doesn’t have to worry about or pay for daycare. She is complaining because I don’t work nights. Thanks for posting this, makes me feel not so alone. 🙂
How frustrating! I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in this, too.
Pingback: CANADA: My Job Is Eating My Life « World Moms Blog
Pingback: 30 Years in 30 Seconds « If By Yes
Pingback: CANADA: My Job Is Eating My Life ‹ World Moms Blog