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.