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I Was Given a Demotion While on Maternity Leave


I’ve struggled with whether or not to write about this topic on several occasions and always decided against it, but I am hoping that sharing my story now it will be therapeutic for me and possibly help other mamas, too.

This isn’t something that happened 15 years ago. This happened just 3 years ago.

Before having my first baby I went to college, completed my Master’s Degree, got married and eventually landed a pretty good job in my field. At times, it could be a 24-hour a day job. It was not unusual to get phone calls after hours or be expected to answer e-mails on weekends or evenings.

I was with this company for several years before I was expecting my first baby. Paid maternity leave was definitely not a benefit of this job, so in order to take the full 12 weeks that I was allowed to per the Family Medical Leave Act, I saved as much of my paid time off as I could.

When D-Day rolled around and I finally met that little piece of me that forever changed who I am, I just wanted to spend every waking moment with her. But returning to work was always my plan.

Near the end of my maternity leave I received a call from my boss, making sure that my return to work date was set and to inform me of my “new” position. She mentioned that the person who worked below me just happened to be resigning. Then, she just kept repeating the phrase, “When you return, we would like (the person filling in for you) to remain in your position”, like a broken record. In other words, read between the lines. I was given no explanation as to why.

I was so dumbfounded and angry. I wanted to get off the phone as soon as possible and soak up every last moment of my maternity leave with my baby, not sit on the phone with her talking about what work was going to be like when I returned. So, the only word I could muster was, “OK”. 

Never had I ever received any kind of warning, reprimand, or review regarding my performance that would lead me to believe that I was doing an unsatisfactory job. It was just the opposite, actually. My supervisor had frequently praised my professionalism, positivity, and ability to hire great team members under me.

What she said next is burned into my memory and will stay with me forever.

She said, “This will allow you more time to be a mommy”. Never in my whole life had anyone ever said something so condescending to me. Yes, of course I love my children and I love being a mom, but I am also a highly educated, independent woman. I mean what is this, 1960?

My parents taught me to be strong, independent and to always stand up for myself. I’ve carried those lessons with me throughout my life and I am a very firm believer in taking no shi-nanigans from anyone. However, in this particular situation, I didn’t stand up for myself.

It was an outrage, but my focus, attention, and every ounce of my energy was on my baby girl. I didn’t have the brainpower or willpower to sit around, agonizing over why this happened or put up a fight. I just had a baby, for crying out loud. And to be honest, I didn’t love my job. I hated the fact that it sucked the life out of me. But still, this was wrong.

Once I was informed of my “new” position, I wanted out. I tried everything in my power those last few weeks of my maternity leave to find another job, but with no success. I desperately wanted to say “screw you” to that place and just stay home with my little one, but unfortunately, that was not an option for my husband and I. I needed to work to help support our family.

So, after a maternity leave of 12 weeks and 1 day, I returned, demoted. It absolutely KILLED my soul to have to go back to work for that company. I felt like a doormat and a complete failure. But what choice did I have? So, when I returned, I returned with one mission in mind; to get the hell out of there as soon as I could.

Wait a minute, is that even legal?

Through the Family Medical Leave Act, your employer doesn’t necessarily need to hold “your” position for 12 weeks, but a position of equal pay and of similar work. I knew this because of situations that had occurred with other employees. This was a card they’d played before.

Some people close to me asked me why I wouldn’t pursue legal action. This company was no stranger to questionable practices in terms of how employees were treated, and I knew that they would find something to use against me, such as the fact that I went 1 day over my 12 weeks allowed by law (I requested to not go back on a Friday).                             

But the real truth is, I just didn’t have it in me. I was already physically exhausted, mentally exhausted, and not to mention, embarrassed. And since they kept my pay the same, they didn’t break a law. They just did something totally deplorable to do to a woman who just had a baby. 

You’re probably wondering what kind of a company I worked for.

I worked for an agency that provides services to young children. And my boss? Not some single, childless, career driven lunatic, but a mother herself.

Thankfully, I have a super supportive husband.

He loves me and our little family with his whole heart. And once we could financially figure out how to live off of one salary, I was gone.

I do still have anger about this, and have fantasized about what I would say to my bosses should I ever run into them again (wouldn’t you?). But, at the end of the day, I know that holding onto this is a burden I don’t need in my life. I’m where I need, and want to be, with my babies.

I do wish I stood up for myself and fought for myself. I think about my children. If and when I ever decide to tell them about this, do I want them to know that I let people walk all over me?

As moms we are chronically tired. But please, don’t ever be too tired to stand up for yourself.

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11 Responses to I Was Given a Demotion While on Maternity Leave

  1. The mom who feels you~ January 23, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

    I strongly believe that moms who have or are soon to have babies are thought lesser of by their employers compared to other women who either have no children, or older children. They just don’t prefer it, and it sucks for us women who are in fact hard workers even with children. I had the pleasure of being fired by my employer at 8 months pregnant…really though who does that?! Just enough time beforehand so i didnt receive insurance benefits or maternity leave. But, I call it a pleasure because it worked out for me in the long run, and made me realize what the good things really are in life. You don’t have to work for or surround yourself with shitty people.
    I feel for you that after 3 years this still burdens you. I hope that you find peace that it worked out like this for the best. You don’t ever have to have that conversation with your kids that you dread, instead it can be the truth…one time you had a shitty employer but you learned from that experience what you value, and you can rise above and become a better person (aka how to not be a shitty person like your employer😉) Well wishes to you that you find healing and are able to leave these thoughts behind. You are a strong, hard working mom and have become stronger because of your experience!

  2. KZ January 24, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

    This article definitely hit a spot for me as I too was just given a similar “opportunity” last month. I was set to return to work within two weeks when my boss had gave me a letter saying they were eliminating my position and moving me to an equally paid position in another department. I was shocked and knew this new position was basically them setting me up for failure so I would leave. In my heart I knew that if it wasn’t for FMLA I would be without a job, a mother with a 20 month old and a two month old, and that little family could not survive on one income. And to top it off it was the week before the holidays. I took action into my own hands and within a week landed a new position at a great company and am so happy I don’t have to go to a job that I am less than impressed with. Thank you for sharing your story to know I wasn’t the only one in that position and know there is light at the end of the tunnel.

  3. Carrie January 24, 2017 at 5:53 pm #

    I feel like I could have written this. The exact same thing happened to me, same wording, same comments from my boss, everything. I truly feel for you and hope you are in a better place now with your job. It’s okay if you are sometimes too tired to complain, put your energy toward what matters to you most, being a great momma.

  4. Marie January 24, 2017 at 11:49 pm #

    I read your story tonight and it feels as though I wrote it. Our stories are very similar. I too have struggled with putting these words into print. The truth is my family had to come first even though I did not agree. I hope writing this relieves any burdens you carry and do believe this probably made you a stronger person as it did me and for that I am thankful.

  5. Marie January 24, 2017 at 11:51 pm #

    I read your story tonight and it feels as though I wrote it. Our stories are very similar. I too have struggled with putting these words into print. The truth is my family had to come first even though I did not agree. I hope writing this relieves any burdens you carry and do believe this probably made you a stronger person as it did for me and for that I am thankful.

  6. Anonymous January 25, 2017 at 7:30 am #

    Thank you for writing this. A very similar thing happened to me while I was on maternity leave. It was maddening and heartbreaking, but I’m thankful God had a plan for your family & mine through it.

  7. Jennifer Hunter January 25, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

    When I was on my maternity leave….just 17 days after my baby’s birth, I received a phone call from my boss telling me I was no longer employed there (it was a contract funded position, and our partner cancelled the contract). My boss was a woman, and literally fired me over the phone, with a 17 day old baby on my arms.
    I also received advice to pursue legal action, and was also incapable of doing this. I also worked for an educational institution.
    My husband was in school full time, and I was the only working parent. I became so stressed that I developed a rash all over my body (I’m sure the hormones played a part in that too, although with baby number 2 no rash appeared).
    We ended up moving across the country, away from family and friends, to the first reasonable job I could find.
    This experience was shattering. It should never happen to any new mother.

  8. Annmarie January 27, 2017 at 1:41 pm #

    Did I miss something? You didn’t get a cut in pay and you got a position at the same company acknowledging you may miss your baby and now have the ability to be with her more. Also, did you think that maybe your temporary fill-in was better or able to work harder without potential family conflicts? In the end, you stayed home with your baby so justifying why you should get the exact same job back is moot when you traded in your whole work life. Being a mother is a full time job and perhaps your boss was empathethic to it. Did she demean you or say comments about you? No, or you would have included that. You got your feelings hurt and walked away. You need to get over yourself and realize life changes when you have a baby— some people go full gear into work and don’t mind being home less and others want to be home more. Considering you worked for a company that provides children services, perhaps your boss thought she was doing you a favor.

  9. Jenny January 27, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your story. I can relate, as something very similar happened to me also in the education field. I too had my masters degree, and had just had a baby girl. I didn’t fall for the line “but you are the most qualified for this position”. It was all brainwashing trying to get me to accept the new position without confrontation. I’m home now too (with 2 kids now) and loving it.

  10. slb59 January 29, 2017 at 4:20 pm #

    After I had my first, my boss – also a mom – was really excited about getting to support a new mom. My job arrangement was such that, even before I got pregnant, I worked from home one day a week. After I got back, first I would not hear about meetings for my projects on my day at home until I got back, then I started losing my favorite projects altogether. When I talked to her about it, she kept saying she didn’t want to disrupt my day at home or cause any scheduling challenges for me since I was a mom. Even though my son was in daycare every day and I told her I’d rather come in an extra day then lose my good projects. She didn’t listen, and I found a new job. Still makes me angry and almost seven years later I’m still not sure if she was quietly pushing me out the door or genuinely thought she was being helpful.

  11. Jessica January 29, 2017 at 11:54 pm #

    Wow. This resonates. SO STRONG.
    I ended up fostering an eighth month old. My company told me they wouldn’t honor maternity leave.
    That if we end up adopting I’d get a full three months and to wait.
    Idiot that I was, I didn’t fight it..just went along. Didn’t want to cause waves.
    New mom, new baby…then they tell me I have to start traveling.
    Fast forward to news that the adoption is going through. Company not doing so great- but I’ve been busting my ads for years for these guys. Looking forward to meeting with my “new” daughter.
    The day I send the e-mail?
    That its looking like our court date was mere weeks away?
    Fired. For the most idiotic of reasons.
    Law suite worthy? Absolutely.
    Worth the fight? The money to fight?
    Maybe. But not for me.
    Kudos for telling your story. This is not ok & yet I, like you, let it go.
    Hearing this made me feel a little better about myself.
    But mad for the both of us.
    Hugs, girl.

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