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.