Being a working mom is so hard, especially during your baby's first year. Not only are you trying to "have it all" on zero sleep, but, if you're a nursing mom and want to pump during the work day, you face even more hurdles. I learned the hard way,that even if you have an employer that claims to be "family-friendly," or promises they'll accommodate your needs when you return to work, there are so many reasons pumping at work is the worst. I mean, it literally sucks.
Keep in mind, I'm saying this as someone who was offered breaks for pumping, as required by the Affordable Care Act (thanks, Obama) and who was even able to visit my child at day care across the street to breastfeed during the day. Still, being offered breaks and being able to take those breaks are two entirely different things, depending on your workload, schedule, and office culture.
To make matters worse, the designated pumping room at my place of employment was in another freaking building. Rather than walk outside and five minutes away to pump twice a day, I opted to put up a sign (provided by human resources) on my door. It turned out that not everyone understood the "Not" in "Do Not Disturb," which created some seriously awkward and infuriating moments. Despite these challenges, though, I consider my pumping situation to actually be pretty good compared to others. Which makes me wonder, if I was lucky, what must pumping at work be like for them?
With that in mind, and because it certainly doesn't hurt to be prepared, here are some of the reasons that pumping at work is the absolute worst:
Because Pumping Sucks
Pumping sucks. Period. In fact, I hate it. When I think about it, I shudder. And don't get me started on what the annoying pumping sounds do to my mental state. It feels so dehumanizing, painful, and the act of pumping itself seriously impacted my mental health. Especially pumping at work. It really is the absolute worst.
Because Pumping Spaces Are Inadequate
While my employer had a few designated lactation rooms, I worked on a large campus and the closest room was in another building. So, I had to pump in my office or, when that wasn't possible, find other places to pump. I have pumped in my office, while on conference calls, while driving between meetings, and in the freaking bathroom when my job took me away from my office (as it often did).
Because Work Can't Always Wait
Just because you technically get breaks for pumping, and have a lactation room where you can pump, doesn't mean you can actually afford to take those breaks or use those rooms and still do your damn job. It's so frustrating to feel forced to choose between your career and breastfeeding, but that's a reality for many parents, myself included. My workload and meeting schedule didn't always allow me to take breaks for pumping. At least, not if I wanted to continue to do my freaking job.
Because Finding Pumping Friendly Clothing Is A Struggle
Finding work-appropriate clothes that fit and look good after having a baby is a challenge. Finding clothes that fit, look good, and that you can pump in can sometimes seem impossible.
Because Other People Don't Understand
I learned the hard way that people both expected me to pump and hated the inconvenience caused by my pumping. Not a day went by when someone didn't make a comment about it.
Because It's All Work & No Snuggles
For me, pumping sucks so much more than breastfeeding because it seems so impersonal. Who wants to lactate without the snuggles? At work, pumping seemed like yet another reminder that I had to leave my newborn and return to work after maternity leave. It was so hard.
Because There's Zero Privacy
My co-workers and staff seriously had no boundaries when it came to giving me the time, space, and privacy I needed to pump. Despite putting up a "Do Not Disturb" sign, I had co-workers walk in on me, knock repeatedly, and make jokes about "what I was doing in there," until I resorted to shutting off the light so people would think I was away from the office.
Because Embarrassing Moments Are Inevitable
Have you heard any urban legends about pumping at work? Maybe the one where someone drinks your breast milk from the office refrigerator, the one where you accidentally flashing your boss when you forget to lock the door, or the one where breast milk leaks all over your shirt in a meeting?They all happened to me. Every single one. Either I am cursed or pumping at work is the worst.
Because Pumping Moms Can't Win
Pumping moms can't win. I was treated like a bad employee or manager because I pumped during the day, was often not able to take pumping breaks, and was even called to human resources and asked to justify my breaks (I ripped the male human resources director another one). I honestly think it impacted my career and, in the end, it made me feel like a bad mom, both for working and for not being able to pump at work. Pumping at work sucks, and while it was ultimately worth it, I am so glad I never have to do it again.