In Lean In, author Sheryl Sandberg talks about her coup of winning a parking spot closer to the office when the physical effects of pregnancy made walking a hardship. She recalls being on conference calls and having to explain away the grinding sound of her breast pump in the background. Her struggles were real, but definitely not universal: Most of us do not have private offices where we can pump. Those of us who commute via public transportation have no shorter walk from the subway than the rest of the non-pregnant masses. But I get what she was trying to prove: Workplaces are not particularly accommodating to mothers. And while Netflix's parental leave policy is challenging the norms of work-life balance, most company culture is still stuck in the 1950s mindset of offices being built for men, who were the first to work in these environments.
With roughly 50 percent of the workforce being female, and about 70 percent of those women being mothers, we need to overhaul the structure of “work.”
When I had my first baby, there was no legal provision affording me the time or space to pump during the workday. I’d find an unused dressing room at the studio, or ask to borrow a co-worker’s office, since I sat in an open cube farm. But before my second baby, New York state passed a law stipulating that companies with more than 50 employees must provide unpaid break time (20-30 minutes) and a private, dedicated space (not a bathroom or unused closet) to express milk. Earlier this year, Obama did one better and made these mandates on a national level as part of the Affordable Healthcare Act. Yes!
And while this is progress for those of us who are breastfeeding, there are so many other little (more personal) struggles that all working moms have to deal with at one time or another.
A Call From Daycare At 10:30 a.m.
Followed by three more missed calls at 10:45 a.m. during the 3 minutes it took me to go grab more coffee. This is never a good sign. Either someone is sick or they peed their pants or some kid brought lice to school. Either way, there's a good chance that your productivity for the day is about to get shot in the foot.
Multitasking, AKA, One-Handed Emailing As You Strap On The Breast Pump Flanges
There really has to be some lucrative application for this precarious balancing skills after breastfeeding is over. Maybe you'll moonlight as a chef?
School Tours, Orientations, Registrations, Performances, And Parent-Teacher Conferences
These things will, of course, only happen during business hours. And not even, like, convenient business hours at the very beginning or end of the day. It'll always be at 1 p.m., aka, too late to squeeze in during lunch and too early to just "leave a bit early" from work.
You Feel Obligated, Proud, And Mildly Embarrassed By Your Office Decor
Whatever, Bob from accounting; I've never seen you do anything nearly this impressive with dry noodles and glue.
Scheduling Meetings Around Your Pumping/School Pickup Schedule
No matter what stage of parenting you're in, there will be agenda acrobatics that must be executed to fit it all it.
Having To Stick My Pumped Milk Next To A Co-Worker’s Decaying Leftovers
Overnight Business Trips
"Miss you guys," I said earnestly into my phone as I sank luxuriously into the sumptuous hotel bed, all alone, to sleep for an entire, uninterrupted night.
This might be the best and worst part of being a working mom.
Using Your Pump Bag/Diaper Bag As A Purse/Laptop Bag
I can't help it if the insulation is equally effective at keeping breast milk cold as it is at keeping my Starbucks hot.
Maintaining The Delicate Web Of Childcare, Constructed With School, Babysitters, And Grandparents
...And having it all promptly blow up in my face if there's ever a train delay or school day.
Hearing Myself Say: "Let Mommy Go To Work!" As My Kid Tries To Distract Me From Leaving
And feeling like the worst person ever.
Listening To The Co-worker Who Is Sooooo Busy And Soooo Stressed, Because Of Something Not Related To Caring For Another Sentient Being
Look, I'm not here to shame or belittle your kid-free life. I would never. I'm just saying: No baby, no busy. Please realize how schedulistically (no, you're not a word) easy you have it.
Feeling Your Boobs Turn Morph Into Boulders When A Meeting Runs Long And You Can’t Pump On Schedule
If you're not breastfeeding, feel free to replace this (just as accurately) with "having a meeting run long and realizing that you didn't have time to grab breakfast that morning and now you are about to die of hunger."
The Overwhelming Wave Of Sadness When Your Kid's Sitter/Teacher Sends A Pic Of Your Kid Being Adorable Without You There
Come on, 5 o'clock.
Images: Universal Pictures; Giphy(12); Jessica/Flickr