Like most working moms, I learned firsthand just how much your work-life changes when you're pregnant. The moment you announce your pregnancy people seem to lose all semblance of professionalism and boundaries when it comes to asking, commenting, and giving unsolicited advice about, well, your life. Then, when your baby is born and you think their antics will end, there are inappropriate, intrusive, rude, and straight-up sh*tty things your coworkers will do after you've just had a baby, proving once again that working moms can't win. For real.
We have a cultural problem on our hands, with working women facing big challenges as a result. Working moms arguably have it even harder, facing things like discrimination and sexism, but also subtle and not-so-subtle shaming and passive aggressiveness on the part of co-workers and in regards to their work ethic and abilities. I was shamed for getting pregnant and taking "the mommy track". Which is funny, since I don't ever recall my husband hearing comments like that when he announced I was expecting. People gave me a hard time for taking maternity leave, because it was "bad for business," you know, and about needing breaks to pump at work, as if I was supposed to be sorry for feeding the baby I had brought into the world.
Co-workers called, emailed, and visited while I was still in the hospital recovering and without so much as a warning. Then at least once or twice a week after I returned home, newborn in my aching arms, I was bombarded with burning questions like, "Where is the file?" and "Can you help me write a proposal?" My co-workers generally treated my maternity leave like a three-month-long staycation that they could interrupt anytime they wanted.
Now, I am not saying that I expected special treatment as a working mom, but co-workers shouldn't treat new moms like they are bad employees or deliberately trying to make the lives around them infinitely harder, all because they dared to have a baby. So if you've heard and/or experienced any of the following, now that I'm sorry and know that you're not alone. And if you're a coworker of a pregnant woman, please don't do any of this. Ever.
Visit You At The Hospital Uninvited
When my first two babies were born, we let anyone who wanted to visit come see us in the hospital. It was so stressful. I didn't feel or look my best, I was trying to figure out breastfeeding, and I couldn't get any sleep. The last thing I needed was for people to expect me to entertain them, especially my co-workers who showed up unannounced. Boundaries, people.
Keep You On Group Emails
Passive-aggressively keeping me on group emails to "keep me in the loop" just made slogging through my email on my first day back overwhelming and harder than it needed to be. Then I discovered that people used these opportunities to add things to my to-do list for three months. Great.
Call You About Work Stuff
So seriously, I created detailed plans for my maternity leave. I'm talking spreadsheets with duties I had delegated, deadlines, and links to related files. I was called about work stuff at least once or twice a week, and often more frequently than that. It was so frustrating, because I was trying to recover and couldn't (and shouldn't have had to) focus on work.
Ask You If You Plan To Return To Work
Ask You If You Are Breastfeeding
This felt like such a personal question, especially when it was coming from co-workers. I was ashamed to have struggled with undersupply, and didn't feel like I owed anyone any explanations in regards to how I was feeding my child. I also didn't feel like revealing my medical history. I mean, my coworkers were not licensed medical professionals.
So in the end, and always, it was really none of their business. Still, people asked about how I was or was not feeding my baby, and those conversations almost always ended with them asking me to justify my choices or tell me I could "try next time." Talk about inappropriate office talk.
Make Negative Comments About Daycare
It was bad enough that people asked me if I planned to continue working after my baby was born, but then they made so many negative comments about daycare. I heard things like, "It's too bad you have to work, because oh my I could never let a daycare raise my kids." Umm no. Same goes for stories about horrible things that have happened to kids at daycare. Guys, a new, exhausted, emotional, overwhelmed mom doesn't need to hear those "worst case scenarios." Ever.
Ask You When You Plan To "Lose The Baby Weight"
Like questions about breastfeeding, I thought it was so intrusive for co-workers to ask me about my weight loss. Guys, I lost the "baby weight" when my baby exited my body. And my body might never return to what it was pre-pregnancy and pre-baby. People, I'm OK with that.
I am not OK with people I work with examining my body and implying that something needs to change. Gross. People would never ask a non-mom coworker about losing weight, so why do people ask new moms this all of the freaking time?
Walk In On You When You Are Pumping
When I returned to work, co-workers thought it was pretty lousy of me to expect to take legally mandated breaks to pump breast milk. The nerve. When I attempted my first pump break at work, I discovered people having a meeting in the designated pumping room. They glared at me, you guys. I returned to my office, and my co-workers, who totally knew what I was "doing in there," knocked, made jokes, and walked in, right past my "do not disturb" sign.
Accuse You Of Playing The "Mommy Card"
It seems like every time I was unable to help out after-hours or travel or attend some early morning meeting, at least one co-worker would complain about how it was unfair that I didn't have to because I played the "mommy card." Now, keep in mind, I wasn't asking for special treatment, just that I not have to work unpaid hours on the weekend or do things that weren't part of my job description, because I literally couldn't with a new baby at home. And nobody deserves to be shamed for taking maternity leave or sick leave. Nobody.
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