Let me get two things straight right off the bat. First of all, I like to work. Ever since I got my first "real" job after college, a large portion of my identity has been tied to my profession. Getting married didn't change that. Neither did having a baby. Sure, I'm a mom, but I'm also a writer, a Polynesian dance aficionado, and a hypochondriac. Second of all, I am not a quitter. My mom always taught me to "stick it out" when things get tough. I hated every minute of my one and only season of softball as a kid, but damn it, I finished that season. And even though college was far from the Saved by the Bell: The College Years experience I hoped it would be, I stuck it out and graduated.
Needless to say, if something was going to make me want to quit my job, it would have to be monumentally terrible. My boss was up to the challenge. And after I got pregnant with my second child and gave birth to her, my mean, nasty, micromanaging boss made me want to quit my job. I had a bad feeling about my boss from the beginning, but I decided to try to get pregnant with my daughter during a lull in the storm, when I tricked myself into believing the situation was improving. I was approaching two years at my job when I finally got pregnant.
I told my boss almost immediately that I was pregnant so she'd understand why I was under the weather or had frequent doctor appointments. I felt like a bloated, hot, steaming pile of garbage for the first four months of pregnancy, but I dragged myself to work every day and tried to focus on the job.
I was trying to please her, but she'd made up her mind she could not be pleased by me.
She, a mother herself, initially feigned some semblance of understanding. Almost immediately, however, she was scheduling mysterious meetings on my "performance" that turned out to be formal counselings involving the human resources director. These "performance" reviews were essentially written and verbal warnings about my performance and the steps she would need to take before she could fire me.
Like a predator noticing its prey weakening and swooping in for the kill, my boss noticed I was sick and attacked me at every opportunity. She nitpicked me constantly, criticizing my work on various projects, the way I answered the phone, and my emails to her. Believe me, I was trying to please her, but she'd made up her mind she could not be pleased by me.
Admittedly, my performance was not at 100 percent when I was pregnant, but it was pretty solid, considering that even sitting at my desk was a challenge when nausea consumed me constantly. My boss could have been much more understanding of my pregnancy, but instead, she took it as an opportunity to attack my performance, mainly because she didn't like me to begin with. While this sort of discrimination against pregnant employees is common in the workplace, that didn't make it any easier to deal with.
Throughout my pregnancy, my boss was condescending or outright rude in nearly every email she sent me. She was constantly stomping, sulking, and berating people in her office and on the phone. She would cover her ass in any way possible, often by blaming me for her own mistakes and management blunders.
The first months of my daughter's life should have been a happy time spent bonding in a cloud of motherly love (or something). Instead, all I could think about was work and how much I hated it. My career had always been a source of enjoyment and fulfillment for me, and now I was just terrified.
When I was eight months pregnant, my boss called me in for another "counseling" session. During the session, she threatened to fire me because the CEO wasn't happy with a speech I'd written for him and she'd been blamed. To be fair, it wasn't just my boss who was rude and nasty. It was the culture of the entire workplace. Managers rose to the top by stomping on others and throwing coworkers under the bus. But as a pregnant employee, I felt like I was in a very vulnerable position. I couldn't quit my job and abandon my excellent medical coverage before the baby was born. I had to stick it out.
The toxic work environment had grown so uncomfortable that when I went on maternity leave a few weeks before my due date, I still obsessed over work. I felt compelled to check work emails; I worried about whether I'd have a job waiting for me after the baby's birth; and I fixated on the dread I felt at the prospect of returning to the job in a few months.
Even hours after my daughter's birth, I was thinking about my boss. The raging childbirth hormones combined with my anxious tendencies created a hazardous cocktail for my brain. The first months of my daughter's life should have been a happy time spent bonding in a cloud of motherly love (or something). Instead, all I could think about was work and how much I hated it. My career had always been a source of enjoyment and fulfillment for me, and now I was just terrified.
The thought of leaving my kids for a job I loathed was too much to bear.
My love for my daughter, with her sweet new baby smell and soft chubby cheeks, made me realize she deserved better than a mom beaten down by a terrible workplace. I wanted to be able to return to a job I enjoyed and a workplace where I felt valued. The thought of leaving my kids for a job I loathed was too much to bear. But I had no choice. I had to quit my job. The only question was: How? My husband and I were not in a financial situation where we could afford for me not to work, so I had to find another job, and quickly. I scoured online job boards constantly, throwing job applications at every possibility. A few fruitless interviews later, I was growing more desperate as my time on leave grew short.
Ultimately, I did have to return to my job and awful boss, and I endured six more months before I was able to land a fantastic job in public relations in the same geographic area. When I gave my notice, I was apologetic to my boss for leaving, and told her that I'd miss them. I now regret not being more honest, but I was trying to diffuse an uncomfortable situation. My boss acknowledged there were ups and downs in our relationship, but she wished me well. It ended on as positive a note as possible considering the circumstances. It also felt damn good to tell my boss that I was leaving for a management position with a pay boost, which enabled my husband and I to move our two kids to a new house in a great neighborhood and highly rated school district.
More importantly, I now work with positive people in a supportive environment where my contributions are valued. It's what I deserve, and it's the example my kids deserve to see.