Since becoming a mom, I’ve felt like I was on the job 24/7. From nursing a baby all the time to foregoing my thirst for Internet/cell phone time because I know it will increase L’s thirst for the same, to trying to cook for him, to navigate daycare/home/busy weekend schedules, to laundry, well. . . ARGH! Life for a mom is just plain busy and full of responsibility. I know firsthand the stay-at-home experience and how mentally draining it can be. Every moment you have is focused on your house and kids and at the end of the day you feel like you have nothing to show for it. Fortunately I went back to work about 4 months after delivering my son, which at the time was one of the hardest things to do. But it was also the best thing that I could have done at the time.
Working was great for my mental health and for the health of my family. It has kept me using my brain and my skills so that I can help people in addition to my family members. And as I have argued through this whole blog, I am a better pediatrician because I am a mother, and could not do the same job had I not become a parent. So I am all for moms who also want to work outside the home.
Life today in many ways seems a far cry from what it seemed to be for parents when I was growing up. I was always jealous of the other kids whose moms stayed at home while my mom chose to work. She made significant sacrifices to focus her attention on family, and only after we grew up did she really grow career-wise, but those working years were extremely important to her. For my husband T and I – we are both working and generally busy – I carry most of the parental/home responsibilities on the weekdays and we regroup on weekends. The system works for us and lots of other families have found systems that work for them. More commonplace now are work-at-home dads (approximately 3.5% of families in which one member stays at home) and families in which a wife’s income exceeds her husband’s.
Yet it continually surprises me to see discrimination happening specifically to the women around me. Women are still surprisingly being forced into lower paying jobs or out of their jobs with their employers arguing that they do not have the capacity to be parents and sustain employment at the same time. In a world – especially in the populations I frequently deal with at my place of employment – where there are people who are not working and are not endeavoring to feed their families, why target women who are not only remaining dedicated to work, but are building their families at the same time?
One person I know was let go from her job shortly after returning from maternity leave and she had to fight to receive proper severence. This situation can be bad enough to go through, but women in a variety of positions suffer such mistreatment at the hands of their previously benevolent employers. Case in point: NPR posted an article the other day about Natasha Jackson, a woman who had worked for Rent-A-Center and was released without pay while she was pregnant. The employer shrewedly was able to secure documentation from her that her ability to lift was limited and used this as grounds for her dismissal. It is commonly known that women who are pregnant should continue the same level of activity that they have prior to pregnancy – yes I think it is reasonable to make allowances where needed, but to release someone from the job when their family well-being depends on it, with no other reason than pregnancy as your backup point? A great injustice!
Since returning to work I still find that it is challenging to be a working mom. While a private place to pump was made available to me, it was difficult to navigate my normal schedule and pump at the same time. We consider these things accommodations for working moms yet costly smoke breaks are still allowed in many workplaces? Not for long, based on the study recently published on cost of smoke breaks. With the additional responsibilities and tasks I atually feel that my personal efficiency is better than ever. And who better to have on the job in a position of responsibility than a parent who is managing the screaming kids, the tired family members coming home, and the housework of the day and getting through all of it?