I didn't know committing to motherhood, would mean committing career suicide.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014



This isn't a love story between a new mother and her new baby.

And while we're being truthful - I hated the newborn phase - it was my least favorite parenting phase to date (although I haven't experienced teenagers yet).

I, like so many new mothers, felt forced out of a job I loved.  I felt the money I earned was too little to justify time away from my child.  I felt the money I earned only covered daycare, and that didn't seem worth it to me.  I mean, was I supposed to simply work for peanuts, pay for full-time daycare, and say it was all in the name of career climbing?

Since I graduated college, I was hungry to work!  I was ambitious - if not, overly ambitious like so many college grads are.  I wanted to work my way up, be someone, do something spectacular.  I didn't care that the money being offered to me for a full-time job was not enough to cover my modest living expenses - or even my student loan debt.

Kids?  Who wants kids?! I'll pop out some in the my thirties (nevermind that silly biological clock thing), THIS IS MY TIME TO SHINE.

As I became more seasoned, more experienced, and overall more comfortable in my high heel shoes, I started realizing I wasn't getting treated fairly in the workplace.  As a single girl with no kids, I was asked way more often to work overtime, cover when someone else was sick, and to work holidays so other employees with families could have off.  At the time, I thought, if I just say 'yes' to everything they ask me, I'll be regarded as a hard worker, as a go-getter, and hopefully offered a promotion when the time comes.  Little did I realize, I was losing more than I was gaining.  Through all of those 'yes' years - I lost my self- worth.   I was ignoring the two discriminatory forces working against me the whole time I was 'career' climbing.

1. The gender wage gap.  You've heard it before - women earn 78 cents per every man's dollar.  And that number, has barely budged in over a decade.

2. Single woman expectations.  The expectation to work more and for less pay (because after all, you have no mouths to feed).

Things changed even more when I got pregnant in my young twenties.  I went from career crazed, single gal, to as one co-worker put it, "A baby, havin' a baby."

Like my situation was some Jerry Springer episode.

When I popped out my first child, the company I worked for - offered me six weeks paid leave.  And if I had a c-section (which I did), I got 2 weeks more (8 total).  Now, if I was in complete financial dire straits, I would've been screwed at the end of the 8 weeks.  I opted to take 12 weeks, the last 4 weeks were unpaid.

Beyond the financial implications - I just needed time.  I was in my young twenties - totally jilted by this whole parenting thing.  In a cliche sentiment -  I wanted to be able to bond with my baby.  I wanted to learn how to feed her properly, learn how to give her adequate sleep time, gawd forbid develop some type of schedule - and eventually enjoy a coo or two (however far and few between those were).  I wanted time to get my hormones back on track.  I wanted time to get healthy - get my body healed after the trauma of pregnancy and birth.  I wanted that child to effing sleep!  I was exhausted.

I needed time - but not forever.  I just needed more time than my company was willing to wait.

Wasn't I worth it?

Apparently not, because when I told my boss I wanted to be placed in a more flexible position, he scoffed at the idea and told me it was impossible.  At which point, I felt forced to quit.  My former boss also added (as if to compliment me), "You're welcome back here anytime, but just know you probably won't get the same position."

So basically I could come back, and be thrown off the tenure track.

This is the reason women leave the workplace.  We're talking about college educated women.  We're told we can 'have it all', but it's a complete fallacy, if not, fairy tale.

The proof is in the Huffington Post article, entitled, "This is the Face of Female Ambition."

According to the article, a recent nationwide "Success Poll" by Real Simple and Time found that women jump into the career world hungry for success -- 73 percent of women in their 20s ranked it as "very important" -- but that eager majority falls to 61 percent for women in their 30s, 50 percent for women in their 40s and 50s until it drops down to 37 percent for women in their 60s.

What the article didn't address is - why the sharp drop?  I suspect parenting.  Motherhood.  Mothers are being told they can have it all.  They go out - try to get it all - get knocked up - and are still expected to DO IT ALL.  By doing it all- I mean, working a full shift, working a second shift at home with their kids, doing the grocery shopping, the laundry, the bills, the driving, the cleaning, etc.  I could go on forever.  The point is - having that many responsibilities in life is overwhelming and impossible.

'Having it all' was coined by the feminists before us.  Let me be clear, I'm not blaming feminists.  They accomplished so much change for women and society.  But the work of feminists and women has fallen short.  Feminists worked hard for women to get into the workplace during the women's movement.  They fought for equality in the workplace, in terms of pay, leave, benefits, sexual harassment, etc.  But, it's time for a creative solution to the conundrum that women want to be in the workplace and have enough time for their kids - without being penalized for it.

When my first born was 6-months old, I was determined to stay in the workforce because I loved working.  I craved it.  But, this time, my job search only included positions that were flexible.  And yet again, I didn't demand the pay I probably deserved, thinking, well, they're allowing me flexible work hours - so it's a trade off.

WRONG.

That's what's wrong with this society's thinking.  I should be getting paid exactly what everyone else is getting paid - whether it's a flexible job or not - because that's the going rate for that job.  It completely under-valued my talents.  And I didn't even realize it, because again, I was just so desperate to get back in the game and be respected on a professional level.

After years of engaging in my 'flexible' job, that mind you, had unpredictable hours, I decided, I'm worth more than that.  I should be paid for my work, talents and skills, regardless of the flexibility offered.  Flexibility should be a bonus, a perk, not a trade off for pay.

Moms are penalized in the workplace.  Sociologists call it the Motherhood Penalty.  Mothers who work are perceived as less productive, less competent and more distracted than women who don't have children and men.  This penalty results in an even larger pay gap than the gender wage gap.

On the flip side, men who become fathers or who are fathers - are seen as more committed to the job and more responsible than their single male counterparts.  According to the New York Times article, "The Motherhood Penalty vs. the Fatherhood Bonus," men are more likely to be hired than childless men, and tend to be paid more after they have children.

Now that my kids are going to pre-school part-time, my 'free' time stocks are going up.  I'm even tallying up how many hours I'll get to myself when they go full-time to elementary school in a couple of years. I get giddy thinking about the six full hours every single day that I will have.  It seems like the biggest gift from the career gods.  Or dare I say, the big career break I've been looking for.

How will I be treated when I get back in the career game?

Should I wear my wedding ring on an interview? Gawd forbid I give off the married with children vibe.

Will employers judge my resume harshly for the time I gave to my kids?

Will I be hit with the mommy tax?

Will I even be considered hirable, let alone get paid as much as my equal peers?

If there is one thing I learned through this process, it's this - I won't accept anything less.


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