I’m more than sure that no one has to tell all you working moms out there that being a working mom is extremely tough. From the time our children are born we feel like we have to be superwoman, caring for and loving our children to an extreme all while trying to create a work-life balance. What they never told me was that there is no such thing! It seems like the work-life balance that employers are not so eager to discuss is an illusion and they constantly get away with having to provide that balance because somehow just by acknowledging that you need that balance is balance enough. And employers that don’t have children will never understand…they just won’t! Maybe this is wrong to throw out there but if they’re male employers with or without children, they won’t understand either. I find that 9 out of 10 times male employers with children are almost never with their children as much as their partner is so the burden of having to create a work-life balance doesn’t exist. Let’s not get crazy and ask them to understand why you, a working mother, need to create more of a balance.
I was laid off when I was five months pregnant with my first child. Ironically it was 48 hours before my FMLA paperwork could be submitted for my upcoming maternity leave. I was, of course, left feeling distraught with so many questions and thoughts running through my mind. ‘How was I going to afford all the things I had planned out for my child?’ ‘Is it too late to add myself to my husband’s insurance?’ ‘How can I get another job now…I’m clearly pregnant; no one will hire me even if it is discrimination.’ After discussing it over with my husband, we decided that I was going to stay home until our daughter was born. Once she was born, I decided to stay home with her for her first year, but around the time she turned nine months, I realized that it just wasn’t feasible to continue to stay home, especially in the financial department. I went back into the food industry, starting as a server and working close to 30 hours max. Quickly, I moved up and decided to put in my bid for a full-time management position.
If it was up to my general manager, I wouldn’t have gotten the job. When discussing future career plans with him, he’d often state that he didn’t feel I would be able to do the job because of my family life. What he didn’t bet on was that when someone tells me no, I do anything and everything in my power to make sure I get a yes. I worked harder, longer, and fought for the position that I knew I could do regardless of being a wife and mother. Becoming a manager was the best thing that happened to me. I learned a great deal about myself and saw just how hard I could push myself. Nothing made me happier then coming into work and despite my GM’s “concern,” I made his 55 hour a week schedule work. Sure, I had to sacrifice a lot of things and almost had no alone time with my husband because every waking moment I had at home was dedicated to our children, but I had my eye on the prize. Then life hit me, as it almost always does. My daughter had a speech delay and in finding therapists and speaking to doctors, the word autism was thrown around a bit. We had several evaluations done and when our daughter received her autism diagnosis in early 2015, I dedicated every waking moment I had to researching, finding more therapists, getting the board of education involved, etc. Anything I could do to help my daughter cope and function the best she could in a social world.
It stated off with little comments, ‘Just want to make sure your mind is on the job,’ or ‘I can only imagine how tough it must be, but duty calls.’ And while other male managers were given weekends off and working less hours than myself, I was consistently working nights, weekends, closing more than any other manager, being asked to attend all meetings, train new employees, and give 100% all the time. The injustice was killing me. I felt like I was losing control of every sector of my life because I couldn’t give 100% to any area of my life. Some were getting 25%, while other 50% or 75%, but nothing…absolutely nothing was getting 100% of me! The one thing that hurt the most was knowing that I wasn’t even able to give my children 100% of me. Did this mean that I was failing as a mother? The one thing my kids want out of me is just to be with me and I could barely give them that.
After a great many episodes that maybe I’ll share with you all one day, I felt that I was being forced to offer my resignation at the restaurant. It was clear that it wasn’t just that they didn’t understand, they didn’t want to understand. They didn’t want to work around their schedule to create a more fair and balanced schedule for all, especially those with immediate families. Hell, they didn’t even want to talk about it, except to try to put the blame on me as if I was doing something wrong. I couldn’t allow it anymore. I couldn’t allow someone to take advantage of me like that and punish me because I choose to have a family.
I still haven’t gotten over the whole thing. I am so jaded by the idea that almost no one cares about working mothers, except working mothers and how backwards the United States is when it comes to the notion of work-life balance. My story isn’t original. It’s happening every single day to someone just like me; just like you. But, I do feel that awareness is the first step to resolving this issue. I hope more working mothers share their stories and spread awareness on this important issue.